Good Friday. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

For this solemn time, I’m resurrecting a true story of Good Friday I first recounted two years ago…

I used to be an altar boy.  The prerequisites weren’t complicated.  Attending a Catholic grade school, being male and having a pulse were the basic requirements.  Most boys who’d made their first communion were expected to become altar boys and most parents expected their boys would serve.  We were called Knights of the Altar.

Sister Mary Marcelia was adviser to the Knights of the Altar.  Under her guidance, prospective altar boys memorized Latin responses to numerous prayers comprising the Mass.  We’d stand before Sister and repeat Latin supplications from memory until they were flawless.  Woe unto any boy who didn’t learn the correct responses.  Long, solitary sessions raising random three-digit numbers to the twelfth power were typical reparations for serious Latin infractions.

My neighbor Jim was a year younger than me.  He was my partner on this Good Friday, the most solemn day on any liturgical calendar.  I was in the eighth grade and a seasoned altar boy by that time.  Together, Jim and I were to process into the church nave and proceed to a side altar.  Once there, our task was to kneel for half an hour in vigil,  relieving two of our fellow Knights who were finishing their thirty-minute shift. This ceremony had begun earlier and was repeated throughout the day.

The church and the school were adjacent, the school hallway extending through double doors into the church narthex.  On this Good Friday afternoon, Jim and I donned red cassocks and white surplices in the school library which was the furthest point from the doors leading into the narthex.  Our robes had been moved into the library from their regular closet behind the altar.  With altar boys shuffling around every half hour, it was thought the potential for noisy traffic behind the altar might distract the dozen or so faithful parishioners praying, dozing or daydreaming in the pews.

Jim and I arrived separately for our shift.  Upon robing in the library, we trotted down the long school hallway and through the double doors of the church narthex where we immediately slowed our pace, folded our hands and solemnly processed side-by-side down the center aisle.  As rehearsed previously, we approached a kneeler in front of the side altar where, in a series of well-choreographed genuflections, we relieved our two colleagues.

Our shift ended without incident.  After thirty minutes, Jim and I were relieved.  A few more genuflections and we soberly processed out of the church.  Upon exciting, we raced up the school hallway and back into the library to hang up our robes among the others on a portable chrome rack stationed there.

Our first mistake was to explore the open door at one end of the library from which we could see only darkness in the room beyond.  Naturally, we walked over and flipped on the light switch just to see what was in there.  In an instant we spotted a massive, gray desk and control panel with switches and dials.  An office chair on wheels was tucked under the desk.  Upon that desk stood a glorious public address microphone on a stand into which was set a large, black push button.

By virtue of some careless adult leaving this door ajar, Jim and I had stumbled into an inner sanctum where bus announcements, accolades, admonitions and daily prayers were broadcast daily.  Eyes wide, we approached the control panel with unbridled curiosity.  “Let’s see how it works.” I suggested.  “Okay!” Jim agreed.

We depressed the main power button, flipped a couple of numbered switches and turned up a dial.  The panel lit up and meters began to glow.  “Let’s sing something,”  I said.  I was a showman even then.  We decided on the biggest hit song of the day.  If we could get through one chorus, we’d quickly shut everything down, grab our jackets and hustle out the door.

Pressing down the microphone button, we crooned, “She loves you.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  She loves you. Yeah, yeah, yeah!  She loves you.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeaaaaah!”  Whoa!  We could hear our voices echoing over speakers in the deserted school hallway.  Releasing the button, we shouted “Let’s get outta here!”

We hadn’t yet removed our cassocks and surplices.  It was a crucial oversight.  We tore off our robes and flung them on the mobile rack, chattering madly about hearing ourselves sing over the school P.A. system.  Jim walked out, heading toward home.  I stalled a few seconds to peruse the library bookshelves for nothing in particular.  In a flash, Father Fagan burst through the door, red-faced and bellowing “Who did that?”  He stared directly into my face.

