Friday, July 30, 2010

The Creative Lawyer

For those of you that think lawyers aren’t very creative, think again. They can be extremely resourceful and are great problem solvers. They think in terms of grey which means things can be defined by interpretation. They don’t believe in barriers or walls so they are willing to try things that others might not. Such was the case for Wally Byam, a law graduate of Stanford University and owner of an advertising agency in the late 1920s.

Besides owning an ad agency, he also published a magazine that featured “how to” articles. A featured article on how to build a travel trailer would bring in a great deal of complaints as the plans apparently didn’t work. And like every good lawyer, Wally would set out to argue his case by attempting to build a travel trailer in his own back yard using masonite and the published plans.

Much to Wally’s dismay, he discovered that the plans were flawed. But something else happened in Wally’s back yard that day. A man discovered he had a real passion and talent for design. History would turn the page to the very humble beginnings of Airstream Travel Trailers.

The quality that Wally strived so hard to achieve would be the reason Airstream was the only travel trailer to survive the great depression. Over 400 other travel trailer businesses would go under leaving Airstream to take off after World War II when the economy boomed and people turned their lives to travel and leisure.

Airstream Travel Trailers of today are a mere whisper of the level in passion and design that riveted all that shiny aluminum together. As with anything else these days, companies are saddled with the burden of generating profits in great volume which means there are always budgets at play. And designers don’t operate very well within budgets. Imagination and money have always been a challenging mix.

But one man has held tough with his principles when it comes to beautiful design and that designer would be David Winick. A talented photographer turned metalworker, David has won a great deal of praise for his attention to detail when it comes to refurbishing old Airstream Trailers converting them into luxurious traveling art. 

Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, David owns his own design company, Vintage Trailering, which specializes in refurbishing Airstream Travel Trailers. He began his design career within the movie industry designing and building movie sets. Becoming quite skilled in metal, he set out to refurbish an Airstream Trailer which has turned into a full time occupation. And it stands to reason as his work is really something special. The kind of trailer you would never let your kids in unless they were wrapped in Saran Wrap and weren’t allowed to touch anything.

His specialty is finding older Airstreams and bringing them into the 20th century while keeping the integrity of the design. By the looks of one, you would never know it housed modern technology as they all look as though they drove right out of the 1950s complete with whitewalls if you want them. But make no mistake about it, these things are to be lived in. And what a life if you can swing the price tag. As I mentioned before, designers don’t like budgets very much so if you decide to order one of these things, be prepared to sleep in it for life as your wife will throw you out of the house after she sees the bill.

And would that be a bad thing?

Peace Out! And Happy Camping

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Got My Mojo Working

The word mojo has been used all over the place from movies to branded products such as barbecue sauce and hot sauce. It has become a place holder for some kind of southern spice representing local flavor.

In 1997, Mike Meyers introduced the fabulous Austin Powers. I must say I thought the movie was pretty funny and laughed out loud at the hairy chest that Austin was so proud to sport.

In the movie, Austin promoted his mojo. Which for him, was some sort of internal sexual essence that made him the ultimate ladies’ man.

Being so heavily influenced with the blues culture over the years, I became curious as to what a mojo was. “Got My Mojo Working” is a staple song that’s sung by just about every blues band so it was only natural that a middle-class white guy would want to know the definition. Especially if that white guy was singing about it.

Little did I know that uncovering the truth of the mojo would become a sociology adventure and lead into the superstitious world of the early slaves in America. This being the world of Hoodoo. Not to be confused with Voodoo from Haiti as Hoodoo came directly from Africa and evolved in Louisiana. New Orleans to be exact.

There are three areas of influence in Hoodoo and they are:

1. African folklore and magic
2. Christianity
3. The medicinal treatments created by American Indians

You could not create a more odd mixture using such a wide variety of beliefs if you tried. And if you examine the cake from a birds eye view, it’s obvious that this was all developed for insurance purposes from what would be a very frightened and perhaps primitive person. What I mean by insurance is that they really didn’t know what to believe and so to make sure all the boxes were checked, they simply created Hoodoo.

