A Little Something With Your Breakfast

I’m at a restaurant this morning. The customer service is slow. I can tell that the employees are rugged veterans here. They’ve been in this game a long time. The days have passed when they were open to the needs of their customers. Years of stiff tips and demands from people who can’t be pleased have hardened them. So, they do just enough to keep their job and sanity intact, throwing in a fake smile where needed, in an attempt to squeeze an extra dollar out of the people they’re serving.

Rod Stewart is playing on the sound system. The song is from later in Rod the Mods career when he was more humble, repentant and singing for himself. The little general in his pants long since demoted and no longer a force on the battlefield. This didn’t make the song particularly better. Perhaps this is why my waitress looks annoyed, though I’m fairly certain it’s not because of the music. She looks burned out, irritated and probably needs a smoke. Her yellow finger tips bearing witness.

Faced with another week of menial labor, the employees here resemble the walking dead. The gloomy look in their eyes from staring at a clock where five minutes equals an hour, is utter agony. Their occupation could be aptly named- this isn’t what I signed up for in life.

A much older fellow slowly strolls in and glares at me long enough to make an obvious statement. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’m sitting at his usual table, complicating his morning.

The way the sun sits in the sky at this time of the morning shining through HIS easterly facing window above HIS most treasured booth, is a big part of his daily routine. And much more important now, since someone else is sitting in it. I’d move, but I’ve already spilled a creamer on the table. In unofficial diner code, this means the table is taken. He’ll complain about not getting his VIP seat to his waitress, I’m sure of it.

But perhaps he’ll order something different today as I’ve thrown him out of his orbit. Normally he might order eggs sunny side up with extra crispy bacon, because these are things he can depend on when his body and mind are no longer his to rely on, until the occasional broken yoke puts him back in his place and reminds him that he’s never in complete control, similar to me sitting in his spot.

I have to do a double take as I notice a customer who flew in from another decade to my left, reading what appears to be a newspaper. It’s an oddity in a restaurant now. How did something so common a few years ago suddenly become a candidate for nostalgia? Similar to phone booths, newspaper boxes have gradually faded away, soon to be sold on EBay in the antiquarian section. I debate on sharing my thoughts with the man on all of this, but he looks grouchier than the guy I stole the booth from. I guess I would be too if I was reading the news.

Seeing most of my cities retirement community in the restaurant this morning, makes me think about how as humans we judge people based on age. Our lives are chained to a number. Humans are obsessed with it. It’s like organizing people in a numerical filing cabinet. We are labeled, categorized and expected to perform a certain way that is in coherence with our number.

How many amazing moments or wonderful experiences in life have we cast aside or not followed through on, because we’ve been imprisoned by a number.

My waitress brings me my check, telling me to have a nice day. I leave an extra dollar on the table for the hard effort she put into trying to be friendly.

Human interaction has gone awol in the last decade, and so, some of us from the pre internet age tend to appreciate the moments where we can interact in person. But after being at the restaurant, I feel as if staying home, getting on the internet and eating a bowl of cereal might have been a more positive experience.

Still, if it wasn’t for being in this time and place today, I wouldn’t have this random mash of thoughts to write about. I do know that nothing enlightens us or changes us better than our own life experiences. Even the simple everyday ones.

My Pal Ed.