Given time to find my composure, I might have responded more contritely.  Instead, I blurted out, “He did!” pointing out the window toward the parking lot where Jim was scurrying away.  For a second, I thought Father believed I wasn’t involved.  He stomped out without another word.  I buttoned up my jacket and hurried out, following Jim’s route toward home.

On Saturday morning my mother answered the phone.  I watched as the expression on her face changed from day-before-Easter, dye-the-eggs pleasantness, into a formidable scowl.  The cat was out of the bag and Sister Marcelia was informing Mom of our indiscreet vocal performance.  You see, the school P.A. system also broadcast into the church.

I spent much of the following week mindlessly raising random three-digit numbers to the twelfth power after school, under the watchful eye of Sister Marcelia.  It provided an opportunity to reflect upon the seriousness of what I’d done… also to hum Beatles songs and consider what a great name Knights of the Altar would be for a band.

Eighth Grade



Saint Joseph’s Day, a Sicilian holiday, is March 19 and coincides this year with my Monday “Life Out of Tunes” radio show.  So I’m re-posting this article about my Grandfather Giuseppe, originally published more than two years ago.  I’ll take a few minutes on Monday’s show to feature Grandpa, his music and some Saint Joseph’s Day traditions…

Today, I received a pleasant surprise.  A year or so ago I was contacted by Professor James Leary from the University of Wisconsin.   Jim is a folklore historian who was researching material for a book about the ethnic folk music of Wisconsin.  We chatted about my Grandfather, who I wrote about here previously, and of his recording session in 1946 that was part of a federally-funded project begun in the 1930s to collect and preserve folk songs of native Americans and immigrants in their own languages.  (See my previous blog post: The Sicilian Wedding Singer.)  Our email exchanges also revealed that Jim and I had been classmates at Notre Dame.

About a month ago an envelope arrived from the office of professor Leary in which a letter was enclosed offering a discount on his newly published book and CD collection entitled Folk Songs from Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946.  The mailing targeted descendants and family members who served as “research informants” for the individuals whose voices and stories appeared in the book.

I ordered a copy without hesitation and it arrived today.  Jim included a photo and a story about my Grandfather Accardi in his book.  Not only that, an accompanying CD contains a track of Grandpa Giuseppe singing one of the Italian songs he recorded, Tic-ti, Tic-ta.  The song’s lyrics, in Italian with English translation, along with its history are described also.

What an honor it is to know that my Grandfather’s songs and the folk songs of many other immigrants and native Americans, continue to be relevant decades later in Professor Leary’s “Dust-to-Digital” research and book.  Thanks, Jim!

Dark Side of the Moon: Forty-five years on

March 4, 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s North American debut performance of their seminal work, Dark Side of the Moon.  Rather than open the tour in New York, Chicago or other large city, it premiered in a 9,000 seat venue in Madison, Wisconsin.  I lived only forty miles south and attended the concert with some friends.  It was a show I’ll never forget.

The first I heard that Pink Floyd was kicking off their 1973 North American tour in Madison, Wisconsin probably would have been on a Radio Free Madison broadcast.  Radio Free Madison was an “underground” music program on WIBA-FM that began broadcasting on Halloween night 1969 and continued into the mid-70s.  It was on for only a few hours every night and played more album-oriented “head” music than anyone else was doing at that time.  We’d been enjoying various tracks from Floyd’s Obscured By CloudsAtom Heart Mother and Meddle on Radio Free and there was buzz about their forthcoming album, the title of which was announced as  Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.

“A piece for assorted lunatics?”  I was all in and so were three friends.  The radio station was already spinning a promotional copy of the song Money.  It featured an interesting time signature, 7/4 alternating with more typical 4/4 for the solos. Apparently, the 4/4 solos were done because David Gilmour thought it would be too complicated to write them in 7/4 time. Some music critics said the single dynamic of maintaining tempo but changing from seven beats to the bar to 8 beats added to the track’s unique appeal.  It also featured some pretty good sound effects which were expected to be even better in quadraphonic (four-channel) sound, a format that Floyd had been working with for a while and was becoming popular for vinyl LPs.  I couldn’t afford a quadraphonic audio system then, but a friend eventually set up one and it was pretty impressive.

