[*Note: “THE RESURRECTION OF THE SHROUD: New Scientific, Medical And Archeological Evidence” by Mark Antonacci is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books. If you wish to learn more about The Shroud Of Turin, Antonacci’s book is a resource that gets my very highest recommendation.] .
. One of the very greatest “characters” in baseball history has died.
I still vividly recall that nationally televised game involving the Yankees in 1976 when the whole country first learned about MARK “THE BIRD” FIDRYCH. My entire family was gathered around the TV set and none of us could believe what we were seeing: The Detroit Tigers’ pitcher was taking energetic walks around the mound, that is when he wasn’t tending to it like it was a prized cabbage patch. He was talking to the baseball before he pitched it. I mean, LITERALLY talking to it, telling it what he wanted it to do: “I want you to go high and tight on this guy, get it? You hear me, ball? High and tight!”
Speaking of “high” and "tight", that’s what we all thought Fidrych was. I kid you not, we were all nearly convinced that this guy was tripping on acid out there. Or at the very least, three sheets to the wind. It was one of the most fascinating things any of us had ever seen in a professional sporting event. And what made it even more notable was the fact that the crazy kid on the mound was doggoned good! That loony “Bird” could really pitch!
Many times in the years since Birdmania in the 1970s, Fidrych’s name has come up in baseball discussions I have had. He was never forgotten by me, and probably never forgotten by ANYONE who ever had the opportunity to see him on a pitcher’s mound. For “15 great minutes," Bird was the word.
Some pitchers threw a screwball; Fidrych WAS a screwball. And a lot of fun! This world is a bit more insane without that crazy guy in it.
Please take a few minutes to read a little bit about one of baseball's true originals by checking out this Wikipedia article on Mark Fidrych. Click here: “Here.”
Rest In Peace, Bird. Build a new nest in Heaven, Bro. Loved ya!
"Sometimes I get lazy and let the dishes stack up, but they don't stack too high. I've only got four dishes." ~Mark “The Bird” Fidrych
. On April 10th, 1996, as good a friend as I’ve ever had passed away. This friend also happened to be my Pa. His name was Charles, and I have a number of really funny stories I could tell involving him.
When I was a little boy, Pa would sometimes wake me up for school by suddenly blasting the ROGER MILLER song “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd.” And some people wonder why I’m weirder than loon guano? You can’t wake up every morning to “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” and turn out [*GASP!*] normal.
For a few days in ’96, my Pa had been feeling quite poorly and finally agreed to go to the hospital. He wasn’t feeling well enough to drive, so I took him there in his Toyota pickup truck. Sitting in the truck in the hospital parking lot, he smoked a cigarette while I waited. After a while I asked, “You ready?” and he said, “I guess so” and snuffed out his cigarette a bit prematurely and we went into the hospital emergency room. Had I known that he was smoking his last cigarette, I wouldn’t have rushed him. But he never walked out of that hospital again, and passed away there within a week. (If you ever want to pay your respects, you can visit his ashes which are mixed into the dirt in the Winner’s Circle at Turf Paradise, Arizona’s premier horse racing track in Phoenix.)
I like to honor people I love who have passed on by playing songs they were fond of, or songs which especially remind me of them, on their birthdays and freedomdays (deathdays). My Pa’s favorite male singer was Nat King Cole; his favorite female singer, Dinah Washington. He liked Country music too. What he played most around the house was Louis Prima and Roger Miller records. I was raised (in more ways than one) to the music of Miller.
Since gaining his freedom from “this world”, my Pa has used music many times to make contact with me from the other side. The first time, in fact, he wasn’t even “dead” yet: He was still hanging on in the hospital when I’d gotten a call at work that he’d taken a turn for the worst. He was no longer conscious. I was rushing to the hospital when the radio station played Nat King Cole’s “Smile.” Somehow, I intuitively knew that I was supposed to accept this as a message from Pa. If you’re familiar with the lyrics to “Smile”, you realize how appropriate they were at a time like that.
Yeah, Pa loved Nat King Cole and every new business venture he’d start would include the name King: “King’s Cleaners”; “Charlie King’s Guaranteed Horse Racing System”; “King Advertising”, etc. I still use the King moniker in his honor. When I have to give a name while waiting to be seated at a restaurant, I almost always tell ‘em King. “King, party of fools and jesters, your table is ready!”
