All the stuff what I like.


I am studying Psalm 27, reading Spurgeon’s commentary with my WhatDaFunk playlist rockin’ in the background—James Brown at the moment.  

He’s singing ‘Shake your moneymaker.’ I realize I’m bobbing my head to the beat. Shaking my head. My moneymaker. I mean, it’s not making me much money, but have you seen my ass? That ain’t gonna make it rain. 

So here I am, shaking my moneymaker. 

All the stuff what I like.


I arrived at that point, the time when you realize life is too short to sleep any longer on a lousy mattress. I’ll spare you our history of mattresses, other than to tell you we began our marriage thirty-plus years ago with a top-of-the-line, full-motion waterbed from WaterBed City! Bon voyage, newlyweds! 

Arrival at that point comes with a price tag. And sticker shock! When did buying a mattress become like buying a car?

We tried them all. Landed on a mattress called Purple. We like Purple.

Side note: Grabbed myself a new Serta Copper pillow to go along with our new Purple mattress. Copper and Purple go surprisingly well together, methinks.


All the stuff what I like.

Influential X

Concluding the series recalling the top ten life and literary influencing albums in my collection (in no particular order), I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me. More than that, I hope maybe you’ve looked up some of the albums and artists I’ve included in my list, streamed some of the tunes … and maybe you’ve been inspired to think of your own top ten.

All good things come to an end. My list of ten ends here, with—

Post Ten of Ten

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd LS

G D Em F C Dsus D Dsus D Dsus D

Chances are, if you play guitar that’s enough to tell you what this post is all about.

It was 1979 for me, two years after the fateful crash in Mississippi that took Ronnie van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd from the world. I was twelve. My next-door neighbor was thirteen. And we were going to start a band.

Now, I’d never played any instrument, really. I did try trombone in beginning band in 5thgrade. I had long arms, and that’s all it takes to excite an elementary school music teacher into believing he’d found the next great … who is a world-famous trombonist? I don’t even know.

But me and my friend were going to start a rock band. And this kid’s parents had money, so he possessed a really nice drum set and a really nice electric guitar and amp. He couldn’t play either of them. But that didn’t matter. Together, we could make one hell of a racket.

He put on Skynyrd’s first album and played track eight, the very last song on the album, Freebird. He asked, “Guitar or drums?” Guitar came with a chord chart—the aforementioned progression. In no time, I was strumming away while my friend attempted to lay down a beat. We were headed for the big time. Not really. My guitar ability came to an abrupt end after that Dsus chord. Those solos? Forget it. His drumming was more headache than heartbeat. We parked that thing in the garage.

But at twelve, there’s a lot going on in a young man’s head. Dreams. Fantasies. Fears. Awakening to some of life’s harsher realities. And this song, this album, and this band became a pretty big part of ushering adolescence and beyond into my young life.

I asked my dad to take me to the record store to buy the album. I listened to it over and over. I just about wore that album out.

I felt the irony of a man writing and singing about going away because he was ‘free as a bird’ … and then departing via an airplane crash. I wondered about life and death—you know, as a kid, one of the first times that concept really crosses your mind. I pondered what it would be like for those members of the band that survived to have lived while their friends died. And I was struck by the music—southern rock, they called it. Different than the other music I’d heard. It was down-to-earth. That’s the only way I could describe it then. Still fits when I hear those tunes today.

I spent the most time listening to Freebird—it’s like ten minutes long, for crying out loud. But I also toured the rest of the album, and enjoyed almost every song. Simple Man grabbed me. I loved the down-home feel, a boy and his mama. See—there’s the southern charm. Who up north called their mother Mama? The song’s story spoke of what matters most in this world. Practical advice. And in real-time, advice worth following.

Gimme Three Steps, too. Life advice! Be careful who you look at, young man! You never know if she may be the object of someone else’s affection … and the next thing you know, “you could hear me screaming a mile-a-way as I was headed out towards to door!” Tuesday’s Gone spoke of love’s breakdown. I was just at the age where that stuff started to compute for me, the hurt when you liked someone and they didn’t return your affection, or worse, when I met the kid whose parents were divorced. That was so strange to me … Parents divorce? Oh my!

This album became a thought-provoker for me in that most formative season of my life. It was the story that captured me—the story in each song … and the story of this band that met its end in a horrifying way, leaving their fans to wonder what might have been. Left me wondering how often all of us, every human being, encounters a ‘what might have been?’ longing.

And how life itself is fuel for a writer’s writing. Ronnie van Zant said it best, as only a good old southern boy can: “If prisons, freight trains, swamps, and gators don’t get ya to write songs, man, y’ain’t got no business writin’ songs.”



All the stuff what I like.

Influential IX

Continuing a series recalling the ten most life and literary influencing albums in my collection–in no particular order. Although I’ve gotten to this album at Roman numeral IX … were they prioritized, this album would rightfully be number ONE. I’d further assert, THIS ALBUM should be numero uno on everyone’s list. You there! Get to the store! Buy it! Listen to it! THIS ONE will change your life!

How’s that for a run up?

Post Nine of Ten

Born To Run: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

This album dropped in 1975. But it wasn’t until 1982 that I discovered it. Thanks to a Jersey-girl named Gina Nardone. BTR

Gina was a pizza chef at Don Ciccio’s Big Cheese (sort of like a poor man’s Chuck E. Cheese restaurant) where I was … The Big Cheese. Think I’m kidding? I’ll offer photo proof below. Look how proud Mom was in this picture. Her son had made it to the top!

