Songwriter's Square

Songwriter’s Square Newsletter – June 2016

Dads, Grads, and Hanging Chads

In this issue: Fringe Festival, Show Reviews, New Releases,
Bob Stane, Podcasts, Virus Attack!, Gig Guide and more!!
May 15th Songwriter’s Square features FOUR terrific songwriters
as they talk about their music and perform in an intimate “in-the-round” setting.
PAM LOE & CHAD WATSON – California Country Music Hall of Famer Pam Loe won Female Entertainer of the Year for the California Country Music Association four years in a row! Husband and acclaimed producer/bassist Chad Watson has worked with Freddy Fender, Charley Rich, Ronnie Milsap, and Janis Ian. Together they are an unstoppable force!

DONNA LYNN CASKEY – An innovative clawhammer ‘Banjo Gal’, “her songs resound like modern spirituals. This is music that is good for the spirit, good for all that ails us, an acoustic antidote to chaos and overload. She’s very much the real deal.” – American Songwriter.

MASON SUMMIT – Host of Mason’s Noise Parlour series at Beyond Baroque. Since age 13 he has been playing around L.A. at Genghis Cohen, Molly Malone’s, The House of Blues, and Hotel Café. “His album ‘Loud Music & Soft Drinks’ suggests Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds era.” – Hyperbolium.

With your host, Bill Berry!
Songs, stories and surprises with four terrific songwriters
and one mediocre host!
Don’t wait! Order your tickets online NOW! CLICK HERE
You get 20% off your online purchase with the discount code ‘song’
Songwriter’s Square 
Sunday, June 19th
Seating at 6:30PM – Show starts at 7:00PM (sharp!)
Always at the Lyric-Hyperion Theatre and Cafe
in Silverlake, 2106 Hyperion, LA, CA 90027
And now, on with the show!

What’s Happening
Fringe is here! Check below for shows featuring some of the L.A. songwriting community putting their shows up on stage at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival... Congrats to Keri Kelsey and the Gardenia Room for being named #5 of LA’s Top 10 Open Mic Nights in USA Today! Who else made the list? Find out HERE… Our condolences to the family, friends and fans of Influential songwriter Guy Clark who passed away last month. He led the way for many Americana writers. Read more HERE… Heard the new Monkees album? Umm, it’s really good if you’re jonesing for that ’60’s jangly guitar-driven rock. Songs by Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher, Harry Nilsson and Boyce & Hart highlight the 13 track “Good Times”… How long does it usually take people to confirm or turn down a gig? I thought 24 hours was the norm. Apparently 4-7 days is currently in vogue. Except for Marty Axelrod. He takes 2 hours, tops… -BB

A Message from Bob Stane
Our friend Bob Stane, who has been running the Coffee Gallery Backstage for lo, so many years, needs our assistance. It’s one of the Southland’s best folk and songwriter venues. Well worth our time and money to help out. Please see Bob’s personal note HERE. Go straight to the Paypal donation site HERE.We’re all in this together, folks. No venues, no us. – BB
Coffee Gallery Benefit
So let’s help Bob Stane. Bill Burnett, Richard Byford and the Bill Berry Band (featuring Ed Tree, Brian Klock, Robert Riblett and Jim Kersey) will be performing on Sunday, July 12th at the Coffee Gallery. All proceeds will be going to Bob Stane and the Coffee Gallery Fund. Come and join us if you would. Info HERE.