I don’t recall the exact moment of how and when I first met Ed Ward. I know it was somewhere here or there in an online group dedicated to the early years of Rolling Stone magazine. He stood out with his resolute responses, sprinkled with a large dose of cynicism and probably my awe at his “how can anyone possibly know this” knowledge. On my first trip to Austin, Ed and I, decided to take his car to Kruez Market in Lockhart for BBQ. Ed’s infatuation with BBQ was like a whole other monster. He must have been so consumed with visions of brisket and Texas Clod as we left for Lockhart, that he apparently didn’t notice how stifling hot it was in his car. Taking matters into my own hands, I tried to roll the window down, but the handle came off and part of the roller assembly somehow fell into the door. Ed came out of his smoked jalapeño sausage trance and as the sweat dripped from his brow he snapped “what did you do to my car?! You broke it!” Keep in mind, the engine rattled, the upholstery on the ceiling was hanging down, the fuel gauge was stuck and did I mention the spare donut tire on the rim? I meekly responded “I’m sorry, I had no idea it was broken.” Ed replied “Well it wasn’t broken until you broke it!” We did make it to Lockhart somehow, via Ed’s middle finger and some fits of road rage sprinkled in. As I later learned, Ed’s life at this point was always about getting by on the seat of his pants. He could bang the empty flour barrel in times of need, and somehow always find a way to get by. As cantankerous as he could be, he had the biggest heart and you couldn’t ask for a better friend. His passing left a huge hole in my life. When I talked to him last, he was planning on possibly relocating to the Hudson Valley area of New York and he seemed pretty upbeat about taking an orientation trip out there in early May to check things out. I think he would have had a fresh outlook on life and it would have been a healthy move for him. I do get some joy though, even in death- knowing that by now Ed has found the best taco truck in the afterlife. He’s probably standing in line somewhere with his khaki conversion zipper pants and his obsolescent aloha shirt running the menu through his mind like a chess master working on a checkmate. Ed, I will miss you.

This was written for the Ed Ward Memorial site put up by his sister Louise. https://www.edwardmemorial.net/

My Top 5 Beers Of 2019

Some amazing beer from the last couple of years have turned my palate into a selective grouser. I had to recalibrate myself in 2019, which meant getting out of the dark (Stouts and Porters) and focusing more on IPA’s and other styles. Fortunately, I was able to capture some of the elation I had in my early days of discovering craft beer. A few new states, including a large swath of the Deep South and Yellowstone Beerfest in Cody, Wyoming were some of the highlights and opened up new territory for me from Cali to Idaho.

Here are my top 5 from the past year:Carnaval IPA from Wood Grain Brewing, Sioux Falls, SD. A New England style with freshly roasted cinnamon pineapple. You can’t taste the 8% ABV, which is scary for a beer that tastes this good. The pineapple isn’t overbearing and the added cinnamon gives this a juicy unique flavor. (watch out Pseudo Sue, you have competition here).

Hazey Love DIPA – Upcountry Brewing, Asheville, NC. A tasty double IPA. Bright and green citra heavy with galena and ahtanum hops galore. Tread lightly as this is above 9%.

Debaser IPA- Gravely Brewing Company, Louisville, KY. Love the citra hop profile. Fruity nose and clean smooth drinking. On a side note the old school audio room at this brewery will blow your mind and your ears.

IFR IPA, Jubecks New World Brewing, Dubuque, IA. Excellent mouth feel with juicy ripe melon and citrus notes. If it seems I’m a little biased (Jubecks was on my list last year) it’s because I’m rarely, if ever, disappointed with the beer from this place.

Cross-Eyed-Owl Brewing, One Shoe Porter -Decatur, AL. A dark roasted oat flavor that has a smooth finish and a hearty bite. Just don’t ask the staff to play “Sweet Home Alabama,” for the zillionth time or you might end up on the street.


There’s DPD In The Water.

That vexed look on your friends face when you bring up the subject of a future road trip, or a Saturday night on the town. They glance down at their ankle bracelet and give you a line of deplorable drivel that comes from a harnessed relationship— “I’ll have to see what’s going on.”

“When I was a child my dream was to grow up and become five percent myself and 95 percent what someone else wanted me to be.” – Frank Satire.

Planning trips around mated friends is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded Makarov or walking through the Sahara without water. You’re no longer conducting business with the rational mind of a sane person. You’re now dealing with a shaky, fluctuant council, whose decisions are based on emotional attachments and the needs of their partner.

“Is marriage a ball and chain? Is love a ball and chain? We all want everything and still to remain free” – Query Plea.

Like Siamese twins, your friend is now conjoined with its mate. Sometimes the heads merge into one to form a singular brain. When we’re with someone we essentially lose our own identity and morph into something else. We think we’re still our old independent selves, but in reality, our individualism slowly evaporates, as little by little, we’re gradually consumed from our autonomous former lives and forced to make amends to keep the scale balanced.

“But hey, the sex makes up for it! Right?” -Rationalization Addlepate.

