Monday, April 29, 2013

she's so unusual

I didn't really care much for what was playing on the radio in the '80's when I was in my 20's.  I really didn't care for much 'pop'.  I was still listening to Jackson Browne, The Who, Warren Zevon...still looking back in my rear view mirror to the seventies I guess.  I was listening to LPs of people I liked.  I did pick up listening to Dire Straits (a lot of Dire Straits), REM,  U2 and the Indigo Girls along the way in the '80's.  I was wearing out old cassettes of my faves.   My car radio wasn't tuned to AM or FM much back then.

There was this one unusual pop girl that caught my attention.  Her style was just as unusual as her attire.  Her voice was incredible.  Even though she was covered with all that paint, she had this quirky unusual kind of beauty that matched that quirky beautiful voice of hers.

Back in the day I never had a massive record collection.  I bought albums that I knew I was going to listen to ~ albums I knew that I was going to wear out.  When I first experienced her All Through The Night on MTV (back when it was Music TV), I went out and bought her debut album She's So Unusual (1983).  I wanted to see what else she had to offer.

Some of those songs were just not to my cup of tea, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and I'll Kiss You and When You Were Mine.  Yet I enjoyed and still enjoy Time After Time and All Through The Night.  Most of her songs were well written, wonderfully executed and fun to listen to.  Every now and again, a pop star surprises me.
Today, most of the paint is gone.  She's 30 years older now.  Even so, she's still an unusually beautiful woman with an unusually beautiful voice.  She wasn't just a hit of 1983 - but still a hit with me here in 2013.

Rated V for Violence

Vomit Bag Art
I remember the first movie I got to go see by myself.  Mom dropped me off at the Pitman Theatre downtown Gadsden to see Mark of the Devil in 1972.  The newspaper ad was very enticing for my young eyes.  The movie guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of me as well as gross me out completely.

The movie was supposed to be so sickening that they promised that each movie patron would be issued a vomit bag.  They made good their promise alright.  I got my very own vomit bag.  The movie turned out to be very lame.  The most memorable scene was when this guy pulled out this witch's tongue.  There was lots of hacking and chopping of limbs in the movie.  I was hoping throughout the movie that I would not have to actually use my vomit bag because I thought the bag was the coolest thing about the movie.  I kept it for years after that.

The movie was gross, but not vomit gross.  Being a foreign film with English dubbed over the German made for a surreal experience. The setting was Australia/Germany in the 17th Century. The movie was loosely based on history, but it was just too bloody for my young eyes.  I had seen gross before, but nothing this gory.  There's a lot of gory in horror today...more realistic gore.  It just doesn't appeal to me.  Down through the years I have gotten used to it, and it's all silly to me.

The movie also had partial nudity, exposed breasts of witches being tortured.  For some reason those righteous witch hunters seemed to want to get an eyeful of the victims they tortured and killed.  Breasts and blood was very wicked and hardly entertaining.  I got the feeling that the people that produced the movie were just as demented as the witch hunters depicted in the film.  For someone to find this film entertaining, makes the demented too.  Hammer and American International Films were tame compared to Mark of the Devil.
Looking back, I don't know why on earth mom would let me go to a movie called Mark of the Devil.  I guess maybe she thought it was a Billy Graham film...maybe a Christian movie about the end times.  There were a good many Christian films released in the theaters around that time. She just dropped me off and inside I went.

My dad once told me when I was a boy that I should guard what goes into my mind.  He said there are things we allow ourselves to see and never be able to erase from our minds.   In time I learned that he was right.  I have since relayed my father's message to my daughters.  I can't always be there to keep them from putting bad things in their mind.

Gina and I do our best to guard the gates.  We continually pray over our little ones ~ knowing God will take care of them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

highway from present to past

Me driving The Yellow Betty
The weather has been wonderful in my neck of the woods.  I decided to crank up my 73 Super-beetle after a long Winter of not driving it.  No need for air-conditioning since the climate is so perfect ~ just roll down a window.  I love the sound of the motor.  I enjoying driving the straight.  Nothing drives or feels like an old classic VW.  It's a unique experience all it's own.

