What better place to be, New Years 2018, than HOLLYWOOD.   Starting the new year, where I want to end it.  Another sign?  Maybe, maybe not.  Not everything is "a sign".  Sometimes "a sign", is simply a test, which will cause a rabbit trail or detour.  I'll tell you what is NOT a sign..... passing out drinks on the airplane, only to have a coke violently spill against your dress, down your leg, and into your boot !!

Back to New Years..... Happy New Years to ALL!!  May we all start strong and end strong.... Keeping our focus, and walking/plowing over and through our signs.  

I have found, making a decision is easy.... It's the follow through that is hard.  One way we make it hard, is to go down rabbit trails, around our obstacles, or complete detours, far away from our goals.  Some people just stop.  God always throws obstacles in our path... and these obstacles are our lessons in faith.  The decision is easy... the follow through is hard.  I've spent many years going down rabbit trails, and not trusting faith like I should have.  It was hard.... But I've learned.  I learned the lessons God knew I needed to know.  He knew what was in my heart... and through lessons, he knew how I could follow through and get where I wanted to be.... and ALWAYS, it turned out better than what I'd planned!! Another friend shared with me, that if you choose to only go your route, God WILL bring you to your knees.... but this is where it all begins.

It's fitting to be in Hollywood today.  New Years Day.  The whole goal, of my current project, is that it ends up in Hollywood.  But know this.....All my wins are God's glory.... It's only my job to show up and do the work.... and finish it (so much easier this way).  I'm not clouded by a dream anymore. People tell me, "you've got to follow you dreams".  I tell them I follow reality.  This is what I do.  Yes... I dream up an idea, but the rest is reality.   I accept what God throws in my path, or what he doesn't throw me.... I'm grateful for all the experiences good and bad... this is what "writes the story", and all the Glory IS His !!

Hollywood..... I will be back.... on one of 750 airplanes!!!   As far as the Coca Cola incident... well.... at least it wasn't beer.

Happy New Year and Blessings All Around !!!


Last Writer Show of the Year


Lsat night's show was stellar. Host Rick Stevens, at the Commadore Grille does it up right.  I was invited into the round by Effron White, who also invited  Jim Martin.  These guys have very interesting songs... I hope whoever reads this, will happen to catch these fella's, if ever you are touring Nashville.  Effron has a really cool song called "It's My Heart That Writes These Songs", Jim has this song called "The Enchilada"..... Be sure and request those two songs.  Well... already, we will be together again next week at Lee Rascone's Writer Show.  Lee is a veteran of Music City and a hosts a class act of a Writer Show.  Always much talent at these shows.  Last night, there were several hit writers in attendance.  Always spices up the night when the writers are performing their hits.  I'm happy about ending the year, and starting the year, on the right note.  Happy New Year All !!


Tips for Recording Better Vocal Tracks


Tips for Recording Better Vocal Tracks

From getting a livelier vocal sound and selecting the right mic, to choosing the proper room and more.

Posted in MusicWorld on November 15, 2017 by Dave Simons 

It’s easy to fall into a rut when tracking vocals, particularly when all you’re doing is plugging a microphone straight into a recorder inside a small, arid space. Bear in mind, however, that listeners tend to respond to vocals that have body and life, rather than those that were merely plopped onto the top of a well-executed rhythm track.

In the following piece we’ll look at several strategies for producing a more robust vocal sound, such as choosing the best mic for the job, experimenting with different miking positions, as well as when—and how—to use processing.

Tonal Tools

When cutting vocals (or just about anything else), one of the most basic but effective techniques involves using microphones to achieve the desired tonal quality, rather than adding EQ or other artificial flavoring after the fact. As we all know, certain mics reproduce sound much differently than others—that is, a large-diaphragm condenser such as Neumann’s industry standard U-87 (or its lower-priced variants) offers considerably more bottom, gain and headroom than, say, a basic Shure dynamic mic. Does that mean the condenser is always preferable? Not necessarily. Let’s say you wanted a more direct, mid-range or aggressive-sounding vocal—in that case, a good dynamic mic would be a perfectly acceptable choice. For that matter, when attempting to record live with backing instruments, the narrower pickup range of a decent dynamic stage mic is often better at keeping adjacent sounds from overwhelming the vocal track.

Mic It Right

Next, let’s consider your positioning relative to the vocal mic. For instance, an “intimate,” full-bodied vocal sound is typically achieved through the “proximity effect”—that is, by placing the singer only a few inches from a large-diaphragm condenser mic set to cardioid mode. By no means should this be the rule of thumb for all vocals, however—by allowing a bit more space between yourself and the diaphragm, as well as gradually moving the mic around in the room, you can come up with any number of interesting vocal tones. Nor should you be afraid to experiment with your condenser mic’s pick-up settings, such as switching to omni or figure-of-eight mode (whereby both sides of the mic are live) in order to produce a more ambient vocal quality. If you’re using a laptop or other portable device, you could also try recording vocals in a different location, such as livelier rooms with hardwood floors and/or higher ceilings (hallways, stairwells and tiled bathrooms have long been favored environments for enterprising engineers). You could even consider placing a second mic several feet behind your main vocal mic with the goal of capturing some natural room reflections.

Do It Again

Despite the wealth of processing power at our fingertips, manual double-tracking—whereby several identical passages are blended together to give the illusion of multiple singers—remains one of the best ways to add vocal heft. Simply record a number of complete takes one right after the other (when overdubbing, I find it best to mute previous takes so that you’re not tempted to match each vocal nuance), then choose the performances that work well together. While “double-tracking” implies using just a pair of vocals, there’s no harm in bringing all of your attempts into portions of the mix for extra texture—for example, if you’ve recorded four overdubs onto Tracks 1-4, using your faders you could gradually move Tracks 3-4 in and out while mixing, or include all your takes but set Track 2 to three-quarters volume, Track 3 at one-half, and so forth. You could also try adjusting your position in front of the mic ever so slightly prior to each take—just a few inches difference per overdub can subtly alter the tone, giving you a fuller overall vocal sound.

As an alternative to double tracking, you can use your editing tools to highlight and extract “best” sections from each vocal pass—say, a pre-chorus from Take Two, a coda from Take Four, etc—onto a separate template in order to build a “master” take.

A Live Vibe

Ever notice how good vocals can sound when recorded in a live setting? The combination of direct and ambient signals, including bleed from the PA as well as nearby instruments into the vocal mic, often creates an urgency that is sometimes missing when working in a sterile studio environment. There is a relatively easy way to replicate that live vibe, however. Once your vocal track is complete, connect a PA speaker or monitor to your recorder’s main output (you could also use your studio’s talkback system, if applicable), place the speaker in the center of the room, then situate a mic several feet away from the speaker (perhaps even facing in the opposite direction to maximize the indirect sound). Run the vocal back through the speaker and record the signal to a separate track, then mix the dry vocal with the PA track, adjusting the balance to achieve the desired amount of ambience.

Final Tips

  • To avoid random volume spikes, insert a compressor/limiter into the signal chain, using a slow attack time to maintain a uniform level while preserving dynamics (as opposed to hearing the compression effect)
  • While a little sheen can perk up an otherwise flaccid performance, when using reverb be sure to tread lightly; also, increasing the pre-delay setting on the reverb return will ensure adequate separation between the dry and processed vocal, thereby helping to keep the sound properly focused

The key to getting great vocals, as with recording any parts, is experimentation. Don’t be afraid to take some chances, be creative and see what happens.


GSC Holiday Mixer


Tonight, I was invited to the "Global Songwriters Connection Holiday Mixer".  It was held at the CMA Building on Music Row.   This organization is a great resource and networking connection for songwriters.  Met some great contacts tonight and reconnected with old friends!  Debbie Pascarella (songwriter), catered the event!  She's a friend that lives right here in Goodlettsville... she's Italian and as you can imagine....LOVES to cook.  A fantastic job she did!!  Met a Book Editor....he came with great recommendations.  Also met another new friend, who in the 60's, managed such acts as Merle Haggard, Rose Maddox, Ray Price, Wynn Stewart... to name a few.  Also... this gentleman's father wrote "I'll Fly Away"!  If all this can't inspire someone...nothing will !   Something else big...... I may have found the Croatian Lullaby that is needed for my upcoming album!  More on this later!   I will be joining this organization!!  Here's the link:  www.globalsongwriters.com 


Writer Shows


Different formats, for different writer shows.

I really enjoyed Kimbro's Pickin' Parlor tonight.  The venue is in Franklin, TN, and the owner is hands on.  The food was GREAT!  I had the jerk chicken, with sautéed spinach and corn bread pancakes!  Everyone there so friendly.... a family.  There was a back room full of jammers, or you can be in the main listening room.  In the summer time, I hear they group together outside too... either on the front porch, or out back.  In the listening room, each writer has 15 minutes, or 3 songs... could be 4 songs.  Everyone listens.  Some really great talent tonight.  After 9.....  a percussionist showed up and bass player.  There was also a guitar player.  You can do a solo, or have some accompaniment. 

Tonight was special also, because my friend Tajci performed.... she performed originals, but then she went into "Those Were the Days My Friend".... the whole place was singing.... I'm still singing the song in my head several hours later typing this Blog.  I'd performed my quarter hour slot earlier, but Tajci handed the guitar to me, and we sang the only Croatian song I knew (mostly knew).... Tajci sang the harmonies !  Loved it!   Funny, the audience didn't sing along with my song...!

Kimbro's in Franklin..... a jewel !


Write, Write, Write


Writing..... Write.... Write....   Even though I'm only writing a summary treatment of the story... it is natural to embellish.   Write, Write.

I heard from my son last night.  He is getting ready for his Arizona elk hunt.  It's been awhile since I have hunted elk.  I'm looking forward to joining him!!  I may even see my eldest granddaughter...... K'Lane!

The nice thing about computers and internet, is that I can write the story anywhere and register it, with the writers guild, anywhere!  It will be great to write part of the story in Arizona, as part of "the story" takes place....in Arizona!



I are one!


I wanted to be a story writer, now "I are one" 

Today was fruitful.... my rear end tired from sitting. The curls are all out of my hair....from periodically pulling it.

I'm still not as diligent as I should be... but the habit is getting stronger.  A few life things got in my way today.  But still was able to put  some good hours in writing on story... also a new song idea.  Got some exercise too.... Gorgeous day for a bike ride. 

I'm on a roll.... I must hit the hay....  I'm raring to start in the morning (after daily devotionals and morning pages).  I'm feeling so lucky and blessed to be able to put this time in.  No squandering !!!





Was on the phone with a dear friend tonight.  We shared positive affirmation ideas.  Tools for a paradigm shift.  Love it!!