Before we got it together to buy tickets in advance, the concert was cancelled. This announcement was in the January 25, 1973 Madison Capital TimesWhat a bummer!  At least we hadn’t shelled out any money yet.  We waited patiently for more details about the album release or a rescheduled concert date.  At last it was announced that the band had cleared up its visa issues.  The concert was back on and the following ad was published in Madison newspapers.

The lunatics were psyched!  We still hadn’t bought tickets in advance, so we traveled to the Coliseum from Janesville on the evening of the show thinking we’d arrive in plenty of time to buy them at the door.  We never expected an endless line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot.  (Quick… roll the windows down and let the air clear!)  As the car inched forward with each vehicle ahead of us stopping at the gatehouse to pay for parking, it seemed like an eternity.  Eventually we paid, parked and hoofed it to the ticket window.  There were plenty available, but it required waiting in yet another line.  The concert had already begun by the time the four of us entered the dark arena.  The venue, typically used for sporting events and exhibitions, featured “festival seating,” a euphemism for finding someplace to stand on the seatless arena floor along with 9,000 others.  Alternatively, we could have chosen to sit in a seat around the perimeter, but we wanted to be in the center of that ground-shaking quadraphonic sound system.  With pink smoke and a laser light show in progress, an extended jam of Obscured By Clouds followed by When You’re In was underway.  Weaving through a mass of humanity in the dark, someone bumped my elbow and an unlit chunk of “sensory enhancement” flew from the pipe in my hand into the abyss and on to the floor, lost under a dozen shuffling feet.

According to author Glenn Povey in his book Echoes: The Complete History of Pink Floyd, the band’s equipment for that tour was hauled in two forty-foot articulated trucks, with two drivers in each.  They would meet the road crew at the venue at ten in the morning, usually after driving all night.  The road crew, who traveled with the band, would be there when the truck arrived and then would begin setting up the equipment. Upon completing the setup at around four in the afternoon, the band would show up for their usual sound check.

On stage for this 1973 North American tour were: David Gilmour (vocals, guitar, synthesizers), Nick Mason (percussion, tape effects), Roger Waters (bass guitar, vocals, synthesizers, tape effects), Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals, synthesizers), Nawasa Chowder (backing vocals), Mary Ann Lindsey (backing vocals), Phyllis Lindsey (backing vocals), and Dick Parry (saxophone).

Inside the Coliseum, music and lights were at full throttle.  Following Careful With That Ax, Eugene the band took a short intermission.  They returned to the stage and the lights dimmed as the opening sound effects of Speak To Me filled the arena from a massive quad sound system.  Floyd performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, lasers blazing through the pink stage lights and into the upper regions of the hall.  Among the most impressive auditory effects, were the cash register and money-changing sounds that chased around the four massive speaker banks hung from the ceiling, all pointed toward the center.  The quad sound was mind-blowing as the introductory bass line segued in, followed by the other instruments and vocals.  Visually and aurally, that show was a peak experience, the intensity of which I had never witnessed before and have not witnessed since.

Eyes blurry and ears buzzing, we drifted out after the encore, One Of These Days, from Meddle.  I’ve forgotten many things, but that Dark Side of the Moon experience remains vivid in my memory, forty-five years on.

There is no dark side of the moon, really.  Matter of fact it’s all dark.

On Thursday, March 1, 2018 I’ll be sitting in as DJ Joey Books for “Professor of Prog,” JD, to host his award-winning, progressive music show, “Closer to the Edge.”  The following Thursday, March 8, when JD returns to host his program, he’ll have a special guest.  Asheville author Bill Kopp recently published his book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon.  Bill will read from his book and chat with JD.  I’ll be there as well, to answer phone calls and chat.  “Closer to the Edge” is on Asheville FM from 2:00 to 5:00 pm every Thursday.  And don’t forget my weekly radio show, “Life Out of Tunes,” Mondays from 2:00 to 3:00 pm on .

