The Professional Bull Riders Tour came to Tulsa this week

The Professional Bull Riders Tour came to Tulsa this week

Professional bull riding is an insane sport! Mad respect to the cowboys who ride those damn bulls! I caught a Pro Bull Riders tour event this afternoon on CBS while channel surfing and stayed with it to the end. Some good riding in Tulsa this weekend.

And please know that the bulls are not mistreated; this is nothing at all like Bullfighting. The bulls are part of the action and get scored too. Riders don’t want to draw a bull that isn’t top shelf because it would hurt their score. Sort of like “degree of difficulty” for an Olympic diver. Unusual and very interesting sport. My fave bull is “Seven Dust” named because it’s so hard to stay on him for the full eight seconds required to score!

As many of you know, Bulldog is a big sports fan; bull riding is not at the top of my list, but I feel about the sport the way I feel about hockey; the skill level of the athletes is so insanely high–as is the likelihood of mayhem and great bodily injury–that you just have to give them a ton of respect.

The other reason I keep one eye on the sport is that in my early cab driving days I had several fares with riders who were in town for their events. I don’t think we’ve had many of those in Orlando lately, but there were several PBR events in the early aughts at the old Amway Arena. Those were the days!

Anyhow, a tip of the hat to the riders and to the bulls who don’t want to be ridden! And everyone associated with this sport. It’s way down on the list in terms of audience and dollars for the athletes, but it’s one helluva sport!

 

 

Lovin’ the PBR today and waiting for SNB to start, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Love My Blues with a Little o’ This Mixed In

Love My Blues with a Little o’ This Mixed In

I love to talk about the blues and some of the other genres we often associate with it. I have a fascination with those “cross-over zones” where the blues “come together” with other great genres of American music.

Although I get that music transcends our labels, it’s also true that artists, critics and fans need to throw around some terms to help us make sense of it all.

For some reason this idea of “cross-over zones” has become a BIG deal for me. I think of the “blues-country zone”  and artists like the great Jimmy Rogers, Lee Roy Parnell, his harp-playin’ bro Rob Roy Parnell and others.

In that very cool “blues-jazz” fusion zone, you’ve got people like Joe Williams (not “BIG Joe”, the other guy) Count Basie, and modern ones like Jimmy Witherspoon and Robben Ford. And I must not leave out Billie Holiday or the late Eva Cassidy.

Speaking of modern artists, John Mayer is amazingly adept at fusing, Rock, Pop, Jazz and Blues; I’m not sure if anyone is as good at that as he is.

Mississippi blues man “Little Milton” Campbell was often described as a “soul-blues” fusionist and I’d put Bobby Rush and Bobby “Blue” Bland in that category as well. Seeing Bobby Bland live here in Barnett Park in Orlando was quite a thrill for me. That was back in ’97 if my memory is working.

Then there’s that whole “blues-rock” thing; that zone really sets me off! There are so many greats who have “hung out” in this awesome zone! I’ll name only a few here: Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray, Walter Trout, Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Thackery, and of course, Jimi Hendrix! What a line-up that is! Stevie Ray also loved jazz, of course and was a BIG fan of jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell.

Having said all that, I probably hang out more in the “blues-folk” zone than any other one! I play acoustic a lot, partly because it’s so easy to do, what with the minimum of gear that’s needed, etc., and partially because here in Central Florida, the “Friends of Florida Folk” are so active and sponsor so many great shows, fests and activities.

Josh White might just be the “best of the bunch” when it comes to artists who had one foot in the folk world and the other one in the blues. Josh Sr., I mean.

His “set list” and mine would have a rather large overlap; he did a lot of spirituals and gospel as well! As many of my friends know, I got my start singing in our family gospel quartet at the age of six and sang in church choirs and youth chorales all the way up until college. (And that’s where the I got bit by the “blues bug”; more about that in a minute.)

Josh White was well-known as a New York folk-blues singer and guitarist who helped “get the blues over” with a fan base that was already “tuned-in” to folk music. Because his work featured liberal helpings of gospel, he was sometimes billed as “Joshua White, the Singing Christian”.

Josh died in New York in 1969 and his son, Josh White Jr., has followed in his father’s footsteps, performing originals and much of his father’s material as well.

In 1973 as was a 17 year old music-lovin’ frosh at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa when Josh Jr. came to campus to play as one of our Student Activity Concerts. My room mate had just begun to introduce me to Muddy Waters, harmonica wizard Little Walter and some of those cats; thanks again, Dr. Carver! I was already into Johnny Winter and had been introduced to the music of Willie Dixon in the same way as so many other white suburban kids, via Led Zep records. So you might say that I was really ready for a life-changing experience, and that’s the best way to describe what happened to me that night in the Dining Commons there in my freshman year! I’ve been a confirmed blues freak ever since and began performing the blues in the mid ’90s.