Like a cats fur being stroked in the opposite direction, you soon pick up habits and routines unfamiliar to you. Customs that go against the grain of your character, yet are necessary in order to keep the S.M.S Accord going full steam ahead— such as spending two hours at Bed, Bath & Beyond, comparing mosaic mirrored wall panels and five different shades of white ceramic table lamps.

Similar to Rasputin, your dignity is poisoned, shot, and thrown off a bridge. When we’re forced to make major concessions from who we are, life loses meaning. At least for some people… everyone has two eyes but rarely the same view.

“Life’s struggle is a partnership. We fight and win together, or we truly lose the vision of our powerful spirituality and awesome oneness.”- Cognizant Smith.

(DPD- Dependent Personality Disorder)


Jim Crow Swinging Blues.

The first things that come to mind when thinking about the state of Mississippi are crooked sheriffs and shady little men running around in white sheets. If racial bigotry was a fantasy sport back in the day, Mississippi would be the number one draft pick every season. But if you avoid going there because of it’s sullied history, you’re letting the bad guys win and you’re missing out on an amazing part of the country. There is an aesthetic appeal in the fact that this state is trying hard to remove itself from what it once was. Sure, Mississippi still celebrates Confederate Memorial Day and still has the Stars and Bars in its state flag. But in recent years its also celebrated other parts of its history, as well. The Blues Trail with all its markers and iconic locations tells how some of the people coped with the burdens of perpetual injustice. The Freedom Trail tells of those who got tired of coping and somehow summoned the courage to try and free themselves from those burdens.

This isn’t a tourist guide, you’ll have to blaze your own trail and see it for yourself. I’m also not writing this to begrime the state. This is about a recent experience I had that ties in with the current times we’re living in, albeit somewhat disparate.

Driving down a narrow, busted stretch of blacktop towards Greenwood, I stopped near a group of run down shotgun shacks to take a few pictures. This is where I met Frank. A sociable, 80 something, Jack of all trades and master raconteur and historian. It was evident from his regional dialect that he’d probably never left the county. If he did, I was blind to it. This was an assumption though- I’m not a Mississippi patois expert, but I have been to a few places.

Frank wore a gray fedora, pink loafers and a smile that would have brought the sun out, had it not already been a bright, sweltering, 97 degrees day. Over a cold drink that resembled something like lemonade and a half pack of Newports, the two of us sat on his front porch, both of us trying to find common ground, despite the fact that we were light years apart in our age and upbringing. A northerner – naive in the ways of the Deep South, and an ancient living relic from a darker period of time – we might as well have been from different planets. Frank was baptized from day one in the dirty waters of racial discrimination. It was all he knew and something that I had only seen on TV and read in books.

As our conversation continued, I noticed Frank rarely looked me in the eye. When we reached a tepid comfort zone, I inquired about it. He told me that as a boy he was taught not to look white people in the eye. He’d been doing this for as long as he could remember. He even stood up and gave me a demonstration. “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir.” If a white woman was walking towards him on the sidewalk, Frank would step onto the street, lower his head and let her walk by. You spoke when spoken to and never disagreed. Always be Humble. When you paid for something, you set your money on the counter and never put it directly into the cashiers hand “if they was white.”

I asked Frank if the lynchings and violence were as bad as history had made them out to be. Or had history outgrown itself to mythical proportions with tall tales and fables over the years. How bad was it REALLY?

That’s when Frank looked me in the eye and said “Listen to me- ima’ tell ya what they don’t teach in yer school.” He started off with a gloomy sonata and worked his way up to a bleak fourth symphony before I decided I had heard enough.

I paraphrased what he said below to stave off any confusion with his southern dialect. Here is what he told me…

We didn’t dare paint our house a pretty color because the whites would throw rocks through our windows or threaten to burn it down “cuz they didn’t want us havin nothin’ nice.”

One year to keep food on the table, my siblings and I quit school to work in the cotton bolls because our father had got into an argument with the plantation manager over some back payments. The local authorities sent him to Parchman Farm, a prison farm to set an example. He never told us what happened while in prison, but he was never the same after. He started drinking and died a broken man a few years later.

My Uncles dream was to open his own grocery store. Him and his wife had saved their money over many summers. They found a nice building for sale just on the outskirts of Greenwood but white business owners got word of this and harassed them by throwing tied nooses into their yard and putting threatening notes on their door. “Stay out of our business if you know what’s good for you coon!” My cousin finally had enough, packed up his family and moved to Michigan to work at the Ford Plant. A lot of good friends and family moved away because there were few opportunities for a black man to make something of himself. Some of the people in our area started referring to our county as the land of broken dreams.

Another time, my friend was so gravely ill, we took him to the “white mans hospital.” We brought him there out of desperation because of an infection he received from cutting his leg on a horse drawn plow. His head was so hot from fever you could cook a possum on it. The white hospital turned us away and said they’d send someone out to his farm. Three days later a doctor showed up, but by then it was too late, my friend died shortly after. (Probably from sepsis)

A childhood friend of mine was beaten for stealing a chicken to help feed his family when his father had succumbed to black lung disease from working in the mines. He was spared the worst punishment only because he had stolen the chicken from a black owned henhouse. Some whites found out about it and beat him anyway “jus fer the hell of it”.

(Then things got a little darker)

At least a couple of dozen people I grew up with have simply disappeared over the years, and not because they moved away.

When I was about 10 years old, two white men drove into my parents yard and shot our two dogs because “your ni@@a dogs is killin’ our chickens.” I howled for a week when they shot my hound “Boss.” Later we found out it was the owners own dog that was killing his own chickens.

When I was a boy, walking along the road, if I saw a truck coming, I would hide in the ditch. Because if it was white men, sometimes they would run you over or maybe grab you, which often led to something just as bad. They might drag you down the road a mile or two, throw you out of the vehicle at higher speeds, or give you a one way ticket to the bottom of the Tallahatchee River with something heavy tied to your feet. It depended on their mood, how drunk they were or if it was klan members.

There’s a spot I know where you can dig in the dirt and still find pieces of bone located under the old hanging trees along the riverbank. Trees with names like “Coon Catcher,” and “Uncle Toms Swing.” The trees were chosen because their limbs reached out far enough over the river so that the bodies would simply slide off the noose and into the current after days of rotting in the sun. Some of the white men would place bets on how long a body would stay attached to its rope.

There was one more story Frank told me that I’m keeping to myself. He had made his point, I told him that I had heard enough.

Both of us sat in silence for a bit. My wheels were spinning.

When you grow up in a world surrounded by empathetic people, it’s hard to fathom that there are people out there that can be so cruel. For so many people to lack any sort of affinity in one area, at one time, is hard to understand. But the brain is an odd, glitchy machine, that is influenced by so many factors, in all sorts of strange ways. This was all so much bigger than me.

I asked him if he was angry about the past and he said “If ah was, I don’t be sittin’ here talkin’ to you.” He said you can’t hold on to all that mud, you have to move on or it will destroy you and you’ll be no better off than them. “The old people is dyin’ and their ways is goin wit em- things has changed.”

Well not some things. When it came time to leave, I thanked him and told him it was an honor meeting him. Without saying anything, he got up as quick as his old bones would allow, and making no eye contact, gave me a slight nod, then he walked into his house and shut the door. I stood there a bit muddled, but I quickly brushed it off, as I thought of something I had read about Emmett Till.

As Emmett Till was exiting Bryant’s Grocery Store, he said goodbye to the white owners wife. According to the unwritten laws in that area at the time, blacks were NEVER supposed to utter a word to a white woman unless spoken to. Saying goodbye was simply unheard of and was a crime in itself. Emmett paid dearly for his lack of understanding. Being he was from Chicago and in Mississippi on a summer vacation at the time, he wouldn’t have been fully aware of the old Jim Crow laws that existed in Mississippi during that period. Frank not saying goodbye, was simply Frank being a product of his time. Old habits die hard as they say.

Standing amongst the ruins of Bryant’s grocery store in Money where Emmett Till paid with his life for whistling at a white woman or standing in the deep woods southeast of the town of Philadelphia, MS, where three courageous civil rights workers were murdered by cowardly little men – I thought about what Frank had said earlier -wounds never heal when the scabs are constantly being pulled off —let them heal, there will always be the scars there to remind us of what was, and to remind us to keep moving forward. If you allow yourself to be consumed by what’s already been done, then you don’t give yourself the chance to move on and leave what’s in the past, truly in the past.