Tune in and turn it up!

The Annotated Playlist in My Head

Perhaps it’s a lingering librarian obsession within me.  A way to catalog and shelve that playlist in my head.  Or maybe it’s because I can’t think of anything else to write about.  Either way, here’s an annotated edition of the playlist from my January 29, 2018 Life Out of Tunes radio show.

  1.  Ernest TubbWalking the Floor Over You.  This tune was floating around in my head for many years as I reminisced about running playbacks of The Ernest Tubb Show in a previous blog post.  One thing missing from the radio broadcast was a visual of Tubb flipping over his guitar at the end of the show and displaying the word THANKS in big block letters stuck to the back of it.  My No Left Turns bandmate and cousin Mike, whose dad was a country music fan, would do the same thing with his electric guitar at our gigs.
  2. Chris ReaThe Road To Hell (Pts. 1 & 2).  Not only have I been a Chris Rea fan since the 1980s, but I have two friends, also Chris Rea fans, who would agree that we, as a country, are traveling down that road.  This one was for you, Mike and Brad.
  3. The FlockI Am the Tall Tree.  I always liked the Flock from Chicago.  I missed their performance at the Pop House, a teen club in my hometown, around 1966-67.  I have it on good authority they closed their show with, “We’re gonna play one more song, then get the flock outta here.”
  4. Umphrey’s McGeeForks.  I confess to enjoying jam bands.  The Grateful Dead have always been among my favorites.  UM elevates it with scorching, jazz-infused solos and time signature changes accompanied by smart lyrics.
  5. First FridayMaryanne.  A blast from my past, circa 1969-70.  While students at ND, these guys were talented enough to record an album.  I bought the LP new at that time and played it so often, the grooves wore out.  A favorite at parties both on and off campus, First Friday disbanded upon graduation.  Members of Umphrey’s McGee are ND alums too, separated from First Friday by three decades.  This must be where I say, “Go Irish!”
  6. The Rums & CokeGlad All Over.  Growing up in Wisconsin during the 60s, I knew many “garage bands.” but had never heard of this one until researching a recent post to Wisconsin Garage Bands 1960s, a Facebook page I admin.  A five-piece, all-girl band from south of Milwaukee, the Rums & Coke were popular in southeastern Wisconsin.  They recorded this Dave Clark Five song across the border in Chicago and released it as a single in 1966.
  7. Roxanne & Dan KedingLittle Drummer.  Originally from Chicago, this talented folk duo moved to Wisconsin, near the town where I was working and where we became friends.  I was invited to join them and four other musicians for a one-off fundraising gig, performing together as a 50/60s rock ‘n’ roll revival band, Heavy Chevy & the Circuit Riders.  That aside, the Kedings recorded an album of traditional folk songs, From Far & Near, in 1980.  It was followed by an album of children’s songs, In Came That Rooster, in 1981.  I had both albums.  They split up and eventually I split, leaving both LPs behind.  I regretted it (leaving the records, that is) until I found From Far & Near at a used record store in Asheville, NC, 850 miles from where it originated!  From far and near indeed!  An old Irish folk song about love at first sight, I selected this track for Frank, my Irish friend.
  8. The ClienteleLunar Days.  If you caught a glimpse of either the super-moon or the lunar eclipse last night, you’ll understand why I spun this tune.
  9. Van MorrisonMoondance.  See #8.  “Can I just have one more moondance with you?”
  10. The BroadcastBattle Cry.  Threw in something from a great Asheville band featuring an equally great vocalist.
  11. Hot TunaWater Song.  Sylvia (the one with whom I moondance) and I heard Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy (a.k.a. Hot Tuna) shred this guitar instrumental in concert a couple years ago.