I do feel as though I owe a real debt of gratitude to Josh White Jr. for the show that night. No doubt I’m only one of many white middle-class kids who may never have “discovered” this most incredible genre of American music if Josh had not been booked to play at our schools. Josh spent years in the ’70s and ’80s playing hundreds of college campuses, a fact of which he is quite justifiably proud. And I and many others today love and support and play the blues because Josh booked so many of those college dates. Thank you, sir!

Josh’s home page has a fine bio, of course, and one on his Dad as well. His site is here.

To have a look at the site for the “Friends of Florida Folk”, the outstanding non-profit org here in the Sunshine State working tirelessly to promote and preserve folk music, click here.

At the end of the day, all authentic genres of music are merely branches off the same tree. These days, we often lump all of it together under the term Americana. I like the term. But until terms and labels which have been in use for a couple of centuries lose all meaning, it’s good-and useful-to break it down, take a closer look and remember why we love the music so well.

As we head into the thick of the 2016 elections, this could happen

As we head into the thick of the 2016 elections, this could happen

The Bulldog Barks

I’ve been paying close attention to elections since Nixon vs McGovern in ’72 and although I’ll admit to not voting in that one, I haven’t missed one since. I was a freshman in college out of my home state and waited too late to get an absentee ballot and mail it in. But that was the first and only time I didn’t make it to the polls.

There have been some important and memorable contests in the 43 years and ten elections which have come and gone since then. I was in Navy AOCS in Pensacola back in ’76 when Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford squared off. Voted for Mr. Ford in that one. Both had solid careers in the Navy, but I’m thinking that few in my class went with Mr. Carter.

Being the flaming, tree-hugging liberal that I am today, I hate to admit this, but I did volunteer work in both Reagan campaigns and voted for him. Twice. Loved pretty much everyone on King Ronnie’s team back then, Col. Oliver North especially. Suffice to say that I saw the world very, very differently back then.

The 1980 contest was not noteworthy only because Reagan won; it saw John B. Anderson run the first third-party candidacy the American people has seen since George Wallace that had to be taken seriously. Well, semi-seriously. Okay, I noticed it, because he appeared in Tulsa, where I was living at the time, and I happened to catch it. Didn’t change my vote, but he made an impression.

By the time Reagan’s second term was winding down, my views on politics had changed considerably. I did not vote for “George Bush the Elder” in 1988, though I generally respected him. Of course, Dan Quayle was pretty hard to take. Yes, before Sarah Palin was let loose on the world, there was V.P. Dan Quayle! Boy, that was quite a spectacle back then, wasn’t it? Some of the drama we’ve seen in recent elections is not so different. But I digress.

If you’ve gotten this far into this piece, I will not bore you with my recollections of all the other elections that have taken place in the last quarter-century. But I will say that 2000 was a big one, of course, and that I still carry in my heart a white-hot hatred for both Ralph Nader and Antonin Scalia for the roles they played in making George W. Bush our 43rd President. Pundits and politically-savvy people went on and on about how Nader’s candidacy would suck votes away from Gore and it did. Some maintain to this day that Gore’s shortcomings are the real reason he lost, but I look at the 97,488 votes Nader got in the Sunshine State and cry “bullshit!”  And, as we all remember, Bush carried Florida by 537 votes. For a good treatment of that debacle click here.

As for the role played by Mr. Scalia and the four other justices who joined in his twisted, partisan logic in Bush v. Gore, that would be fodder for another post. On another day. Wait, let me get an Advil. Or three.

True to my word, I am not going to go into the four intervening contests in this post, so let’s bring back the focus to 2016. A whole lot of people who pay attention to Presidential elections are beginning to say that this year’s contest is starting to look a bit like 2000. I am one of those people. Even though we’re still not “there” yet as far as having two official nominees, it’s going to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I’d bet that somewhere around 92% of the political prognosticators would say so. And I’ll be damned if the candidacy of Bernie Sanders isn’t starting to loom Nader-esque on the American landscape. I think there’s a damn good chance that Bernie could do to Hillary what Ralph did to Al. I hope to God I’m wrong about that. But it’s a  possibility that can’t be easily dismissed. May the soul of Yogi Berra rest peacefully; I damn sure hope it ain’t “deja vu” all over again!

 

Barking from my semi-palatial doghouse in Orlando, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2016 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile