Tag Archives: 2014

Catch you later, Meat

“That,” my friend Meat said, “is a pretty cool mid-life crisis.”

It was his take on my story of why, as I reached my 40s, I started making up for lost time. I’d come to the realization that some of my favorite bands were not going to tour forever, and now that I could afford it from time to time, I ought to get out and see them live.

I didn’t agree that it was any kind of a mid-life crisis, but you had to smile. That was Meat, delivering a good line with a sly grin, and it made for a great story.

There always are lots of great stories anytime Meat is around. We’ll hear some tomorrow when we gather in Rockford, Illinois, to remember him. My friend Brian Leaf died Wednesday. He was 57.

Story No. 1: The Inner Sleeve has been the record store in our hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin, since we were in high school. Meat loved to tell of hanging out at the Sleeve and listening to tunes and shooting the breeze with Mike, the old hippie who’s run the place all these years. I wished I’d done so. I vowed to do a better job of being friendly with the folks who sell records. So grateful I did.

Story No. 2: Ten years ago, Meat emailed me to commiserate that he’d missed seeing rockabilly legend Sleepy LaBeef in Rockford. I’d seen Sleepy the night before in Green Bay. Sleepy was right in Meat’s wheelhouse. He loved Americana music. Meat also missed seeing a guy he knew that night. Meat’s friends told him “it was pretty wonderful” to see Sleepy and Rick Nielsen play a set together.

Story No. 3: Some tales of youthful misadventures date to the ’70s. I’m thinking Meat was with us the night we went tobogganing down the local ski hill. In the dark. After it closed for the night. Alcohol was involved.

Yeah, Meat and I, we go way back. We went to the same high school, then to the same college. We worked at the same two newspapers early in our careers, with my wife joining us at one. Add our hometown paper, where he met his wife Mary, and there is a rather distinct circle of friends from Wisconsin.

But that was a long time ago, and our group will be in the minority tomorrow. It’s OK. Brian belongs to Rockford, his home since 1988. He and Mary raised their kids, Roy and Sally, in Rockford and are deeply rooted there.

Rockford has many challenges, but Brian got to know the people and wrote about them with hope, style, passion and grace. He championed Rockford’s music scene. At day’s end, he savored a cold beer or a good bourbon. That, in fact, is how we spent our last time together a couple of summers ago.

Facebook was flooded with tributes from Brian’s Rockford friends in the wake of his unexpected passing. They are remarkable. He meant so much to so many people. I wonder, though. Did anyone in Rockford know we called him Meat?

Paul Thorn was one of Meat’s faves. He tipped me to this one. He liked the vibe.

Good choice, Meat. We’ll all carry a little bit of you everywhere we go.



Filed under February 2017, Sounds

Music to resist by

Moving on after almost 38 years in the news business has at times been an interesting journey.

I’m no longer what a former colleague once called “a second-class citizen,” having to watch from the sideline instead of being part of the action. I’m no longer subject to the ethics rules of the news business, important though they are. I no longer need to preserve the illusion of being objective.

That said — and this may sound a bit odd — I’m still trying to find my voice. Still trying to find the right voice in public, the right voice on social media. Old habits die hard. I still say less than more, sitting back, sorting through it all, checking sources, knowing that the news is often fluid.

One step forward was embracing that I could — at last — make donations to candidates and certain causes. I donated to a friend who ran for the state Assembly. I had never been allowed to do that. Also, for the record: the American Civil Liberties Union, Pro Publica, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, One Wisconsin Now and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as it battled the Dakota Access Pipeline.

And now, it’s also OK for me to resist.

It’s necessary to resist when political instability and social uncertainty not seen since Watergate generates protests of a magnitude and intensity not seen since the Vietnam War. I remember 1968 and 1974. These are times like those times.

So when Bandcamp announced that it was donating its profits from Friday’s music sales to the ACLU as a way of protesting the president’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Mideast countries from entering the United States, I got in on that.

Bandcamp expected to sell more than $1 million worth of music, with its cut — roughly 12 percent, or $120,000 — going to the ACLU. My piece of that was small. But please enjoy some music to resist by. These aren’t protest songs. Just some enjoyable tunes bought with money that’s going to fight injustice.


“Popping Popcorn,” the M-Tet, from “Finger’ Poppin’ Time,” 2015. DJ Prestige from the fine Flea Market Funk blog tipped me to the classic yet fresh instrumental soul/R&B sound of this group from the San Francisco area. My friend Larry Grogan of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog wrote the liner notes for the M-Tet’s fine new LP, “Long Play,” which arrived here last week.