For instance, put the shoe on the other foot and think about it. You were raised to believe in magic. It’s part of your culture and there’s even a real witch doctor within your community. Your family has been engrained within this belief system for generations and you really don’t know any other way.

Then, you’re minding your own business and some white guy snatches you up and makes you work in some really hard conditions picking cotton all day. But by the way, let me tell you about our Lord and Savior and how wonderful He is and if you don’t believe in Him, you’ll suffer an entire eternity of damnation in a pit of fire.

Throw in some random meetings from an American Indian Medicine Man that tells you he can cure your ailments with some roots he dug up and you’ve got yourself a brand new belief system complete with chicken feet.

So with all that out of the way, what is a mojo after all? A mojo is a small bag of roots, herbs and perhaps personal items tied up in a very small red cloth sack. The sack is to be hung from your bedroom doorknob or hung from the inside of your coat. The purpose of the mojo is to give you the upper hand and perhaps put you in control of a situation. As in, controlling your spouse or significant other.

Let me assure you that if the mojo were real, every man in America who insists he wears the pants in his family the same way that I do would be running to New Orleans and purchasing one today.

And perhaps a wife or two.

Peace Out…and Get Your Mojo Working!

Just Use Your Imagination Red Beans and Rice

There are only two women in the world that I respect in the kitchen as seasoned professionals. They are my mother and a woman by the name of Mary Lynn Andrews.

Like most great cooks, both of these women were heavily influenced by the regions in which they were raised. And for Mary Lynn, that would be the great city of New Orleans.

Mary Lynn Andrews was born Mary Lynn Sheperd in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1937. She married Bill Andrews and moved to Greenville, Mississippi which is where I became acquainted with her culinary skills. She is the mother of one of my best friends from college and when we were much younger, we would make the trek from Oxford to her home where she would feed us until I could stand no more.

She can cook many things well but the biggie that will make a man sell his soul to the devil is her red beans. To this day, I have never tasted anything like them and will crawl on my hands and knees just to have her fill up my bowl.

For years, she would cook them for me and freeze them in zip-locks when I would come to town. Then when I moved back to Texas, I pitched an absolute fit just trying to get the recipe. I must have tried for 5 or so years in complete frustration and finally she gave me the ingredients but could never give me the measurements. She just didn’t use measurements. Her famous quote when asked about measurements was simply, “Just use your imagination.” My response back was, “I can think of many things with my imagination that might happen if I don’t get that recipe.”

She would never budge off this page which would prompt me to start pushing on her daughter in Memphis. She felt sorry for me and told me to just try adding teaspoons at a time until I thought it tasted right. Exhausted from all of this, I decided to give it the old college try.

Now if you’re going to do this, you really have to try and do it by feel. By this I mean judge the flavor for yourself and give it some time to cook down. Really try to savor what you’re doing and don’t just walk off and leave it.

Here is the “Just Use Your Imagination” recipe below:

1 lb of Camillia Red Kidney Beans (There is really no substitute for this. It has to be this brand if you want it to taste right. And I’ve only found them in New Orleans but you can order them on-line.)

2 sticks of celery chopped

1 onion chopped

6 garlic cloves chopped

ham hock (smoked)

Andouille sausage links sliced

Tony’s Seasoning (1 Tablespoon)

Tarragon (1 teaspoon)

Oregano (1 teaspoon)

Old Bay Seasoning (1 Tablespoon)

Cook onions, garlic, celery and sausage in a tablespoon of bacon grease until tender. Add ham hock, beans and water into pot. Make sure the water is about 2 or so inches above the beans. (You’ll need to add water as it boils down.) Add Tony’s, Tarragon, Oregano and Old Bay seasonings. I would recommend adding teaspoons of each at first and tasting it as you go. Bring beans to a boil and then bring the heat down and let it simmer. Cook until beans are just about to fall apart which takes some time as they are very hearty beans.

Serve over rice and I recommend ice cold beer. Cornbread is not a bad way to go either.