Hope you enjoyed reading the stories behind each song on this week’s playlist!  If you missed it, you can still listen to this Life Out of Tunes show through Monday, February 5, 2018 by following the link: and clicking on the “Play Archive” button.  Peace!

Walking the floor over you

It seems to me that television is exactly like a gun. Your enjoyment of it is determined by which end of it you’re on.
― Alfred Hitchcock

Did you ever see something on an old television program that was immensely insignificant at the time, but you still think about it occasionally?  More to the point, and I’m really shooting in the dark here, did you ever watch the old Ernest Tubb television show?  If you don’t already know, Tubb was a famous country and western singer whose signature song was Walking the Floor Over You.  His TV program, aptly titled The Ernest Tubb Show, began airing in 1965, but it wasn’t until about 1974 when I watched my first episode.  It was not my choice.  It was my job.

In the mid-70s, I worked as audio-visual coordinator for a university library.  It was a great job that afforded me a chance to play with the latest technology and sit ringside during the wrestling match between Betamax and VHS.  It was a creative outlet too.  I was a technical assistant for the theater and music departments, mixing sound for stage productions and recording music tapes for student listening stations.  I even dabbled in 16mm filmmaking, shooting regional ethnic festivals for the sociology department one year, and creating a filmed song and dance number once for the spring musical, Godspell.  Here I am shooting the annual Syttende Mai parade at a Norwegian festival in Stoughton, Wisconsin.  (That’s me under the natty hair.  I worked near a beauty college where cheap haircuts reigned.  Students were learning to style Afros one day when I walked in.  The nascent hairdressers persuaded me to be their guinea pig.)To supplement my academic job, I was a part-time production assistant for the programming arm of a local cable television station.  It was before big business swallowed up the industry.  There, I operated a studio camera for news and entertainment shows.  One of my favorite gigs was a kids program, The Uncle Dan Show.  It featured a goofy host and a hand puppet sidekick, “Thurman the Worm,” operated by the station news director who was mostly hidden behind a curtain or under a table, except for his arm which was costumed in a green, snake-like sock-puppet.

Camera operation often required going outside the studio to shoot live remotes, mostly high school basketball games.  Imagine the challenge of covering a fast-paced basketball game with a single camera.  Some Friday nights would find us at the local Shakey’s Pizza Parlor to broadcast Shakey’s Jamboree.  It featured old-timey music, typically involving an upright piano and a banjo.  Here I am operating the camera at Shakey’s one night, obviously mesmerized by banjo music.

The most exciting remote shoot in which I participated was at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Not a live shoot, it required trips there on two consecutive evenings to cover interviews with managers, bunnies and bartenders.  Oh, my.

The least exciting remote for which I became the weekly cameraman was the First Lutheran Church service, broadcast live every Sunday morning beginning at eight a.m.  It was a drag getting out of bed early to fetch a studio camera, load it, haul it, and set it up in a dim church balcony every Sunday morning.  Though it required little in the way of camerawork, I’d sometimes imagine Francis Ford Coppola shooting the baptism scene in The Godfather.  Zooming in and locking on the minister as he stepped up to the pulpit to deliver a homily was de rigueur, providing a welcome opportunity to lie down in a nearby pew and relax for a while.  I slept through sermons once or twice, waking to the howl of massive organ pipes jolting me upright in the pew.  Each time, I was unsure how long the camera had remained aimed at a deserted pulpit before I resurrected.

When not behind the camera, I could be found in the studio’s control booth, operating a mixing board and video playback machines.  Canned programs were broadcast by slipping large videocassettes into  a machine, pressing a couple of buttons and flipping a switch.  One program series was The Ernest Tubb Show.  Ernie had stopped producing new shows by that time.  These were all ten year old programs for which some local businesses bought advertising spots to broadcast on the new and exciting cable channel.