It's a time machine!  As I drive my mind goes back in time.  The first time I ever climbed into a bug was back in the 60's.  My dad brought a pretty dark blue bug home and all the family wanted to go for a ride together.  We were a large family.  We would've been more comfortable if we had jammed ourselves in a telephone booth.  It was very exciting, riding around the mountain packed in like sardines.  I rode in the very back storage compartment.  My butt was very small back then.

Dad didn't keep that one, but later owned a sedan and later a 412.

Brook owned quite a few over time.  We'd get rides to school.  I'd get a ride to and from Boy Scout meetings.  Brook couldn't pass a big puddle up in his bug.  He'd go out of his way for a splash.  Brook and I also made many trips to Bethlehem Camp in  the Summer in his bug.  VWs were part of our life.  They seemed to be everywhere back in the day.

I remember Jim Young, SR driving Little Jim and me to Cumberland Caverns for a scouting venture in one of his old VW buses.  I remember the bus smelt like an ashtray.  Little Jim and I ate beanies-weenies cold right out of a can.  We thought we were on the biggest adventure of our lives.

Big Jim also gave me and  Little Jim a ride through the woods in one of his old chopped bugs.  Jim and I were pals in elementary school.  One day Jim's dad picked us up from school.  I had been asked to spend the night.  One the way home Big Jim made a sharp right ~ right into the woods.  It blew my mind.  We were riding a car in the road, no trail, no nothing.  He made his own way through the woods and eventually pulled back on Fairview Road and made for home.

Emory Boggs drove up one day with a brand new pretty blue VW he bought from DePaul Motors.  I'd never seen a VW bug that was a straight shift before.  It was always fun going places with Emory.

I remember when I first got my license, Brook taught me how to drive a shift.  Mary Maddox tried to teach me how to start a bug on a hill.  I was clumsy dancer with the the gas, clutch and brake pedals.  It took me a while to get the hang of that.  I was embarrassed that I couldn't get that bug going in front of Mary.

Diane Van Norden was a dear friend who would drive up often from Chalmette Louisiana to Gadsden, AL to visit the Finlayson family.  I thought she was a mighty adventurous and brave young lady to be jumping in her bug to come up and see me.  I only drove down there once.  Diane usually drove up, wanting to hang with the entire Finlayson clan and the Finlayson clan loved seeing her.  It was always great seeing her little blue bug pull up our driveway.  I was always sad to see her drive away in that bug of hers.

My first car was a 73 bug that I bought from Brook.  I drove down to Bonifay, FL and then to Jay, FL that trip.  That was my first and last solo trip to camp Bethlehem.

Somewhere during that time I drove up in that same bug to see my friend Doug  Moore at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY.  Had some car trouble on the way back.  I made a stop to call and tell my parents that I probably wouldn't make it home that day.  The weird thing is, when I got back in the car after making that call ~ it's started and ran like a top all the way home.  I could physically feel my parents prayers in the car with me.  That was a pretty cool moment.

I remember driving places to sing.  That little 73 bug of mine could hold my guitar, a six channel mixer, a power amp and two Bose speakers with some room to spare.  I'd often hook up with my friend Michael Bynum to play at a little gathering somewhere.  Good times!

I remember hopping in Brook's bug to go to a  Linda Ronstadt concert in Tuscaloosa, AL. The belt broke around Ashville, AL.  Brook had a belt on hand and a good Samaritan helped with the tool Brook needed to make the repair.  For a minute there I thought we were going to miss the concert, but we arrived in plenty of time.  It was a great day and a great concert.

As a single guy in the early eighties, I'd go to the drive-in and watch a double feature at the Rebel Drive-In.  At the time I had a dead end job and I usually didn't want to just go home to go to bed to end up waking up to go back to the sweatshop.  So ~ I smuggle a box of KFC into the drive-in and watch whatever was playing that night.  The old Rebel was fading by that time and sometimes I'd find myself the only patron parked there.

I later sold that bug and bought my Renault LeCar.  It would've been nice if I had kept both cars, but I didn't need two cars at the time.  That was the last VW I owned until my mother in-law, Betty Hale,  made a gift of her little yellow pride and joy.  I promised her that I would take very good care of it and treat it just as good as she treated it.  Betty bought it new, when Gina (my wife) was 10 years old.  It was the car in which Gina learned to drive.