Beginning my story writing/album writing quest again.  I never really stopped.... BUT, I've never finished either.  Another friend told me how the most successful people in this world know how to be stingy with their time... they know how to say "No".  Another friend shared how, what he has read about writers, is ....they don't talk about it.... they simply write.... and that is all they do everyday.  Commit to writing.  

Back to my dear friend.... We'll call her "Maggie", we talked about how women have another layer of life that pulls us in many directions.  Something that us women put on ourselves...but none the less, we do.  Maggie and I talked of affirmations, how our last words and thoughts at night need to be positive.... How to go down the list of "I am"s".  (ie:  I am a writer, I am having a lot of energy, I am singing great, my story is turning out great and easy to interact with)...  The list can be endless, and I must say... I do feel better in the morning. 

Maggie also gave me a quote from her aunt... "There is a lid for every imperfect pot".... inspiration for a conversation that we were having. 

I gave her one, "What Do You Want".  Because there are no excuses for being stagnant ... "What do you Want"?

We agreed to make signs and post them on our wall.

Tools and a support system!!!  

Everything is so much easier now.


Writer Show & Blues Jam

The Album


My next album has been a walk with life.....  I've never approached an album this way, and I look forward to how it unfolds.  As with anything, it has come to me in bits and pieces, heartbeats and heartaches.  It's a total story... mostly fiction, but fueled by experiences.  I cannot wait to share this part of my life

This month, I will be driving Banjo (my Blue Heeler), to Nashville.  We'll settle in for the next 6 months writing, performing out, writing and going for walks.  Banjo is my best writing companion (my Blue Heeler).  He stays by my side the whole time I write.  He sits up and watches me play piano.  He eventually complains when he thinks it's time to go for a walk.


Hell Town


If you listen to somebody long enough, you WILL be amazed... truly....  

Here in the Copper Country of Michigan (The Keweenaw Peninsula), during the summer, it stays light so late, you don’t realize you haven’t eaten yet.   It was quarter to ten, and realized my favorite Mexican Restaurant would be closing in 15 minutes!!  Ran over there and they were closed due to a camping trip.  The next place I went to, had just shut down their grill….(the sidewalks roll up here)…..but they told me of the “Drift Inn Bar”, Copper City.  I knew this would be an experience before I got there.

Just a bedroom community now…. lots of old worn buildings…old old homes and a bar.  You can tell it was vibrant at one time though. I  find the "Drift Inn"..... enter, and get my large pepperoni pizza ordered!! Bartender asked if “for here or to go”….

So I’m looking around.. Little horseshoe bar.  2 couples.  a guitar on the wall.  an old jukebox.    The two guys are talking about the mines.  So, I pull out my notes (from the breakfast restaurant yesterday…”The Miners Cafe”), and asked them if they knew what “The Walking Bomb” was.  The didn’t…. so here we go.

Walking bomb is the last man out of the mine (in the olden days)… set the dynamite…kept it in his shirt, with the fuse, then placed it… lit the fuse.. When the dust settled…. the next shift came in.  Don't wear a belt buckle... you can't afford the spark.   They said…yeah…. they don’t do it that way anymore lol.  So then I started hearing all their stories….one is a 4th generation miner.  Was related to the other guy.  Another one walked in… another cousin.  Said on Friday night… everyone in there related one way or the other.  One of the wife’s said she’s even related…. said Uncle so and so told her she's related by “injection”.  You cannot make this stuff up.    Another mining term learned “Diggered Out”.    They all knew my Uncle, which always gives me a “Get out of Jail Free Card”…. actually what it does, is gets folks to open up... makes me more of an insider.   The other lady, it was her father’s guitar on the wall.  He died  4 years ago…. played bluegrass.  she said he played the banjo.. “George”…. So down came the guitar.  Played some songs for George.

I shared with them that my Grandfather was a Copper Miner for C & H.  Told them after the 1913 strike he didn't go back to work for the mines, that he became a bartender here in Copper City.... I didn't know where, but Uncle said that bar was tore down long ago... told them how in 1919 he and his brother bought a bar in Calumet, named it "Shute's Tavern".    Then I shared how I was songwriting and writing a story album, called “The Keweenaw Secret", and that the stories here were endless….They asked what the story was about, I told them it was a secret!! :) ….then they asked me if I knew about “Hell Town”, by Lac La Belle.  I said no.  They said 1/2 their family lives there too!  I asked if there was a bar/restaurant there.. they said no, but I could still go there and find everything I need ….. and to talk to Aunt so and so and she will tell me all the history….I said OK!

Hell Town…..   from what they tell me…  back in mid 1800’s, when mining first started, the mine owners wouldn’t allow bars or brothels on company land….so folks created Hell Town, to house the unmentionables.  Well, one of the whores was known as “Crazy Annie” (not to be confused with Big Annie)…. she died somehow, in the middle of winter.  There is sooo much snow, you can’t bury anyone until spring.  So legend has it that they buried her in the snowbank, behind the bar.  Come spring, went to fetch her for burial.  They found her, but she was headless…… It is said that she still haunts the place.  “Crazy Annie”…. said there’s many a story about her.  Was wanting to head toward Lac Le Belle, to kayak…. suppose I should stop and see Aunt first..  

Hell Town.


Writing the Story


Steven King says to write 1,000 words per day.  Julia Cameron says to journal 3 pages of thoughts, first thing in the morning, before writing 1,000 words.   I am taking Julia's advice.  She is the author of "The Artist's Way".... she has coached, witnessed and had her own successes, by journaling the thoughts out.  But before all this, I align my day further.  Taking my friend Kathy's advice and reading her gifted daily devotional.  Upon a visit from Kathy last fall (to The Copper Country), I really enjoyed our times in the morning.  Fresh percolated coffee, reading the word of God, and ending with a prayer.  It sets the tone... Thank you Kathy xoxo.  I've been writing for a week now, the beginning draft of a Historic Fictional Drama.  It will support my story album, and the story album will support the book.  Today I wrote 1,350 words, yesterday 2,500, and today 1,500.  The good news is... the habit has begun.  Habit is what I wanted to produce this week.  Now, when back out on the road, I will be able to follow thru with a new routine. :)  Been carrying a guitar and yoga mat too.  I am feeling productive.... while nursing a broken toe. :@


Chicago !!


Back in Chicago to put on a show with my friends King, Kash & Killer.  A tribute to Elvis, Johnny and Jerry Lee.  I will be performing Dolly, June, Patsy, Loretta and Lynn Anderson tunes.  These gentlemen are fun showmen.  I love this gig! 

Afterwards, it's back up to the UP.  So far this year, there is not much in the way of snow.  However, according to the forecast, looks like it may snow the whole time I am home.  

While on the road this past week, I was reviewing songs for the upcoming album, organizing 4 songs to be written (for album), and deciding on the ones that are ready.  Also... much pondering on the story line for album.  This album will be a concept album. While in Nashville,  I should be able to get into the studio by early spring.   Hopefully get a handful of songs cut, while honing in the rest of the album during course of summer and fall.  Final touches by next winter and spring.  This is the plan.  Been working on a handful of Croatian songs too.  

Chicago loves their music and I love Chicago !


RIP John Aleman


Today I will remember as the day my dear friend John Aleman passed away.  I met him in 1988.  Married to my sweet friend Kathy.  John had a presence.  He liked to make everyone feel comfortable and loved (more so than anyone I've ever known).  If he didn't like you, he'd let you know too.  He made you feel good and good enough.  He was a Sheep Herder, and came from a long line of Sheepherders. He loved his family and was very close to his parents...He cried until the end, of his fathers death.  He built and raced cars and loved his whiskey.  At Christmas, we would get together and sing Silver Bells.  He had the answer part....it was a tradition.  I haven't talked to Kathy yet....I'd only seen the post on FB (from John's son).  I will call her tomorrow.  Her life has just changed.  Married since her 20's (40 years).  She will be OK.  With her faith in God, she is one of the strongest people I know.  I hadn't seen John recently, but I'm very happy to have had all the times we have.  He will be missed.




Yesterday, flying from LAX to Nashville.  Anthony Smith came walking on the plane.  Anthony was my "cable guy" when I first got to Nashville in 1997.  He'd seen  my guitars and promo packages.  He told me the best "writer show" in town, was at the Broken Spoke Cafe, off of Trinity Lane.  He was super nice.  I did end up going to the Broken Spoke  This is where I met Debi Champion.  Immediately Debi started introducing me to everyone in the room.  I instantly had friends.  I was  originally so afraid to leave that apartment when I first got to Nashville.  I was almost frozen.  I didn't know where to start.  So I hooked up the cable, and met Anthony, little did I know, he would put me in the right direction, the first week I was in town.    I would see Anthony much at the writer shows.   He then got a Publishing deal.  Then bam.... He and Tony Lane wrote those magic words and George Strait cut one of their songs...."Run".  About that time Anthony got his own record deal.   This was a few years ago and since then Anthony has had many more big cuts.  So there he was yesterday, walking on the plane.  We hugged.  It was a fun flight and when we landed, I sang "Fly".  I rendition of Anthony's "Run".  "If There's a Southwest Plane Leaving LA, I hope you're on it...."  I dedicated it to my "Cable Guy".


The Copper Country and Music City


It's getting closer.....packing up Banjo and heading to Nashville.  It's been a while since I've made Nasvhille my home base.  I've been holed up in the Copper Country for a time.  Home is where the dog is.  Time to get Banjo to Nashville and get to working on the next album.  I know Banjo will be a hit in Nashville.  He has a following in Michigan.  He's been on T.V., he saved a young girls life (who had fallen in the frozen river... he ran up the hill for help, barking like crazy, and help ran down the hill and pulled her out), he plays street hockey and soccer with the locals, neighbors are constantly coming by with presents for him.  Next month I have 5 gigs.  Most i've had in quite a while.  Three in Chicago, two in Michigan.  Time to get to work.  Sitting in San Jose, CA today... 4 hours of free time... will write on a song idea and learn some new material.  


Time in Between


So when you've taken time out of life; When you've withdrawn; When you thought you'd sit back and write...nothing happens.  Life goes by.  You must continue to write during any kind of adverserary or lull.  The sponge like mind becomes dull.    As I feel mine has.  Time to get up in morning....Focus...Journal....Write.   I've had this excuse for a long time why I haven't accomplished anything (musically).  Because recently both my parents died within a year of each other and I didn't have the heart to sing.  We must sing through the good and bad.  Singing is life.  Good and bad is life.  My 135 year old home is almost all organized and functional.  My 45 year old condo needs attention.  I will be back in Nashville this winter (with Banjo), doing some maintenance and writing.  Now everything under control....It's time to add writing back into my life.  Nashville...... I will see you soon:)


Vertin's Gallery / Department Store


Summer has come to an end in the Copper Country.  The fall colors are peaking this weekend.  I've been getting the house ready for winter.  Snow scoop, shovels, salt, roof rake ready.  Today I must tie up the bushes before they are covered in snow.  The fire pit, campfire wood and doghouse are covered with tarps.  Preparation for winter... the southern states do not experience this to this degree.  The changing of the seasons.  A feeling of accomplishment and a deeper experience of living.  I'm just not explaining this right.  I suppose I could spend my lifetime trying to explain this deeper process of living.  I lived in Arizona much of my life.  Some in the valley, some in the mountains (where it snowed), but the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the copper country and Lake Superior take living to a whole other depth.  Remote, serene, survival, the people, the roots their past.  This place is not transient.