More Music & Magic
by Craig LincolnIs there really some kind of ‘magic’ that happens when musicians record together in the same room at the same time?Does their musical and emotional focus create a synergy in live performance that’s missing when recording to a pre-recorded headphone track?Does the pulsing energy of rock and roll, or the sweet intimacy of the most heartfelt songwriter ballad truly deepen when the musicians are reacting and responding to both each other’s physical and musical presence?A while back I was able to arrange a large rehearsal room for an artist to record five of her songs for an EP.  Melinda Gibson (e-guitar), along with band-mates Shawn Clawson (bass), and David Rodgers (drums), was rehearsed and ready to lock down musical foundations for her upbeat, high-energy pop/rock songs.(Disclosure: Melinda is the wife of Songwriter’s Square featured performer James Hurley, and both are personal friends)I am just now listening (again) to the resulting EP — Money in the Bank —  and I say the answer to the above questions is, “Yes, definitely!”  The musical foundation of Melinda’s songs is “rock”-solid, but filled with enough raw, ‘anything can happen’ energy to keep me interested over repeated listening.  And tapping my foot each time.This is not the result of musical technical precision, or state-of-the-art recording/editing techniques – it’s the result of real commitment to a song by three artists, simultaneously, eyeball-to-eyeball.  It’s generated in real time, and I both hear it and feel it.My commitment to play more with others is renewed.  I won’t be in the recording studio imminently, but there’s no reason not to have a little more ‘magic’ in my living room!

Britta Lee Shain Does Dylan

Britta Lee Shain‘s recent book, “The Real You At Last”, about her days touring and canoodling with Bob Dylan, was just released on Jawbone Press. Also new is her latest CD, What The Heart Wants (reviewed below). The celebratory concert and book signing had a touch of magic in the air. Hosted at the very cool venue Kidd’s Jewelry Heist in South Pasadena, the evening had all the ingredients: food, wine, and lots of the local songwriter scene all came out to celebrate.

Backing Britta on originals and the poignant Dylan cover “Make You Feel My Love” were the excellent musicians of the Spork and Foon Review (Marty Axelrod, Debra Dobkin and Mark “Pocket” Goldberg and Ed Tree – with Britta above. Photo by Paul Zollo). They ever so carefully created the perfect swamp-folk atmosphere for Britta’s very personal songs and vocals, which were as delicate as a leaf in autumn.

The evening started early and ended late as the many well-wishers got signed copies of the book and spent time hobnobbing in the very comfortable surroundings. This is why we go out to shows, folks. To enjoy the community we belong to. You can buy the book and read excerpts HERE. -BB

New Releases
Britta Lee Shain
What The Heart Wants
by Steve WagnerIt was a Tuesday morning. I’d just gotten up out of bed and turned on my phone. (You do that first thing in the morning too, don’t you?) Slowly, as the phone booted, I realized that “What the Heart Wants” was playing on my mental radio.The title track of Britta Lee Shain’s new CD, it’s a song with a rare combination of substance and catchiness. Singing like a breathless Kim Karnes, she delivers a universal sentiment wrapped up in a short, memorable chorus: “The heart wants what the heart wants / the heart trumps the mind every time…”It’s an early peak in a collection full of melodic and lyrical highs.Another of them is “Boomer’s Bones,” in which she reminds us how “the children of sixties” (of which she is one) “were born to change the world,” and cites the beauty (Woodstock, American Bandstand) and the ugliness (assassinations, Vietnam) that defined that era. The song might have ended up being the dusty reminiscence of an aged hippie but Shain grants the Boomers an enduring and current vitality that literally took my breath away.Shain is the author of a memoir (released concurrent with this CD) called Seeing the Real You at Last, about her time on the road with Bob Dylan and her friendship and brief romantic involvement with him.Knowing this, it’s hard to not wonder if she’s singing to him or about him, especially on “You’re Just a Man,” and “Too Much Fame.” In the latter, she skewers the subject of the song—who’s “not there” except when being worshiped by the sycophants he vampirically feeds on—in a way that would probably make Dylan himself proud.She not only turns in a beautiful and credible rendition of Dylan’s own latter-day nugget, “To Make You Feel My Love,” but a peak at the CD credits reveals that Dylan is co-author of the sexy 12-bar blues, “You Can Blow My Mind (If You Want To).”Shain’s songs are very good but it’s her voice—a naked, vulnerable thing—that sets her apart. Even when she’s turning on the vocal gravel, there’s a delicateness (sometimes to the point of trembling, as on “I Want to Be Me”) that somehow increases the sense of her commitment to her message. It’s a welcome contrast, in these days of big, “American Idol”-type voices.

Producer Ed Tree and his usual band of tasteful studio cats have done a terrific job of supporting that delicate voice and Shain’s genuine communications, with tasteful, steady accompaniment across a palette of country, blues, and other traditional sounds.

Listen and Purchase What The Heart Wants HERE

Charlotte’s Shorts & Bumpersticker the Musical
by Tracy NewmanIf you’re looking for laughter in June, good news: The annual Hollywood Fringe Festival is happening! It’s filled with tried and true as well as experimental shows, mostly comedy, playing in many of the small theaters in the Hollywood area, every night and some afternoons! Two great productions are Charlotte’s Shorts and Bumpersticker, the Musical. I’m focusing on these because two singer/songwriters from the Los Angeles scene, Tracy Newman and Gary Stockdale, are involved.Charlotte’s Shorts is a one hour comedy starring Groundlings, ex-Groundlings and possibly future Groundlings. Among the cast members are Laraine Newman  from the original cast of SNL, and her youngest daughter Hannah Einbinder. (That’s worth the price of admission right there!) This comedy comes from the blog of Charlotte Dean, Tracy Newman’s daughter, Laraine’s niece, etc. Tracy is co-directing. You will laugh your ass off and want to go to all five presentations. Get your Charlotte’s Shorts tickets here!As for Bumpersticker, the Musical, well… if you like Gary Stockdale’s songs, you’ll love this show, written by Gary and Spencer Green, the same team that brought you “Bukowsical!” which was in the Fringe Festival in 2007. You will have 5 opportunities in June to see both Charlotte’s Shorts and Bumpersticker. Enjoy a night out at the Fringe!

Mom Hen’s Tips
Facebook Viruses
by Jeanette LundgrenA couple of people fell prey to a virus program in mid-May so here are some tips that you should keep in mind at all times when surfing Facebook.
If you are tagged in something, before deciding to click the link, take a moment to look at the post and how it’s set up. The video that caused some problems in May had a gobbledygook title and a good portion of someone’s entire friends list was tagged in a comment. I saw that and saw UNSAFE and immediately reported it to Facebook and let Facebook know that the account had been hacked so they could help secure her account. The second clue that this was not a safe thing to click was the fact that I was tagged to the video as described above and within a minute, I was tagged in another one from someone else I am sure is on the friends list of the first person. That was a clue right then and there that said UH OH ….
Then I heard from someone else who told me she had clicked on it and in order to watch the content she was instructed to download a plugin. And then she downloaded said plugin and everything went to hell in a handbag after that. I personally think that just changing a Facebook password in this case is not enough – downloading a plugin to me spells DANGER Will Robinson.
So here are some rules of thumb I operate on daily in case it helps you too.  Having your chat turned on is potential for harm … hacked friends accounts can text you through FB messenger on whichever app they use and that little chat window comes up and it’s hard to avoid clicking a potential bad link, especially when your screen is small and there is only so much room to maneuver. If you’re concerned about missing Facebook messages, having your chat window on all the time doesn’t get them to you faster.  Most of my clients have their chat windows turned off but they have email notifications turned on so all FB messages go directly to their email inbox.
Friend Requests … I know some people accept friend requests without even looking at the profile of said requests. Or they accept the request but then click unfollow. Ya know, unfollowing doesn’t help much; it means you won’t see them in your newsfeed but they can still see you and tag you in things that are un-tech-healthy; they can tag you in videos and sunglasses and sneakers and goddess knows what else with a virus link or click-spam. They can add you to spam groups, or invite you to spam events. And if you don’t have your friends list locked down, they can spoof your account.
Your internet health and safety is TONS more important than accepting a friend request from an account that feels a little off, especially since you don’t know them anyway! This is not a potential fan; this is a potential nightmare. So delete the friend request and mark it spam so they can’t send you another request. Plus, once you have marked it as spam, Facebook is also alerted.  And if more than one person reports that account, FB will prevent them from sending more requests.
Locking down your friends list is important too.  To do this go to your profile/timeline, click “friends” and then click “Privacy” and change the privacy of your friends and follow lists to “only me.”  Then go to your settings, and change “who can send you friend requests” to “friends of friends.”  That way people sending you friend requests can only see mutual  friends.  Of course, mutual friends are not always safe either because of the folks who accept everybody without first looking at the account.
Staying safe on the internet is a lot more important than accidentally clicking on a possible virus laden video or something a friend’s account sent to you. Look at the overall picture first and not the friendly face in the middle. And if you are doubtful about something, leave it in your notifications or timeline review and either do a google search or ask people who might be in the know. A couple of good sites to follow are Hoax-Slayer, ThatsNonsense, Snopes, and Mashable.For more information please contact Jeanette at Mother Hen Promotions


Record Release Party
w/The Records featuring John Wicks
and Special Guests!
At Molly Malone’s


Gig Guide
June 2016
(Includes Fringe Festival Shows by our friends!)
6/1 – Smith Sistahs and more
6/1 – Hollywood & Highland Players
6/2 – John M (and friends)
6/2 – 10 by 10
6/2 – Thursdays Open Jam
6/2 – Mar Vista Artwalk
6/3 – Summersongs West
6/3 – Mason’s Noise Parlor
6/3 – John Batdorf, The Brambles
6/3 – High Voltage
6/4 – Severin Browne, Jimmy Yessian
6/4 – Roy Zimmerman
6/4 – Bumpersticker the Musical (Fringe)
6/4 – Thanksgiving is Tradition (Fringe)
6/5 – Melissa Thatcher, Cynthia Brando, Diego Garcia
6/5 – Fringe Shorts (Fringe)
6/5 – Hillary Rollins, Amy Engelhardt, Michele Brourman, Cynthia Carle
6/5 – Adams’ Pack Station Barnyard Jamboree
6/7 – Aidan Connell
6/9 – Cynthia Brando, Emme, GG, Greg in Good Company
6/10 – Acoustic Night – various
6/10 – Jackie Gibson sings songs of Brill Building
6/11 – Freebo’s Songwriting & Wellness Retreat
6/11 – Secret Gardners
6/11 – Eric Schwartz
6/11 – Robert Morgan Fisher, Tom Kell & Paula Fong
6/11 – Pat Donohue
6/12 – Coffee Gallery Benefit: Bill Berry Band, Bill Burnett, Richard Byford
6/12 – Kristen Toedtman
6/12 – Folding Mr. Lincoln
6/14 – Harry Nilsson Birthday Sing-Along
6/15 – Alison Lewis Record Release Show
6/18 – Shannon Hurley
6/19 – Harriet Schock’s Sunday Night at the Pavilion
6/22 – Marina V
6/24 – 6/25 – The California Saga
6/24 – Brian Woodbury & band, Double Naught Spy Car
6/25 – The Armoires Record Release
6/28 – Roswell Sisters, RJ Chesney, Bliss Bowen, Dylan BrodyOther Venues:
Coffee Gallery Backstage
Kulak’s Woodshed
Pasadena Folk Music Society

Songwriter’s Square May 15
How do we do it? Have so many terrific shows? It’s all in the guest artists, folks. Last month featured the hilarious and erudite Phil Ward, the suave and loquacious Eric Kufs and the ribald but ever so dainty Normandie Wilson in a mix of music and discussion that touched on everything from cover songs and working at Disney to fan letters from Harvey Sid Fisher! You missed it? Too bad. But keep an eye out for the next S2 Podcast. We’ll have it all for you! See phun photos HERE! -BB 

Confessions of A Serial Songwriter
Kum Ba Yah
by Shelly PeikenNot all‪#songwriting‬ camp destinations are this beautiful. I was here in the 90s. It’s still just as beautiful but a lot has changed especially for the writer who’s been doing it for as long as I have…Continue reading Shelly’s blogHERE.

