Friday, September 23, 2011

John Lennon Was Right, or How I Got Into The Baseball Hall of Fame

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" sang John Lennon in his song "Beautiful Boy". I could not agree more.

Like all musicians, I'm susceptible to all the usual musician's daydreams. Sold out shows, hit songs, hit albums, Grammy awards, world-wide tours, etc. These sorts of daydreams usually strike when you are younger, when the whole world of possibilities is in front of you. You think "if I do this and this and this, then that will happen", but it usually doesn't. The so-called "experts" tell you to set goals and plan in order to steer your career in the direction you intend it to go.

The reality is practically all of it is beyond your control. My "day job" is in TV sports broadcasting, and one day back in the '90s I had a gig coming up at a local club. A couple nights before the show I was working on the Yankees broadcast of a Twins/Yankees game, and I put a poster advertising my gig up near the production truck. The Yankees TV producer saw the poster, and asked if I could write a song for the show about how host Al Trautwig was off and Mike Crispino was sitting in for him. I had to go home to get my guitar, and I wrote the song as I drove. When I got back we taped the song for the open of the pregame show. I guess it went well, because I did two more songs for them the next time the Yankees were in town. When I started working Twins home shows, the producers said I should do a song for their show, but there was nothing seriously proposed and I didn't have any ideas anyway.

In 2002 Twins TV analyst Bert Blyleven began circling people with the telestrator, which is a device which is used as a "drawing board" so to speak. John Madden first started using it on NFL broadcasts to illustrate the development of a football play. Bert started circling fans at the ballpark, and a craze was born. Soon people started bringing all sorts of "Circle Me Bert" signs to the games. So I wrote a song called "Circle Me Bert" and brought it to the Twins TV producers. They liked it, and we shot a video for the song in front of the Metrodome. The video was of a fictional band (think Spinal Tap or The Rutles), which included me, Fox Sports North sideline reporter Clay Matvick, and Bert Blyleven in a wig playing tambourine. The video aired on the Twins pregame show. The Twins saw it, liked the song, and decided to give away CDs of "Circle Me Bert" to the first 10,000 fans in attendance at a Twins game. I got a little $ for that, and I figured that was pretty much the beginning and end of "Circle Me Bert" for me.

Fast forward to 2011. Bert Blyleven is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A month or so later, I got an email from the Hall asking for a copy of "Circle Me Bert" for their library. This was a big surprise, certainly nothing I envisioned or planned, and, frankly, kind of cool. I just spoke to Tim Wiles at the Hall today, and he told me that "Circle Me Bert" will be there as long as the Baseball Hall of Fame exists. And I suppose hundreds of years from now, someone may take a listen to it and wonder "who the hell is this?" So if it's 2111 and you are reading this, that's the story.

Life is definitely what happens when you're making other plans.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rain, Russians and Belly Dancers

Saturday night I was booked for a private party. I played for this particular client before, and I was happy to find out that they hunted me down for another gig. It shouldn't have been that hard to find me--Google will take you to the website, and on the website is a contact link. And I really should've made it easy for them by sending them a letter with some biz cards after the first time I played for them. That was my aim anyway, but I didn't know how to spell the wife's first name (Terry? Teri? Terri?) and I wound up not sending anything at all.

Luckily they hunted me down through a mutual contact. The client, a well-to-do chiropractor, seemed pretty loose about the start time so I got there around 8 PM and began setting my gear up on the patio. Of course, as soon as I got set up it began to sprinkle, then a downpour, and with the help of a few party attendees I managed to move my PA to a dry overhang under the house. 12 or 15 miles away at TCF Bank Stadium U2 was being rained on as well, but they played in the rain. I could not afford for my gear to get ruined, plus nobody was going to stand out in the rain with me anyway.

So I waited. I joined the party in the house, having a beer or two and marveling at the decor. A driveway full of vintage cars, motorcycles for knickknacks in the basement. So, this is what studying hard and doing well in school can get you, I thought. Maybe I should've tried harder, stopped writing songs durning class, not gotten kicked out of engineering school. Yeah, right!

Besides me, they had hired a psychic (who I never saw) and a couple of belly dancers (who I did see). I downed two or three Stellas and waited for the rain to stop. The belly dancers would do their thing, then take a break. I decided I might as well play acoustically between their sets, so I went outside under the house and got my guitar and did just that. So I would play a set, then the belly dancers would come out and do theirs. I had never worked with belly dancers before, and I have to say I liked it.

While the dancers danced, I had an interesting conversation with a Russian fellow named Raulf (spelling?, again). Raulf was at the party the last time I had played there, about two years ago, and then, like now, I was not quite sure what his role in everything was. He seemed to be in charge of the caterers, in charge of the household in fact. He is probably mid 50's to early 60s, with a thick Russian accent, and had lived in the US for 16 years. We spoke about our favorite musical artists, and found we both loved the Beatles. It was interesting to hear how risky it was to even own a Beatles album in the Soviet Union when he was young, how his father took great risks in getting it for Raulf, and how he couldn't even take a chance of sharing it with his friends.

The dancers took a break, and I played another set, playing as many Beatles tunes as I could remember. You just can't go wrong with the Beatles.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Band

Last September my drumming buddy Mitch Griffin sent me a Facebook message entitled "basement playing" and "you game. what's your sked?" in the text. Mitch and I had played together about 10 years ago in a band with various names--"Tools For Tots" is one that comes to mind--that eventually morphed into "Jim Pellinger and the Folkups". Anyway, it sounded like a good idea and I said yeah let's do it.

So Mitch and I got together in his basement and kicked around a few of my songs with just drums and guitar. It was cool, but I thought it would be really cool with a bass. As luck would have it I had already been jamming with former Folkup bassist Dave Meier, so it wasn't hard to get him involved in the new project.

To date we've managed to have a semi-regular practice schedule, as semi-regular as our schedules will allow anyway. And I have to say it's been sounding pretty good. We started kicking around the old Folkups material, which we fell into pretty easily, and I have a bunch of new songs since then which I feel we have begun to nail.

So far the toughest part has been coming up with a name for this outfit. I won't list the candidates here, because I don't want some other bands to snag them. But I think we're zeroing in on a name. Stay tuned.