Category Archives: Newspapers

#151 – It’s a Little Too Late

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#151 – It’s a Little Too Late by Tanya Tucker

Country Rocker

I’ve had my own personal music debate going on for quite a while. First of all, there’s rock music. There’s also country music. When you mix them up and give it a few shakes, that turns into country-rock.

To me, that makes three different styles of music.

But, is there really that much difference between rock and country? I tend to think so, but sometimes one can almost appear as the other, which leads us to another question:

Is Tanya Tucker a classic rock artist? 

Not really, but she can certainly rock.

Is she a country artist?

Heck, yeah.

So, what is she doing on this list by a Classic Rocker? Easy explanation…

The Classic Rocker woke up with Tanya Tucker on his mind.

Alright, I actually wrote that so it would seem like I was having dreams about Tanya Tucker. I’m not saying that would be a bad thing, but it wouldn’t be an honest thing. Her song It’s a Little Too Late was what was actually going through my mind on the morning of October 28th. And thanks to that subliminal musical message, accurately stated as such since I hadn’t heard it in a very long time, it means The Classic Rocker’s favorite Female Country Rocker has finally made the Dream Song list.

Walking with Tanya Tucker!

And I’m mighty glad she’s here, y’all. But as always, there’s more to the story than just waking up with a song in my head. In this case, it includes a memory of walking with Tanya. And it wasn’t just a dream.

Sometime during the summer of 1993, I made a deal.

I saw a notice in our local newspaper looking for weekly entertainment columnists. I don’t remember exactly what the ad said, but it called for three or four writing samples previewing or reviewing concert events. Since I was newly relocated from Los Angeles, had a background in the entertainment business and was searching for a new career, I whipped up a few I thought were descriptive, entertaining and most of all, humorous.

I applied for the job.

After sending in my submission, I received a phone call from the newspaper entertainment editor to set up an interview. We met in the publisher’s office and to my surprise, it turned out the job I had applied for was as a weekly columnist about country music.

Since y’all might not have figured it out from reading these ramblings, I’m a Classic Rocker and not a country music aficionado.

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I was anxious to start my professional writing career, which I never saw coming at me until reading the newspaper advertisement, but also wanted to make the job interesting for me personally. So, I suggested a deal. I’d be happy to write about country music, but since I could better be called a comedy aficionado (where did I come up with that word anyway?) I’d also like to do a second weekly column on comedy happenings in the area. And for that second and very separate column, I made an offer to write it for half of what they were going to pay me for my new regular country music column.

Throwing money at newspaper people works.

I got the gig writing two weekly columns for the salary of one and a half weekly columns. Let’s just say negotiations were not my strong point in this career effort.

The dual columnist gig came with media passes and review tickets for most of the shows my wife, Cowgirl Debbie and I wanted to see. In addition to writing about these events, I also scored interviews with many of the country artists and comedians.

Yeah – it was very cool.

During one day’s mail delivery, I received an invitation to attend a pre-concert soundcheck for a country music concert. To be honest, I don’t remember all the performers on the bill except for Allison Kraus and Union Station and the headliner.

Tanya Tucker.

Black Velvet Whiskey

Somewhere during her long career, which started when she was thirteen and had a hit record with Delta Dawn, Ms. Tucker had earned a reputation for being a bit of a wild child. Now, I don’t have any specifics, nor can I make any accusations. I honestly don’t know how that term even became associated with her. But by the time I rolled onto the landscape with my little weekly column, she was not only one of the reigning queens of country music but also one of its biggest headliners.

And by that, I mean headlines – as in supermarket tabloids and gossip magazines.

Again, I can’t dredge up any specifics. I’m only pulling up memories that might have been on my mind when I learned I’d be meeting Tanya Tucker – which is one of the very cool things that’s possible when you’re armed with a media pass and invitation to a pre-concert soundcheck.

This was an afternoon rendezvous at a sports arena in Toledo, Ohio. I’m sure there were more than a few other performers, but other than sitting in the bleachers near Alison Kraus and Union Station (a polite group of bluegrass musicians) I only remember Tanya Tucker.

When she walked on stage to test sound levels with her backing band, it seemed like everyone – even the bluegrass’ers – paid attention. I couldn’t tell you all songs she sang, but I know a couple were off her 1993 album Soon and A Little Too Late from her latest Greatest Hits album released only a few months before.