New Releases
Pam Loe & Chad Watson
7 Kisses
by Bill BerryA touch of roadhouse country, a helping of gospel plus the matchless harmonies from Pam Loe and Chad Watson help make their new EP, 7 Kisses, a fine way to settle down for an evening in or prepare for an evening – or a Sunday morning – out.Opening with the Tex-Mex/pop of “You Tell Me”, the seven-song EP touches on country-waltz, swing and rave-ups  like the funny “No Spin”. The Gospel songs (“Ill Keep My Eyes On You” and “Let Me Go Home”) are my favorites – I could hear a whole Gospel album from P&C – but lighter fare like the familial “Catfish Monday” and the ode to a “Good Cup Of Coffee” keep the recording balanced.The real stars are the vocals of Pam and Chad. The country music couple have been stalwarts on the L.A. scene for as long as anyone. Chad is a bonafide super producer in town, as well as the first call bassist for anything recorded north of Ventura Boulevard. Pam has been a leader in the L.A. country music scene for nearly 30 years, and is enshrined in the California Country Music Hall Of Fame.At the length of an EP, the pair’s latest gives us a taste of what I hope will grow up to be a full LP from Pam Loe and Chad Watson. Take a listen to 7 Kisses HERE.And don’t miss Pam & Chad performing together this month at Songwriter’s Square!

Theatre & Cabaret
Merrily We… Redux?
by David HolmesIn advance of a new production of the Stephen Sondheim masterwork ‘MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG’, Tony nominee Michael Arden has just concluded a developmental workshop led by Tituss Burgess, Steve Kazee, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and Valarie Pettiford. It’s set to hit the stage of the Wallis Annenberg Center; November 22 to December 18, 2016.Noting that The Wallis is both a performing arts center and a collaborative developmental resource for new ideas and projects, Paul Crewes the new artistic director said, “We were thrilled to support Michael’s development of our co-production of “MERRILY”, which will be our second theater production of the new season.”Anticipation for this show is high, especially with the artistic and popular success of the recent production of ‘SPRING AWAKENING’ also helmed by the prolific Michael Arden. He has also been named the Wallis’ first ever Artist-in-Residence for the 2016/17 season.RE-FROZEN?!
Normally, when you’ve got an Academy Award winning Disney animated musical that millions of kids can’t enough of, the next step is a Broadway show. But not for ‘FROZEN’.  On May 27, Disney took the unusual step of mounting an new adaptation of the hit animated film at their state-of-the art 2,000 seat Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park.According to park reps, ‘FROZEN – LIVE AT THE HYPERION’, “…immerses audiences in the world of Frozen in a live theatre production,” 3 to 5 times a day. Under the direction of Tony nominated Director Liesl Tommy, the show features six full musical numbers and a 2,200 square foot video wall.An entirely separate two-act Broadway production of ‘FROZEN’ is slated to join Disney Theatrical’s New York productions of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” for spring 2018 at a theater to be announced.  Visit the link for ‘FROZEN’ video highlights. HERE.ARE YOU IN ‘THE BIZ’?
New Musicals Inc. in Los Angeles is hosting a week-end confab just for musical theatre bookwriters, lyricists, and composers. The ‘Biz of the Musical Theatre’ conference this year will take place the weekend of July 22, 23, and 24 in a brand new conference facility in Burbank.There is an Early Registration discount of $100 off the full conference for participants who sign up by June 1st.  To find out more information about the conference, and to register, click HERE.

Podcasts Are Go!

I have two podcasts to tell you about this month. First, the very fun and funny interview show, Casting For Two, hosted by Chris Hernandez, had a very likeable guest this past month: me! That’s right, I am out promoting the release of my new album “Awkward Stage” (out July 22nd) and Chris had me on to talk about improv comedy, writing, working with Steve Martin, Katrina and a bunch of other nonsense. You can listen and download it HERE. Or check on iTunes and download it there.