“You don’t like The Boss?” Gina said, incredulously? “He can’t sing!” I argued. “You don’t listen to The Boss for his singing voice,” she protested. “You listen to Bruce for the story.”

And that, my friends, is probably the best piece of life advice I’ve ever received.

Over the years, Bruce’s gravely voice has grown on me. And that band–“You’ve just witnessed the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E STREET BAND!”–is, in my humble opinion, the best live band in the world. But it is Bruce’s storytelling that initially caught my attention and has been a go-to escape ever since.

BCGina handed me a copy of Born To Run one day at the pizzeria, “I dare you to really give this a listen and come back here and tell me you’re not a fan.”

The album opens with Thunder Road. I saw the screen door slam. I saw Mary’s dress sway. I was there, from the very first few notes, watching the story unfold. I smirked at the line, “You ain’t a beauty but, eh, you’re alright.” Brutally honest.

I was drawn into the action. I cheered Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’s announcement that they’d “made the change uptown and the Big Man joined the band.” I felt the tension of all the teenage and young adult angst, of trying to find your way in the world. It was real. I was living it, too.

I flipped the album over–and my life would never be the same.

Cars, girls, an (underage) sip of warm beer in the soft summer rain–all of the components of my own coming of age saga–and the illusive promise of a bright future became the soundtrack of my life from the ages of fifteen to … today.

Someday girl I don’t know when we’re going to get to that place where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun … But until then tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Gina was right. I was a fan. THEN … I heard Jungleland.

If you haven’t … you must. The story is as heartbreaking a teenage love story as exists anywhere. There are parts of the story, I dare say, we all can relate to. And if the story doesn’t stir you deep, The Big Man’s nearly three-minute long sax solo will. Best three-minutes in rock-n-roll history, I tell you.

I credit three major contributions to my wanting to become a writer: (1) Mom instilled the treasure of stories and storytelling in our family. (2) My sister Diann gave me a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends when I was ten years old. And (3), Gina Nardone handed me a copy of Born To Run when I was fifteen.

Springsteen is THE BOSS. Take it from … The Big Cheese.




All the stuff what I like.

Influential VIII

I just recently wrote about the perks of the writing life including that I can work anywhere, anytime. Another is that my writing life is filled with music. As I type this post, I’m sitting on Cocoa Beach (How does the song go? Got my toes in the water, ass in the sand …?) And I’m listening to music from one of the ten most influential albums in my life. And I’m smiling because I know this one is not on any of your shelves!

Post Eight of Ten

Mission Mountain Wood Band: In Without Knocking

MMWBI’ve already given a nod to my older siblings in this series–much of the music on my top ten list came through their musical tastes as I was a child. This one calls for another hat-tip to my oldest brother Dave.

Dave has taught me many life lessons. An appreciation for music in all its different forms and genres is on that list. And that started when my rock-n-roll loving big brother pulled me aside at a family function when I was about ten-years-old, put on this hillbilly bluegrass album he’d found and said, “You gotta hear this!”

The song was Sweet Maria, Never Long Gone. Everything about this song was a shock to my system.

Banjo picking and harmonica into. Bass dropping in after eight bars–one, three, one, three, one, three (you know that pattern). Then the vocal–a great singer. And the lyric got me. Story. The man was in Athens county … and doin’ fine. Oh, and Maria was there. And she was … sweet. Life was … sweet.

The lyrics take listeners on a road trip. We encounter the singer’s good friend Sal. We sip some wine together. We’re all doing fine. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be where people lived life at this pace, forsaking life’s rat-race. Do you know what I mean?

All the band’s instrumental solo breaks are fantastic. Whether a guitar, a banjo, a harmonica, a mandolin, a fiddle–it’s just all soul-stirring, foot tapping fun.

And then the harmonies! Oh my! And this really was the MMWB (or M2WB) claim to fame. The harmonies are so tight, and even at times purposefully discordant in a way that makes you wonder, “What was that?”

You don’t understand what I mean? Skip to the last song on the album, and a MMWB classic, (Pickin’ Our Song in) Mountain Standard Time. You’ll hear it. And what a party it becomes.

You know where, I don’t care, set your lady in a rockin’ chair, fiddles flying, playing all night ’til daylight, Mountain Time … 

So ten-year-old me is digging MMWB. Then my big brother says, “Oh, and you gotta hear this!” He plays a track called Take a Whiff On Me. Being as I was only ten and still unaware of many of the ills in the world, he didn’t bother telling me the song is a huge drug euphemism. I just thought it suggested … I don’t know, maybe after all those nights of fiddling and dancing … body odor, or something. Ten year old boys–stink–seemed to work.

Take a whiff, take a whiff, take a whiff on me! Everybody take a whiff on me! Hey, hey, darlin’ take a whiff on me! 

We’re digging the tune, giggling about it and then comes the last chorus where, instead of saying the word whiff, the singer actually whiffs–takes a huge whiffing inhale–and we both busted out laughing! Roaring! That was funny! You’d have to hear it to get the effect.

This music was story. It was fun. It was light-hearted. It was obvious these guys didn’t take themselves too seriously. And that was attractive. It is attractive.

I lost track of my copy of MMWB’s In Without Knocking years ago. Hadn’t heard it in decades. Been YouTubing MMWB and reminiscing (the only place you can find their stuff today in on YouTube or through the band’s official website).

As I think back on the records that served as soundtrack to my growing up and those that influenced my love for life and story–this one played a powerful role.

Do yourself a favor. Take a break from all the BS and busyness sometime soon. Google up some MMWB. Pick-it in Mountain Standard Time for a spell. You’ll see what I mean. What a hoot!