How do I know this for certain? Because I went out and bought both the next day.

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As she left the stage and headed to her dressing room it was my job to represent my loyal country music column readers by saying hello. Flashing my media pass, I opened a gate and somehow (what are the odds?) found myself walking next to Tanya Tucker. Keeping up with her stride for stride, I had time for a quick introduction (quick because I only had to introduce myself) and ask a couple questions about her latest tour and album that have slipped from my mind over the decades.

But asking questions really wasn’t the fun part.

Like many of the country stars I’ve interviewed, Tanya was much nicer than any supermarket tabloid writer would have prepared me to expect. It didn’t seem to bother her at all that I was from a smaller market newspaper or that she had never even set eyes on me before we were walking together through an almost deserted sports arena.

And there certainly was nothing about her that advertised wild child until…

Tanya Tucker & The Classic Rocker

I had a small 35mm camera and asked if we could take a photo together. She stopped, said “sure” and put her arm around me like we had been best friends forever. Was I thrilled? Heck, yeah.

After all, this was Tanya Tucker.

And that was it. I thanked her for answering my questions, for being so nice and – especially – for two very cool photos. Now, if I had wanted to gain a little national notoriety by slipping them to a low-class newspaper tabloid just to see my name in print without the salary-earning “by” line in front of it… Well, that was never a thought or an intention. They were just for my readers…. AND me!

Well, sort of…

After the photos appeared in my weekly column, I made a point of leaving the newspaper in a place where Cowgirl Debbie might “somehow” see it and “somehow” realize how lucky she was. After all, it was pretty clear that Tanya Tucker looked happy hanging out with me – so obviously, I should be considered a hot commodity as a husband.

But honestly, what are the odds something like that would happen? I’ll tell you right now from Cowgirl Debbie’s and – I’m assuming – Tanya’s point of view.

Nada.

Instead of added extra leverage for me in case of any misunderstandings or mishaps that could be directly – or even indirectly – related to being, my fault, my hoped for status as a hot commodity would come back to haunt me. In other words, Cowgirl Debbie was not impressed. For weeks after when the circumstances were not in my favor, her ending rallying cry would be:

“Why don’t you call your girlfriend Tanya to see if she’d put up with this?”

That might have interested a supermarket tabloid, if only it were true…

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Tanya Tucker performing It’s a Little Too Late.

 

 

To purchase Tanya Tucker’s 20 Greatest Hits with It’s a Little Too Late visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#155 – On The Road Again

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#155 – On The Road Again by Willie Nelson

– My wife Cowgirl Debbie and I are sitting next to each other at a table on Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Yeah, that’s pretty cool in itself. But to make the scene even cooler, sitting across from us is Willie Nelson himself. I’m kind’a fumbling around for something to say that will keep him interested in our conversation. I hit on something, his face lights up and Cowgirl Debbie says…

Okay, now that I might have you somewhat interested, we’ll go back a couple decades before continuing with this scene.

In the late 1970’s I had a pretty cool apartment in New York City. I’ve talked about it before in these Classic Rocker ramblings, but to be brief it was in the Gramercy Park neighborhood, had three levels and a small terrace. For NYC it was living in style. However, since I was still basically a just-graduated college student trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up, most of my funds went into paying rent.

The furnishings consisted of whatever my parents didn’t want anymore and how much of it I could stuff into a station wagon for my move from Ohio.

My first big splurge of spending money for pure enjoyment was a subscription for Manhattan Cable Television. It’s now sort of a laughable starving artist memory since the only television I had was another parental castoff small enough to be balanced on my stomach while lying in bed. It also scores high on the memorabilia meter since it can be described by another castoff term – black and white.

As Ralph Kramden often said in a black and white sitcom classic called The Honeymooners: I was living in the lap of luxury. And as another piece of memorabilia for dedicated NYC television viewing veterans from the era, that show was aired every weeknight at 11 pm on Channel 11.

I know, because I watched.

HBO’s Finest!

With my cable television subscription, which included an extra length of cable in case I wanted to put the television on a table next to the bed instead of on my stomach, came a relatively new network called Home Box Office (HBO). This was revolutionary since movies and special features (comedy and music concerts come to mind) were broadcast without any commercials.

Hey, if they could land a man on the moon only a decade earlier, why stop there? Commercial free paid television was the next logical step.