My Top 5 Beers Of 2018

Trying to do every microbrewery would be like using a beer mug to empty a lake. But, my little scratch in the industry as a patron, along with others, has helped create jobs, revitalize small towns and bring dusty main streets back to life. I’ve seen it from Perryville, Missouri to Wibaux, Montana. That being said, here are my five favorite darks from 2018.

1. Lunar Eclipse Stout (Dobra Zupas) – Beckley, West Virginia. This is the one that stole my liver. In fact, it was so good, I spent an extra day in the town of Beckley. A mild sweetness with a hint of chocolate orange. The added citra hops throw in a wee subtle bitterness to finish it off. My head was spinning from the great taste, not the alcohol. This beer later won the 2018 West Virginia Craft Beer Festival, Best in Show, and Best in Dark Beer Category. Not surprised.

2. Chestnut Street Brown Ale (Chattanooga Brewing Co) – Chattanooga, Tennessee. After coming down from the Smoky Mountains with a parched pallet, I got lucky with this one. A more or less traditionally brewed brown ale with a malt flavor and an easy roasted chocolate malt finish that lingers on the tongue. No nuts in this brew though, it gets its name from the street it was conceived on.

3. The Implication. (Bismarck Brewing) Bismarck, North Dakota. On my way out west I stumbled upon this beauty. Did they put Mounds in this beer? That’s my implication. They made a milk stout and added tons of chocolate and coconut. I’m not a coconut guy, but it works here. It’s a little sweet, but the bitter chocolate balances it out for a super smooth finish.

4. Northsider Imperial Stout” (Mountains Walking Brewery) – Bozeman, Montana. Amazing thick head. A wonderful, creamy, coffee, chocolate/vanilla flavor. For a high ABV, this one goes down easy. Yes, I see the sexual connotations in everything I just wrote here… but when a beer is this good..

5. Carnegie Stout (Jubecks New World Brewing) – Dubuque, Iowa. An excellent old school stout. My favorite Stout in Dubuque’s growing microbrewery scene and belongs on this list for sure.


If Turntables Were Part Of The Dating Scene.

I think their “Spinder” accounts would sound something like this— “I’m tired of revolving around the same scratched records in clubs. I’m simply trying to find my needle in the haystack. I’m a natural walnut veneer and though my counterweight is heavy, I’ve had a lot of compliments on my B-side. I’ve also been told I have a great magnetic field. I’m 33-1/3rd years old. I’m quiet when you first meet me, but if you turn me on, I can go all the way with the 12” long play. I’m a little spinny at times, but for the record, I’m not too much of a pain in the bass. My stylus is casual- I won’t judge you by your slipmat, but if you skip on me, I may reject you. I’m not looking for a diamond cartridge on my tonearm, just a receiver that will get my motor running and spin my headshell around. If you’re interested, call my phono and we’ll hit the groove🤘 NP

My Interview With Rebecca Davis, Author Of “Blind Owl Blues.”

NP- Hi Rebecca, thanks for your time. As a die-hard Canned Heat fan myself, this is an honor for me.

RD- It is always an odd sort of thrill for me to be interviewed about Alan. It makes me remember, rather wistfully, the times that I called John Fahey for an interview in 1997 and went to meet him and others. Now so many of them are gone. And I find myself admitting that I have forgotten some things about Alan (though fortunately I seem to have written most of the important things down).

NP- Of all the people, topics, subjects, why did you decide to write about Alan Wilson?

RD- When I was a teenager, I enjoyed a wide variety of bands from the 1960s, and became especially fascinated with Canned Heat. I could tell by Alan’s appearance and songs that he was a little different; this was something I could relate to. I used to make up little fantasies about Alan in my mind. Since I knew from the Future Blues album that he loved nature, I imagined that he liked to sleep outside in a sleeping bag, as I did during warm weather. Oddly enough a lot of such things turned out to be true, as if I had already known him. This always felt very special to me and I liked to hope that his spirit was guiding me in some fashion, though that may be a conceit.

NP- To say theres any vanity on your end would almost be a crime. You and Alan sound like kindred spirits. Who did you find was the most difficult to track down for information regarding Alan’s life among the living?