The Songwriter’s Square Podcast made it’s debut this month with two shows, part 1 and 2 of the April 17th Songwriter’s Square featuring Ali Handal, David Lucky and James Houlahan. We just recorded the show and put it on the podcast. Cool right? You can listen HERE, or search on iTunes to download these shows. Yay! – BB

Pat Whitman sings Harriet SchockA capacity house (people came and were turned away – how often does that happen at your gigs?) greeted the wonderful vocalist Patricia Whitman as she celebrated and performed the songs of Harriet Schock (above center and right) on May 19th at the E-Spot Lounge.They were joined by vocalist Gary Lynn Floyd (above left) and guest Misha Segal in a career retrospective of Ms. Schock’s stunning song catalog. The six piece band, featuring Schock on piano and keyboards (and jokes) was solid, with props  going out to Kelly DeSarla for both her wonderful flute work and her quick thinking stage maneuver to set up a microphone mid-song for guest harmonica player, Brad Blaisdell.Too many friends in the audience to mention them all. This is the kind of event/show we all wish for. Let’s hope there are more evenings like this dedicated to other local songwriters, though there are few as deserving as Harriet Schock. Bravo! – BB

I’m Not Hearing A Single
I Brought My Father With Me
by Robert Morgan FisherMy father is George G. Fisher (CDR. USN Ret.). He now resides up in Washington State with my mother, Loretta. A producer I once worked with said, “Every man’s story is ultimately the story of him and his father.” My father was a warrior—I’ve written a lot about him in both song and fiction. Our affectionate nickname for my father is WarDog.
When I was a kid, my family was stationed for a time at Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station. We lived in Camarillo. My father and mother thought it would be a good idea for me to take group guitar lessons. A local professional guitarist named Don Ventura said, “You get some kids and a garage and I’ll provide weekly lessons.” I learned half a dozen chords, disrupted the lessons with my immature antics and hated practicing. That first guitar, an almost unplayable Kay, was partly to blame. Don, who was said to have “played at The Hollywood Bowl,” taught us all the Valley songs—Down in the Valley, Red River Valley. I acquired a paperback book of corny folk standards, “campus classics” that had been popularized during the Folk Music Scare (as Martin Mull called it) of the early 1960s. I’d play some of them for WarDog and often the ones I didn’t know he was able to remember from childhood. Songs like I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago. And I mean, he know ALL the words to that song. Incredible.
When we were transferred to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station up in Washington, we lived in a trailer park, waiting for a house on base to become available. I was in 6th grade. The Best of Ed Sullivan came on TV one Sunday night—Ed’s show had been unceremoniously canceled earlier that year. There was Paul McCartney playing Yesterday with such emotion that I turned to my parents afterward and said: “When I get my guitar out of storage, I’m really going to learn to play it.” They laughed derisively—but within the year I was taking private lessons with a nice old man who tried to teach me to read music. I quit out of boredom—but continued to hang out at the local music store.
It was there that my musical education truly began. I bought songbooks by the dozen, gradually improved. I picked strawberries in the summer in order to afford my first decent guitar, a Decca electric. Those years are chronicled in my song, Six Steel Strings.My father always made sure I had access to a guitar. I went through a number of cheap instruments—couple of 12-strings, even a banjo—before we were transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. One day, I happened upon The Drinking Gourd Folk Music Store, owned by Dave Hild and John Hauck. It was there I learned that the flashy, trashy Ibanez maple 6-string I coveted was really just a plywood cheapie that would never mellow with age. Getting that guitar at Christmas a couple of years before remains a very special memory, but I learned that massive abalone, mother of pearl inlay and gaudy purfling will not improve the sound or playability of an instrument. It was a startling revelation.WarDog was a little put-out at first—who could blame him? He’d invested quite a bit of money in my music career, including close to a thousand dollars to a con-man “producer” who promised to create a demo that he would shop around Nashville (that is a story in itself). And yet, when I took my father to The Drinking Gourd and he heard Dave and John’s pitch, he got it. I said I wanted