After a few years of progressively improving personal finances I eventually had a color television in the living room with added cable networks like MTV, ESPN and Cinemax. But HBO was still the go-to for watching movies if you didn’t feel like heading out to a theater and paying an exorbitant seven dollar ticket price for a first-run feature.

But HBO didn’t seem to have an exorbitant amount of feature films at that time. In other words, they seemed to air the same movies over and over and over

But that was okay if the movie was really good or – even better – if it was really bad. The frequently run HBO classics that immediately come to mind during the early 1980’s fitting both requirements were Can’t Stop The Music with The Village People (and Bruce Jenner!), Thank God It’s Friday with Donna Summer and Honeysuckle Rose starring Willie Nelson.

Yeah, there were others. But this trio of music flicks were aired so often during my insomniac late nights they’ve been burned into my lasting memory.

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Two of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock – history!

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

Available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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Speaking of memory, On The Road Again joined the subliminal category of this Dream Song list on October 21st. There’s no other explanation for its inclusion other than my burned-in memory since I don’t own a copy and probably haven’t heard it since we saw Willie Nelson in person the evening we sat with him on his tour bus.

To connect all the dots between the movie memories and our in person Willie Nelson experience…

Real life Honeysuckle Rose

On The Road Again was the Academy Award nominated theme song written by Nelson for his 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose that seemed to be on HBO over and over and over… And of course, the title of the movie was also the name of his tour bus both in the movie and real life.

Got that? Okay, then one final classic movie note…

Not only was Willie Nelson the romantic lead in this “on the road” country-music-flavored film, but his co-star was one of my favorite American actors, Slim Pickens. Yeah, I know, a quirky choice on my part. But he made my personal all-star list with roles in the films Dr. Strangelove (riding on an atomic bomb into glory), Blazing Saddles and 1941. After playing these burnt-into-my-mind roles, I found it a bit unreal to watch ol’ Slim as a guitar player in Willie’s band, which is probably another reason I found it impossible to switch on a different cable channel whenever the film came on HBO during another late night round of sleepless viewing.

Two decades later, in 2002 to be exact, I wasn’t quite grown up yet (I’m still working on that) but was doing something I could’ve never dreamed or predicted when I made the long ago decision to splurge on Manhattan Cable Television. I was writing a weekly country music column for a newspaper in northern Ohio. Again, I’ve mentioned this in past Classic Rockers and how it gave me a fresh outlook on music I hadn’t paid much attention to previously.

Press Pass

It also brought me face to face with the country legend and star of Honeysuckle Rose on his tour bus. And though I’m not sure his 2002 updated traveling home shared the same name, I’ll go ahead and say it did just to keep you somewhat interested.

With two review tickets for Nelson’s July 22nd concert in Cleveland and a confirmed post-show interview, Cowgirl Debbie and I were psyched for a somewhat interesting evening. Debbie’s reason was based on her being a big country music fan (hence the name) and me because…

Well, come-on. I’m sure you’d also think it’s pretty cool to meet Willie Nelson.

Willie and his band played all his classic hits, but I somehow felt disappointed Slim Pickens wasn’t standing next to him playing guitar. On a sad note, Slim passed away almost two decades before in 1983. On a techno-psychological note, that shows the lasting power of cable television on the human brain.

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After Willie walked off stage following an encore or two, we flashed our media passes at a security guard and were escorted behind the outdoor venue to a closed off parking area and a large bus. Another guard stood outside protecting the open door.

After checking our passes, he told us to go inside and have a seat.

Willie’s living room

The front section of the bus was a living room that included a table with booth seating big enough for four people to have dinner or a card game. Then there was a closed door dividing what I assumed were private sleeping quarters in the back. The decor (if I remember correctly) included wood paneling and dark red curtains over the bus windows.

After just a few minutes the closed door opened. Willie Nelson walked in, said hello and sat at the table with us.

Doing my best Ralph Kramden impression from The Honeymooners, I probably started my newspaper interview with, “Homina, homina, homina…” BTW – veteran Honeymooners fans will know exactly what I’m referring to.

But as I should have expected, Willie Nelson was very cool. Soon we were talking about the concert, his tour, music and… well, it could have been somewhat more exciting than that. It was obvious to both of us I was asking – and he was answering – questions he’d heard countless times before.

So I went with something else:

What would you have done if music didn’t work out?

Willie looked at me, smiled and said, I’d like to be a professional golfer.”

