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A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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Location: NYC

I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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"This is my kind of church!"
Saturday, December 23, 2006

In 1990 I was at a Marshall Crenshaw concert at the Bottom Line, with my friend Fred and his brother Phil and a couple of others. Crenshaw was doing his cover of the Bobby Fuller Four version of the Buddy Holly song, “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” As I sat there (first chair in front of the stage) watching him play, I thought to myself, “Hmm… press there, strum there, and you make songs.” Playing guitar seemed so suddenly easy, inevitable, and right in that moment I decided to take guitar lessons.

After the show, Fred’s brother Phil and his friend Murray went over to Mondo Cane to catch Phil’s guitar teacher, who was playing a late set. I asked Phil to hook us up, and soon I was taking lessons.

I’m no good, never was; at the apex of my playing, John (that’s him, the teacher) said I played rhythm guitar like Lou Reed. This was a compliment, and I think somewhat accurate, but really, all it means it that if the song has A, D and E in it, I can strum the chords and make it sound like a rock song.

I don’t take lessons anymore, and John has since become my friend. His stage name is Johnny Allen, and he’s played around Manhattan’s blues clubs for nigh on 20 years. He was part of the NYC blues scene that yielded Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Chris Whitley, and Joan Osborne in the early 90s (once I was at his apartment and he came upon a book and remarked, “This is Joan’s… I have to return it.”) The blues club, as I’ve heard John declare many nights as the clock crept past midnight, “is my kind of church!”

When I got married, I hired John and a 5-piece band to play at my wedding. The accompanying photo is from the wedding.

It was easy for John to get pigeonholed into the “blues guitar hero” ghetto. But when he put out a record in 1991, it was full of well-written, catchy poppish songs. I was expecting Albert King, but I got Elvis Costello, the Smithereens.

Check this one out. It’s called “Emmy Jewel,” and it is probably his signature song. He told me once he wrote it with Willie Nelson in mind, and once he sang it for me in an imitation of Willie’s drawl, and it made perfect sense.

John came over the other day—I hadn’t seen him in maybe 2 years—and we sat around in the living room, and he picked up my Ovation guitar and played me a couple of his songs. It was a short visit, but it served to remind me that you should never let go of your dreams, never stop doing the things you love. Never forget to pick up that guitar every once in a while, even if only to bash out “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” Which I did, after he left.

John is one of a million stories in the naked city, a great player, a wicked talented singer/songwriter (that’s how I like to think of him—a singer/songwriter, not a blues gunner, although he is that as well), and largely undiscovered. He needs a MySpace page. But until then, my space will have to do.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:00 AM  

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