Now on to the subject above... The grande Vertin Department Store. 4 levels of Sandstone architecture.  This store was closed years ago (due to shut down of mines and economy)...then sold out of the family.  Today, the owners have been maintaining this property, but now have begun to open this building to the public during 1st Friday (and also 1st Saturday of month).  An art gallery and antique showroom.  I will be playing music here next month.  Hopefully representing Calumet is my goal.  My family "the Shute's", have quite a history in the bar down the street.  My Uncle Bernard Shute, married to Claire.  Claire worked at Vertin's Store for over 30 years.  She told me her job was to dress the windows.  I walked around inside this building imagining what it must have been like managing these window displays.  So many windows.  I will post a picture on the instagram portion of this website.  I am excited to work with the folks heading the management of this building and Main Street Calumet.


Finding Big Annie


Today I'm in PHX, just flew in this morning.  It's bittersweet.  Since I was 5 I've always known my parents to be living in the Phoenix area.  45 years or so.  Today I fly in and must stay at a hotel, before my early flight to Show Low.  To always know something one way and then it's gone.

As I type this I recollect the last week.  I did find Big Annie's grave plot.  Her footstone didn't match the lady she was.  A heroin, a leader.   I sat with her for a bit and I wrote her a note.... this is what it read, "Dear Annie, You fought for all of us to have a better life.  My Grandfather was a Croatian miner.  He was in Calumet during the strike. He told my Uncle (his son) he watched you lead parades. He didn't go back to work for the mines. He wouldn't give up his union card and membership. He became a bartender then later bought a bar.  His family had a very good life comparatively speaking.  I dream to get his dream alive again, and to honor you Annie. I know your life was still hard when you left the Copper Country.  You are not forgotten and the whole world will know about you soon, and everything you represented during a time where women were not respected.... you rose above the occasion.  I live down the street from where you lived. I'm the same sidewalk as the Italian Hall and I'm around the corner from where the National Guard knocked you down and slashed your flag..........."

Myself and another hometown gal are going to put together a nice arrangements of flowers, a flag and some kind of plaque describing who this woman was.  The stone reads "mother" Anna Shaws.  The Copper Country, knew her as Annie Clemenc, aka "Big Annie".   I also drove to Annie's last known residence.  It's interesting..... if you were to draw a line from her last known residence and her grave.... you'd see app 10 miles apart and where I stay in Chicago, is almost directly in the middle as the crow fly's.  


Annie Clemenc, aka Big Annie, born Anna Klobucher


As I type this from Providence, RI.... tomorrow I will finish my trip in Chicago.  I plan on visiting the grave of Annie Clemenc, as she is known in the Copper Country and the Michigan's Hall of Fame.  She was the President of the Womens Alliance, supporting the men in the Big 1913 Copper Strike, Calumet, MI.  She was a prominent figure and risked her life several times for the cause.  She carried an American Flag that was bigger than herself, leading demonstration parades.... daily.  Mother Jones even came to the Copper Country and marched with these miners.   Annie was married to a miner, her father and brother miners.  They were striking for better pay, safe working conditions, reasonable work hours.  11 hour days, 6 days per week was too much.  Annie was beaten, knocked down and jailed.  She along with other women were instrumental in organizing the Christmas party for the children of the Copper Country.  The strike was wearing everyone thin.. They were still demonstrating in the snow!  The Christmas party would bring up moral.  During the party an unknown agitator yelled "Fire".  What happened  next still reverberates in this town.  The party was in the 2nd story of the Italian Hall on 7th Street.  Parents, Grandparents, children were fleeing down the stairs.  Tripping, falling on top of each other.... within a matter of minutes 73 people died.  64 of them were children.  Strangled and suffocated while they trampled on top of each other.

Annie Clemenc was only about "24" at this time  (if memory serves me).  She was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame for her achievements in "Labor".  The induction ceremony was in 1996.  There was no representative there from the Copper Country.  From what I understand, if people would have been notified.... there would have been a presence.  This somewhat disturbs me.  On the internet, her grave marker shows "Anna Shaws" (last name of her 2nd husband).   She is buried just a few miles from where I stay in Chicago (I have just found out).  I look forward to sitting with her.  I'm surprised there is no other marker out there for her, besides Anna Shaws.  She was a hero in the 1913-1914 Copper Country Strike and deserves her recognition.  What is also interesting is, my Croatian friends in Chicago have put together a weekend event of workshops run by a world renowned medium.  I am unable to attend the workshops due to my work schedule.... but have just received an email from the medium that he was able to schedule a reading with me.  I cannot wait to report what happens after tomorrow.  This will be my first ever "reading".

"The Story" that I am writing takes place during the 1913-1914 Strike and Italian Hall Tragedy.  I cannot believe I will be visiting Annie Clemenc tomorrow (aka "Big Annie").  Actually... I take this back.... I do believe very much that I will be visiting the grave of Big Annie.

Also... All this time researching.... I thought Annie Clemenc was Croatian.... some of the books said she was a 6 foot Croatian lady.  It turns out both her mother and father are from Crnomelj, Slovenia.  Crnomelj is right across the Kupa River from Croatia...very close to where my Grandfather came from.  My Grandmother was Slovenian AND was from Crnomelj! My next visit to Croatia, I will go to my Grandmothers village in Slovenia to find relatives and to try to find relatives of Annie.  Three years ago I was in my Grandfathers village in Cepac, Croatia.



LAX Noise


Sitting in my hotel room by the airport.... writing on "the story".  The traffic is so loud.  Guess I've spent too much time in the Keweenaw.  Guy Clark's song "LA Freeway", keeps playing in my head.  "Adios to all this concrete, going to get me some dirt road back street"  I sure do love those Texas singer songwriters.

After some writing today.... I"m gonna write me a song.  Been carrying my half pint Martin guitar with me.   Quite a site to see... Flight Attendant uniform (dress & boots), 3 suitcases hooked together  (roller bag, cooler bag and backpack), and a guitar strapped to my back.  I get questions and comments.... but not as many as when I was carrying a banjo. Which brings up the question.... where the hell is my Banjo?  I've been living out of 4 states and I've got 2 banjo's (3 banjo's counting my dog).  I think one Banjo is in Marquette and the other in Nashville if my memory serves me correct.  I will be moving all the Arizona stuff to Michigan at the end of this month.  Then only 3 States (MI, TN & Ill).  I think this is my inventory:  3 guitars in Arizona, 1 Banjo 3 guitars 1 keyboard in Nashville, 1 Banjo 2 guitars 1 Upright piano in Michigan, 2 guitars in Chicago.




First time staying downtown Dallas, what a pretty City.  I need to come back and spend some more time in Fort Worth / Dallas.  On my way to LA today.  "On the Road Again".

I spent a glorious 2 weeks up in the Keweenaw.  Mostly painted, but feel like I still accomplished much. Working on this home, that was built in 1885, has proved medicinal.  A great project for me, that includes my family, and something I can lock up and walk away from, but still feel creative while I am there.  This past trip I decided the pink bathroom must go.  The hallway and stairwell were also very sterile.  I wanted to practice the art of fauxing a wall.....  Well, practice I did. The results are outstanding.  The bathroom is now a  Grey tone, with glaze over a lighter gray....beautiful.  The hallway has the grey tone, but I sponged white/glaze on top and lightly brushed.  It's a feathery plaster look now and a great segue that flows into the white bedrooms.  Loe the crisp clean fresh white bedrooms upstairs.  One wall coming up the stairs is a dark grey (Restoration Hardware) color... the other wall the lighter feathery wall, which flows into the hall.  I then learned how to chalk paint and have since painted the bath cabinets.  Instead of the out of period cabinets that were in the bathroom, now I have a used new worn polished cabinet.  Chalk Painting is the bomb... if you get a chance, check out chalk painting on YouTube with Annie Sloan! 

I met with a writer / editor in the area.  How uplifting she was, and is connected with other fellow writers.  The majority of whom are published.  She said she'd love to work with me on my project..... How great is this.  I told her all I was doing at the moment was painting.  She said that Budha says, painting and gardening bring forth much creativity.  Well she was right.  During Painting, I met Cindy, and was contacted by my favorite Croatian Band.  I was telling them about my visit to Croatia and how on the next album I would love Tambura instruments (Croatian Instruments), my new friend said they would play on anything of mine.  Much happening while I was brushing, sponging, rolling, taping and cleaning.  If I had a garden, you can bet I would have been out there.  No gardens yet.... but I truly love them.  Now is not the time.

Banjo and I walked much and played frisbee.  I love his company.

Another neighbor down the street, provides must insight and inspiration.  I fellow writer, retired teacher (writing), published author and town historian.  I feel a collaboration in the future.  Another neighbor is very healthy and loves to jog.  We went several times together.  My little town in Michigan is a wonderful home base.  It's little now.... but was mighty then.... I cannot wait for all to see and hear the history........

OK..... painting over...... back to writing :)


Too Many Days on the Road


What did we do without Facebook!

I have really noticed lately how so many people have warmed up to Facebook. Our Social outlet.  How we keep up with people now.  How our attention spans have turned into a short fuse, yet how fun it is to keep up with so many people.  Problem is.... to balance.  Where are all these friends when you need them... Like Uncle Bernie says, "they all want to laugh with you with you are laughing Penny, but no one will sit with you when you're on your ass".  

Tomorrow is day 10 of 12 flying days.  I'm missing being home and having Banjo by my side.  I have 2 weeks off and plan to see much family, hang drapes with the neighbor, drink wine and catch up with the other neighbor.  Do Yoga, hike with Banjo and WRITE WRITE WRITE on the story. Also have all the girl cousins come up for a couple days.  I do love the UP, and my little street.  If you plan on going out front (of the house), plan on extra time, because no less than 3 neighbors will drive and or walk by.  In this case, you will need to again catch up.  You see.... these neighbors aren't on Facebook....but they somehow know more than any of my Facebook buddies do!!

Being away from home so much, it's so easy for our soul to get depleted.  Writing helps, journaling helps, and I've also been reading the research books and inputting notes into the novel writing program (under resources, also adding web links).  Tomorrow will find me in San Antonio.... a long overnight.  I plan on being by the pool...studying and catching a much needed suntan.  I kept this last 3 day trip because of the low legs and long overnights.  A little pampering.  Today I went to Jamaica and back, yesterday Cancun.  I have realized how much I need to sit on a beach somewhere.  After I get a really big handle on this story... where I feel like resource notes and the premise is clearly in writing.... I will go find a beach..... for now, the only beach I will be on will be the North shore of the Keweenaw, with Banjo while agate hunting and throwing sticks (shticks.... i.e.: a Banjo stick).


