Tag Archives: musician

When the Morning Comes

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When the Morning Comes

I decided, after much deliberation and fretting and sweating and stress, that the first single from our recording session should come out.  This even though we’re still in the process of rehearsing and recording the rest of my record.

Why?

Because I . . . and frankly all the musicians in the Ain’t Got No time (Rock and Blues) Band were moved by the results.  That’s not something happens all the time.  The mixture of the acoustic guitar along with the beautiful vocals that Matt Retz and Eric Rosander arranged for the tune were so stirring I felt that the time was right to release it.

When the Morning Comes will be the first single, released April 22nd in iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube Music, iHeart Radio, whatever the hell that thing Jay-Z and Beyonce have is called . . . hell I’ll beam it to Pluto so the aliens can broadcast it to the computer chip in your fillings if you want.

So let me regale you with the background of this song, if you will.

I came up with two lines in the very beginning, and that was some time ago, not long after losing my wife, Andrea.  She passed away on March 26th, 2011.

I’m broken and bent, beat down ’cause I spent my time fighting my battles of the heart.

I also had the chorus:

I see the moon…rising in the midnight sky, I see your headlights as you pass me by.
Though I wait here for you you’ve left me behind

Some years later the aching and pain started to fade and were replaced with some yearning.  Not for who I lost but for wanting to find someone else.  When that came I realized that meeting, seeing, hearing someone new was just as exciting and lovely as what I had.  So the last line of the chorus just fell into place:
And she’ll be here when the morning comes

The song is about loss, about love, and about the drive and enjoyment of moving ahead.  Sometimes you lose and you never recover.  Sometimes . . . life catches you by surprise.

This project…it’s just such a personal one, and as a musician that’s what you want, I suppose.  You grab deep into your soul, find themes that are universal, and bring them to the fore.  You don’t have to lose someone . . . we all have had breakups, arguments, divorce, loss takes all forms and faces.  I feel like this song could apply in so many ways.

My colleagues and fellow musicians say they can hear so many of my influences, from the Allman Brothers Band (particularly in the guitar solo) to The Black Crowes to The Eagles (particularly in the harmonies).  In the end, though, that combination of all of those makes this uniquely our own creation.

April 22nd the song drops.  I hope you are touched by it as much as we were.

 

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The Moment She Realized

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The Moment She Realized

It started tonight with Whitesnake.

Wait, wait . . . stay with me! I know, it’s a hair band from the 1980’s and the embarrassed icon of all that is excess and every boy my age in that era was able to sing (badly) along with David Coverdale.

Having tucked my sons into bed and cleaned up from the night’s culinary creation I sat down for the mere half hour or so of television I had available to me only to find that, with more than 500 channels, there was just nothing on TV. It was in scrolling through the guide on this weary evening that one channel had Whitesnake Live.

I chuckled as I said it aloud: “Whitesnake live!”

My daughter looked up with a smile that I realized, having raised her this past 16 years, was trying to be sly but was, in fact, completely faked.

“You don’t know who Whitesnake is.”
“Uhh…nnnno?”

I belted the next line out.

“...and here I go again on my ooo-oh-own….
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known!”

She had that look of cognition that was filled with both enlightenment and horror.

“Oh! That’s Whitesnake?!”

Before she could say “geez, Dad, why would you even know that song?” I looked at her and said:
“Yeah, they were a bit cheesy then…and accused of trying waaay to hard to copy Led Zeppelin but every boy loved them for the songs, the cars, and the girls in their videos.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Say what you want,” I sarcastically told her, “but David Coverdale, their singer . . . he had some pipes, my girl.”

She looked skeptical.

So I played her a different song. In the 1990’s, when the world was itching for Zep to get back together, there seemed no hope. Then out of the blue, after Jimmy Page had made disparaging remarks about Whitesnake he joined up with David Coverdale. It was as close, at that time, as we’d ever get to something Zep-like.

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I played the first cut off the record Coverdale/Page, Shake My Tree, for my daughter. She was transfixed.

“I’m weirdly into this song! It’s not metal, but kinda, and it’s very Zeppelin, but . . . not . . . oh my God, I like it!”

It was here my memory started to finally kick in.