Well, in the 13 years since Pa gained his freedom, he’s frequently used music to reach me. Usually Nat King Cole’s music, but not always. On his birthday last December 10th, I played some Roger Miller and then put on a Louis Prima twofer I own: "The Call Of The Wildest"/"The Wildest Show At Tahoe." I played “There’ll Be No Next Time” of course (one of the funniest songs ever recorded) but only had time to listen to one more. I couldn’t decide which other “King Louis” song to play, so I said, “Pa, you make the decision” and I hit the ‘Random Play’ button on my compact disc player, believing that he would somehow manipulate the machine to play the song of his choice. Track #12 got selected, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” And I “got it” when Prima started ad-libbing lyrics: “I used to walk in the shade with the blues on parade and… the monkey wrapped his tail around the flag pole, ahh the flag pole, the north pole, south pole, KING COLE, the water hole…” Ah, there was (Nat) King Cole, even in the midst of Louis Prima!
Yesterday, to celebrate Pa’s Freedomday, I put on Roger Miller’s “Golden Hits” album - a record he himself owned in the LP format. But I was due at work soon and my time was limited. What to play? Well, “King Of The Road” (“Bu-Bu-Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bum *snap!*…”) – that’s a no-brainer. And “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” of course – no questions asked! And although “Chug-A-Lug” and “Kansas City Star” are two favorite Miller songs, for my third selection I went with “Dang Me” because, really, that song’s got my Pa (and me) written all over, under, and through it.
Well, after hearing all three of those tunes, I discovered that I still had time to hear one more because Miller’s songs are ultra-short and I only live 10 minutes from where I work. So, I thought: OK, Pa, I’ll let you pick one. And I hit the ‘Random Play’ button on my disc player. The machine went back to track #1: “Bu-Bu-Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bum *snap!*…” Yup, it was “King Of The Road” again. I’ll admit to a twinge of temporary disappointment. I would have chosen something I hadn’t just heard, but if that’s what Pa wanted to hear on his special day, who was I to argue?
I got in my Pa’s old pickup truck to go to work. Now ordinarily, I listen almost exclusively to Pat Metheny’s music while driving and if I turn on the radio at all, it’s usually to 'talk radio.' Here in Phoenix we have a lot of lousy music stations. No Blues, no legitimate Jazz. Oh sure, we’ve got the typical Classic Rock station, but for-crying-out-loud, how many times can one listen to Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love, and Stairway To Heaven? There’s an elevator muzak station that broadcasts from Prescott that I always tune in from December 26th through January 1st. Otherwise, the only music station that gets any play at all in my Pa’s truck is KOY 1230 AM. They play “adult standards” and although there’s nothing the least bit adult or standard about me, I dig some of the old stuffs: Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Anita O’Day. And Nat King Cole. Oh yeah, they like the King at KOY. In fact, it was KOY who played King’s “Smile” that day in ’96 when I was rushing to my Pa’s bedside in that hospital.
As I said, it takes me 10 minutes to get to work. I know because I’m due there at 4 PM and I leave my house at 3:50 PM every day and I’m never late. So, I pulled out of my driveway knowing that I would hear just two songs from KOY on my way to work, but suspecting that one of the two would be by Nat King Cole by way of Charlie King. I was wrong. Instead, what I heard was: “Bu-Bu-Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bu-Bum *snap!* Bu-Bum *snap!*…” That’s right, the second song KOY played was Roger Miller’s “King Of The Road.” And now I knew why Pa had selected that song when I let him choose one by putting my player on ‘Random Play.’ Pa knew that KOY was due to play “King Of The Road” and he wanted to add that little “twist” or "wrinkle" I always look for as the confirmation that he is present and not that I just happened to coincidentally tune in when a station happened to be playing one of our songs.
Nat King Cole; “King Louis” Prima; King Of The Road; Charlie King.