Willie Nelson & The Classic Rocker

That takes us back to the beginning of this epic rambling story. Cowgirl Debbie, who had been uncharacteristically quiet (trust me on that) up to this point, saw his face light up and said…

On what? The Senior Circuit?

Okay, obviously Willie didn’t look like a teenager – even back in the days of filming Honeysuckle Rose. But Cowgirl Debbie’s remark was like a sucker punch to his funny bone. Willie started laughing and might have pretended to be offended by her age-related joke. But it didn’t matter since the timing, delivery and his reaction had all three of us cracking up.

After that ice-breaker the rest of the interview goes down in my memory as fun time. Willie was a genuine nice guy with a great sense of humor. And I’m sure if we had asked, he would’ve let us ride on Honeysuckle Rose with him to the next tour stop.

Okay, probably not. But the idea of us on the road (again?) with Willie Nelson might have kept you somewhat interested enough to read this far.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a 1983 video of Willie Nelson performing On The Road Again.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#157 – All By Myself

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#157 – All By Myself by Eric Carmen

 – It was never a definite thing, or as we would’ve referred to it in college as a lock. There were no promises or guarantees made, but if the planets aligned in a positive way there might be a very slight chance I could meet a Beatle.

Okay, I didn’t. But for this Classic Rocker it still turned out to be a pretty cool experience. Here’s the scoop – and yeah, I mean that with ink-stained, newspaper lingo.

In 2000 I was writing entertainment columns for a newspaper in northern Ohio. It wasn’t the big one in Cleveland, The Plain Dealer, but it still came with decent-enough credentials to score interviews and concert review tickets for most of the music and comedy shows I wanted to see. But there was one road block when it came to the music I really enjoyed. I wasn’t the official the pop-rock journalist, since that was how another writer earned his paycheck. I was the assigned country music expert, even though I knew nothing about real country music before accepting the gig.

What do I mean by real country music?

I’m talking about the original artists out of Nashville, Bakersfield and other locales south of my northern locale. When it came to my personal country playlists, they were limited to most of the tracks Ringo was assigned on Beatles albums and the occasional Rolling Stones efforts at twang on songs like Wild Horses and Far Away Eyes.

But I gained an appreciation while reviewing concerts and interviewing Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Tanya Tucker and quite a few others. And as a bonus, my country column also allowed me to hang out backstage one night with The Everly Brothers since the newspaper’s too-young, pop-rock reporter wasn’t classic rock savvy enough to realize Don and Phil were rock star royalty.

That was also a pretty cool scoop on my part.

I’d always feel a bit like a lottery winner whenever my writer colleague’s personal opinion that classic rock wasn’t really happening worked to my advantage. That’s also how I scored review seats for Paul McCartney and an invitation to a private rehearsal by The Monkees.

Ringo + All Starr Band 2000

I had a system going within my local newspaper gig when it came to classic rock and I played it like an all star.

So, I was more than psyched to learn Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band would be playing in Cleveland that summer. A quick call to my editor confirmed our pop-rock guy had no interest and I started polishing up my media pass for the concert.

I grabbed a press release sent to the newspaper and immediately called Ringo’s publicist. I was politely told I would be sent review tickets, but the former Beatle would only do one newspaper interview in each city. Cleveland’s belonged to The Plain Dealer’s legendary journalist (and my friend) Jane Scott.

Okay… so one win and one loss. I could live with that.

But then came a big score I didn’t see coming. The publicist told me one of the All Starr’s had a north coast connection and asked if I would be interested in doing a phone interview with Eric Carmen.

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Are you kidding me? My answer to that question was easier than the lock I’d had once on a college exam when the teaching grad student gave me the answers in advance.

Sign me up!

Let’s get this out of the way right now. I’m a major Eric Carmen fan as both a solo artist and member of The Raspberries. I can attribute this to a few things. I grew up near the band’s launching pad of Cleveland and even though I’ve never met any of the members, it almost feels like I know these guys. The nucleus of the group (without Carmen) were well-known throughout the area as The Mods, then after changing their name to The Choir scored a hit song in 1966 with It’s Cold Outside.

It was one of the songs that always brought together the guys and the girls from opposite sides of the school gym to dance during our junior high dances. And yeah, I have a copy on my digital playlist.