“It was interesting when this record came out because it’s a moment of realization for your mother,” I told my daughter.

The kids all knew that their mother didn’t want to be married to a touring musician, and that’s okay…I wasn’t really one anyway. It was part of why it wasn’t hard to relegate the guitars to the back room. But my wife also, in the beginning, saw music as a phase, a thing that had little hold on me or little talent holding onto me.

That was, you see, until Coverdale/Page came out.

I put the album on and we listened to that first song, Shake My Tree, and when it was over I picked up the guitar I’d just gotten – from her, by the way – a Gibson Firebird. My wife was in the kitchen of our apartment. I started playing the opening riff, that maddeningly fast, sort of off-kilter line and my wife rounded the corner.

“Are you really listening to that first song over again…”

And she stopped dead in her tracks.

“How many times have you listened to that song,” she asked me, her mouth slightly agape.
“Once, just when you heard it here with me.”
“Aaand…you just started playing it.”
“Yeah…”
“After hearing it once.”

I honestly didn’t understand her confusion. It was a little hard to hit that off-kilter note here and there but once you had the muscle memory, I didn’t think much of it. It didn’t dawn on me – and I swear it’s not ego talking – that it was anything significant. It was just learning the song.

Andrea walked over, absent-mindedly put her hand on the back of my head, and said “I just never realized you really could play like that . . . that you could just . . . figure it out. That’s . . . ” (pardon all the ellipses, but it is for effect) she trailed off.

She kissed me, full-on, love of my life kissed me.

“I never told you how talented you are. This just drove it home.”

It was a great moment for a musician to know the person he loves now supported something so important in his life. We would have more arguments about music and more conflicts over my playing a night here or making a bunch of money on a Valentine’s Day there…but Coverdale/Page had driven home I was more than just some minor hobbyist noodling around on his guitar.

My daughter, hearing the fun story about her mother, no more than an anecdote, smiled and then looked up to see the guide still sitting on the TV screen.

Regardless…we still did not watch the Whitesnake concert.

 

Rest, but not Peacefully

I think I can honestly say I’ve had enough of the grim reaper, loss, and grief in the last year.  Hell, in the last three years.  Being honest, this comes after a particularly terrible day where loss seemed to be the running theme.

What I know how to do, though, is tell stories.  As a result, that’s what you’re getting here.  After a day where word came that two people – one a former colleague, the other more like a brother than a friend – had passed away the day went from difficult to painful.  So as I write here tonight, I’ve had a couple glasses of alcoholic beverages and it did little to numb how things felt.

Jim Fagin
Jim Fagin

The first man had been ill, a few years back he’d found out he had pancreatic cancer.  They’d declared him cancer-free for quite awhile, but like many other forms of this horrid disease it came back with a vengeance.

Jim Fagin was a curmudgeon of a man.  I don’t say that as an insult, it honestly was in the most appealing of ways.  When a woman once called our station – a call I seem to repeatedly get from multiple people each day – saying she wanted him to go after CPS.  Apparently they’d taken her kids and they had no right.  Sure, she’d been on meth and smoking pot and the kids were in soiled diapers but that didn’t mean she was a bad woman, right?  “Ma’am,” Jim said in his blunt demeanor, “I think you’re under the mistaken impression that we’re here to help people!”  He informed her we worked in news.  We weren’t social workers we had to make a profit and we told stories.  That was it.  It may be an over-simplification, but it’s true.

Jim wasn’t cold-hearted, though.  Before I ever worked with him I dealt with him while I was at another station – across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I had stumbled on an accident and it was one of the first stories I’d had to cover in my career.  A young boy, simply driving in the middle of the day to get a pack of gum at a convenience store, had been hit by a car.  The driver had left an adult bookstore, likely not wanting to be seen, and struck the boy, who was following the traffic rules, and hit him.  I’d shot the scene, a mangled bicycle, the street literally covered in blood.  Jim called a few hours after we’d closed up for the day. “I saw your story,” he told me.  “Powerful stuff!  Powerful stuff!”  The line was over the top enough we used “powerful stuff” for every good story from that point on . . . but Jim was serious.  He swallowed pride and called to get the video from us which couldn’t have been easy.  He went after the story at WOWT with a vengeance . . . to no avail.  He once told me he was always upset they’d never caught the driver.  That’s the kind of man he was and I always remembered that the story stuck with him.  He passed away on December 2nd and the journalistic world’s a little worse off without him.