As you can see from the photo above, I was transfixed while monitoring Ernest Tubb & the Texas Troubadours as they plowed through thirty minutes of musical guests with no set changes.  One of the guests I clearly remember was a barely recognizable, clean-cut Willie Nelson.  Less memorable was a  duo of young women who, as I recall, were introduced as the “dancing Judds.”  The pair kicked up their cowgirl heels with great enthusiasm while a guest musician fiddled.  Years later, a mother-daughter team of Naomi and Wynonna Judd rose to country music fame as singing duo, the Judds.  But I can’t draw any conclusions.  I’ve never been able to  prove my hunch that the dancing Judds might have had some connection to the singing Judds.  And while this unresolvable, immensely insignificant bit of trivia still troubles me, dear Judds, it ain’t nearly enough to be walking the floor over you.

Link: Ernest Tubb – Walking the Floor Over You


Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I was finishing my senior year in high school.  His senseless death impacted me.  I’d been accepted at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman for the fall semester where it didn’t take long before I’d become one of the “effete corps of impudent snobs” so colorfully described by vice-president Spiro Agnew.  We didn’t like war.  Or discrimination.  Or pollution.  Or republicans.  I guess that qualified me as an “effete snob” or, in the words of one conservative music blogger who no longer reads my work, a “smug hippie.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The memory of his senseless death impacts me all over again.  On this commemoration of his birth, January 15, I’ll broadcast my weekly radio show.  Every tune will deal in some way with resistance, struggle and hope.  Isn’t it strange?  Nearly fifty years have passed and we’re still singing about the same things.  Listen to Life Out of Tunes at 2:00 pm (EST) on MLK day for an earful.  “Remember.  Celebrate.  Act.  A day on… not a day off.”

Life Out of Tunes radio, hosted by Joey Books
Monday, January 15, 2018, 2:00-3:00 pm (EST)
Asheville FM, WSFM-LP, 103.3 (Asheville, NC)
Streaming globally at:

From Sweetbottom to Genesis and beyond

While researching some background information for this week’s Life Out of Tunes radio program, I ran across a Wisconsin connection in one of the songs on the playlist.  In 1981, a group of musicians and other entertainers staged a show to raise funds and awareness for Amnesty International that became known as the Secret Policeman’s Ball.  One of the activist musicians participating was Phil Collins who had recently parted with the band Genesis to pursue a solo career.  Two songs performed by Collins for this show were among those preserved on an LP entitled The Secret Policemen’s Other Ball, which I purchased new in 1982.  As I recall, the album, which includes live solo performances by Sting, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Donovan and Pete Townsend among others, didn’t cost much and proceeds went to a good cause.

I’ll be spinning a Phil Collins track from that LP on Life Out of Tunes.  It’s just Collins on piano and vocals, accompanied by a banjo.  It turns out, that banjoist is Wisconsin native Daryl Stuermer, whose career began as guitarist for a Milwaukee jazz-fusion band, Sweetbottom.  Sweetbottom recorded a couple of albums and performed regularly at Milwaukee’s annual Summerfest music festival in the mid-1970s.  One of their shows caught the attention of keyboardist George Duke who was then touring in Frank Zappa’s band. Duke introduced Stuermer to jazz-fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty who was impressed enough to ask Stuermer to play acoustic and electric guitars on Ponty’s best-selling Imaginary Voyage album released in 1976.

Daryl Stuermer’s career led him to the progressive rock band Genesis in 1977 as a replacement for departing guitarist Steve Hackett.  He toured with Genesis for twenty years, but never appeared on any of their studio recordings.  He did play guitar (and sometimes banjo) for Phil Collins on virtually all of Collins’ records and tours.

We’ll hear Wisconsin native Daryl Stuermer pick a banjo and play soaring electric guitar on this week’s Life Out of Tunes.  I’ll also be uncovering some other Wisconsin connections, along with tunes from Chris Rea, Brandi Carlile and other gems.  Tune in and turn it up, Monday, December 11 at two o’clock eastern time on