Gazde (pronounced Gauzda)


Gazde (Band from Croatia), is here on tour!  Went to see them in Chicago April 10, 2015.  I originally heard Gazde's music while walking around Zagreb, Croatia in June of 2012.  I arrived a day early in Croatia (ahead of my cousin Betty), the airline lost my luggage and I knew nothing of the Croatian language.  Luckily I had a hotel right downtown Zagreb.  My hair was recently cut by a new stylist, and I tried fixing the cut the night before I left the US and really messed it up.  So there I was walking around Zagreb, trying to find clothes, hair uneven, and a minority unable to speak the language.  On top of all this was going to rent a car the next day to pick Betty up at the airport (me driving in Zagreb!).  Luckily another gal that would be on our tour the following week had come in early and joined me this day.....  however, she was at the hotel getting rest while I was exploring, finding clothes and on a quest to fix my hair.  

It's amazing how you can communicate in a foreign country.  The Stylist I found did not speak english.  But as I sat in her chair and pulled my hair up and showed her how uneven it was and pretended to cry.  I showed her with my hands how I wanted it to flow.  She smiled, nodded her head, and I got one of the best hair cuts ever :)) 

After this I bought a couple things to wear, in case my bags didn't show up, and found the gelato!!  The sun was starting to go down and it was time for me to head back to the hotel room.  As I neared the entrance to the hotel I heard music... live music!  It came from a direction that I hadn't been yet, so I headed in the direction of the sound.  There it was... a huge city square.... a concert stage set up with scaffolding and lights..... thousands of people in the square watching this concert.  As I walked closer there were several guys on stage and they were all wearing leather pants.  The music was so energetic and everyone seemed to know the songs as they were singing along.  

Sue came with me and we had a ton of fun listening to this music.  Some younger girls motioned for us to dance with them.  I don't remember how we got on the subject, but the young gal was telling me about Vukovar... the first town in Croatia that fell during the war in Independence in the 90's.  She said every November they still hold vigilance because they will never forget.  Many younger folks in the city know english.  After the concert Sue and I decided to walk around.  We found the cathedral... Well I suppose you can't miss it, as it is the tallest architecture in Zagreb.   I was so tired... it was time to head back to the hotel.  We were walking across the square which was totally empty now, and Sue spotted one of the band members walking towards us.  I was so happy, because during the concert I was trying to find a booth where I could buy their CD and there was none.  I asked him for their groups name, and he didn't speak english.  I produced a pen and paper and asked if I could have their name.  He wrote it down.  I asked if they had any CD's.  I didn't think he understood what I was saying, but he motioned for me to stay put.  When he came back, he gave me a CD. I offered to pay... he said no.  This was so incredibly sweet.  My first day in Croatia.  So tired from the flight.  No luggage...wondering the city alone.  Then that night, Sue joined me and we met Vlado.  I was introduced to my first Croatian music.  I loved it.

Well almost 3 years later, Gazde has come to the US.  I was introduced to Vlado again.  Our mutual friend Joe introduced us...but last year Joe had went to see Gazde in Canada. I'd asked Joe to take one of my CD's to Vlado for a reciprocated gift.  When I remet Vlado last Friday night, he remembered my name and said he liked my voice.  He was very sweet and knew more english.  I knew a couple Croatian words I learned on the trip, so we were able to communicate this time around.  What a great show and so nice to see Vlado again!


Exercise and Music


In Akron Canton, Ohio.... able to journal, exercise and learn songs.  it will be time to start playing out soon and it's also time to have new material.  Originals and others.... new, fresh, evolved.   Feels good to be productive and on the road to good health.  Must run... time to take the vitamins and head to Chicago.  Day off tomorrow.  I promise to write a new song tomorrow. 


It's a glamorous life


Flying, Traveling, Singing, Writing, performing..... sounds glamorous, but for a few minutes of fun and interaction, it really takes a lifetime to achieve the above.....  Today nothing happened.......  Got some writing done.  It's monotonous.  Woke up in another hotel room somewhere.  Sat in a dirty van getting to the airport.  Went through security, where just a week ago a man with a machete was trying to hurt TSA. It was snowing in the Keweenaw today.  The weather was perfect in Las Vegas and NOLA.  Tonight I'm in Chicago.... in the 40's.  I miss Banjo.   He would have been right here with me while I type.  


The Plane never ceases to amaze me


Nashville to Dallas, in walks Barbara Cloyd.  Hadn't seen Barbara in years.  I use to attend one of her writer shows back in the late 90's.   I was recently thinking of her, that I should get in contact and reach out to old acquaintances.  Barbara moved to Nashville in the 80's. She carved her way in music city.  Wrote a hit song, hosted writer shows, is a coach for songwriters and scopes out new talent.  Was thinking I'd like to play the Bluebird Cafe sometime, but I have to attend Barbara's open mike Monday night before I can book a show night.  I have not done any BlueBird shows in the past, because they book so far in advance (sometimes 6 months).  Back when I played steady in Nashville, I was always busy those certain nights and then later as a beginning Stewardess, there was no way to guarantee I'd have certain days off 6 months later.  During my parents final years (having a hard time saying this), there was no way I could plan shows that far out.  If you cancel the BlueBird.... good chances you'll be blackballed.... unless you are a famous writer. 

It was great to catch up with Barbara.  Quality time spent with people, brought together by the airplane.  Always amazes me.


Writing on the Road


The backpack is my office and studio.  Did get some writing in this morning while on the road.  The more I write, I find the more I have to write!  Getting the MACbook Pro was a very wise choice.  Now time to exercise and have lunch.  In Detroit headed to PHX, then end up in Chicago. My goal is to have all scenes input, locations and characters by the end of the month.... once this happens, then 1,000's of notes and research must be placed strategically within the scenes and research portions....THEN, the actual story nailed together.  Came up with three song idea's yesterday... will bring my traveling guitar on the next trip to start on the songs.  What is so great, is that I can record on this laptop.  The office and studio travel with me!!  I will be able to work on this project, finish it, and make money while in this process!


When you begin to really dig deep......


I don't feel like I have ever really committed to writing.  I've said I am. I've put put my life in motion to "write". But somehow things have been in my way... or I've always taken on too much...I have always had to do "this" before I could do "that".  

As I commit to writing, I feel the resistance from people around me.  I don't know how to balance what it is I need to do.  How much I need to focus on what I'm trying to accomplish.  I feel that I'm cutting myself away from relationships to accomplish the above goal.  People are generally supportive, but they really don't know what it is you are going through. So no matter how much you try to explain, in essence....I'm doing "this" before I do "that".  My dad created things.  I always considered him a workaholic.  He was a very intelligent man.  His mind never shut off.  I blamed it on him being a workaholic, but now I realize he was creating and he stayed in that depth.  Multitasking took him away from his task at hand.  I remember him telling me that many problems were solved while he was sleeping.  Whatever he dreamed up, he did.  It is not easy for some people to have relationships with these kinds of people.  but for them to accomplish what is in their head.... they need to cut themselves off.  This is what is making sense to me anyway.

Upon reading "Save The Cat" by Blake Snyder (a screenplay "how to" writing book), he explains what I am going through.  Ah Ha! This is when I realize what I'm going through is real.

"While you go off and start writing your screenplay, we'll be waiting for you and rooting you on. We'll be the guy up on the dock that feeds the oxygen tube down to you, the deep-sea diver, as you descend into the depths of your subconscious mind. Make sure that in your life you too have similar support from friends and loved ones. Because as you drop into the depths of your story, trying to capture the thoughts and the feelings you need to accomplish your mission, you have to trust that those up in the real world are supporting you and are watching you back. It's weird down there! You'll see all manner, of wondrous and strange things, be amazed by what you're capable of handling, and surprised by how great an experience it can be. But it's also dangerous; doubt and anxiety will plague you, and, like the bends, it will cause you to see fearful things that aren't even there. In order to get through to THE END you've got to have someone back on land that you trust, that's supporting and nurturing your effort.

Whether you have that situation in your life or not, we'll be up on the dock waiting for you. And wishing you well. We who write screenplays want to see you win, and win big time, and we know exactly what you're going through down there and want you not to worry. So as you descend into the murk, as ready as you'll ever be, we wish you good hunting."


"A Dubrovnik War Story" by Anita Rakidzija


Raining in NM, a litte turbulent flying into ABQ.  I can't wait to have some Green Chili Soup!  Fresh roasted NM Hatch green chili.  The Airport has fresh homemade green chili soup as most of the hotels too.  I think I'll pair it with a Cabernet.  Not sure if that's right, but will treat myself tonight.

Today, I have been reading "A Dubrovnik War Story" by Anita Rakidzija.  

This story is one persons account of what her family encountered during the Yugoslavian war for Independence 1991-1995.  Rushed away from their home, refugee's, never knowing if her husband was alive, trying to keep her two children safe, warm and fed (sleeping on floors, trying to find shelter).  Her husband became a soldier for the Croatian resistance.  Defending their country!  What it was like with no help from Western Countries or the rest of Europe, having no aide.  Fighting with mostly hunting rifles against what was for MANY years their own army; The Yugoslav Army. 

I'm early into the book, have already cried, and I did peak at some of the back pages.  I was disturbed to see that her son was killed.

This is one person's account of this  4 year Croatian War.  It was a barbaric and  Yugoslavia was not a 3rd world country.  Yugoslavia had recently hosted the Olympics!!

When I visited Croatia in 2012, I was very taken by this war and didn't know very much about it.  What they went through and how it wasn't very long ago.  I remember what I was doing in the 90's and am sick to think and realize what these people were enduring (atrocities) so recent.  

In "the story", I hope I can somehow do these people justice and pay homage to them. 

My Grandfather came from Croatia, my Grandmother from Slovenia.  While on a tour in Croatia, I have been haunted by what the guide told us...."be thankful for the opportunities our grandparents gave you".  I understood then, how they feel, they were left behind.  I was so taken by this trip.  I then understood the hierarchy of the "the old country".  The love, the roots....HOW deep they ran, how you take care of them.... how they have nurtured YOU.  How they have taken care of me and I didn't even know it.  It was an emotional trip and I hope I can somehow show my appreciation and love through this story. They are my family.