The Manoucheri Trio: from left: Orv Morrow, George Marshall, Adam Manoucheri
The Manoucheri Trio: from left: Orv Morrow, George Marshall, Adam Manoucheri

The second loss hit home from left field.  On the way to San Francisco for a story I got a message from my father that George Marshall had passed away.

George was a dear friend.  Closer even to my brother, Adam, a member of his band, the Manoucheri trio and drummer extrordinaire for our band together, Manoucheri.

I met George when my band ran a jam session at the Howard Street Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska.  The bar had a storied history, with Albert Collins and Buddy Guy having graced its stage.  We got paid in beer, mostly, but we honed our playing as well.  We always opened with a set of our material and this night was no different.  After finishing up I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see George standing there.  “What can I do for you?” I asked pleasantly.  George, a man of few words, simply opened his coat and showed me his t-shirt, which had the logo of the country club of my hometown.  “Hey!!!,” was all I could get out.
“Your cousin Tom said you would be here and that you’d let me play.”
“Absolutely,” was my answer.  “What do you want to play?”
“Hendrix.  Clapton.  Santana . . . just want to play.”

Play he did.  My 2nd guitarist was starting a Hendrix tribute band and looked a bit skeptical.  Here was an unknown guy, short – just over 5 feet – and my friend Grover shrugged figuring he’d play his best.  We counted off “Them Changes” off the LP “Band of Gypsies” to start.  George didn’t miss a beat or a break.  He was dead-on, better than Buddy Miles on the original.  We did other songs, it was like Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Neil Peart and John Bonham had just arrived in one body on the stage.  We selfishly tried to stay on the stage as long as we could to the consternation of the jam attendees in the crowd.

My brother would have his own tales . . . a day in the school gym playing songs from Blind Faith, Cream and Jethro Tull.  The ability to play Rush with no problem was innate in him.

George was a man of few words but when he spoke it was worth it.  Often funny or insightful he’d also constantly push to gig.  When I left Nebraska for another job my brother and George became even closer.  He’d become the drummer in the Manoucheri trio.

Just a few months after my wife Andrea passed away I came to my hometown and stayed with my folks.  My brother came over and simply said “George and Orv are coming.  Let’s head out to the studio.”  It was a pattern repeated at every visit since.  George showed up, tuned up his drum kit, and walked up, shaking my hand.
“How are you doing,” he simply asked.
“Best I can,” I told him, and it was true.  It wasn’t easy and I was still a bit lost.
“You just need to play some music,” George said and sat down at his kit.

At the Crossroads Atoll studios with George
At the Crossroads Atoll studios with George

I remember that day in particular because we played so much, and I played so hard, that sweat was pouring into my eyes.  I had soaked through my shirt.  “Damn, he’s just torturing that guitar,” our bassist Orv said.  I had broken strings on two Stratocasters and was quickly moving through other guitars in my brother’s stash.

George didn’t stop.  He just kept playing.  When we finished he just said “well . . . when are we doing this again?”

My brother found George Monday night.  We don’t know what happened . . . we may never know.  He was young, healthy, in far better shape than I am.  Today just didn’t seem real.  To have lost George, who was at the house a lot, spent Thanksgiving with my family many years, had holidays, was simply part of the family, was unfathomable.

2013 has not been a banner year.  We lost my grandmother, the kids lost Andrea’s father and mother . . . and now this.  It’s all out of left field.

We will miss the amazing songs we didn’t get to play with George, the dreams we’ll never see.  We’ll miss the melodies we created over his intense rhythms.  But more we’ll miss the presence of the man who was a great friend.

Goodbye Jim.  Don’t rest peacefully, George, but play on.  I will try to hope when the summer storms roll through that part of the booming thunder is your hands, hitting every beat and never missing a break.

You Upset Me Baby . . .

You Upset Me Baby – BB King – Live at the Regal

Well, not really upset so much as . . . I used to be upset.

There were a number of things that used to bother me the first year after losing my wife.  For new readers . . . I lost my wife, Andrea, in March of 2011.  It was unexpected, fast, and like the song says . . . like being hit by a falling tree.

