Monday, August 4, 2014

I Miss James Brown

In a state of Christmas fever like a little kid about to rip open his presents, I took all the boys to see the recent James Brown movie starring Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul himself.

As far as movies go, it was highly entertaining and wonderfully edited. Creating a bit of work for the audience while piecing different parts of James Brown’s life together, it produced an incredible colorful story from beginning to end.

But from all the highlights of his life, his influences, his shows and hardships, the movie slightly hinted at the most important part of James Brown and what he stood for. Perhaps Hollywood shied away from it due to their own views of America but the fact is that James Brown loved and stood for his country. A vital piece of information that really wasn’t showcased all that much in the movie.

James Brown was and will always be the symbolic poster child that proves anyone can make it in America if they work hard enough. As he was, as we all know, the hardest working man in show business. In 1969 and shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., James expressed his convictions on the Mike Douglass Show stating that a man should believe in himself and live by the sweat of his own brow. In his own words, staying true to your own convictions. A message that has become a memory with a society that now believes the world owes them something.

I find it interesting but not surprising that Hollywood left out something so significant as this. We all seem to be bombarded by the left as well as our own leadership feeding America and the rest of the world that we’re just not that great. And to prove my point, a popular video from HBO’s Newsroom featuring Jeff Daniels is making the rounds on the social sites these days as his character makes the claim to a room full of college kids that America is not great. I don’t know about you but I think I enjoyed him better in Dumb and Dumber. Seems to fit his current character even more so.

Even though Get On Up made small mention of it, it’s important to understand just how important James Brown was to America. Especially black America when he was called to Washington during the riots after the assignation of MLK. Speaking on live television, James Brown single handedly calmed down one of America’s most tragic moments in history speaking from his heart. 

“I guess you know I started as a shoeshine boy in Augusta, Georgia. I didn’t get a chance to finish the seventh grade. But I made it. I made it because you believed in me. Cause I had honesty. And dignity and sincere and I wanted to be somebody. That’s the reason today I talked to the kids. Tell them to stay in school and don’t be a dropout. Because if I hadn’t lucked up and through the will of good people, I wouldn’t be here. An education is the answer. Know what you’re talking about. Be qualified. Be ready. Know what you’re doing. You know in Augusta, Georgia, I used to shine shoes. On the steps of the radio station WRDDW. I think we started at three cents then went to five, six…never did get to a dime. But today, I own that radio station. You know what that is? That’s black power. Right here. It’s not in violence. It’s knowing what you’re talking about. Being ready. Now I say to you cause I’m you’re brother. I know where it’s at. I’ve been there. I’m not speaking from imagination but experience. Let’s live for our country. Let’s live for ourselves. Please go off the streets.”

My generation missed out on this thankfully. But for all of us who are now in our forties, I will ask you to think back to our youth and remember just how unsure we all were during the cold war. Most if not all of us had no idea what the cold war was but we knew that Russia had nuclear weapons and they were the enemy with their finger on the button. “The Russians have a bomb…we could all die any day.” – Prince


But out of all that fear, one man spit in the face of Russia and reminded us all that America is and will always be the greatest place in the world. Kind of makes you wonder where all that pride went. It sure isn’t with our current leadership. Perhaps America would have been better off if we had elected a man that spoke from his heart rather than a teleprompter.

Here’s to living in the greatest place on earth. Be proud of who you are and remember...

Livin' in America-eye to eye, station to station
Livin' in America-hand to hand,across the nation
Livin in America-got to have a celebration

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hey Dad...That would be a cool place to play.

When it comes to kids, they see everything. They approach life with eyes wide open so it was no surprise when my thirteen year old pointed out the stage at Bergfeld on our way to church. “Hey Dad…that would be a cool place to play…don’t you think?”

I’ve driven by Bergfeld a million times but have never given the stage a second glance really. So out of curiosity, I drove by on my way home one day, parked the truck and took a walk around the stage. Pleasantly surprised, our town has a really great stage and I don’t think anyone ever uses it.

Rolling the idea around in my head and then discussing it with Rose Festival folks, we
decided that a good way to celebrate the Strutters 75th anniversary would be to hold a concert at Bergfeld this year.

Now for some, you are all too aware of what a large production it is when I perform. Not that I’m a big deal, but I do have certain standards when it comes to equipment and not really knowing what the facility had to offer in the way of electrical, we contacted the city for further examination. And in doing so, we discovered that the stage at Bergfeld Park has enough power to run sound and lights for a Texas Stadium concert. And no, I’m not exaggerating as the Rolling Stones themselves could plug in and blow the water right out the seal fountain in our modest little park.

Learning this about Bergfeld, it made me realize just how many diamonds we have around here that no one really appreciates. I’ve been parked on the brick streets of College and University now for two years and every day I look around at what I believe could be the next Fort Worth. Buildings with incredible potential that are left empty and abandoned. My hats off to a couple of local guys for taking on the People’s Petroleum Building as it takes this kind of vision and attention to detail when you bring something like that to life again.