RD- There were certainly plenty of people that were impossible to locate or were not willing, for various reasons, to be interviewed. Most frustrating was the case of Henry Vestine, who I was trying to get in touch with through John Fahey. John had just located the contact information when Henry died on the road with Canned Heat. I had really wanted to interview Henry even though John had warned me that it might or might not be fruitful; he claimed that Henry was not always in possession of his full memory and other faculties.

NP- What would you have asked Henry?

RD- I would have asked him a lot of questions about Alan and what the relationships were like in the band. Henry was crucial to Alan’s original vision for the band so I would have had long discussion about guitar style and influences. It also would have been great to talk to Henry about the old blues records like Skip James that were part of his collection. Who knows what happened to all of them.
I also wanted to find Henry’s wife, Sandy, who (I was told) knew Alan well and was a very intelligent person. But I could not find her at all. Generally women were very difficult to find, in part because they are wont to change their surnames.
I was also frustrated because I wanted to interview Fito de la Parra, and spoke with him on the phone, but he refused to do a phone interview and insisted that I had to visit him in Los Angeles. I had run out of money (my research was always self-financed) and wasn’t able to travel there at the time, hence the interview never happened. But Fito’s book has at least one chapter full of his memories of Alan, and I think that all Canned Heat fans should read it.

NP- I read Fito’s book a few years back and that was probably my favorite chapter. Until you released your book, there was nothing else available on Alan Wilson’s life. Did you find most of his family compliant and willing to be open with you about Alan’s life?

RD- There are so many people in Alan’s family, and they all varied in their willingness to discuss Alan. Some did not want anything to do with the biography, for reasons of their own, and I tried to respect that. A couple of his sisters became quite interested, however, and ended up deciding to further Alan’s ecological activism. According to my understanding they have used some of his posthumous royalties to purchase a tract of old-growth redwood forest, just as he had desired. I was delighted to learn of their interest, and honoured by their support of a second edition of Blind Owl Blues some years back. These sisters also created a website at AlanWilsonCannedHeat.com. I am not sure if it is still maintained, but it was a good job on their part.

NP- Its great to know they are keeping that part of him alive. Alan’s passion beyond music was Plant Taxonomy and the environment. And I see the website is still running strong. Alan created the conservation fund, Music Mountain. An organization to raise money for the preservation of the coastal redwood, his favorite tree species. The liner notes for the album Future Blues, written by Wilson, celebrate the beauty of the redwood forest and beseech the reader to contribute to the Music Mountain cause. If Alan were alive today, where do you think he would be in terms of environmental causes?

RD- I have long believed that Alan might have quit the music industry and dedicated himself to ecological causes. I imagine he would have supported a young lady like Julia Butterfly Hill, known in the 1990s for a lengthy redwood tree-sit. Perhaps he would have even joined her, or done some similar activity on his own.

NP- Do you feel Alan is under-recognized for his contributions to botany and the environment?

RD- There is no doubt that he is under-recognized. However, he is not as under-recognized as he was twenty years ago! The internet, and the ability to share information and music online, has certainly helped with that.

NP- I totally agree with you! Moving on – Alan wasn’t known as a savvy dresser and his hygiene was questionable at times. Combined with his social awkwardness, his inability to find a suitable romantic partner could be a problem for him. If you were Alan’s friend, what advice would you have given him in that regard?

RD- I’d have to really consider if this was a hygiene problem or if there was something else going on; for instance, maybe Alan wasn’t meeting the right girls. The groupies on the road, while fun for the other guys in the band, might not have been interested in botany or yoga and Alan wouldn’t have seemed very appealing. I remember John Fahey saying that Alan needed to meet a ‘girl nerd’, or perhaps Fahey told me that someone else had said that; I can’t quite remember. At any rate, nowadays nerds and geeks are a little more in-fashion, so maybe Alan would have been more accepted the way he was. Popular culture gives us characters like Sheldon on The Big Bang theory show; he is not unlike Alan.
I would also remember the need to keep our minds open to other possibilities that Alan might not have been able to express in the sixties. What if he was gay, asexual, or transgender? It’s not my place to suggest that he was, but I see nothing to preclude such a possibility. If something like this were the case, it would have made it even more difficult for Alan to find romantic companionship in that era.