Leaving work to return home last night, I nearly didn’t play the radio. I was thinking of going back to my Metheny music, pretty sure that the fireworks and messages from the beyond were finished for the day. But I got a feeling that maybe I should just let KOY play for those 10 more minutes. Again, I knew I would be hearing only two songs on the drive home, but I let ‘er rip. And guess what. No, no more Roger Miller. And no Nat King Cole or Louis Prima either. The second song the station played was by some chick. Well, that’s what I thought anyway, until the DJ informed me after the fact that it had been Rod Stewart. No, neither my Pa (duh!) nor I have ever been Rod Stewart fans. But the song Stewart sang? I’m glad you asked. “Smile.”
And as I pulled into my driveway back at the house, the DJ said I should stay tuned because he had some Nat King Cole with Natalie Cole coming up soon. But I was tired and went to bed. OK, OK, Pa! - I got the message already! Sheesh! Ya act like I'm dumb or sumpin'.
For those of you who believe that your loved ones can’t reach you from the other side I have these three words to say: YOU ARE RIGHT! I agree with you completely. It is written: “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”
Hey, PA, this song’s for you:
Well here I sit, high, gettin' ideas Ain't nothing but a fool would live like this Out all night and runnin' wild Woman’s sittin' home with a month old child
CHORUS: Dang me, dang me They oughta take a rope and hang me High from the highest tree Woman would you weep for me?
Just sittin' around drinkin' with the rest of the guys Six rounds bought, and I bought five Spent the groceries and half the rent Lacking fourteen dollars, having twenty-seven cents.
Roses are red and violets are purple Sugar’s sweet and so is maple syrple I was the seventh out of seven sons My pappy was a pistol; I'm a son of a gun
. “May your laughs always be loud, may your nights all be long, may your ideas always seem strange, and above all, may you never fit in.” ~ Todd Snider (From the liner notes to 'Songs For The Daily Planet')
Remember when you were a teenager and you’d get together with a friend or two and listen to records? “Here, dude, check out this bitchin’ Thin Lizzy song. It really rocks, man!” Well, a few weeks ago, The Great L.C. and I acted like kids again. We sat around in his living room taking turns turning each other on to new tunes. I played him a couple tracks from ‘The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions.’ (No coincidence that despite L.C.’s open front door, no Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared on his stoop while the Wolf was howlin’.)
But my main goal was to add a second track to L.C.’s one-track Rock ‘N’ Roll mind by learnin’ him some Waylon Jennings. ‘Cause ya see, L.C. is a music bigot who don’t like no Country-Western. No Waylon, no Hank Junior, no Brenda Lee, no Roger Miller. Heck, he ain’t never even heard of Yoey O’Dogherty And His Corn Liquor Boys. Can you believe that crap?! It’s surprising that I even talk to The Great L.C., but he followed me home one day and my parents made me keep him.
Anyway, I don’t think I made even a Little Jimmy Dickens-sized chink in L.C.’s Rock ‘N’ Roll armor with my Waylon tunes. (May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up His Nose!) L.C.’s great, but he’s a slow lurner. He did, however, go out later and buy ‘The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions.’ Guess he just needed a Jehovah’s Witness repellant. Maybe he ain’t got no (Country) sense, but at least he ain’t soulless.
During our Listenin’ Jam, I guess I came out the winner because L.C. turned me on to a dude I’d never heard of before. (This is the second highly talented but criminally unknown musician L.C. has brought to my attention over the years. Previously he learned me some Gary “Surf Guitar” Hoey.)
Knowing that I dig Bob Dylan’s song ‘Talking World War III Blues’, L.C. first played TODD SNIDER’s takeoff on it titled ‘Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues’ from Snider’s debut recording called ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ (1994). Well, that got my attention immediately. The quickest way to my heart is through my sense of humor. And this Snider cat absolutely rocked it. I knew instantly that this track was no fluke: no one can be that funny and clever just once. When you hear sumpin’ THAT good, you know da dude’s got other boffo tricks in his bag. So, The Great L.C. played me another tune (‘You Think You Know Somebody’) while I read the liner notes in the compact disc’s booklet: Todd wrote about how his Dad, whom he loved, died during the making of this, his first album. And I was struck by how the description of his Dad sounded like my own Pa who passed on in 1996. I wasn’t recording my first album at the time, but I was sobering up some. Same thing.