So I'm driving my VW around this Summer.  Children point and people smile and wave.  Almost everywhere I go, someone stops me and tells me about the bug they used to own.  They have good memories too.  Driving my beetle brings to mind people I've known and places I've been.  Driving my beetle takes me where I need to go and also takes me back.

Gina posing next to her mom's new car.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

boy astronaut

My dad used to host the Gadsden Table Tennis Association (GTTA) back in the 1960's.  GTTA had tournaments at various locations in Etowah County, but the best location was at the recreation center in East Gadsden across from the Goodyear Tire Plant.

All the grown-ups were having a blast, but I wasn't.  I sat there and watched table tennis games after table tennis games back to back.  The sound of a dozen ping-pong balls being hit paddle to table to paddle echoed throughout the room.  It was an exciting time for grown-ups.

As the sun went down and the ping pong balls droned on, this Elvis left the building.  I wandered around the the rear of the facility and discovered their playground.  It was empty.  It was all mine!

I was fascinated by the rocket play-set that towered over the playground.  It was so quiet outside except for the crickets.  I didn't want to get on the swing or anything, just that mighty rocket.  The streetlight offered just enough light to play, but just enough light to make a kid feel as if he had the planet to himself.  As I entered the craft from the bottom portal, the light against the bar walls cast dark shadows on the each level.

I remember the atmosphere of that night and of that moment made me feel a little scared.  The dimness, the dusk made me think that maybe that rocket might really take off.  I climbed on up to the top level.  It seemed even darker there.  It was cramped, but I had enough room to lay on my back with my knees up.  I don't know how long I was up there in the darkness, in that quiet moment, looking up at the stars.  It was a wonderful place to look up at stars, at the nose of a spacecraft.  I thought that this must be what it's like to be an astronaut.

Napkin Art from a long time ago
by David B. Finlayson

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

i was not born a blues man

With The Guise @ MoonSong 2009
Born into a large family, we all had to share a bed.  Four girls to two beds, two boys to one bed.  Brook and I shared a small bedroom to ourselves.  The girls had the master bedroom down the hall.

If Brook ever brought something neat home, I was into it.  One time Brook built a cool model WWII model airplane.  I had just watched 633 Squadron on television and decided to reenact one of the scenes.  I was humming the soundtrack to 633 Squadron as the plane in my hand attempted to dodge the imaginary antiaircraft fire.  There was a narrow passage in that I had to make it through.  The Germans had the target well protected with guns aimed at my plane.  I could have made, but I had to see the plane crash into the door frame.  There was quite a scene going on in my mind and the music swelled and faded.  I didn't bother to pick up the pieces.  Brook came home and asked me what happened to his model airplane.  I mentioned 633 Squadron and he put the pieces together.  It's a good thing he had only assembled just one model airplane together that day.  I would've tried and tried until I had successfully bombed my objective...or die trying.

If Brook ever brought something nifty home, like a typical little brother, I'd wait till he was gone and I'd get into it.  It's how I got my first harmonicas.  At that time Brook had started hanging out at Laverty Music Company.  One day he brought home three brand new Hohner harmonicas.  I'd never seen one up close.  They each came in their very own little case.   Brook later left the house, tooling around somewhere in this MGB.  I couldn't resist.  I didn't just try one of them, I tested them all out.  I figured he wouldn't notice I'd goofed around with them...but he did.

As it turned out, I left one or two out of their little blue coffins.  I was in the bedroom, at the scene of the crime when he noticed his harps had been tampered with.  "David, did you blow on my harps?"  I didn't see in any harm in being honest about it.  I said, "Yes."  "Well, they are yours now."  I didn't understand.  Why would he just hand them over to me because I blew in them a little.  He replied, "David, do I use your toothbrush?"  Why no I didn't.  I had to think about it for a moment...OH... it's was a little brother germ thing.

I had unwittingly scored big time!

One afternoon, a couple of weeks later, Brook was behind the couch playing his old Telecaster.  I walked in the room and Brook said, "Go get your harmonicas."  I ran back to the bedroom, grabbed the harps and joined him behind the couch.  He sat on the piano bench and played some blues licks on his Tele.  He told me to start by focusing on a hole on the harp and inhale...try to make a note bend.  I didn't come close, but he kept playing and I kept trying to make it happen.  From time to time, he'd get me to fetch my harp and we'd jam a little.  I know I sucked at it for a long time, but my brother is a patient teacher.  Maybe he was just desperate for someone to play the blues with.

I was a young man and knew little about the blues.  What little I did know, it was from Brook's record collection behind the couch.  Brook listened to a lot of Eric Clapton and B.B. King back in the day.  He spent a lot of time working on his blues chops.  It took me a long time to get mine.

I kept a harp in my pocket through most of my teen years.  There was nothing like playing in stairwells or parking decks.  It was great finding places that had good acoustics where that harmonica could really wail.  Public bathrooms worked well too.

The first song I learned wasn't the blues though.  I learned Amazing Grace note for note.  That was the song that I played over and over again and got better and better.  I'd learn other songs, but I eventually got the hang of playing the blues and that's what I enjoy playing the most.

There was a great parking garage at the Lenox Square Mall parking deck in Atlanta.  That's where students of Art Institute of Atlanta had to park their cars.  We had to walk a couple of blocks to and from the parking to the school every day.  I'd cut loose on that harp on that deck.  I'd also make it wail in the AIA stairwell.  I became the mystery harmonica player that took a long time for faculty to find me out.

I had to walk a lot in Atlanta, and I had my blues harp to keep me company.  A harp is good company when you're along.  A harp also comes in handy in a room full of strangers.  I don't recall ever meeting a soul that didn't like the blues.  The blues transcends age, race barriers.  It's a common language for mankind.  The blues is something that the more you live, the better you get.

I don't just blues.  I always enjoyed listening to Bob Dylan and Neil Young.  Those are two songwriting harmonica guys.  The second song I learned to play on harmonica was the Neil Young's Heart of Gold solo.  I always liked hearing Dylan with a harp rack and guitar, vintage songs or new songs, he rocks.  Both those guys influenced the way I deliver songs today.  If I'm on stage, I usually have my harps with me.

I've enjoyed going to Vineyard and worshiping with harmonicas.  I'm glad I'm at a church that don't mind the blues...or harmonica texture.   I've got friends that know how to go vertical with their guitars, but playing harmonica for me is when I feel vertical.   When my voice reaches limitations, my harp goes where my voice can't reach.

Nori let me jam a little with Wind at Vineyard in 2009.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Welch's Grape Juice Conspiracy

Growing up in a family with six kids, Mom had to make things last.  Throughout my childhood, every time I was served Welch's Grape Juice (not the frozen canned concentrate), it had been watered down to make last.  For years I thought that that was how you were to drink it.  Mom taught us to put about two fingers of Welch's juice at the bottom of the glass, two teaspoons of sugar, add water and ice.  It turned the juice into something that tasted something more like Kool-Aid.

One day when I was a teenager, I went to the fridge for something to drink.  There was a bottle of Welch's grape juice.  I thought to myself, "I wonder what this taste like straight?"  Oh my, what an blissful experience.  From that day forward I never diluted and sweetened that stuff again.  I drank it straight and from that day forward, Welch's grape juice never lasted long around our house after that.

Years after I married Gina, she remarked that she had the same experience growing up.  Her mom diluted the juice for her kids too.  I get the feeling that mom and dad were drinking it straight all along.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oliver Reed

Untrained actor, but one of the best.  Most of the rolls he played didn't show his range.  There are many movies he made that I haven't seen, but the ones I have seen, he always had a dramatic presence, a presence with weight.

Reeds career took off with Hammer Films of the sixties.  That's where I remember seeing him first, on the screen at the drive-in.  The Muskateer movies of the seventies were a great vehicle for him.  This franchise always had a splendid cast of actors, but it was Oliver Reed's Athos that I remember so well.  He played many kinds of rolls, but my favorite were the mythic figures.

Reed was made to play classic, legendary figures.  He should have played so many Shakespeare rolls.  He would've made an incredible Petruchi in the comedy Taming of the Shrew.

His career would've skyrocketed had the producers gone ahead and secured Oliver Reed as James Bond when Sean Connery bowed out.  He missed the being picked because of his drinking and fighting.  It was an opportunity lost.  People might have been debating who made the best Bond...Reed or Connery?  But that never happened.

Oliver Reed peeked in the early to mid seventies and then faded in the eighties.  The rolls weren't as good.  Most of his movies didn't do well at the box office.  Maybe it had to do with the alcohol.   He lived hard.    He made no apologies for his life, he did what he did and he was what he was. I can't help but believe that Oliver Reed could have been and done so much more.

He died while Gladiator was still in production.  Proximo was a wonderful part for Oliver Reed to end his career.  Though he appeared to be an older man, there was still great strength in his presence. He was one impressive actor.

"Oliver died of a heart attack in a bar after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan's Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Gruse whiskey and Hennessy cognac, and beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pat Terry

I once drove up with Christian Brother's Sound to hear The Pat Terry Group for the first time at Berry College in Rome, GA.  I wasn't an official part of the crew, but didn't mind hauling some of the equipment that night.  We weren't in a concert hall, it was a rather large meeting room that was packed.

The Pat Terry Group's 'hit' song at that time was 'I Can't Wait to See Jesus'.  Hearing them live, to me, was better than what was on their LP.  It was a good concert, three guys on guitars, plenty of harmony.  I never purchased any of their albums because they weren't my cup of tea.  A lot of my friends liked their music and their music was always playing at the old coffeehouse.  They also came to play at one of our Christian Brother's No Jive Jesus Is Alive Falls Festival back in 1979.   I was very familiar with their music even though I didn't own any of their albums.

Something really happened that caught my interest when the 1980's rolled around.  At a time when I was tuning out to the new CCM.   Along came a string of incredible solo albums by this Pat Terry guy.  Humanity Gangsters, Film at Eleven, and The Silence were each incredible albums.  This just wasn't the Pat Terry I remembered, that caramel apple Christian music that was a little to sticky sweet for me.  These new albums had punch, had an edge, nothing sugar coated folksy about them.  They were not only what I consider the best of Pat Terry, but among my favorite Jesus Music albums.  Great songs, great sound, great musicians, great production ~ nothing weak. Terry had teamed up with Mark Heard on these albums.  Mark co-produced all three with Pat and they made a terrific team.

During that time Christian Brothers Coffeehouse, SKYLIGHT, booked Pat Terry to come play.  He lived a few hours away and tossed his guitar in his Volvo and drove on over.  The contract I have states Christian Brothers paid him an honorarium of $200.00 (plus hotel expense) to do a concert at SKYLIGHT coffeehouse in 1984.   He came out about three times all together.  He's a very nice fellow, a quite spirit about him.  There was one night we ended up having a small turnout.  Pat started up behind the microphone and then asked if he could just sit down in the carpet pit area with us and do his thing.  That was a good moment in time. His songs were just as good played by the songwriter and his guitar as they did on the albums.

Pat quit touring in 1986 as a CCM artist and started pursuing hawking his songs in Nashville.  I purchased his most recent CD Laugh for a Million Years in 2009.  This is nothing like any of his earlier work.  Don't buy it expecting it to be.  It's good stuff and it was great knowing he's still out there creating and playing.  
Keep up with him at his website and maybe you'll get a chance to see and hear him live.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

fresh amid mediocrity

By the mid-80's I was burnt out on what was called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).  What started out from a Spirit led movement that flooded the streets for all to hear, turned into an industry for Christians only.  The unique sound of all the early Jesus Music bands had faded.  It seemed about the time they started calling it CCM  and not Jesus Music (or Jesus Rock), seemed to be the day the music died.  Keith Greene took off and went to be with the Lord in 1982.  There just wasn't much there that drew me.

Where did all those unique voices go, those unique sounds that were so anointed?  It just turned into a business and the Christians would go listen to their Christian 'rock stars', and young Christiandom was no longer out on the streets with a song for the world.  Instead, it seemed the Jesus Movement had moved out and away from earshot of the world and become an island unto itself.