Ontario, California


My first day back flying.  Drove in from Michigan this morning (to Chicago).  Weather was great. I decided to drive the truck down and haul a bunch of work and research to load up on the MAC while on trips.  There was no way to fly down with all this stuff.  Habits from my time off are flowing over to the work days.  I brought a personal size blender with me and some protein powder.  Have fruit... I will get ice in morning and blend a protein smoothie.  I walked 2 miles in the gorgeous CA weather and will now work on loading more scenes into "the story".  Tomorrow morning, will be waking up a 1/2 hour sooner than normal (short overnight/early wakeup... 3:00am!)....but, I will wake up early, journal and yoga.  On longer overnights I will be able to input research into the program and write on story.... tonight's time limited so scene input easy.  I feel like I really accomplished what I set out to accomplish in Michigan...forming habits!  I am already making better use of my time and at this very moment am using a stop watch....which (I learned)... really pushes you forward.

On the downside, I miss Banjo very much... he was always right next to me while typing away.  He would have loved the 2 mile walk today.  However, looks like he will begin hanging out on a farm while I'm out of town.... this he will LOVE and being with people all day :)  stay tuned.

Today's flight, a lady's eardrum burst.  She felt faint.  We called for medical help and sat her down.  An Air Force Doctor (Colonel) came back to help.  Says he deals with this all the time.  Told her step by step what she would be feeling next.  Sure enough.  I love our passengers.  Not only did this doctor come to the back, but also a paramedic and another doctor.  There are great folk out there.  More of them than the other..... I do know this.


All Good Things Must Come to an End


Been secluded for over a month now and loving it.  Banjo and I have cross country skied, snowshoed,  walked, played frisbee in the snow, slept in, listened to music, played piano and read books.  Most importantly, I feel like this time off produced what I came here to accomplish.... a new direction, healthy habits and to start writing the next project.... the story album.  Before the story could start... there had to be a story, and Holy Wah (UP for "And Wow") has this story evolved over 5 years.  

While on a flight from LA to Austin, I met a screenplay writer.  He loved the premise of the story, said my story coming up with "the story", was a  story.  Most importantly he told me to not rush it.... to let the story write itself.  The story has done just that, and now it was time to begin to put it on paper.  Five years worth of traveling, notes, audio notes, research, discovering and life events have all gone into this story.  Most interesting, when posed a questions to myself, I found the answer on the airplane.  In an enclosed metal tube, 40,000 feet in the air, I would find answers.  From passengers and crew members.  New groups of people every few hours.  A new set of crew members on every trip.  This vast resource has got me where I am today in this story and to all these places that I call home.

Because I travel much.... healthy habits are a challenge.  This month I loaded up on vitamins.  Being over 50, I could tell my body was low on this or that.   Tomorrow I'll list the vitamins.... they are all downstairs and I'm upstairs at the moment (comfy in my writing chair).  I purchased a Ninja Blender for smoothies.  I do have a juicer that will make it's way here from Arizona this summer, but for now I wanted to experiment with smoothies.  A great way to get the greens in and good fats.  Also, when on the road, I will be able to follow thru with this... hauling "the bullet" around.  A single serve blender.  

To start the day with protein (which is hard while traveling), I mix protein powder in the smoothie.  Then throw in spinach (big handful), protein powder, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 apple, blueberries if I have some, or 1/2 of a banana,  Some ice cubes and a little water.  Wha la....  a great filling drink.  On the road, it's easy to find ice in the hotel.  At least I can travel with fruit and protein powder.  Kale travels really well and broccoli.  

Journaling and yoga has been a great meditative way to start the day. Yoga has made a big impact on my health... the stretching and practice is like gift to myself.  Banjo however thinks I want to play fight with him and sometimes a challenge to get through the whole lesson.  

Then writing.... but where to start.  This was the hardest part.... where to start and what to write.  It was all in my head.... a great story.... but now the work.  How to put it on paper and have it make sense and be able to create the same passion for the story that I have, for others.to feel the same.  I've got years worth of notes and ideas and partial writings.  Books collected along the way.  Audio notes.  I don't have the luxury of piling my work in organized stacks.  I'm on the road and living in 3 different places, together with wherever Southwest Airlines flies.  How could I be effective and build the story and have all my research.  During this time, I researched and used YouTube much learning about the different writing programs.  I needed a novel building program and a screenplay program.  I'm a novice at writing a novel and really needed something that made sense to me and that I could grow with without wasting and duplicating time.

Found it.  A program called "Story Mill".  It builds the story by using scenes.  I'd already started filling out multiple index cards with scenes, so this made much sense to me.  This will also help with the screenplay portion.  The timeline was crucial because there are two stories paralleling each other during the course of history.  How could I keep track of this?  Once again, Story Mill has a great timeline view.  Easily ties everything together and builds each part of the story separately.  Locations, Characters, Research, Timeline, and the actual writing of the Novel and Chapters.  A place for all of my information and idea's.... also as many drafts as I need... no information lost..... MUST BE DILIGENT IN BACKING THIS UP.  So far I will online and with my USB thumb drive.

The screenplay program I will use is Final Draft.  An industry pro steered me in this direction.  I will dabble in this program....but I feel like a pro should be left to write the screenplay.... I just need to build the information the best I can for the pro.... in the meantime...I will dabble.  Again, the screenplay is based off of scenes as well.  Getting the experience with scenes in the novel program will help with the screenplay program.

I must leave soon, but I feel like a good beginning has begun :)   

P.S.  I so want to paint my bathroom before I leave


Someone turned the switch off


It went from -20 to 40 degrees!  Snow melting like crazy, here in Calumet, MI,....like spring out there!  I've never seen a season change in one day.  Today my neighbor and I went sledding.  Great time.  Neither of us have sled since we were children lol.  Afterwards I went cross country skiing then took Banjo on a snowshoe around the lake.  Much outdoor life today.  OK..... back to typing my fingers off!




I am not ready to go bonkers yet....but I give much recognition to writers.  How they stay focused, how they stay lonely.  Grueling hours of no interaction and staying the course of "the story".  I have Banjo...I'm lucky, and I haven't been holed up that long....  I see now how I need more time to be alone.  I don't need one more month....could really use the whole year off.  Banjo and I did get a walk in.  Me on snowshoes.  Check out the instagram pix with the 10 MPH sign, barely sticking out of the snow.  The snow is starting to pack down (mid 30's today), but you can see how high the snow really is by looking at the sign.  Talked to Uncle Bernie last night.  He's in Tucson for the winter.  Says he thinks about home everyday...that he misses being here.  Says he thinks of his mom, dad, Bernice (my mom) daily and how hard everything was on my mom.  They are buried together with two other siblings that died as children.  Uncle Bernie turns 89 this Thursday and he wanted to make sure I tell everyone that he knows (that I run into), that he gives them his best.  I can't wait to see him back in Calumet.  Finished up 100 index cards of scenes.  Right or wrong...done.  Will populate the cork board now, and begin writing in my scrivener novel program and final draft screenplay program.  Still don't know what I'm doing....just doing.  Onward I go....me and Banjo (he wants to go outside now).


Good Times Music Store


Today left the house early and played at Good Times Music Store, Houghton, MI.  Being a part of this community is warming.  The owners (Bruce & Kristen) have been in the area forever and Bruce is a fellow musician.  Well connected.  He knew of a great mandolin/Banjo/Fiddle player that I could call on.  After my little show.... Bruce fixed me up.  I needed new strings.... not only did I get new strings, he oiled and conditioned the neck...cleaned the guitar and tightened up the tuners. Holy Wah!! (yooper for OMG!).  This Keweenaw Peninsula (in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), is like no other place.  A community.  Everyone up here knows what it takes to survive here, which seems to make them more keen on helping their neighbor.  My Father and Mother were both from the U.P.  They were both hard workers.  I watched my father help many people.  No questions asked, and never wanting a thing in return.  He just knew how to help them.  The more I live here, the more I know why they were, the way they were.  Went to the Library Restaurant and Bar, Houghton. This old building, with quite a history, has had the same owner since 1988.  Before that, in 1967, Big Jon opened the Library Bar and ran it for 20 years, before selling it to the present day owners.  There is longevity here.  This makes for a solid community.   I have a picture of my Uncle Bernie, behind the bar at Shute's, talking to some patrons.  One patron is Big Jon.  My Uncle said "Big Jon ran one hell of a business and was a straight up guy".  I found this picture on ebay (taken by the Detroit News).  My Uncle remembers this newspaper reporter, and was doing a story on UP bars.  I will upload a copy of the picture on instagram (check out the photo page of this website).  Time for me to work on scenes!  I have to leave this beautiful place in a few days :(



Cudo's to Banjo


Banjo has been so patient.  Banjo is my 4 year old Blue Heeler Baby.  Today was spent mostly on index cards, and patient Banjo kept curled up next to me.  Each index card is a scene of "the story".   Working on 100.  I'm hoping to be halfway done.....but it's already 6:00pm. Where does the day go.  Once this is done I figure it will be a great way to launch into writing the story....filling in the novel writing program and screen play writing program that I do not know how to use yet.  Also have the Hollywood "Board" to fill up with scenes.  I need one more month off..... I'm on a rolllllll.  But I can see that this is elephant is much bigger than anticipated.  Today in Calumet; in the 20's. Sunshiney clear Arizona kinda sky.  When I tap my last period, Banjo and I will go snow shoeing.




My 2nd visit in one month.  Tension in my upper back loosening up.  Now it's time to sit down and write out 100 index cards with story scenes.  Once this is done....then I will begin writing the novel.  This album will be a concept album.... a historic fiction.  A Grandmother and a Granddaughter.  The grandmother estranged all these years, the granddaughter abducts and escapes the grandmother out of danger and in the end learns it's the grandmother that saved and saves the granddaughter.  The story takes place in Croatia, Calumet, MI and Southern Arizona.  Gotta run.......100 cards calling my name.




They say if you repeat an activity 30 times, it becomes a habit.  I figure my 50's will be my most productive years in regards to music, creating, writing, singing and touring.  I must be in shape and form habits.  All went well this morning.... 1st I woke up (this went smooth).  Made coffee, journaled then read research material in my reading chair.  These new habits I have been very successful with.  Next was yoga.  TV on, picked out yoga DVD, unrolled mat.  Everything was going smooth until I sat crossed legged on the mat, stretching my arms with the instructor.  Banjo thought I wanted to fight.  He started biting my arms and hands.  Then while doing yoga poses, Banjo was scratching my head, licking my face, biting my arms and hands, trying to get on the mat everywhere I was.  It was too funny to tell him no.  We'll see how we do tomorrow.   After the big morning habit and breakfast....then straight to writing.  This is THE plan.  Today however...more research....  I found the Arizona Ranch location for The Story. Southeastern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert.  In the story we are dealing with Michigan, Arizona and Croatia. Tomorrow writing after the acupuncture appointment.  I must say.... I am feeling better.  Yoga, acupuncture, vitamins, SLEEP.  oh yeah,.... today a spinach, pineapple, apple protein smoothie.  I wish I could live like this everyday :)


February in the U.P.