The Choir + Eric Carmen

Eric Carmen was in another area band in the early 70’s called Cyrus Erie. By this time, we were in high school and old enough to drive. That also meant we were old enough to hang out in teen dance clubs. I remember seeing them in a club west of Cleveland that was also called Cyrus Erie, but with an added tag of “West” to separate it from a same-named club on the east side.

Another memory of that long-ago night in Cyrus Erie West was when a cute girl with a flower painted on her cheek asked me to dance. And to really show off my memory, she said her name was Sunshine. I mean, really – how could any sixteen year old guy ever forget that?

The Choir and Cyrus Erie somehow merged, resulting in The Raspberries and international fame. Their brand of power-pop music was the needed alternative to (in my opinion) a rock scene that was getting too stuck in alternative music.

I seriously could not listen to twenty minute drum solos, over-long guitar improvisations or some guy blowing on a flute. Give me two to three minutes of rock and roll and I’m happy. And I know my college frat house pals would agree since our parties with sorority girls would’ve never been the wild times we still reminisce about if we hadn’t had everybody on their feet and dancing to Go All The Way, Tonight and I Want To Be With You.

Eric Carmen – The Choir

Then sometime during my college daze The Raspberries broke up. But my fandom was saved when Eric Carmen released his self-titled solo album that opened with All By Myself. It was one of the rare LP’s I could listen to all the way through without picking up the stereo needle and skipping any songs. It was also the go-to soundtrack at the end of our college parties with sororities when the lights were low…

All By Myself was also a go-to for my waking mind when it joined this Dream Song list on the morning of September 27. Of course I own a copy (duh), but surprisingly hadn’t heard it in awhile. I must have been rocking to The Raspberries or It’s Cold Outside that week instead. So for that reason, welcome to the subliminal memory category.

My phone interview with Eric Carmen to promote the Ringo and his All-Starr Band concert was scheduled and confirmed. I was psyched. Maybe a little too much…

I wish I could say the interview was one of my stellar moments as a music journalist, but that’s not how I remember it. I had done quite a few interviews previously with artists I consider to be heavyweights in the entertainment biz, but with Eric Carmen I very quickly morphed into fan-boy.

Remember the Saturday Night Live bit where Chris Farley interviewed Paul McCartney? All he did was tell the pre-Sir Paul how great he was and asked if he remembered all these great things he had done. If you don’t, here’s a reminder…

 

 

It was just like me talking to Eric Carmen.

Okay, maybe it turned out to be a bit more than that. I reminisced about everything mentioned above, including Cyrus Erie, The Raspberries, my college parties and his solo work. He was extremely polite and a nice guy, but all he really had to reply was, “Yes, I remember” and “Thank you.” Then I was onto my next memory.

Eventually we talked about the tour and performing with an ex-Beatle. So the article was salvaged and ran in the newspaper. I also saw a link to it on his website years ago, but in a recent search for this particular Classic Rocker rambling I couldn’t find it online.

It’s probably just as well – at lease for my journalistic reputation.

At the end of our talk I mentioned that my review tickets usually included a pass to go backstage after the concert. If it was cool, I’d like to say hello. He said that would be fine and if there was an opportunity, he might be able to introduce me to Ringo Starr.

Say what?! Call me fan-boy x2 and sign me up!

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The outdoor All-Starr concert was a major blast from the past with Carmen performing All By Myself and Go All The Way and Ringo singing his fab-twang classics. After the encore I temporarily ditched my wife Dancin’ Deb and our friends for a possible rendezvous with my hoped-for new best friends Eric and Ringo backstage.

As mentioned at the beginning of this rambling fan-boy confession, it didn’t happen.

Alas (do people still use that term?), my newspaper and name wasn’t on the list and I couldn’t talk my way past the strong-armed security guard road-blocking the backstage entrance. I’m sure I stood looking longingly (do people still use that term?) as Jane Scott and other VIPs walked through the gate and joined the far away inner circle that I could only imagine included Ringo Starr and Eric Carmen.

But in the long run, I can still claim to have had a very cool experience.

I rejoined Dancin’ Deb and our friends to share reviews of our favorite moments from the show. And if my more recent memories are correct, we ditched playing a Ringo CD during our drive home and turned up Eric Carmen. That’s called hometown loyalty.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Eric Carmen performing All By Myself on The Midnight Special television show from the 1970’s. This is the complete song – and not the edited version released as a single for radio play.

 

 

To purchase the album Eric Carmen with All By Myself visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing