As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 31, 2014
I had an unusual amount of comments on my column that appeared two weeks ago. It was entitled “Parrothead” but actually was intended to be about tattoos, a subject that I finally got around to shortly before the end of the article. If Paul Harvey was here today, he might say “There’s more to that story.” The comments were split about half and half between the guys and gals, with the ladies wanting to see my tattoo and the fellows wanting to know more about the harmonica player. By the way, the article appeared in the July 17th edition of the Key West Traders Daily, an internet newspaper, probably because of the Jimmy Buffett connection. I imagine it was obtained from Steve’s blog because he had added a picture of the harmonica that Fingers gave him after playing “Amazing Grace.” Check out the archive and take a look. My infamous tattoo was self-inflicted in an attempt to permanently place my initials on my left leg a few inches below my knee. It was done with a sewing needle dipped in a bottle of black India ink. I was with the Hudson boys, Dean and Charles, who, apparently, were a bad influence on this young teenager. I had to stop the procedure when my leg began to hurt. It’s a wonder we three knot-heads didn’t get blood poisoning and maybe lose a leg. I never completed my initials and have ended up with what looks like a small upside-down exclamation mark. Now about the second part of the article. Greg was a keyboard player when he first started his career in the music business. That’s when he acquired his nickname, “Fingers.” He was a member of the Buttermilk Blues Band headquartered in Jackson, MS, in 1969 when he abandoned the keyboard and took up the harmonica as his preferred instrument. He told me that he made the change because the harmonica was much easier to transport between gigs than the bulky, heavy keyboard. Makes sense to me. He did retain his nickname and was always better known as “Fingers” than by his real name, Greg. He joined Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers in 1974 and remained a regular band member until May, 2000. On that December day, probably in the late 70’s, when he made his only visit to Calico Rock with his wife, Sarah, they talked freely about their travels and friends which included James Taylor, Carly Simon and other well-known figures in the music world. The only time that I saw Fingers again was at the Jimmy Buffet concert at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock a few years later. I did see Sarah several times. She and Fingers split, sometime in the early 80’s I think, and she moved in with her parents. Glenn and Joann had moved to Calico Rock from Jonesboro and purchased a home on the lower bluff just south of downtown. They were the parents of two other children, David and Joyce. Glenn was elected Mayor in 1982 and again in 1986. Sometime during his first term, he served a one-year term as state commander of the American Legion. He was a veteran of WWII, retiring after 20+ years as a high ranking officer. I liked Glenn. He was a friend and a real character. He was a typical military retiree, insisting on doing it his way but got a lot done for Calico Rock. He was responsible for getting all the downtown businesses on the National Register of Historic places. He is probably best known for convincing the Arkansas Department of Corrections to purchase the land and build a prison near Calico Rock, causing the NIMBY people to come out of the woodwork. Glenn prevailed over the opposition and, as we are all aware, the North Central Unit became a reality. Five months into his second term, Glenn became very ill and was forced to resign as the Mayor of Calico Rock. I was elected to finish out his term, then one term on my own. He never got to see his pet project completed. When he died, I ordered the flag at city hall to be lowered to half-staff. He was buried in Roselawn cemetery with full military honors. I used to be asked what I thought about having a prison near Calico Rock. My pet answer was “Well, I would rather have a cookie factory.” I don’t say that anymore. Where would we be without it? PS: Fingers retired to Jackson, MS in 2010. Listen to him make his instrument weep, howl, plead and bleed on “Coast of Marseilles” recorded in 1978 (You-Tube).
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 17, 2014
It has taken me sixty columns and thirty months to figure it all out. I am not a writer, I am a talker or maybe just a story-teller. What I send to this newspaper every other week is simply a transcription of what I say at some particular time. Make sense? Does to me and I am so happy to discover that I am not a writer, much less a journalist. I said as much in my very first column over two years ago. What a relief! Now I can get to the business at hand without worrying about the correct word usage, spelling, etc. Just pick a subject and go with it. Please remember that a good story is worth telling more than once. I’m sure I repeat myself occasionally so bear with me and we’ll continue a while longer so off we go. Back when Steve was a teenager, one evening I heard this beautiful harmonica music coming from the stereo in his room. I inquired and he told me that it was the Jimmy Buffett band. I had never heard of Jimmy Buffett but some months later this young lady was shopping in the drug store and I noticed that she was wearing a Jimmy Buffett jacket. Steve asked her if she had purchased the jacket at one of Jimmy’s shows and she said no, she was married to one of the band members. Later we saw her and a young man go into the business across the street so we decided to go over and introduce ourselves. We learned the young man’s name was Greg (nickname: Fingers) Taylor, and his wife, Sarah, was the daughter of the mayor of Calico Rock. They were very nice and appreciative that we were Jimmy Buffett fans and he invited us to his in-laws residence where Sarah’s brother, David, was meeting them for a little “picking.” David (nicknamed D-Minor) was a semi-professional banjo player. Anyway we went up to their house, visited for a while, learned that he was from Mississippi where his father owned a drugstore and he had met his wife, Sarah, at college (UALR). We later learned that he was an original member of JB’s band, the Coral Reefers After hearing Greg play a soul-searching rendition of “Amazing Grace” Steve and I said our goodbyes and left. A year or two later Anita and I attended a JB concert in Little Rock. Fingers was there with the band and the concert was