Enjoy and good eating.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Big Thicket

Saratoga, Texas will always be known as the birthplace of two very famous Americans. George Jones and my mother. Well, perhaps my mother is only famous in certain circles.

During the summer months of my youth, my mother would drive me to Saratoga where we would stay for weeks at a time visiting my grandmother and great aunt. They lived in a very modest home right off the main highway and I spent every waking hour exploring every inch of the area that I could. Mosquitoes and all.

Crawfishing was huge. Every drainage ditch had them and I would probably catch over 100 a day using bacon as bait. Memories from those summers were of thick Saint Augustine grass, the vegetable garden out back, the smell of oil in the old lean-to garage and a gazillion crawfish mounds all over the place. They had this screened in little sun porch right at the front entry of their home and after supper we would all go out and sit. I don’t recall the conversations, only that the evenings were pleasant and the nights were filled with the sounds of tree frogs and crickets.

The crawfishing, although entertaining, would become a little old. So to help entertain, the ladies would try to find things for me to do. Not knowing I would write about it one day, one of those instances was in taking me to the town museum that housed artifacts from the Big Thicket. (A name that refers to the area of Southeast Texas including Saratoga.)

As we were leaving the little museum, I saw some images that have haunted me for over 30 years. Photographs taken by Larry Jene Fisher who was a local musician turned photographer, these black and white images of the local people living and working in the East Texas Thicket still stand out in my mind today. Larry spent an entire decade shooting between the 1930s and 1940s photographing Big Thicket people trying to survive in what would be known as the last southern frontier.
Mostly woodsmen, they all had a hand in just about any job they could find. Farmers, stockmen, tie makers, loggers. Whatever would feed the family soon became an item on their resume.

The photographs capture just about every thing you can think of and more. Church functions, deer hunts, oil exploration and timber harvesting. Perhaps it’s just me but photos like these stir at my insides and make me realize that the human race is a lot tougher than what I would imagine. This was indeed the case of my grandmother and great aunt. They were both survivors that would throw nothing away and could live on a stone in a soup pot.

Ellen Walker, a woman from the Big Thicket who lived until 1974, gave a very detailed account of growing up in a frontier Big Thicket at the turn of the century in the book, Big Thicket People by Thad Sitton and C.E. Hunt .

“When I was a girl there was big timber on the high ground, virgin pines five feet through, and just a little underbrush. In other places it was so thick you couldn't get through without a hack knife, and ever' kind of animal you heard of, nearly. Turkey go in herds, just like a bunch of chickens. Deer aplenty, and I've seen wild horses that didn't belong to nobody, couldn't catch 'em. I guess there's been wild hogs in here always, and wild cattle. Anybody could go and kill one when he wanted to. They'd go out and kill a wild beef, kill one and divide it with the neighbors. Didn't everybody have a gun, and a lot of 'em that had guns didn't have enough money to make bullets.

There was plenty of blackberries and may haws and worlds of black walnuts and chinquapins. There was worlds of wild flowers in the woods. Wild honeysuckle was my favorite. Over yonder, that big cypress brake was just covered in palmettos. Ma used to make fans out of 'em. Sometimes she made 'em out of turkey feathers, from the wing and tail. That made a good 'un.

We raised what we eat, had a garden. Always had a patch of corn and sweet potatoes, sugar cane and maybe some peanuts. We'd raise peas and when they'd get dry Ma'd put somethin' in 'em to keep the weevils out. Had all kinds of meat: venison, turkey, squirrel. We'd cure bear meat. You can cure it just as good as you can hog meat, and you can season with it, too. You can eat all you want of it and drink the lard, and it won't make you sick. I liked bear meat, but in the summertime, I wanted venison. We could get that any day we wanted it, and turkey too. I loved squirrel just any time, and we eat rabbit, and sometimes coon in the wintertime, when they was big and fat. We'd cut venison up in strips and dry it on a scaffold in the sun, jerky. When it dried, put it in a sack and hang it up. We didn't farm but a little. We had a horse and a plow, but we done it mostly by hand.

We had an old hand mill and ground our own cornmeal, and we made good hominy. Made it with fireplace ashes. We'd make our soap out of hickory ashes. Make you a hopper and put the ashes in it and let it stay four or five days. Pour a little water on it and after a while it'd go to drippin'. Put a pot under it to catch it. Put your grease in there and go to cookin'. It'd make good jelly soap, never very hard. When we killed hogs we'd make enough lye soap to do all year, stored it in big old gourds, sugar gourds, maybe eight inches across.

I've still got my mother's iron skillet, has legs and a lid. We'd cook our bread in it, put the lid on and put a little fire on top and on the bottom. That's where I learned to cook, on a fireplace.

Nearly everybody had some fruit trees and we'd preserve our peaches, use homemade sugar, made it ourselves from sugar cane. We always growed enough cane to make our own sugar and syrup. We growed nearly everything we needed except coffee. We'd buy a big sack of green coffee beans and roast it ourselves.

There were some salt licks where people got their salt, and there was salt springs where people would go and camp out maybe for a week and get enough salt to last all year.

Made our shoes out of wild cowhide; used a wooden trough for tanning. Soak the hide in alum water and red oak bark, bark turn it yellow. Lay the hide on a log and beat it with a club, while it is wet, to get the hair off and make it soft. Don't dry it in the sun; that would make it stiff. Daddy made the sole first and then put the top on with wooden pegs. Had an awl, punch a hole, and put a peg in there, and them pegs didn't come out neither.

Ma made all our clothes, the thread, the cloth, all by hand. Made cloth on Grandma's old loom, made it out of cotton or wool. They'd dye it different colors. Get bark off of trees to dye it. And they raised their indigo bushes. They'd dye blue with it, the prettiest blue you ever did see, and it wouldn't wash out. Indigo grows in the Thicket now. We used to have revivals in the summer, last a week or two, and the girls would dye their dresses two or three different colors during the revival so it would look like a new dress.”

Reflecting on the simple words of Mrs. Ellen Walker, one is humbled by the great efforts our forefathers put forth in creating a life for themselves and their community. It pains me to see how much we waste every day while knowing how hard people like this had to work just to feed their families.

Perhaps we as a country should all take a hard look within these kinds of life struggles and realize that there was a time in our society when we lived within our means. We all worked hard for what we had and saved our money only purchasing the things we needed to survive. Perhaps we have much to learn from the Big Thicket and the people that lived there so long ago.

Purchase the book at the following url:

The photo used above was taken by
Larry Jene Fisher and is copywritten by the University of Texas Press.Copyright © 2003-2010 University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When Sesame Street Was Cool

The year was 1972 and I was knee deep in Tonka trucks and Big Wheels at Mrs. McCartor’s Playschool in Overton, Texas.

My day was pretty much set in the books. A good breakfast and then off to playschool. Recess was generally in the morning and outside. Mornings were cooler as winter slowly started to creep into East Texas.

After recess, it was indoors for story time and perhaps juice and cookies. And of course how could I forget Mrs. McCartor’s pet peeve of spraying everyone’s hands with Lysol before our snack. God forbid you have a cut on your finger as there is nothing like spraying Lysol in an open wound.

But the days of Mrs. McCartor wouldn’t really get exciting until they moved Sesame Street to a different time slot due to Captain Kangaroo leaving the airways. Before, Sesame Street was on really early in the morning and it was hard to catch. Now it would be aired during a perfect time allowing for us to watch it during playschool. It was like some sort of muppet miracle.

Back in the day, Sesame Street might have been one of the coolest programs ever invented. The elements chosen within the design of the program still stand out in my mind today. For instance, to children like me who grew up in the country, we had never seen an environment where people lived in an urban area like that. It gave an illusion that the city was this magical place so far away from where we were. And throw in some really strange looking puppets and you had yourself a show.

But the thing that would stand out in my mind more than the street scenes and the puppets would be the musicians they had. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder…the list goes on and on. And why such soulful picks for the children’s show? It might have something to do with Jim Henson himself.