This is just my take on it. You might feel completely different about it, I understand.  To me though, the fire just wasn't in and on the music like it had been from the late sixties thorughout the seventies.  There was nothing new or fresh.  
CCM album covers got all hip and '80's looking.  Most of the records sounded as if they were all recorded in the same studio, on the same instrument.  Down through the years I've been told by several studio musicians that my hunch was correct.  I was expecting so much more than what it all came to.  I quit buying CCM because it wasn't Jesus Music anymore.  I quit buying it because it wasn't good anymore.  If it was out there, I didn't want to wade through all the mediocrity to find it.   I quit buying CCM because I got tired of trying to find a needle in haystack for something quality, something really GOOD!

I found myself tuning out of the 
CCM all together.  True story, the mediocrity of CCM drove me away.  I started listening to good music that was off the island and going on in the mainland.  I delved into Dire Straits, R.E.M, Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, Men at Work, Bruce Springsteen, and so many more.   I still wrote and played my Jesus Music at the coffee house and around, but I just didn't listen to Christian radio or listen to the same sounding artists over and over again.  I didn't go to the 'big name' concerts, or buy the albums.
Michael Bynum somewhere in the '90's

It was my old dear friend Michael Bynum that would occasionally insist that I listen to something from CCM genre.   I wouldn't give any CCM the time of day if it weren't for Michael putting a cassette under my nose from time to time ~ insisting that I give it a listen.   Michael knew what I liked.  We were both hardwired by our Creator to be on the same frequency.

The cassette was THE TURNING (1987) by Leslie Phillips (now Sam Phillips).  The album was her fourth and last venture as a Christian artist.  I never heard any of her previous albums, I just started with The Turning.  Like I said, it was Leslie's last venture on the island before she changed her name and became a crossover artist.  This was her first project to be produced by her future husband T. Bone Burnett.  Wow, what a combo!  I loved the tone of the entire album.  Most albums of that day, whether secular or Christian might have had one or two good songs per album.  The lyrics were good, the production was solid.  This album had a heart.  It was incredible from beginning to end.

For some reason, it was the songs River of Love and God is Watching that moved me.  By the way, it was those two songs that I started penning the song You Can Count on Me.  I started the song back in the late '80's and didn't finish it until about a year ago.  It's one of those songs that I'd just pick up and work on and put down for a year or so.  I never wanted to let it go, trash the unfinished lyrics after so many years in and out of the drawer.  I knew that one day I would finish it.  The lyrics to the song are very simple, but not just any phrasing would do.  I'd pick it up, work on it, and put it down.  Listening to River of Love and God is Watching again tonight, I can hear the influence that I pulled from them.  Those two songs are the parents of this new song completed all these years later.

To me The Turning wasn't a typical Christian album of that time.  I guess things were indeed turning in Leslie's life, like I said, she left the island and kept writing and singing elsewhere.  I vaguely remember an interview with her during that time. I can't quote her, and forgive me if I'm wrong (it's been a long time), she said something to the affect that the Christian audience kept expecting her to be a preacher, had different expectations of her as a Christian artist rather than just a singer/songwriter.  She said she was just a musician who was a Christian, and she wanted to be a musician, not a preacher.

I can understand and respect that.  I had no problem with Christians crossing over.  Some were ridiculed, but I don't think they quite got it...being in the world and not of it.

There were other albums, tapes that Michael shared with me that I was really grateful he did.  The Turning was handed to me at a time when I thought Jesus Music was dead.
CCM went on it's humdrum way and still playing across the airwaves today.   It's a CCM industry and still has a solid following.  Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, it just doesn't float my boat.  CCM from the 80's on,  I just couldn't connect with it unless Mike hit me over the head with something he came across and liked.

To me Jesus Music was reborn through Worship that would a few years down the road.  I started hearing new songs, new sounds, a whole new dynamic as man tuned his instrument and heart to worship God.  Yes, there's a lot of mediocre 
stuff coming from this wave as well, but there's a steady flow of wonderful worship music coming not from the island and not from the world.  It's coming from somewhere else.

I've been catching that wave baby.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

America's Favorite Drunk

Today when I arrived at church, my old friend Lori Howell asked me if I'd like a drink.  I went into my best Foster Brooks and told her yes I would.  I told her that I had been drinking since I woke up and that I'm always ready for another.  She meant iced tea.  Lori then asked if Foster Brooks was still alive.  It was a compliment to me because she knew who I was impersonating.