I had a conversation with a city councilman who received a call from someone who was barking at him about Tyler not having an outdoor venue for concerts. He calmly told them that we do but no one ever uses it. Forest for the trees I suppose.

So….on October 16th of this year, I’ll be bringing it like you’ve never imagined. In tow will be over a quarter of a million dollars in sound and lights which will exercise the power in Bergfeld and provide enough base to shake the leaves off the trees. Shouting from one of the prettiest parks in East Texas, I hope to showcase what no one really appreciates and open the eyes of Tyler to yet another diamond in the rough. And I hope that you will join me as we celebrate this park as well as the tireless efforts the Strutters put forth each year coordinating the Texas Rose Parade. It’s a great bunch of guys and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Oh...and did I mention it’s free?

See you in October. And yea Homer, that will be a cool place to play!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Much Will Be Demanded

With all the media rhetoric and political opposition that has literally consumed Americans concerning the Affordable Care Act, it's time to step back and take a deep breath. And once you've exhaled, let's all look at this debacle using some good old common sense.

First, I think we'll all agree that Obama is a big picture guy regardless of whether you like the pictures he's painting. I know a lot of CEOs as well as folks in general who have made a lot of money due to their abilities in seeing a bigger picture. But these folks were all in the private sector and weren't relying on government to execute on details. And because our government attempted to execute on a private sector level, we all stand witness to one of the biggest train wrecks in U.S. history.

Details. It's where the devil lives in all projects and anyone will tell you that big ideas always fall short due to the details. And one of the details that no one seems to be talking about is the market itself so I will ask you good folks to put on your marketing hats for a moment and hear me out.

The Affordable Care Act was created for people that can't afford health care. That's straight forward and from a business perspective, that's the target market. These are people who struggle to make ends meet. They live paycheck to paycheck and may or may not have enough money to pay their bills each month. This population represents 15 to 20% of America and is growing daily due to the great divide between wealth and poverty as the middle class continues to shrink.

In theory, this sounds great. We create a health care plan for the uninsured where payments are evened out in hopes of balancing prices for both healthy and unhealthy people. And without any marketing research on how this population lives or pays their bills, a web site was built with the hope that 7 million people will sign up for the plan and make it sustainable.

So let's take a look at this population and try to define them. How does this market behave that we know damn good and well wasn't ever really evaluated with any kind of research other than the fact that they don't have health care. Surely we can all agree that little if any research was executed in light of such a
disastrous roll out. What I mean is they spent a lot of time baking the cake but bought really crappy paper plates and never found out if the market had a fork to eat it with.

I'll switch hats now for some perspective. Not to go into a great amount of detail as most of you already know I played blues music in the ghettos of south Dallas for years. I've traveled with band members, slept in their houses, rehearsed in their garages and ate at their tables. These are modest and humble people that struggle on a day to day basis. Focused on their grocery bill and the rent, budgets are extremely tight. They may have a day job while the music helps subsidize additional living expenses or the wife may work full time. Visits to the doctor are only on an as needed basis. And this as needed basis had to be pretty serious as I was called on numerous times as a taxi to Parkland due to the absence of a car.

As we evaluate this market, our government has created a system that requires the following.

1. You must apply using a web site. This means you must have a computer. Ok…let's say that all of these folks I know have a computer. Not all of them do but we'll say they do so we can move on to the next step.

2. You must have a credit card to pay the average $328 bill each month. They have a computer, in our imagination, so let's say they have a credit card as well. Not one of those debit cards you purchase at the grocery store but a real personal credit card.

3. This amount must be paid every month without fail for the program to work. That means each month that the credit card must work. Not declined and not maxed out.

It would be a stretch to think that I have any idea what it's like to live month to month even though I saw it first hand. But the elephant in the room is our own government has this market all figured out. It should be obvious that everyone  owns a computer, we all have credit cards and without a doubt, won't have any trouble making payments each month. Keep in mind that the most a lot of these folks can afford for rent is around $300 per month. A family of four may live in a one bed room apartment. They have no car and ride the bus. If they do have a car, it's used and they only put five or ten dollars of gas in it at a time. They have no bank account and live on cash. They eat fast food because it's all they can afford.  

But hey…paying $328 a month on your laptop with your own personal credit card is going to be a piece of cake.

This entire effort has about as much of a chance, if I can quote Merl Haggard, as a snowball headed for hell. But before we all stomp our feet and complain about our government, we all need to take a good hard look at ourselves. If you remember anything I've ever written on these rambling blogs, remember this my friends. Our job is to take care of the folks that need to be taken care of and if we don't do it, the government will step in and do it for us. I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, you will never convince me that the government has some duty in tending to the poor. That's your job. That's my job. That's our job.

Take heed this Christmas my brothers and sisters and remember your job. A job that was given to all who have much. I believe it was our good friend Luke who said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."