Well, about a week later, I borrowed ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ from L.C., listened to the entire thing, and then purchased my own copy. Todd Snider is not a good songwriter. Todd Snider is a great songwriter! One of the best I’ve ever encountered. I thank God for people this talented. Todd can be outrageously funny, witty, sarcastic, surprising, strange and sensitive, all in one collection of songs. I tell you the truth, this Todd Snider cat is just like me. Well, except that Todd is blonde, while the one hair on my head that isn’t grey is brown. And Todd is younger, richer, funnier, better looking and more likeable than I am. (I hate him.) And Todd has girls after him. Me? Just Homeland Security (you see, I voted for Ron Paul, so I’m now officially a threat to this country’s safety and liberty). Also, Todd is a winner who writes songs, while I’m a loser who writes “Stuffs.”  And Todd has a fan CLUB; I have just a single fan (although it does have three speeds!) Other than these minor differences, Todd and I are like identical twins. I swear, I think he stole my DNA – the SOB!
I have always said that the greatest debut album by any singer from any genre was Rickie Lee Jones’ initial self-titled offering. Rickie came right out of the chute with incredible aplomb and sass. She had a totally loose, self-assured style and her first album covered so much emotional territory and was so fully developed, that I’ve always thought no one’s coming out party ever remotely approached it. Well, guess what. I think Todd Snider’s ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ probably bested ‘Rickie Lee Jones.’ He defeats her by wielding weapons of Humor and Spiritual Sense.
Interestingly, it has not escaped my notice that Rickie’s first album included a song titled ‘Easy Money’ and the song had a little twist at the end. Todd’s first album also included a song titled ‘Easy Money’ and the song had a little twist at the end. Do I need to spell out the moral of this little story for ya? If you want to release a really stellar debut album, something that will contend for Freshman honors, you need a little ‘Easy Money’ with a twist. (I like mine straight up. However, if yer a wuss, you can pour it over the rocks. But don’tcha never add sody pop!)
I’d describe Todd Snider’s sound as sort of a “John Mellencamp marries Bob Seger has an affair with Bob Dylan soaks the feet in Big Joe Turner smokes a little Country Twang partys with a Sense Of Humor slaps five with the Seeds of Spiritual Sense hammers a nail into Human Heart meets Meat ‘N’ Potatoes Rock ‘N’ Roll, extra Mustard, hold the Onions, and don’t do Windows, Card Tricks, or Married Women.” So, there’s the category for those of you who feel the need to categorize everything.
Well, Snider has been steadily recording music since his first shot glass across the bow in 1994. And you can tell the guy is brilliant by the unimpressive number of records he sells to the world’s (du)M(b)ASSES. What he needs to do is get hooked on heroin, slap Amy Winehouse around, punch Sean Penn’s photographer in the nose and pose naked with Madonna …or something. I mean, that’s what I’d suggest if I were his P.R. man. If Madonna’s unavailable, maybe A-Fraud could loan us a different girlfriend. [*Hire me, Todd, and I’ll make you "the number one attraction in every supermarket parking lot." Eat yer heart out, Roger Miller!]
‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ contains 12 tracks, not counting the aforementioned hidden track ‘Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues’ tacked onto the end of ‘Joe’s Blues.’ There’s the sad, poignant ‘You Think You Know Somebody,’ and there’s ‘I Spoke As A Child’ which is a wistful recollection of innocence lost - which happens to be one of my favorite themes in “this world.” There’s the funny, facetious ‘Alright Guy’; the spiritually astute ‘A Lot More’; and the hard-rocking (but half a shade too snarky for my tastes) ‘This Land Is Our Land.’ Y’all didn’t think ANYTHING could be too snarky for my tastes, didja?
But just how clever and witty is Odd Todd?... This whole affair kicks off with a bang: track #1 on album #1 is Todd’s modernized parody of The Who’s ‘My Generation.’ He titles it ‘My Generation (Part II)’ to avoid confusion. Here’s what Odd Todd has to say about his generation:
Did you know that there are people who put us down for no other reason than the simple fact that we get around?