Banjo and I drove the truck from Nashville to the Copper Country of Michigan.  We were loaded down.  A chair, ottoman, fireplace mantel, kitchen table, boxes and suitcases.  I have incredible neighbors, who had the front of house cleared of snow for parking and the walk clear.  These two things alone would have taken me all month to clear out.  I am indebted.  The people in the U.P. are like no other.  You must be hardy to survive here and they help each other out.  They are called "Yooper's" (a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)... a term that will be added to the upcoming edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.   



So far Banjo and I have snow shoed, walked (with his booties on and wool blanket coat), shoveled and yoga'd.  This past week has been below zero by many digits, together with a blizzard.  So far I have broken two of my truck door handles.  All in all, it's been cozy in the old mining house.  Heated by hot water that runs through old cast iron radiators.  In the kitchen there is a low fat radiator next to the kitchen table.  This is where I sit and eat.

Much writing going on.  This is where the story takes place (the upcoming novel), and this is where I will write it.


The Journey


Embarking on a new project, you will find this unique and interesting and magical in some respects.  Traveling to Michigan in the month of February to begin to put on paper.  Cant wait to get to the old mining house and begin.

It is great to be back in Nashville.  Before returning to Michigan in February check out the upcoming performances:

February 28th The Debi Champion Writers Show, 9:30pm at the Commodore Lounge.

February 29th The Lee Rascone' Writers Show, 8:00pm at the Millenium Maxwell House Hotel.

Can't wait to see everyone.

To read more about the project go to pennymenze@wordpress.com


Last Nights Writer Show


Drove in from Chicago last night (7 hours), went straight to a writer show at the Commodore Lounge (Debi Champion Host).  Great to be back in Nashville.  Always amazes me how fast you can meet people here.  Ran into old friends too.  Performed "The White Collar Biker Girl Blues and The Cowboy Song".  Back home by midnight.... still not tired.  So much energy here in Nashville.


Meet Gil "GG"!!! I must have a black guitar now!!

Back in Nashville


It's interesting you know.  All my life I thought I was pursuing "a dream".  I wanted to be a singer.  I got to Nashville and realized a true country artist is a singer/songwriter.   I have been told this throughout my life, but had to figure it out for myself.  I worked hard at singing and figuring out how to be in bands, how to talk in a mike and work a crowd.  I was told I needed to be a show person, like Barbara Mandrell.  I tried cordless mikes, running around the club and singing and dancing with people while I was singing.  I would throw the mike in the air and catch it..... this wasn't me and I didn't really enjoy it.   I made a living playing music singing cover tunes for 20 years.  I've been playing music professionally (getting paid to do it) for 33 years now, and this year I feel like I have just begun.  I have a strong desire now to write.  To get what is in me...out, and I want to sing about it, because I can.  I'm 48 years old, and I've just begun.

I've been in Arizona much. Have had family issues happening there.  These are the blessing in life that you have to pay attention to.  I stopped what I was doing...but you know.... I wasn't headed in the right direction before.  During my hiates (spelling?), I figured out what I want to write about, how I want to approach it, what direction I want to go, etc.  All along, my friends and family making my life blossom.  Stop to take care of your blessings...and watch what will happen.

If Shawna and I didn't spend time together a few years ago, I don't think I ever would have finished my album "Planes, Train's, Trucks...Lovin' & Leavin'.  I'd still be working on it.  I have Shawna to thank for this.  Now you'll be hearing from a dear friend of mine Gil....We'll affectionally call him GG.  Gil, gave me a job, and found me another job when our company was laying off.  He loves music and has always been passionate about his guitar playing (you should see his arsenol of guitars).   He is no stranger to hard work.  But there is one thing that sets him apart.  The capacity of his heart. 

I was driving my car back to Nashville a couple weeks ago and was on the phone with GG...driving down I40.  My 3rd time back in Nashville, I told him "3rd time's a charm!".  He told me something to the effect of "I am proud of you...you will be successful".  I told him the hardest part is this damn media/network stuff.  There is so much of it...how can I possibley keep it all up and focus on the writing.  Yes..the product is in place..but without the songs, I don't have a product.  This is when GG said "I'll do it".  He said "You will not be alone this time".   I know without a doubt we'll be in it 'til the end.  Just the words alone I will always remember, and I knew when he said these words, that he was determined.  I do have to say too, that I have a family with me this time as well.   It's different this time.  All because I stopped for the blessings.  I pray to keep this balance in my life.

To that end..... meet the one and only GG!  He will be tending to this here site...and this here site needs some tending too!  I'm going to start up a blog on wordpress and man that site.  I'm actually even going to start twittering!  Even going to send little movies on Facebook....and whatever else my boss tells me to do.  He said that he is not my boss, but he really is....and I need one!!!

Well I have to sign off now... I was supposed to have the business plan outlined by yesterday and I'm not done.  I have to go to Douglas Corner  tonight to see friend Reese Wilson play his writer round.  I will upload him on Facebook...actually I did recently.  His son Kyler video'd him.  Reese is recently back in Nashville too.  He took a 10 year hiates himself.  I'm glad he's back...he'll be charting soon, to add to his 90's success...:)  keep a watch on this feller :)



Pure Love


As I published my last Blog post.... the classic country cable station started playing "Pure Love".  This is a Ronnie Milsap day.


Ronnie Milsap


As I started typing this Blog... the classic country cable station started playing "I'd Be A Legend In My Time".  This Ronnie Milsap song came out in 1974.  I would have been in 4th grade at that time, and I was an avid listener of country radio.  I had a little pea green square hand held transister radio, that stayed on a country radio station.  Growing up in Tempe, AZ, I was country when country wasn't cool (as Barbara Mandrell would say).  In my neighborhood (in my teens) I was cut down by the other kids, for listening to country music.  I tried and tried, but I didn't like their music as much as I liked mine.  I never understood why these people didn't like country and why I couldn't relate to their music, that they liked so much.  When I was 14 I started learning as many songs off the radio as I could.  These songs were my friends.

I had the oppurtunity to meet and talk with Ronnie Milsap and his wife Joyce and their bandleader, on a flight from Chicago to Albuquerque.  You know...when this happens... your childhood comes back to you, and it's surreal to talk to one of your hero's.  He and his wife made me feel like we'd been friends for a long time.  Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Milsap :)

Today, after ordering a copy of Ronnie Milsaps latest C.D. "Country Again", I found an interview with Ronnie Milsap.  I've pasted it below.   He's more than an inspiration.



By Mary Ann Cooper

Published in GRAND Magazine Issue 21 March April 2008 pp 36-41

Fanatic Grandparents - Cover Story Interview with Grandfather Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap talks with Mary Ann Cooper about his passion for his music and his family

Country And R&B legend Ronnie Milsap was born blind and into extreme poverty in the Appalachian town of Robbinsville, North Carolina. Unwilling to accept her newborn's blindness, Ronnie's mother gave him to his grandparents to raise when he was just a year old. At age 6, Ronnie was cut off from everything he knew and held dear when he was sent to the Governor Moorehead State School for the Blind in Raleigh. All along, the sightless child took refuge in music. Moorehead School put him through strict classical music training, a program that was heightened after the young boy early on showed a natural talent for it. Even so, Ronnie couldn't get enough of the country music, gospel and rhythm and blues he listened to so avidly on the radio. These diverse musical influences served to enrich his development and ultimately his career. Ronnie has had more top country hits than anyone except the late Conway Twitty. Over his career, Ronnie has sold more than 25 million records and has had 40 #1 hits, seven Grammy Awards, four Academy of Country Music Awards, and eight Country Music Association Awards. Through it all, Ronnie has had his wife, Joyce, at his side. Their 42-year marriage produced one son, Todd, who has blessed them with three grandchildren who have become the loves of their lives.

Now we have grandchildren, and that's our new life. They are very, very special. Our oldest grandchild is named Kye Leigh. She's 13. We have two grandchildren by Todd's second marriage: Mya Joy is 9; and we have one grandson who is 7, and his name is Wyler Todd. They love their Papa and Nana. They love to come to Papa and Nana's house. They come over here probably two or three days a week.

Kye Leigh is now officially a teenager. She's changed schools and is going to school in Nashville, where there is a much better chance for her to get a better education. The only thing was she had to separate from all the friends that she had through the seventh grade. Now she's in the eighth grade. I'm afraid she's already interested in boys. She's got her iPod and her cell phone. She text-messages hundreds of times a day. I don't know yet if there's any musical talent there, but Kye Leigh is very, very smart. Academically she makes A's all the time. Mya does real well. She sings and has this incredible voice. She draws, and she's into art. She does real well at school as well. Mya is a Type A personality. She's very outgoing and very demanding in some ways-especially for her Nana. She loves her Nana and holds onto her every chance she gets.

Wyler T. is slightly quieter and very compassionate. I am amazed at his intelligence. For some reason some kids just get it. He sits and reads to me off the computer-and says words that are bigger than a 7-year-old should know in the context of something he's reading to me. And I say, "Wyler, how do you know that word?" He's all boy, but he doesn't get in trouble. He's very kind. He's less talkative than Mya, but what is interesting is that he certainly gets it that his Papa is blind. So he will take me by the hand in my own house (although I know every inch of this house), but he will lead me around by the hand, so he's a very compassionate child. Kye Leigh is also highly sharp and comes over here usually when I get into a bit of a computer snag. And she will help me work out my problems with the computer. She's a tremendous help.

All three of them, they love to go to the zoo in Nashville; we have a really good one in Nashville. They love to see the tigers and the monkeys. They love to go shopping in the dollar stores for little things to buy. They just love being with us whatever we do. My wife drives, and I sit in the passenger seat.

We are so crazy about our grandchildren, we're fanatics! We spoil them. We can do that because their mothers are going to pick them up. We don't discipline them except to say, "No, no, no, don't do that. That's not a good thing." If someone starts yelling a lot because maybe Wylie is doing something on the computer and Mya wants to be on the computer at the same time, they kind of get into a brother/sister fight. And I have to break that up and say, "No, no, you can't do that." As far as discipline, that's the extent of it. When it comes to our grandkids, we spoil them, we love them and we're thankful for them.

Ronnie, raised by his grandparents, had a childhood that was quite a different story. He was anything but spoiled.

I was born in the Smoky Mountains probably a stone's throw from where Dolly Parton was born. We were very poor; everyone lived in awful, extreme poverty. My mother didn't want a blind child. So I grew up with my grandparents. That's why they disciplined me, because I didn't have a mother around. My father was around sometimes, but he didn't get to make decisions. That was left up to my grandparents. I noticed when I was 3 or 4 we had a Philco battery radio. I could listen to stations during the day in Knoxville, and at night I could hear Nashville, Cincinnati and Dallas and Atlanta. I quickly discovered that I could hear songs on the radio and I could memorize the words and the melody in a couple of plays. When I was 4 we went to the center of the social community, the church, and I sang in church by myself; that's when I discovered I could sing. When I was 5, my daddy and my grandparents decided I needed to go to school and I needed to go to a special school. I could not go to a public school, and the welfare department in Graham County in North Carolina arranged for me to go to the state school for the blind in Raleigh, which was 400 miles away from where I was.