I used to have the hardest time with the smallest things in that first year.  Little things . . . she stole little things away from me.  I used to have the greatest love for the guitar because of the King of the Blues, BB King.  It’s funny, too, because I called Andrea my “Sweet Little Angel” and people always assumed it was because of a song I’d written for Andrea of a similar title.

It wasn’t.

The Live at the Regal LP
The Live at the Regal LP

I called her that because of the King of the Blues.  In that same concert from the song up there Riley B. King had a song called Sweet Little Angel that simply said “I got a sweet little angel.  I love the way she spreads her wings.”  That was her.  His lyric, his line, it inspired me to write my own song for her.

But when Andrea passed away there were a lot of things I couldn’t face and, to be brutally honest, it pissed me off.  I couldn’t (and still can’t) listen to Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight because it was her favorite song of his.  I also couldn’t bring myself to listen to BB King’s Live at the Regal, which bothered me almost more . . . because it’s one of the records that got me wanting to play the guitar.

But unexpectedly, the other day I stumbled on an old interview I was lucky enough to do with BB when I worked in Omaha.

It also led me back to Live at the Regal.  To my complete surprise, I was listening to the album . . . the entire LP, including Sweet Little Angel and I realized that it wasn’t affecting me the way it used to.  Sure, there are memories with it, and many of those involve my late wife.  Many don’t.

It isn’t as hard as it was in the beginning, to see these things come to pass.  In the first year it was like small pieces of Andrea were floating away, like the drifting, wafting embers that float around you when you’re at a campfire.  Each memory that left floated away, you think, never to be seen again.  That’s a hard thing to come to terms with.  You dread sleeping because you’re alone . . . then you dread it because you don’t know what memories your mind is going to purge.  You grasp at them and chase them like Frankenstein after his imaginary butterflies.

But then that thinking changes.  Some take years to do it.  Others never find the peace of mind.  I seem to have gained a different perspective in the last year or so.  The memories aren’t gone, not forever.  They’re just tucked away somewhere.  I also realized, to my surprise, that I know my life wasn’t defined by marriage.  It was part of me, and a part I was sad to leave behind, but it doesn’t – and it didn’t – define who I am totally and completely.  I was still a musician, a writer, a journalist, and a Dad.  I lost a lot, I know that.

I also have a lot of times that hurt.  March 26th will likely never be a pleasant day.  It’s the day I married Andrea and the day I lost her.  October 30th, her birthday, that’s hard.  She took a lot of things with her I thought were mine alone when I brought them to our relationship.

But it seems, just a little, like I finally got something back.  A piece of myself and a piece of my past that gives me a whole lot of joy.

Even if it is from the King of the Blues.

A weekend by the fire

Making S’Mores

So I spend a lot of time talking about all the things I should do here.  I should take the kids around the country.  I should find a cool thing to do each weekend.  I should have adventures.  I should – and this one was pretty important – do things that I know I would never have done nearly two years ago . . . things that Andrea, my late wife, would never have considered.  I’ve sort of taken that line on as a credo.  We’ve done it, too.

One of the major parts?  No secret if you’ve read here before: music.  I used to have continual arguments with Andrea about music.  Not what we should or should not have on the radio. (those were there, but more in jest)  Not why when we were in college I put pictures of Garth Brooks on a dart board in the control room of the TV station where we worked.  Not even why we had a stack of Garth’s photos ready to replace them once she ripped the now pock-marked Garth from the dart board.  I’ll be honest, I bought the dart board and hung it up in the control room specifically so we could throw darts at it.  It’s not that I had that tremendous a hatred for Garth Brooks.  I did it because it garnered attention from a certain blonde in the newsroom.  (If I have to spell it out more than that you should stop reading now)

But we had considerable arguments about my being a musician.  We started dating, you see, when I was in a lull in my musical “career.”  My original band had broken up, gotten back together and taken multiple hiatuses in the time I’d been with them.  This was a prolonged hiatus and I certainly wasn’t in a position where I knew how to start my own band up yet.