to buy a $700 S.L. Mossman 6-string. I was delivering pizzas at the time and attending classes at Wright State University. My father said: “You come up with half and I’ll match it.” I did and he remained true to his word. By the time we moved to Virginia (Dad had been promoted to The Pentagon) me and my Mossman were beginning to show some promise.Leo Kottke was my God. When I met John Fahey (another story for another time), I burst into my parents’ bedroom at 2am babbling excitedly (I was underage and the club owner had served me about 23 cokes because I was literally the only audience member). Rather than be pissed off, my father nodded and smiled with sleepy understanding and put me to bed.I worked in a tire factory in Manassas, Virginia for a year, saving money to go back to college, this time at The University of Texas in Austin. I’d been born in Austin and its music scene now rivaled Nashville’s. When the Mossman was stolen, my father used the insurance money to commission a handmade Stephen Weiss guitar which I still have and is on permanent loan to my producer Chad Watson. It has my initials on the fingerboard, RMF—which makes Chad refer to it as the “Real Mother F*cker.” Incidentally, the Mossman was recovered by the Austin police from a pawnshop the following year, damaged, and Dad returned the insurance money. How’s that for integrity?
Through the years, I’ve played music for my father at every opportunity. The best explanation of how important this was, and exactly how it worked, can be found in the monologue I deliver at the top of my YouTube cover version of Tom T. Hall’s The Year That Clayton Delaney Died; to hear my father utter that single word of praise, “Fantastique,” was all that mattered.Early on, WarDog indoctrinated me on the importance of writing songs that mattered. When he and my mother first heard Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line, I was not yet born. And yet, Rodney Crowell’s tribute song Walk the Line Revisited nails it: It sounded like the whole thing came right down from outer space. My parents both said the first time it came on the radio they froze in their tracks and their eyes practically popped out of their heads.
I witnessed something similar in 1964 when Roger Miller’s King of the Road hit the airwaves. Yes, you’d have thought aliens had landed. They cranked up the radio and shouted “WHO THE HELL WAS THAT?!” They bought the 45 and we wore it out on an old Magnavox turntable. My father later explained that this was “the first song he’d ever heard about real life. About how it feels to have an empty stomach and your back against the wall.” Children of the Great Depression are not interested in pretty declarations of love. Dad wanted a story in a song, a story that mattered. We devoured the new crop of songwriters coming up: Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Prine… We’d analyze each song while shooting pool in the basement. His profound insights influence me to this day. A song could matter. A song could change the world.There were moments of friction. I once played Michelle by The Beatles for him and his reaction was “Meh.” I said, “Well, I know it doesn’t have a train or a hobo in it—but for chrissakes—lighten up!” Another time, I played Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and he said: “I don’t like that song—it’s vindictive.” I replied, “Well, yeah—that’s the point.” He was dismissive about my early songwriting efforts—but in the end it made me a much better songwriter. I have a somewhat famous friend who I’ve known since high school. Our fathers happened to be in the same squadron and I remember him telling me how his father (who is no longer with us and was always nice to me) constantly interrupted him when he practiced. But that friend eventually became a minor rock star—so maybe a little resistance makes you push harder.
The mighty Michael Smith wrote what I considered the best father song ever: I Brought My Father with Me. The first time I heard it, I wept for an hour. And I don’t mean to get sentimental or treacly, but…I am so grateful for my father’s love and wisdom. The way he always provided me with the means to grow as an artist and a writer. And if you ever hear me perform a song, especially a song I wrote, know that at all times there’s an interior compass pointing north.
What would WarDog say—“Meh” or “Fantastique”?

Thanks, Dad. Love you (and Mom too).

Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoy this month with Father’s Day, Election Day, Graduation Day as well as the Hollywood Fringe and so many other events
to spend with friends and family.
Special thanks to the writers who take their time to share their thoughts writing for this newsletter.See a show this month! There’s a lot of them!Much love, Bill