Jim Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi and spent his childhood in Leland which is just down the road. If you’ve ever been to Greenville or Leland, then you would know why Henson might have had a love for the soulful sounds that his chosen artists would bring to the show.

Greenville to a blues or soul artist was a big deal. Nelson Street was stacked with clubs that attracted artists like Little Milton and Tina Turner. It was a routine stop on the chitlin circuit and would eventually become home to the Delta Blues Festival, one of the oldest blues festivals in the world.

Jim would move from Leland with his parents to Maryland, attend college at the University of Maryland where he became interested in puppets. Did some commercial work for a while until approached by the Children’s Television Workshop. It was here that Sesame Street was born and would become one of the greatest children’s shows of all time.

Peace Out! And remember…C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Mountain Man Breakfast - Texican Style

It’s a bit early in the year to start thinking about cold mornings in November but this dish is one of my favorites and guarantees a nap in the blind while that trophy buck wanders off during your apnea attacks.

First, it’s important to note that this is a Dutch oven recipe but you can use a casserole dish if you’re not comfortable cooking with cast iron. I’ve spent years refining my culinary skills using cast iron and there’s a great deal of preparation and care involved with keeping these pots perfectly seasoned. Perhaps information worthy of another blog.

In 1983, a five year old Danny Wardle got a Dutch oven for Christmas and began practicing cooking with it diligently for three years straight. This according to his parents who apparently were Dutch oven enthusiasts.

Joining the Boy Scouts at age eleven, he had well mastered cooking with his Dutch oven and would win first place in a cook-off in 1989.
Now granted Mr. Wardle was only eleven years of age when he won this competition, I found the recipe to be a bit “Yankeeish” and lack certain southern flavors that a redneck like me has become accustomed to. So it was only natural that I put my own spin on the dish which would take it to the border and back and guarantee a double hit of Alka Seltzer.

Here’s what you’ll need to burn it up.

1 Package of flour tortillas

sliced jalapeños (from a jar)
4 whole jalapeños

1 chopped yellow onion

½ lb of quarter inch cut bacon

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 green bell pepper chopped

2 bunches of green onions (stems chopped)

1 bunch of cilantro chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

1 32 oz bag of hash browns (cubed)

12 eggs

1 lb of grated Mexican cheese

sour cream
salsa (your favorite)
seasoning salt
fresh ground pepper

Cook bacon in heated Dutch oven then set aside to drain. Keep the bacon grease. In the pot, add onions and bell peppers. Cook until tender. Add the bag of hash browns and cook until nicely brown. Chop bacon and add into hash brown mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.
Beat eggs then pour over mixture. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Add cheese on top, then cook another 15 mintues or until cheese is melted. Add chopped tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and jalapeños to garnish.

Serve in a warm tortilla with salsa and sour cream.

Bloody Marys aren’t a bad mix with this breakfast but only on fishing trips if you know what I mean.

Fire it up baby!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Texas Cannonball

If you were to roam the streets of Gilmer, Texas and ask anyone about Freddie King, you would be hard pressed to find a local who would recognize one of the most famous blues men of our time. Regardless of all his major hits from the 60’s and touring alongside guitar legend Jimi Hendrix for years, he is virtually unknown in his own hometown.

He was born on September 3rd, 1934 in Gilmer, Texas to Ella Mae King and J.T. Christian. At the age of six, Ella Mae bought him a guitar and she, along with Freddie’s uncle, began to teach the young boy how to play.

When King was in his teens, the family wanted to move to Chicago as Freddie’s mother had two brothers that wanted to become musicians. They would make it as far as Dallas where Freddie’s father insisted he finish high school before making the journey north.

During these times in the 30’s and 40’s, there was an enormous movement to leave the southern states and move north. Chicago was a big target for the black community as it offered jobs and was soon becoming a highly black populated city full of diversity, music and culture.