Still, we got married, these people were part of my life and the creation of my musical life were getting continually placed on the back burner.  When we hit financial straits she would see the guitars I’d worked so hard to attain – so hard to maintain and play – as dollar signs, not as what I saw them.  These were symbols of my life so far.  I wasn’t one of those guys who picked up a guitar to meet girls, do drugs, or party all night.  Quite frankly, if you saw what most local bands go through to hit the stage and then leave it you’d wonder why anyone would ever do it if you didn’t love it.

I won those arguments, and there were many.  But it didn’t mean I loved her less.  She had amazing things that I treasured.  She had intense things that drove me crazy as well.  That’s everything about marriage, I suppose.  You love the insanity and treasure the beauty.

So when she passed I was determined to do things that she wouldn’t have considered.  I looked at when the kids leave and am determined to go to Egypt to see the pyramids – something she wouldn’t even consider.  I want to go through Britain and France.  I want to go off the beaten path, see Hadrian’s Wall, go to the Marshall amplifier factory, maybe go on Land Rover’s obstacle course.  She wanted none of it.

With the kids I wanted to do things they could tell stories about.  I wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon and on the way go waaay out of the way and get a picture of myself standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona.  Just because.  I wanted to record a video of us playing a song for my friend.  I wanted to be silly and funny and crazy.  It was part of what made Andrea so amazing in the beginning and part of what she lost in the years after.

But this weekend the craziness, it seems, wasn’t necessary.  I got one of those little fire pits for the back yard last year, just because we were walking through the hardware store and Abbi, my oldest, saw it and said she thought it would be fun.  Andrea didn’t like it, didn’t go outside much in the last year because she had a hard time walking around.  When we put it up we used it a lot.  This last weekend, we didn’t go anywhere, but I took the kids to the movies and thought it was a necessity to entertain them for the last week, which had been really hard.

But as much as they loved Hotel Transylvania (which I thought was just OK, by the way) they didn’t walk around all day talking about it.  When I came home with firewood for the fire, along with graham crackers and fun-sized chocolate bars, though, they were ecstatic.

It’s then I realized the biggest thing is something I’d been teaching them but not listening to myself.  It’s about being together.  It’s about being with people you love.  It’s about calling your family or texting a friend and looking up at the stars and knowing they’re looking up there at them, too.  I spent more than an hour out there with Noah, looking at the stars, trying to find planets and constellations.

By night’s end, they had forgotten the movie.  But they couldn’t stop talking about the fire and even though it was warm outside, they loved it.

Again, hate to beat the slogan to death, but it’s true: we’re better together than when we’re apart.

Fly On My Sweet Angel

Exactly one year ago, I lost the love of my life, my very best friend, my wife, Andrea Andrews Manoucheri.  We lost so very much that, by all accounts, this could have been the year everything fell apart. Instead, it became the year our story began.  We have not lost the feeling of loss, the hurt of missing her so very much.  What we did learn, though, was that we are far better together than we ever are apart.

The kids and I did this video, with the pictures and words made by our own hands. It’s purposely low-tech.  It’s meant to show you how we scratched our way up day by day on our own.  We could have done a bigger, fancier, more produced version, but that’s just not us.

The one thing that’s not low tech is the song. When I started dating Andrea, she playfully said to me, “Write me a song!” When I looked at her flabbergasted, she simply said, “You’re a musician, they write songs for their girlfriends all the time. Don’t I rate a song?!” She was kidding, being silly and pushing my buttons with a mischievous grin. Two days later I played the song for her. While my brother and I recorded it for a previous incarnation of our band and it got minimal airplay years ago in the Midwest, I never felt like I’d gotten the song right, not really. So when I started this project, as hard as it was to do, I wanted to get it right.  She deserved so much better. I changed the lyrics to match where we are today.

I miss her more than you can possibly imagine. It’s literally like a piece of myself, the part of my soul intertwined with hers, was ripped away. leaving a wound never heals. She wasn’t just my wife.  She was my love, my life, and my best friend.

It’s like she came here long enough to give me what I needed then left, abruptly. But I hear my kids laugh together and the timbre of their giggles is her laugh. The smiles they have radiate their Mom.

I had it good and perfect for a while. It’s a hard life to come back down with the rest of the mortals. Particularly when she helped me learn to fly up with the angels.

 

We miss you, my love.

Fly on, my sweet angel.