NP- His mental illness problems also played a role in that I’m sure. It’s a known fact that Alan struggled with depression. Do you think if he would have had the same issues in today’s day and age, he would have gotten the proper help he needed?

RD- In my view, we have learned a few more concepts (and chemicals) that allow us to do a little better at addressing and treating mental health issues, compared to Alan’s time. But we still have a long way to go. I view our modern medical system as a sold-out industrial complex that, for political and economic reasons, keeps many potential remedies and treatments from those who could benefit from them, while fostering addiction to pharmaceutical products whose presence is woven into a web of political and economic schemes not there to benefit the patient. This has been my experience. So, I don’t know if the evolution of psychology and psychiatric medicine, in and of itself, would have benefitted Alan so much. I think he would have benefitted more from things like improved recognition and acceptance of a spectrum of sexual identities, increased awareness of the need for ecological activism, and things of that nature.

NP- Do you believe Alan’s death was an accident or intentional suicide?

RD- I believe that Alan’s death was accidental. While he may indeed have experienced suicidal ideation at times, this does not constitute proof that his death was a suicide, and my opinion is that evidentiary aspects of the scene point to an accidental death.

NP- How do you account for Skip Taylor’s version of Al’s exit from the world and Skip claiming he discovered Alan’s body? His claims don’t match up to the official police reports.

RD- Sadly, I am quite unable to account for the fact that Skip Taylor’s account of Alan’s death scene varies (in irreconcilable ways) with the police report that was filed with the autopsy. This document has been reproduced in my published work, along with a version of Skip’s story which he told to me via phone interview. Some years later, as I approached publication, I requested clarification and further explanation from Skip, but he was unwilling to discuss the matter further. Since I was unable to come to any proper conclusion on this matter, I decided to simply present the conflicting stories to the reader, acknowledging that they were in conflict, and allow each individual to come to their own conclusion. A conclusion that the death was not suicide is the best I can do; this is based on various details of the police report, whose veracity I personally accept. I’d give a lot to locate one of the police officers who came to Bob Hite’s house that day, or a fellow named Craig Hoppe who is listed as informant. But who knows if they would even remember anything. That was the most difficult part: when people just didn’t remember, because it had been over twenty-five years. And now it has been even longer than that, and a lot of these people are no longer with us, sadly.

NP- Well said. On a more positive note, what is your favorite Canned Heat album and has this choice changed since you wrote the book?

RD- My favorite album has always been Boogie with Canned Heat. However Future Blues is a serious contender. It is really amazing but it can’t be my favorite as it features Harvey Mandel instead of Vestine. I really like Mandel – perhaps better than Vestine – but to really represent the true Canned Heat sound, in my view you’ve got to have Vestine.

NP- I couldn’t agree more. Vestine was such an integral part of the Canned Heat sound.

RD- For sure! Living the Blues is pretty good too but I get annoyed with the long jams and solos on ‘Refried Boogie’. I can’t really listen to it very often, and parts of ‘Parthenogenesis’ are unlistenable (I don’t like drum solos) so this, sadly, puts the entire album into a lower rank despite great tracks like ‘Pony Blues’ and the many other amazing songs here. Alan’s portions of ‘Parthenogenesis’ are also really cool!

NP- “Living the Blues” is hard for some to digest. But you have to hand it to the band for blazing their own ground with what they referred to as “psychedelic blues.” If I had a fly on the wall moment, it would be listening and watching Alan teach Son House to get acquainted with his music again. What would your fly on the wall moment be?

RD- I’m afraid I’d have to pick the rather sad moment of his death, so that I could finally know what really happened.

NP- Do you have any regrets about this book project? Things you wish you would have done differently?

RD- I wish I had been more wise in the ways of the world when I went about my dealings with the living people involved. I was very naive and that made some things difficult. But now that I am older and wiser, I have different priorities and would not be able to carry on the sustained work of the book as I had more of a passion for it when I was younger. So, it is what it is, and it is an imperfect work, but I am still very pleased and honoured to have accomplished it.

NP- Did you have a moment that you often reflect on while going through the pilgrimage of writing this book? Something that really stands out?