To be black in Texas, and obviously a lot of other southern states, was a pretty tough road to hoe. Unlike Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, there were not as many blacks living in Texas. States with highly populated blacks could feel better about trying to change things by marching in the Civil Rights Movement as there was power in numbers. There were no marches in East Texas and quite frankly, if anyone stepped one toe out of line they would find themselves swinging from a tree. Historically, Texas (Shelby County) hung more black people than any other state/county in the U.S.

During these hard times, East Texas offered very little for blacks so a lot of them moved to the urban areas in search of a better life. This would be true for Freddie and his family as soon after graduation they would move to Chicago in 1949.

Freddie wasted no time at all sneaking into South Side nightclubs where he would hear legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and T-Bone Walker leading to the formation of his first band, the Every Hour Blues Boys.

King would finally sign with a small label in Chicago called Federal in 1960. This landed him instant fame after his single “Hide Away” which got him on tours with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and James Brown.

His big break, however, would finally be in meeting King Curtis who would introduce him to Jack Calmes. Jack soon became King’s manager and landed him a gig alongside Led Zeppelin in 1969. A move that would push King to instant stardom and put him on stage with every major rock band touring during the 60’s and 70’s. King had now moved over to the white market which only B.B. King had been able to do with his hit, “The Thrill is Gone” in 1969. But Freddie was on a much faster train than B.B. King. A train that would finally run out of track in 1976.

Freddie was laid to rest in Dallas after suffering a heart attack at the age of 42. To this day, there has been no other musician from East Texas that has hit the level of stardom that Freddie accomplished in such a short period of time. Sharing the stages with Clapton, Hendrix and Jopplin, he left our modest woods and would become an icon known simply as “The Texas Cannonball”.

God bless Freddie King.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Michael Jordan of the Symphony World

A while back, I received a phone call from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Vice President of Marketing. He wanted me to attend a press conference that would introduce their new conductor, Jaap van Zweden.

So I dusted off the suit, shined my shoes and went on my merry way to the Meyerson Symphony Center to see what all the hubbub was about.

As with any first impression, it was hard for me to get a feel for what this guy was like. They asked him a bunch of questions and in a very thick Dutch accent, he answered as best he could. The best question and the question that would make me feel like this is a guy I could hang out with was when they ask him if he liked barbecue. He was completely lost with the question and had to turn to someone at the table to get some clarity. His response nearly made me fall out of my chair in laughter as he replied in his thick accent, “Oh, I like the steak”.

It would not be for a while until I would be able to catch him in concert. And when I did, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in my life.

Now lets be honest. I’m about as cultured as a fishing guide. So for me to be absolutely blown away by a conductor has significant meaning. And it wasn’t just Jaap that pushed the envelope on the stage that evening.

In 1987, there was a Jack Nicholson movie called “The Witches of Eastwick” that starred Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer. In one part of the flick, Jack, who plays the devil, pulls out every bit of passion within Susan Sarandon as she plays the cello. This is what I saw that night. The devil himself squeezing every bit of musical emotion out of every musician on that stage.

Like a possessed Angus Young flicking guitar picks to the audience, they might as well start throwing thrashed bows to the crowd. If you’ve ever seen a bow that’s been well used, the horse hair becomes mangled after a couple of days. I would imagine that just about every bow Jaap pulls back and forth in the hands of another musician would need to be rehaired after each performance.

So if you’re looking for something to do with your spouse in the coming months and Jaap van Zweden is in the house, I would highly recommend catching him in action. And “action” is really not a strong enough word that captures what he delivers on stage. He is truly the Michael Jordan of the symphony world.
For tickets, visit:

Peace out -

The Guy in the Blue Rose Tuxedo Smoking Jacket

Remember that guy in college that came to the formal in an incredible blue rose tuxedo smoking jacket? I do as it’s still in my closet. The jacket presenting the guy that would buck-shot his grades and extend his college career for a solid seven year stretch?

One thing is for sure about that jacket. It made an impact and twenty years later they still want to know where I got it.

Design for me has lost a great deal of this kind of impact as like tuxedos, everyone has been showing up to the party in the same old standard.