Far away from home and within the boundaries of an isolated and highly disciplined atmosphere of the state school, Ronnie embraced music. Soon his instructors recognized his talents and passion.

We learned to read and write and how to do basic things like count by 5s and 10s and started to read Braille books. When I was in first grade, they discovered I might have an aptitude for music. They put a violin in my hand. I had heard of a fiddle before, because I was from the Smokies; and let's face it, I was hillbilly. But I didn't know what a violin was. They said this is the same thing as a fiddle. I started studying when I was 7, and my teacher pushed and instilled in me the discipline to practice. Three lessons a week and three practice sessions a week. When I was 8, they said, "He's doing really well with the violin. Let's move him to piano." I progressed quickly, and it was all classical music. I studied piano from the first grade to the 12th grade. I was always kind of playing things that were popular music of the time. I was supposed to be studying Mozart and Bach and all that. The piano teacher was impressed and said I was born with perfect pitch.

When Ronnie completed his studies at the state school for the blind, he soon discovered that his benefactors didn't share his enthusiasm or passion for making music his life's work.

I wanted to go to music school and study music. My counselor said, "No, you cannot study music. If you become a musician, you will fail and wind up out on the street. And you'll become a liability to the state of North Carolina." I was advised to study an academic way of life, to become something in history or political science. My family said, "You've got to go to college. You're on scholarship to go to college; everything is paid for-your tuition, your dormitory." So, I made a plan. I wanted to go to Young Harris College (a junior college) close to where all my family and friends are. Then I wanted to go to Emory University for one year, then to Emory Law School. So that was the track I was on that was being totally sponsored by the Commission for the Blind in North Carolina.

Although Ronnie thought he'd put his passion for music on hold, he discovered it again in a recreation room next to one of the school's laundromats.

This recreation room had a ping-pong table and all kinds of games, and there was a piano in the corner. My roommate said, "I've got to wash my clothes," and I said, "Would you mind showing me where the piano is? While you wash, I'll just tinker around on the piano." I started playing all of the songs of the day: Orbison, Elvis and Smokey Robinson. Before long the room was jam-packed. My roommate came back and said, "What in the world is going on?" I must say that broke the ice. All of a sudden everybody wanted to be my friend. Soon, Ronnie's music talents caught the attention of a wealthy family that would change his life. During the fall, I met a family down in Gainesville, Georgia. They were in state road construction, and they were a very wealthy family. The son was my age; and when he heard me play, he said, "You're in the band. You're coming down here, and I'm going to book these shows every weekend." I told him he had to buy me an electric piano. He said, "You got it." This young guy would come up to Young Harris in his candy-apple-red Corvair and take me down to Gainesville. We'd play Friday and Saturday night; and he started taking me to Atlanta to an R&B club called the Royal Peacock on Sunday night, where all the big artists of the day played. The first show I went to see was Jackie Wilson; then I went to see Stevie Wonder and Ben E. King. I'd leave college at three o'clock on Friday and wouldn't get back until six o'clock Monday morning. I'd be gone all that time and with no sleep.

By this time, Ronnie knew that he was not destined to be a lawyer. And after his idol, Ray Charles, encouraged him to follow his heart, he took a leap of faith.



I contacted the Commission for the Blind in Raleigh and said I was going to try the music business. And they said, "That's a big mistake. You'll be a failure. Don't you know what we've told you? You'll fall flat on your face. Do something where you can get a job that is substantial, something you can count on for the rest of your life." I said, "But I love this music so much it's a passion, and I just can't live without it." Maybe this is a little too harsh of a word, but they were so disappointed they basically disowned me. Luckily it all worked out. I made my first record, and it did pretty well. Then I got a contract with an R&B label. We put a record out, and it went to top 5 on Billboard. It was called "Never Had It So Good." And that's how I felt. I thought to myself, "Well, they said I'd be out on the street, but I'm not there yet."


Cut off from his benefactors, Ronnie set out on a successful recording career at the tender age of 20. It was also during that time that he met the woman who would become his wife.

I met Joyce at a dinner party in Atlanta. I swear it was instant and she felt the same. Does the universe guide us? She started talking about music and how much she loved Jim Reeves and how much she loved Ray Charles, and I'm all of a sudden thinking, "Wow, here's the common denominator. This young girl loves music. She has a ton of records, and she even had Ray Charles' latest LP. I hadn't even bought it yet. She introduced me to it- an album called Sweet and Sour Tears, which came out in 1964. I knew I wanted to go out with Joyce. I'm telling you, when it came to Joyce, it was like love at first sound. I took her to a jazz show, and it was magical. We danced, and someone else wanted to dance with her. I said, "I know I have no right to ask, but please don't do that." And she said, "Okay, I won't." At the show, the guy who played the piano knew me and said, "I want Ronnie Milsap to come up here and play a song." I played three songs. One was by Elvis, and a couple others were R&B songs; and the bass and the drums accompanied me. I was feeling great. After the show, Joyce was going to give me a ride, and I was feeling so good I said, "I'll race you to the car." I ran through the parking lot, and I ran into the car and just about broke my leg. She said, "Are you all right?" And I said, "Yes." She didn't go through this thing: "Oh, are you all right, did you break your leg?" Right then I knew she was the one for me. And we've been a team ever since then.



Sidebar: Alone and scared at age 6, Ronnie makes a new friend


When I was 6, my uncle and my aunt, who had just gotten married in 1949, took me, along with a representative of the welfare department, to the School for the Blind in Raleigh; and we got there and toured the facility. It was a residential school on a 90- acre campus with dormitories and buildings. I was left there when I was 6, and it was a very traumatic experience. I remember a part of the Bible where it talks about Joseph being sold into slavery, and so I thought when I was left at the school that I had been sold into slavery. I was in the dormitory assigned to the real young students, and I was lying on the floor and crying my heart out. They had left, and I was totally alone. Before long I got outside on the steps. I heard another little child crying, and I went over to him and introduced myself and found out he was from Monroe, North Carolina. We became very good friends and bonded that day. So we weren't alone anymore. Over the next couple of days I met a lot more students who were my age, made friends with them, so I wasn't alone anymore.

Sidebar: An encounter with Ray Charles changes Ronnie's life

When I was 20, my friend took me to a Ray Charles show in Atlanta. I said, "I've got to get backstage and meet Ray." I was told, "Nobody goes backstage to meet Mr. Charles, nobody." I was walking around backstage with my friend; and Ray's pilot was there, and he said, "Come on over here, and I'll get you in to meet Ray. While he's on stage doing his show, I'll take you to his dressing room. Nobody will know." Ray finished his show, and he came in; and there were dozens of people in there to greet him. I waited for 20 minutes or so until he met all his friends. There was all this backslapping and hugging and laughing and crying and going on about how they all loved Ray Charles. Then someone said, "There's just one more young man who wants to meet you." And I said, "Mr. Ray Charles, my name is Ronnie Milsap, and I'm totally blind; and I got to say you're the biggest inspiration of my life. I've studied your music. I love your music. I play all your music live in shows, and I'm at a turning point in my life-a dilemma. I'm studying to be in academics. I'm going to college and plan on going to law school. And that's what my advisers have set up for me. But I love music. I had 12 years of classical training in Raleigh when I was there. I love music more than I love academics, more than I like making out wills and contracts." There was a piano in the dressing room, and he aid, "Well, play me something." I played a song I'd been writing; and I played a couple more songs. Then I stopped, and there was total silence. And Ray said, "Well, son, you can be a lawyer if you want to, but there's a lot of music in your heart; and if I were you, I'd follow what my heart tells me." That was all I needed to know.





Snow in Nashville


Phewww....  it's a disaster when it snows here.  We have 3 snow plows and 2 are usually broke down :)   When there is a hint of snow coming, the grocery stores are packed. Everyone is getting their milk and bread.  I wasn't aware it was going to snow yesterday, like it did, so I wasn't too worried about milk.  Everywhere I went, people asked me if I got my milk and bread because the snow was coming.  I never did go get the milk and bread, but I do have four wheel drive, for the one time you need it.  Cars and trucks couldn't get up hills and off ramps.  It was a disaster.  Sure is beautiful out there today.  A blanket of fresh snow.  The sun is out and hardly no cars on the road...because they are on the side of the road.


The Time Jumpers


If you are ever in the Nashville area, Monday nights at the Station Inn are a treat.  Local favorite, The Time Jumpers.  Some of the best players, playing western swing. One of the lead guitar players in the band is Vince Gill.  He was usually in the audience when you went to see this band.... he was there so much, they finally hired him!




Yes Folks.... I left my first lesson playing a song today!!!  "You Are My Sunshine".  Yes... what I play is even recognizable.  I didn't have a chance today to go find a good traveling case for the banjo.  I'll be carrying this thing to Arizona.  It is a full size, very heavy banjo.  I'm going to take it flying with me.  this will be a labor of love and determination.  If you see a Flight Attendant wheeling thru the airport with 3 bags and a banjo..... yes.... it will be me.  I was concerned about the volumn while practising in my hotel room... Alan told me I could place a cloth under the bridge strings.  I learned some rolls and chords.  This is going to be fun.

Earlier today I met up with my long time friend Paul Sanford.  We were discussing "the next project".  He is unboard and will be co-writing the story and songs.  More to come on this.... Readers Digest Version:  This album will be a factual/fictional story of the Mining Country in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It will be a narrated story, supported by songs.  There will be much research and investigation.  I'm also finding out stories from people I'm meeting along the way.  Paul is a fantastic story teller and adventerous soul.

Later I went to the MVD to renew my tags... No lines at the Green Hills MVD folks!!

After the banjo lesson, I went to a writers night hosted by Debi Champion.  She puts on a 1st class writers show at the Commadore Lounge/Holiday Inn Select, over by Vanderbilt.  Tonight Tommy Barnes was the featured writer.  He wrote "Indian Outlaw" (Tim McGraw) and "My Love" (Little Texas).  He of course has written many other steller songs as well.  He's a true county grit singer/songwriter.  I told him how much I admired his work and appreciated him doing this true country music (what I think country music is), he said that his style will be back in style soon.  He's profound and dead on.  I don't think anyone could ever let the air out of his tires.  He's tireless and his creativity endless.