RD- Pilgrimage’ is the perfect word for it. It was indeed a transformative, life changing experience. There are so many moments and memories that are crucial to the person I became. I would like to remember two of the most important people who helped me in my research. One was Richard Hite, a kind and generous soul who sadly died before I could spend much time in the warm sun of his friendship. He was Bob Hite’s little brother and played in Canned Heat for several years himself (Alan had taught him guitar). And I could not have accomplished much at all without the extremely helpful Dr. David Evans, sometime playing partner to Alan and longtime professor of ethnomusicology in Memphis. In the very early phases of my research, he provided crucial information and contacts that encouraged me to keep going, and though I know that my final product is not up to the academic standards he purveys in his publications, I count him as my biggest inspiration when it comes to music scholarship and research in general.

NP- Are you planning on writing another book in the near future?

RD- Yes, and it will also be a biography, though quite different to Blind Owl Blues. My next book will be a reader-friendly, popularly accessible guide to the life and career of Lord Thomas Cromwell, minister to King Henry VIII of England and architect of the English Reformation. The hope is to distill the essential points of this great man’s work, and eventual martyrdom, into a concise biography that anyone can read. Unlike Alan Wilson, Cromwell is well covered in the biographical field, but the available books are all rather stout and somewhat daunting to non- academics. My book will be approachable and of great interest to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

NP- That’s quite a 180. Looking forward to it! You performed a real service researching and writing your book on Alan. I, as well as many other Canned Heat fans thank you for the work you did in bringing Alan Wilson back to life for current and future generations. You are probably the best friend Alan never knew he had.

RD- Thank you, Neil, it was my pleasure!

The Ew.

The arcade at Pearl Street Brewing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, reminds me of an arcade close to where I lived as a kid called the “Electric Wizard” or “Ew,” as the locals called it. It had all the 80’s classics, but getting a chance to play could be difficult. The Ew was full of 13-16 year old men, and they didn’t like us little kids on their turf. The local arcade king and aspiring badass was a rebel named Mike, who had everything to do, with not having anything to do, with what anyone wanted him to do. When Mike wasn’t furthering his education at school (which was never) he was either high as a giraffe, in juvenile detention or advancing his scholarly career at the Ew. Being his friend simply meant you were entitled to giving him cigarettes and quarters – a mobster style association that granted you protection from him yanking your underwear over your head or smearing snot on your gaming screen while you were in the midst of saving the world in Defender. Not sure where Mike is today but it probably involves a six by eight room. On a positive note, Mike inattentively taught me how not to be a dickhead. ✌️ NP

Ol’ golden hair is calling and I must go.

I took a little detour today to an isolated spot in northwest Kansas on my way to Texas. This part of history is not as well known, but is no less significant, and is just another example of George Custer’s egocentric, disregard for others that resulted in the pointless deaths of many of the people around him. In the late 1860’s this area was a hot zone of activity during the American Indian Wars. In 1867 a twenty-four year old Lieutenant named Lyman Kidder was asked by his superiors to deliver a message to Colonel Custer who was camped 90 Miles to the south. What Kidder didn’t know was that Custer had gotten bored at his camp and decided to move to a different location without notifying his superiors. Arriving at Custer’s camp and seeing it was empty, Kidder decided to head south to Fort Wallace thinking Custer probably headed there. Unfortunately this change in plans led Kidder and his 10 men into a group of Cheyenne dog soldiers and a mix of Lakota warriors.

Ten days later one of Custer’s scouts stumbled across a dead Calvary horse and found the arrow pierced corpses of Kidder and his men in a ravine. Kidders body was identified only by his shirt. Most of the dead men in Kidders group were between the ages of 18-21, most of which had never even seen an Indian before. Custer’s response to the tragedy was: “Each body was pierced by 20 to 50 arrows, and the arrows were found as the savage demons had left them, bristling in the bodies.

Whether Custer was remorseful for switching camps which led directly to his fellow soldiers deaths, whether he was egocentrically remorseful due to a possible reprimand that might blemish his spotty career and result in a demotion, or whether he saw this as a tool to feed his own propaganda campaign and fuel his hatred for what he referred to as “savage demons” we can only guess. But at this point the flute had been firmly placed in his hands and he had become the pied piper of death, bringing a lot of innocent people down a dark path of no return which would soon play out at the Battle of the Washita and The Battle of the Little Bighorn.