My genration, part two, book three, verse four, Jackson Five, Nikki Sixx
My old man says the Woodstock generation Found a way to make this nation Open up its eyes and take a look around And he says my generation Ain't good for nothing I could think of something So I thought I'd jot it down
Here's to hair gel Hanging out at the health spa Using condom sense Watching L.A. Law Here's to drum machines Stonewashed jeans Credit cards, fax machines Big bow-headed chicks and frat guys Wearing forty dollar tie-dyed t-shirts And big old paisley ties Here's to living off dad as long as you can And blending in with the crowd Oh, my generation My generation My generation should be proud
We were raised up in the hallowed halls Of half a million shopping malls And there ain't any price that we're too proud to pay We'll buy anything from Diet Sprite To one thousand points of light Hey, I admit we're not that bright But I'm proud anyway
Here's to hair gel Hanging out at the health spa Using condom sense Watching Arsenio Hall …[etc.]… Here's to living off dad as long as we can And blending into the crowd Oh, my generation My generation My generation God, I hope I die before I get old My generation My generation My generation Strike a pose--there's nothing to it My generation My generation Oh, my generation should be proud
OK, that’s great stuffs, no doubt about it. But the song that sold me – the one that took the (un-)“easy money” out of my wallet - was ‘Somebody’s Coming’:
Tell anybody that ain't got nobody Somebody's coming Tell all these people who think they need money Somebody's coming Tell everybody walkin' tall and proud That their money talks, but it talks so loud That there's Somebody coming That's gonna change everything
Tell all these people makin' all these decisions Somebody's coming Tell all these people with their hateful opinions Somebody's coming Tell everybody in the KKK, in the FBI, in the CIA That there's Somebody coming That's gonna change everything
Somebody's coming to change your mind Sneak up on all you believe from behind Somebody's coming who won't let you down Who'll turn everything you thought was right around Well Somebody's coming That's gonna change everything
Tell all these people at the end of the line Somebody's coming Tell all these people holding "I'll work for food" signs Somebody's coming Somebody's coming, been here before If you think you're outta chances, well you've got one more 'Cause Somebody's coming That's gonna change everything
Somebody's coming that don't need your vote Gonna rattle your cage and rock your boat Somebody's coming like a thief in the night Gonna stand by his people when we're too weak to fight Well Somebody's coming It's gonna change everything
That “don’t need your vote” verse is my favorite, for both the lyric content and the sincere manner in which Todd Snider delivers it.
“Behold, I am coming as a thief.” ~ Jesus Christ (Revelation 16:15)
“…the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. … But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” ~ Saint Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2,4)
Yes, our Lord Jesus is not only a Good Shepherd, but a Good Thief, too. You’ll want to be home when the Good Thief enters your house to steal your stony heart and your pain. Don’t be at Jolly Jack’s, drunk and under the pool table with me.
Odd Todd’s ‘Somebody’s Coming’ is already one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs.
You see, folks, the REAL Messiah doesn’t require our approval in order to exercise authority (eat your heart out, U SAP). This world’s real Messiah is a Benevolent Dictator, a Holy King, a Sinless Savior. He’s not some democratically elected Marxist.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 7:7,8)
For Those About To Knock – about to Knock Around The Clock - We Salute You! Knock On! May You Bless And Be Blessed …but never fit in. 
~ Stephen T. McCarthy Yeshua, thanks for savin' me on April 6th, 1994. FOOTNOTES:
 In the interest of Full Disclosure, I will confess to having written two songs. The first in 1986, titled “Devil On My Coattail Blues." It's about trying to retain ownership of your soul while drinking with the devil. The second, “My Favorite Drinks”, I half stole from Rodgers and Hammerstein. Neither song has ever been recorded, so they don’t count fer nuffin’.
 SPECIAL MESSAGE TO “PSEUDO-REBELS”: Why don’t you conformists try to find the courage to become non-conformists and then REALLY rebel by getting your tattoos removed, by taking the stud out of your tongue and the ring out of your eyebrow? Why don’t you rebel against the commonplace? I mean, if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? If your friends downloaded Paris Hilton songs on their iPods, would you do it too? Why don’t you just be YOU so someone else doesn’t have to? Thanks for Bumpin’ On Sunset yesterday, Brian. .