great. Probably the best known JB composition is “Margaritaville.” He wrote and recorded this song several years ago and has parlayed it into an empire of casinos, restaurants and tee shirts. The latest Margaritaville restaurant opened not long ago in Pigeon Forge, TN, a long way from the salty water of the Pacific and the Florida keys where the business headquarters is located. One of the verses of the song, Margaritaville, goes like this: Don’t know the reason, Stayed here all season with nothing to show but this brand new tattoo. He goes on to say, in verse, that the tattoo is a “real beauty” of a Mexican “cutie” but that he has no clue about how he got it. When I was growing up, you rarely saw a man and never a woman that sported a tattoo and then it was usually on their forearm or, sometimes, shoulder. Many servicemen returning from WWII , especially the navy, had received a tattoo somewhere in their travels. I used to wonder if maybe they hoisted a few glasses before deciding to get this permanent decoration. Fast forward a few years. Now there is a tattoo parlor a few miles from anywhere in the United States and it is a common sight to see young and old, male and female, with multiple artistic drawings on their bodies. I read the other day that one of the newer female so-called entertainer/singers, known best for her antics on stage, had (at last count) 24 of these skin pictures. Have you noticed the number of college and professional athletes who have adorned themselves with these various pigment implantations? I wonder if this is a fad and it soon will pass. Seems to me that they (the wearers) are trying to make some kind of statement or is it just peer pressure? Now I am only trying to report the facts, not condemning anyone. If you want a tattoo, it is your decision. Just remember, it is a permanent decision or, at least, it is very expensive to reverse if you change your mind later. Before I stop, I want to let you in on a little secret. Promise you want tell anyone. I have a tattoo. I’ll tell you about it later. Bye for now!
Note from Steve:
Dad's memory of the story of Gregg (Fingers) Taylor that Christmas 30+ years ago is exactly as I remember it. One additional fact about Fingers is that he gave me the harmonica after he had played "Amazing Grace" that day. I still have it. Here is a picture of it.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 3, 2014
I once read or heard a commentary that compared the human brain to a computer ---that information entered is retained until retrieved. The article also indicated that the information was placed in different “folders” that could be accessed by a particular biological sourcing mechanism. That’s way too complicated for me to understand or describe but I have had instances when I guess I pressed the right button and some ancient memory from my childhood popped up. An example occurred last week when I was reading Megan’s Musing column in this newspaper. Megan was giving an account of her trip to a poet’s retreat that she had attended. When I was younger, I could memorize just about anything in a short period of time. I’ve talked about this before. Now, I have trouble memorizing anything but I still remember things from long ago. Anyway, in this particular mysterious memory I was about five or six years old and my mother and I were climbing the stairs to the second floor of the old school building. It was nighttime and we were attending a community Christmas program that was held in the study hall. The place was packed and people were sitting at the school desks and folding chairs and some were standing. I was on the program to recite a poem that I had memorized. Mom and I had just reached the top of the stairs and were turning right to walk through the double doors into the study hall when I saw her. It was Mary Lou and her grandmother. Now I should explain that Mary Lou was about my age and was struck on me. I stopped dead in my tracks and would have turned and run but my mother had a hold on my hand. Then I heard Mary Lou say in a (seemingly) loud voice, “Grandma, there’s Reed Mack.” I almost fainted, but I retained my composure and guided my mom to a seat up front. The poem that I recited was “Jest ‘Fore Christmas” that told, in verse, about a young lad who relates his activities of doing mischievous things except “jest ‘fore Christmas, I’m as good as I kin be!” This poem by Eugene Field (1850-1895) is available on the internet. Just “google” it if you are interested. Of course, my recitation received a standing ovation. I think I was able to escape without seeing Mary Lou and her grandmother again that evening. You have to remember that at that age I thought girls came from another planet, sorta like the kid in the poem who announced that he was “mighty glad I ain’t a girl---rather be a boy.” Things do change as the years go past. I wonder what ever became of Mary Lou. Anyway, thanks to the Current for printing these offerings each week or so. We are very fortunate to have these writings available for enjoyment and also for the historical and educational value. At the present time, in addition to the Ramblings and Musing columns, we can learn much about plants and the environment through Linda’s “Nature Journal,” incidents of the past through Susan’s “Not So Long Ago,” plus learn about our ancestors and other historical figures with Freda’s remarkable stories. Add to all that is the reporting of Rich, bringing us up to date on current events. I read every issue from cover to cover (don’t you?). I really miss some of the columns that are no longer appearing in our paper. Do you remember “The View from Off?” This enjoyable column (written by locals Fred & Kathie) was the inspiration for my Ramblings op-ed offerings. Derrall’s dog (River) once wrote humorous accounts about fishing on the White River. Jim & Jill, both professional “outdoor” writers, each used to write about hunting/fishing/etc. on alternate weeks. Doctor Robert once penned a scholarly essay weekly for a period of several months about the cause and treatment of various diseases that affect us humans. Fredericka has begun to share some heretofore unpublished Tenoring writings of her husband, Tom*. There’s good reading ahead. Megan’s column also reminded me that I once had the desire to write a song but was having trouble with the rhyming. You long-time readers may remember this. Maybe I should ask Megan for help. Should I write the song lyrics in “iambic pentameter?” (I just threw that in to let you know that I can speak poetically). See you later, For another caper, In this paper.