I didn't know the answer until I returned home and searched him in Bing.  Old Foster died in December 20, 2001.  I guess his death went under the radar in the terrible wake of the Muslim September 11 attack.  I didn't know that Foster had died.  I knew if he was still alive, he had to be pretty old by now.  As it turned out he has not been with us for quite sometime.  It had been decades since I'd seen him do his sot routine on television.

Foster Brooks was a brilliant comedian that made me laugh every time I saw him work.  The only thing is, Foster had only one shtick, playing a drunk.  He really was good at it and milked it for all it was worth.  He had great material and perfect comedic timing.  Foster Brook wasn't a drinker when he was at the peak of his career.  He drew from his experience as an years of drinking before he took the bet.  He once stated that he quit drinking on a $10.00 bet.  He said at the time he really needed that $10.00.

I read where he got out of doing the alcoholic bit as times changed and the audiences got politically correct.  The routine that worked for Brooks for decades was no longer appreciated.  Sorry about that Mr. Brooks, I still think you are funny as all get out.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The weird things I saw in the 80's.

Through out my twenties and thirties I used to watch almost anything and everything.  I could watch science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy, adventure ~ almost anything.  When I was single, I'd head to the theaters with my pal Jerry Connell.  He'd watch almost anything and everything too.  I had to be more selective as to what I took my girlfriend to see.  Gina has always liked action, adventure and comedy, but not dark and violent...especially not scary.

I went to the movies as often as possible.  If I wasn't going to a movie, I was hitting the video store to pick up a couple of VHS tapes most Friday and Saturday nights.  For the life of me I don't know why I rented some of the movies I did.  Slashers were a big thing back then, but I wasn't a fan of slashers because there was nothing much to them.  Nothing could beat the original slasher, Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960).  Even the Psycho sequels of the 80's and 90's never lived up to Hitchcock's original.

What I wanted from horror wasn't the typical blood bath, but an original story, good characters, good acting and SUSPENSE!  I didn't want to go to the movie just so some creature/specter jumped out of a closet or out of a dream and kill a bunch of teenagers one at a time.  I didn't care for Freddy, Jason or Chucky.  They were all the same to me, created with little imagination.  The first Friday the 13th was good, but all the movies to follow seemed just the same.  Slashers made big bucks back then in spite of my opinion.

I never cared for gore for gore's sake, or horror that relied on people jumping out and planting a hatchet in the head of some poor chic in a bikini.  Even though I didn't rent it, Jerry brought over EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II one night.  I was reluctant to watch it when I saw the name and the picture on the box.  Jerry coaxed me into it and I'm glad he did.  Evil Dead was gory, but had a wicked sense of humor.  ARMY OF DARKNESS later came out in the early 90's and was the best of the trilogy.

I started reading Stephen King books in the early eighties after seeing THE SHINING.  This was a horror masterpiece in both print and on screen.  Some of King's book to movie adaptations were really good, but most were so-so.  I really enjoyed THE DEAD ZONE starring Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith.  The television show that came along years later is quite good too.

Another horror movie that I loved from the 80's is AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, directed by John Landis.  It was my friend Michael Bynum that told me not to miss seeing this one.  The special effects were impressive for it's day but not too impressive today.  The movie is still worth seeing and holds up nevertheless.  The story is original and it's got some humorous scenes in it too.  Humor and horror go together nicely.

John Carpenter directed Kurt Russell in a fantastic remake of THE THING.  Again, special effects have come a long way since that movie, but it's still a great movie with a lot of suspense.  Carpenter also produced THEY LIVE which is leaves much to be desired, but the story had so much promise.  The film was shot in eight weeks on a Roger Corman budget and it shows.  I haven't seen the 2011 remake of The Thing, but why doesn't somebody take some time and money and resurrect and retell They Live the way it should be told?  There's a lot in this movie that makes the story line prophetic, but it's such a crappy piece of work. The story wasn't that believable back then, but would be quite believable today.  This 80's movie needs a do over.

So if you missed the good horror movies of the eighties, I recommend all of the movies above.