“Free Your Mind (While You Still Got Time),” the James Hunter Six, from “Hold On!” a 2016 release on Daptone Records, one of my fave labels. I saw this pleasingly rough-edged R&B/soul group from England last spring in a 200-seat venue in a small town in Wisconsin. Things got loose. Things got sweaty.


“For You My Love,” Josephine Taylor, from “Mar-V-Lus Records: The One-Derful! Collection,” 2015. This is the second in a series of comps issued by Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis. Mar-V-Lus was the teen-oriented imprint of the black-owned and operated One-Derful! group of Chicago R&B labels. Taylor, who was from Evanston, Illinois, recorded for Mar-V-Lus in 1966 and 1967. This one is previously unreleased.


“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” from “Masterpiece: A Whitfield-Strong Tribute,” a three-cut EP released in 2014. Jason McGuiness is the producer. This comes from Los Angeles. A random find as I scrolled through Bandcamp’s soul listings. The other cuts: “Cloud Nine” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”‘


“Thrown Away,” Magic Mountain, from the “Magic Mountain” EP, 2017. This bit of indie pop is from a group that’s a side project for New Jersey guitarist Jeff Nordstedt, a Facebook acquaintance. His other band, the Milwaukees, rocks harder and is one of my favorites.

1 Comment

Filed under February 2017, Sounds

Breaking up in real time

The intersection of sports and music can be messy, often littered with novelty songs and athletes turned dreadful singers, dancers and musicians.

But music and sports intersected in a most remarkable way the other day.

Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson announced Thursday that the band had broken up after 24 years. Here’s how I saw the news.

That’s a tweet from Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, who also hosts a show on Fox Sports Radio. His show hit the air about 20 minutes after Robinson’s statement came out.

So, at the top of Thursday’s show and then for the first 13 minutes of the show’s second hour, with rarely-heard grace, candor and insight, Gorman broke down the breakup in real time. Here’s the audio of the latter segment (which won’t embed, sorry, but is worth hearing):


Robinson’s statement, and the news, came as no surprise to Gorman, who spent much of his time expressing heartfelt appreciation for his time with the Black Crowes, and especially for fans’ support for the band.

Even so, Gorman did drop a couple of bombs.

On lead singer Chris Robinson’s demand that his brother Rich and Gorman give up their shares in the band, reducing Gorman to a salaried employee:

“There was no chance in a million years that would be agreed to.”


On Chris Robinson, in response to questions from co-host Jeffrey Gorman, his cousin, who worked for the Black Crowes for most of the ’90s:

“He was a great rock ‘n’ roll singer at one time and he wants to do something different, obviously. …  I can’t speak for what’s going through his mind. I can just tell you what he did, and I can tell you what the response was, and therefore there’s no more band. … You threw Axl Rose out there, I’d say just simply add a private education and a boatload of artistic pretense and there’s our boy.”


But Gorman, ever gracious, followed immediately with this:

“These things happen. Rock bands break up all the time.
We had a fantastic run. What are you gonna do?”

When was the last time you heard something like that, not run past publicists, not sanitized beyond comprehension, in the wake of a band’s breakup?

Don’t worry about Steve Gorman.

His radio show, Steve Gorman SPORTS! is that rare thing that deftly blends sports, music, comedy and social commentary, as it did Thursday. It airs and streams live from 5 to 7 p.m. Central. Highly recommended.

His band, Trigger Hippy, is starting to make a name for itself after almost five years together, on and off. Gorman calls it “a rock band that can jam.” I bought their debut record yesterday. (You can get the mp3 version of the LP for $5, much less than I paid for the vinyl, for a short time via Amazon.)

trigger hippy lp

“Rise Up Singing,” Trigger Hippy, from “Trigger Hippy,” 2014.

This is the lead cut, which pleasantly treads some familiar Americana/R&B/soul territory. That’s Gorman on drums and Joan Osborne on vocals, along with guitarist Tom Bukovac, guitarist/keyboard player Jackie Greene and bass player Nick Govrik.

Leave a comment

Filed under January 2015, Sounds

Top 25? Our top 3 records of 2014

There’s never been a year-end music roundup at AM, Then FM because that’s really not how we roll here.

That said, I read Ken Shane’s late-to-the-party roundup of his favorite albums of 2014 over at Popdose, and thought we’d tap into that spirit.

Ken has 25 records on his list, but ours won’t be that long. I bought plenty of records during 2014. Only three of them were new releases.

The first new record I bought in 2014: “Give The People What They Want,” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

When Daptone Records provided a sneak peek of the new record from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I took one look at the cover and my record nerd kicked in. Hey, I thought, that design is inspired by an old Chi-Lites record.

chilitesgivemore powerlpsharonjonesdapkings givepeoplewhattheywantlp

Whatever. The record came out at the end of the second week of January, and I picked it up as soon as I could. Two months later, we got to hear most of it at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, a scorcher of a soul revue on a late winter night.