Banjo Case


Tomorrow I start my first Banjo lesson!!!  My teacher?....the best of the best, Mr. Alan "OBanyon" O'Bryant.   I'm very lucky that he has taken me on as a student.  It definately puts the pressure on.  I don't want him to think he's wasting his time....so I need to be playing that damn banjo next time I see him!!  I went to the music store tonight to find a lighter banjo case...one I can easily fly with.  Sam Ash didn't have any banjo cases.  Alan suggested I get a banjo light Gater bag.   OK... I will look for one tomorrow.  There must be one in Nashville somewheres!!!!   P.S. My lesson is at the Fiddle n Pick, Pegram, TN.  There are many fine insanely great musicians and teachers there.


Plane ride to Nashville


I hopped on Southwest Airlines last night from Phoenix to Nashville.  James Otto was on board.  I remember James from the Broken Spoke Days (a writers show haven, that has since been closed down)....(the haven part could have been the smoke haze....but still the best writers room in Nashville :))   I told James that Jim Wilson had introdoced us.  He said he remembered and asked how Jim was doing.  I was sad to tell him that our good friend passed away 3 years ago.   Jim was always at the Broken Spoke.  I miss not having him here in Nashville.  He was  a good friend and a good man.  I told James that I was happy that he was doing great in the music industry.. said I remember back when he was driving trucks.  He said he remembered that too!  


Monday Night


I'm looking forward to the Heart & Soul Cafe Monday night.  We've been seeing alot of friends coming back in....It's really become a friendly Monday night gathering.  I feel like I'm part of a family at this place.   Many new friends too.  Thank you.


Vet Tix


The Fundraising Veterans Tickets Organization Extravaganza is this weekend.  Much to do out at Rawhide for this event.  There will be music all day. I'll be playing at 11:00am and at 2:00pm.  This event will have many vendors, water slides, fun for the whole family and will be at Rawhide @ Wild Horse Pass, West of PHX, Arizona.


Happy Easter!


This is the most special time of year to remember.  Happy Easter to everyone!!!


Mickey Gilley


Yes...it's true.... I met the great Mickey Gilley today.  We flew together on Southwest Airlines. With Mickey was his long time friend an Agent Al Embry.  What a great trip and what a great time to be able to talk with this legend.  I didn't know he had a terrible accident last July, which left him parylized from his bacK down.   He only started walking about 2 months ago.  He's amazing. He was headed to Branson, Missouri to get ready to kick off his show season. This man has over 150 shows scheduled this year, at his theatre in Branson.  He's had a tough time getting his hand to work too. But says within a couple months "it'll be working".  Folks... we have to go see these great entertainers.  They are legends.  I'll be there...I'm hoping to go in June to see a show.  Mickey said.


Playing Music


Wow what a week of playing music.  Last night I was playing in Harlingen, TX and tonight I played a few songs at the Holiday Inn Select in San Antonio.  I've got my Baby Martin with me and my friends Tim & Cindy wanted to hear some music so we commenced to playin'.  What a trip.  I also met parts of the Booker T. Jones Band.  Check them out!!  The lead guitar player, Vernon Ice Black, is out of San Francisco. He writes, produces and has played with almost everyone.  They played tonight in New Orleans.  I couldn't make that one.  I sure like the songs that he has produced.  You can check out his website at www.vernoniceblack.com    Headed back to Arizona tomorrow.   Unfortunately will not be back in time to play at the Heart & Soul Cafe.  I will be there every Monday in April.


Heart & Soul Cafe Monday's


Last Monday was so nice.  My 2nd cousin Betty and hubby Roger came in. They live in Scottdale in the winter and Milwaukee the rest of the time.  Betty's father was my Grandfather's brother.  They lived in the Copper Mining town of Calumet, Michigan.  My Grandfather owned a bar named after the family name of "Shute". This bar was in the family for 70 years.  This is where my Mom and her siblings were raised.  If you look under the CD in my cd package, you'll see an old trunk that my Mom sent back from Germany, while she was in the army there.  If you look at the middle of the c.d., you'll see the address on  the trunk  along with my Mom and Grandpa's name.  The Bar is still called Shute's.  Betty's father was a miner and helped his brother with everything.  His name was Pete Shuty (different spelling). He  died in the mines when Betty was very young.  It was so great to see Betty and Roger.  There were also many other customers and friends that I have recently met, that were there on Monday night.  What a great night.  Thank you everyone.  Now I get it - the name of the restaurant - "The Heart & Soul Cafe"


Writer's Round, Nashville, TN


I'll be performing at Debi Champion's Writers Night, at the Commadore Lounge, Nashville, TN on St. Patrick's day.  I'm really looking forward to this round.  I'll be on stage with two other writers, Bobby Adams and Amber Shipley Doss.  Bobby and I wrote "Pray With Me", and this will be the first time that I have met Amber, although I've always known about her.  Her father Mike and I use to write songs together. He was the co-writer on AZ Moon and Carole Ann.  Mike passed away 8 years ago.  His daughter lives in Kentucky and this will be her first writer show in Nashville.  I'm very excited to meet Amber and share some of the songs that her Dad and I wrote together.  Lot's of friends  will be coming out to support Amber too. This will be a great night!!!


Heart & Soul Cafe


Tonight will be the weekly show at Heart & Soul Cafe, Cave Creek, AZ.  I really like this venue.  Very kick back.  Everyone that comes in really seems to enjoy the atmosphere.  The owners are hands on. One is the Chef!  The staff are tooo friendly.  I've learned some new songs that I'm going to try out tonight.  The bartender really wanted to hear Old Crow Medicine Show.  Well...he will tonight.  More like Young Crow Medicine Show :-).  I'll be on from 6 to 8 tonight. 


White Mountains, AZ


Spent the last fews days up in the White Mountains of Arizona.  First I kicked off the week with J.J. in the morning on Z92 (Holbrook).  JJ had Curt Taggart and myself on his morning show.  I met Cindy Serna too. She has the show after JJ. Her format is classic country.  Both JJ and Cindy are very supportive of my music and have both been spinng the c.d.  Cindy's father played music up there for years.

Friday found me at the Java Deli.  Hometown coffee house and deli. The menu is fresh, with home quiche and creative sandwiches.  The owners support local talent and you can find local artists books and cd's on sale there.  I played there at lunch hour.

Friday night found us at JD'z Black Bull, where we had a reunion of sorts.  Curt came in and played guitar and steel guitar.  We played with the Loose Change Band (Darin, Johnny, Robby & Spence).  Good time had by all.  Many friends came out and it was like the good ol' days.  Sure did the soul good playing with those guys again.

The next day I got to go skiing. Sunrise Ski Resort had 100 inches of snow!


International Hits


I was checking out the traffic on this website.  Italy and Netherland have been neck to neck. Italy 169, Netherland 132.  Japan still sluggish with 16, Canada just jumped on board with 2. German 1, Romania 1, China 4, Luxenborg 5, Seychilles 6, Myanmar 4.  How are these people finding me!!  Well...I know...but it's just amazing.


Kris Kristofferson


Went to The Ryman Theatre to see Kris Kristofferson.  I'd had the ticket for a couple months.  Didn't know if he was doing a full band or what.  He did a 2 hour acoustic concert.  Just him, his guitar and harmonica's.  I was center/nose bleed.  Still a great seat for The Ryman.   He broke into Bobby McGee, played harpoon.  He talked about being in Nashville and working on being a writer. Talked about some of his friends.  Told us a story about how he was sitting up in the balcony one time, and Johnny was going to sing "Sunday Morning Coming Down", but back then the theatre manager told Mr. Cash that he couldn't sing the word "stoned".  Told Johnny he could use the word "Home". Johnny asked Kris if that would work, and Kris said it loses the meaning.  Cash didn't say if he was going to change it or not.  Kris said Johnny got up there and sang "Stoned".  About 1/2 way through the performance Kris said how he couldn't believe he was up on that stage singing. Said there was nothing like it.  I try to see as many shows at the Ryman as I can. Everytime, if the Artist is up there for a full show, about halfway through something overcomes them, and the show takes a turn.  I usually cry at this point.  Tonight was no different. Kris ended the night with "Why Me Lord".


Podcast on Arizona Music Cafe


The podcast was uploaded yesterday, for last weeks show.  On January 17th, myself, Mark Miracle and John Burton were on the Arizona Music Cafe, with host Erich Seilaff.  I listened to the broadcast last night.  Sure was fun.  There were 3 artists on the show, I was the 2nd.  The 3rd artist, Brian, asked John and Mark to accompany his segment.  Sounded really cool. Brian had a bluesy feel, so the mandolin & fiddle added this whole other dimension.  Erich was a great host and he just let's things happen.  


Website Traffic


I was just checking out the traffic report for www.pennymenze.com.  There's a bunch of traffic coming in from Japan, Italy, Norway and  Netherlands.    So far the most international traffic is coming from Italy.  Hmmm.  Well, I guess I need to make plans to play some music over there.


Session Pictures Uploaded


My My. I just got done uploading the original session pictures of Planes, Trains Truck...I have to say, that I had the best lookin' Producer, Engineers, musicians, singers EVER.  I should have taken more pictures!


Radio Show Spotlight January 17th, 2010


How fun... on Sunday, Erich Sielaff has invited me to be on his Arizona Music Cafe Show on KKNT 960 AM, Phoenix, AZ.  He invites Arizona Artists on his show to play, promote and interview for 20 minutes.  Erich is a musician/songwriter/artist himself and was his vision to promote music from Arizona.  Big Shout out to Erich.  If you are not in the Phoenix area, you can listen live on www.azmusiccafe.com, or if you miss show you can download a podcast off of the same website.  Accompanying me will be John Burton, guitar and Mark Miracle on the Mandolin.  These two guys are some of Arizona's finest, so I'm pretty stoked they will be with me. 


Jake's Corner, AZ

OK, got the lowdown...Jake's Corner is next to Tonto Basin, on the South end of Roosevelt Lake, down the road from Tortilla Flats, and up the road from Punkin Center, and on the other side of Four Peaks Mountain (Planes, Trains, Trucks). Check out the movie made at Jake's Corner, called "Jake's Corner", due out on DVD next month. If you make it to Jakes, check out the Junction 87 Band. These guys play that good old country dance music that we all miss. You'll find a steak, beans & potato western restaurant/bar, serving fine folks & medium rare grillin'. The country music will take you back to what Arizona sounded like 25 years ago. In a couple weeks or so, my new album will be available on www.pennymenze.com, itunes, and on the jukebox at Jake's Corner!

New C.D.


The new C.d. just arrived.  Everyone involved did so much.  Alan O'Bryant (Producer) brought in A List Artist's and Musician's to play and/or sing on this project.  It evolved into an Album and everyone was so nice to work with.  This was a great experience for me and one I'll always treasure.  The Graphics Artist, Susan with BlueMarigold, finalized the project and visually polished it out and made it come to life.  There were many more people involved in this project and you will find them listed in the C.D. (Album) cover.  Thank you everyone, Penny


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