To fully appreciate this comment, you have to go back about twenty-five years or so when we still had rotary phones.

Back then there was no world wide web. And in my opinion, the web has become the root of this issue. It’s made it too fast and easy to pull mediocre images from stock photo sites that we’re all using and recycling. There was a time not so long ago when a designer actually designed around the problem. And that problem might lend itself to a custom illustration that no one else in the world would have.

Oh but wait up man. That would mean you would have to spend more than eight hours designing my collateral and I need it tomorrow. I can’t have you spending a month on my concept for some custom illustration that would actually make an impact. You know, that impact of that guy? That guy you knew in college?

Custom illustration is, believe it or not, still around. And in this world that has become so hard to market in, I highly suggest considering this option when communicating your product or service. It makes that impact. The impact you’ll need to stay in someone’s brain file.

And these days, you’ll need all the impact you can get.

The Ultimate Soul Album

Folks often ask me if I have a favorite artist or song. I’m always a little leery to reply to this as everyone has their own unique taste when it comes to what they listen to. But if you know me well, then you know my favorite artist to be the “Whaler” Johnnie Taylor.

Now since most of the recipients on this list are white people, I’m guessing that you’ve never heard of him. But if you know soul music, you know that if black folks had an Elvis, it was Johnnie Taylor.

Shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the face of Memphis changed and Stax Records, the only interracial record label to exist in the 1960s, would begin to fall apart. In an effort to revive the existing catalog purchased by Concord, they threw an enormous festival in California known as the WattStax, which is now available on DVD.

During this festival, Johnnie Taylor would record the greatest album of his life. The recording took place in Los Angeles at the famous Summit Club in 1972 in front of an all black audience. And the greatest song he cut on this album would be “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone”.

So who was Jody? To fully appreciate the legend of Jody, you would have had to have served in the military. Jody was a fictitious character that was created by some deranged drill sergeant to humiliate new recruits. While in basic training, all recruits were told that Jody was making time with their wives or girlfriends. He had money, fine cars, owned a bank and he has now stolen your woman. There are cadences and marching songs all dedicated to the legend of Jody and if you’re a military man, you know too well this conniving character.

So if you’re looking for the perfect soul song for the month to download, look no further than this historic recording. And when you purchase it, make sure you’re buying the right version as Johnnie recorded this song in the studio first. And it’s not nearly as good as the live version.

The Artist: Johnnie Taylor

The Album: Live at the Summit Club

The Song: Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone

Enjoy yourself.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Branding Is Dead?

I read recently on a competitor’s web site where they have made the claim that branding is dead. I found that to be an interesting statement as developing brands is what I’ve been doing for the last twenty years. So I would have to take into account that perhaps the writer simply doesn’t have a good definition of branding.

To their credit, most companies don’t know what a brand really is. They think it’s their logo or their ad campaign. Or worse, their spokes person or employee that carries the most weight.

For most of us that are tied to a mission or job, it’s extremely difficult to see the forest for the trees. And such is the case with our very own brand, whatever that brand may be.

So what is a brand if it’s not a logo or a name? If you’re from Texas like me, the very word “brand” relates to the mark on a herd or ranch so it’s confusing if you use it within this context.

To define a company brand, one has to ask themselves what they are selling or providing. It’s the first step in actually defining the brand itself. When Revlon was asked what they sell, they replied make up. But is it really make up or something else that’s in that bottle? Something that when applied or used, will make the customer feel better about themselves. In short, “hope”.

I try to explain in great detail that a brand is simply a promise. The promise that you or your company makes to the customer. It’s a very intangible thing that simply can’t be seen by a logo. It’s in everything that you do and say to service your client or customer and serves as the very essence of your personality. Your brand personality.

This personality is something we creatives fuel off of in developing ad campaigns. And if executed correctly while pulling from the brand, will bring in great returns from good solid work.

So to say branding is dead is simply not true. As to say it would mean that the human spirit is dead and we could all go back to wearing animal hides and living in caves. And I’m not sure my wife would like that very much. Although I look awesome in buck skin.