Cool song off the record: “Long Time, Wrong Time,” on which the Dap-Kings walk their vintage soul sound over near the swamp for Miss Jones to chomp on.

The second new record I bought in 2014: “Carter Girl,” by Carlene Carter.

I belong to almost no fan clubs, but I have been a member of Carlene Carter’s fan club for several years. When she started her gradual return to recording and performing in the mid-2000s, it was well below the radar, and the fan club was pretty much the only way to keep tabs on it.

Tipped by the fan club to a limited number of autographed copies of her new record, I managed to get one. Full disclosure, though: I’m not a big autograph guy. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

Carlene Carter autographed CD

Well, it sure was fun opening the package when it arrived in April. Carlene Carter has a lovely signature, doesn’t she?

I’ve loved Carlene Carter since her time with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in the early ’80s, through her pop-country stardom in the early ’90s and now that she’s re-emerged after some struggles with addiction. On this record, Carter taps into her Carter Family influences and stands right beside them as one of America’s finest country singers.

Cool song off the record: “Lonesome Valley 2003,” an updated version of an A.P. Carter song. She’s always been one of the great duet singers. “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds is sublime. Vince Gill is her partner on this one.

The third new record I bought in 2014: “The Lost Tapes,” by Vic Pitts and the Cheaters.

Just in time for my birthday, I was tipped to this record by DJ Prestige over at Flea Market Funk. It hit me right in my wheelhouse: Vintage soul and R&B, and vintage soul and R&B from Wisconsin.

Full disclosure again: I’m not big into limited editions, either. But I managed to order from Secret Stash Records in Minneapolis when the red vinyl copies were still available. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

vic pitts record on turntable

Well, it sure was fun seeing that red vinyl light up the turntable in July.

vic pitts cheaters lost tapes lp

Vic Pitts and the Cheaters were among Milwaukee’s hottest soul/R&B bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This record gathers a never-released bunch of scorchers, covers, ballads and instrumentals that were recorded in 1969 and 1970 at Ter-Mar Studios in Chicago, by then one of the last remaining pieces of what once was Chess Records.

Cool song off the record: “The Trip,” the one that’s playing in the picture.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time. (And, yes, I know I am long overdue in posting there.)

1 Comment

Filed under January 2015, Sounds

The show must go on … and does

monkees 060114

After Davy Jones’ death two years ago, I wondered how the Monkees would, or even could, go forward.

Even after Michael Nesmith came back into the picture later that year, I wondered how that would go. Davy Jones, I thought, was the man the Monkees could not lose.

My friend Derek saw the Mike Nesmith/Micky Dolenz/Peter Tork lineup in California in November 2012, in one of their first shows on that tour. I asked Derek how that was, whether he was satisfied with how they handled not having Davy. He said:

“They handled Davy’s absence in a way that was so incredibly respectful and classy. In effect he *was* there, but there certainly weren’t any creepy holograms onstage.”

Thus reassured, we were eager to see Mike, Micky and Peter a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee. It was everything Derek said it would be. A great show with just the right nods to Davy’s memory. I won’t give it away, either.

I’d been down that road before, at another show in Milwaukee. Eight years ago, I saw Queen on its first tour without Freddie Mercury.

Paul Rodgers was the lead singer on that tour. That show was tremendous, blending Queen songs with those from Free and Bad Company, but still you wondered how they’d handle Freddie’s absence when it came time for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That, too, was handled with class and grace, just the right way.

Queen carried on. The Monkees carried on. That’s my hope for another band, one you don’t know.

Last month, The Hot Mess, a trio from Green Bay, packed up and headed north for a gig in Menominee, Michigan. On the way, they stopped at a park to practice and to unwind. They went swimming. Something happened. Mike drowned.

Mike was one of the guitarists, a gentle kid who’d spent time in our basement with the other music kids. He’s the one on the right in this video. It was shot an hour before the accident.

Mike had just turned 20. He and Collin, the Hot Mess’ drummer/guitarist, and our son Evan were pals. (That’s Collin on the left, with fellow bandmate Mitch in the middle.)

A devastating loss. But kids are resilient, thankfully.

It’s been Collin and Mitch and a handful of guest players as they continue to make the rounds of open mic nights. They’ve played a memorial show for Mike and dedicated a picture of him at the coffeehouse where they’re regulars.

The Hot Mess, like Queen and the Monkees before them, carries on.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

Leave a comment

Filed under June 2014, Sounds