Friday, April 5, 2013

tag along

My daughter Katie is six years older than her little sister Kelsey.  They are good friends and love each other dearly.  Sure big sister can be a little bossy at times, but she's a good sister.  I see a whole lot of love going on there.  I can see that they are going to be tight for life, friends forever.

Even though Kelsey is so much younger than her big sister, they like spending time together.   Every now and then Katie wants time to do teenage stuff which excludes Kelsey, but that's understandable. Recently Katie had a friend drop by the house and I found Kelsey alone in her room sad that she couldn't take part.   I can relate.  I remember.

When I look at Katie and Kelsey's relationship, I think of my childhood.

I was a middle child...maybe a little off center.  There were six of us in the Finlayson household...two boys and four girls.  Brook's the oldest.  I was the fourth one to come along.  I liked hanging around my big brother.  I know I was a goofy kid, but he didn't seem to mind me tagging along most of the time.  Even as a kid, I appreciated that.

I recall once him telling me to go home.  He was shooting B-B guns with Wesley Ellis down off Red Oak Road.  I didn't want to go home but I hadn't been invited.  I guess you can't have your little brother stalk you everywhere you go, so I walked home.

Brook for the most part would let me go places with him.  I don't recall him ever being mean or bossy to me.  I don't think I could say that about myself as a big brother.  Brook was always fun to hang around.  He could tell great stories, explain stuff, and make me laugh.  Who wouldn't want to hang around a guy like that? 

There would be days when Brook would take off with Chuck and Donnie to go jeep riding on old logging trails.  I couldn't go, but I sure wanted to.  I'd hear about the adventure stories later.  It only made me want to go more the next time.  I would never get to.  I can relate Kelsey.

I was invited on plenty of adventures though.  We'd take trips downtown on the old green city bus to see movies and check out all the five and dimes on Broad Street.  Things got even better when Brook started driving.  We'd go places in his old VW.  He'd aim for every oncoming puddle and pot hole.  I really enjoyed it when he had the MG...when it was running.  I was invited to tag along to see Hammer horror movies or Spaghetti Westerns at the Rebel Drive-In with Brook and Jamey Moore.  Jamey loved shooting homemade movies and I enjoyed being asked to be part of the gang in those productions.

When Brook started playing guitar and writing songs, I enjoyed going along.  I didn't even mind being the roadie.  It was Brook that gave me my first guitar lessons...and my first harmonica lesson. 
When I started writing, he was there to critique and teach me to compose a good song.  Brook was a teacher from the start.

When Brook picked up photography, he showed me the ropes and I enjoyed working with him in the dark room.  I remember riding in the passenger seat of Maggie (the MG) around tight mountain curves out on back roads on a Saturday afternoon.  It was a beautiful day and the top was down.  I was a teenager.  He had let me borrow one of his 35mm cameras to take pictures that day.  He'd bought black and white film earlier and had taught me how to roll my own.  That day we were looking for photo opportunities around the country side.  Brook handled the wheel and the stick like Steve McQueen around those mountain curves.  I sat in the passenger seat taking the moment in.  I remember peering through the lens, watching trees pass by in a blur.

I enjoyed going places with Brook, because where ever he went, things were happening or were going to happen.

Brook.  Thanks for letting me tag along.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

backyard buckaroos

Jennie and Brooky Finlayson riding the range.
Our world was filled with cowboys on the small and big screen.  We had Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys and his wife Dale Evans who was Queen of the West.  Gene Autry was The Singing Cowboy, but the best cowboys not only wore white hats and could handle a shoot'n iron, but had golden singing voice.

Some cowboys didn't sing, but were like cowboy super heroes like The Long Ranger and Zorro!  Most kids of the 50's and 60's were all about dressing and living the cowboy way ~ living by Gene Autry's Cowboy Code.  Our TV cowboys wanted us to wear the white hat in life and be good little buckaroos.

Most of our heroes back then were cowboys.  There were so many of them then.  We knew them all too.  We knew their sidekicks and even their horses' names.  We all wanted to be cowboys.   I'm sure most of you baby-boomer's out there have an old black and white picture or two of little backyard buckaroos in your photo album.

Brooky and Jennie