Field of Rock 'n' Roll Dreams

It'd been calling me for years.

Every time I'd read a book or article about the plane crash.

Every time I'd drive up and down I-35 to visit family in Des Moines.

It was always the softest whisper: "Come here son. I know you want to. I have some answers for you. Some questions too."

I'm still not sure why it took me decades to finally do it. I've lived in the midwest most of my life. Just a few hours away. It's only a mile or so to the west of the interstate my car has regularly traversed. Many times I'd peer over the cornfields during a drive and say to myself, "I should pull over and go visit it." But I'd just keep driving.

The field awaited.

Its call grew louder last summer when I came up with the idea to make a short movie of the Holy Rocka Rollaz visiting the crash site. We could never get our calendars aligned for the day trip. Nevertheless, I started feeling these mysterious emotions that wanted to be songs. They were simply meant to provide a soundtrack to the short movie. I felt them way more than I thought about them.

Then I started recording them.

Because the songs were to emulate the style of the musicians who died in that plane crash, I felt free to really go for a style in a way I'd never done before. About three songs into the recording I was kicked in the heart. Knocked back as it sunk in: "Oh boy! I have finally and fully embraced my life-long love of this young man's music!"

Folks...I got my Buddy Holly freak on.

I let out all the stops. I switched the Gretsch out for a Stratocaster. I tried to write like Buddy. Sing like Buddy. Play guitar like Buddy. Make my new record sound like Buddy.

Then the field called to me louder than ever before.

Oddly, it was a rejection letter for a job I'd interviewed for that served as the final catalyst. I chuckled wistfully as I crumpled it up and threw it away. It was a Saturday morning and I told my lovely wife, Lisa, "Honey, we're taking a road trip to Iowa Monday. Bring your camera, because we're going to document this."

As I worked on the record and prepared for the trip, foreign emotions ran through me. It's amazing how even at the age of 49, new feelings and spiritual territory can open up. I had these sweet, sad, hopeful, soulful butterflies as we ventured down.

I felt like I was going to meet a hero for the first time. I felt like I was going to a wake. I felt like I was going to meet up with an old friend I hadn't seen in years. I felt like I was about to embark on a journey that had been sovereignly placed before me.

I did it.

It was exhilarating.

The half-mile walk through the Iowa cornfield in the middle of a cold, windy and mostly grey day was, well...numbing. All the years of wondering took a back seat to the sound of my boots crunching in the field.

I took a deep breath when I saw the small monument just ahead. I was struck when I finally reached the area. Paul Fricke's illustration of me standing there really does sum it up. He based it on a picture Lisa took of me. They both capture a pivotal moment.

It's kinda hard to explain, but visiting the crash site of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper J.P. Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson made more of an impact on me driving back home (and later) than it did when I was actually there. It was probably just too much to soak in initially.

I LOVED the new emotional terrain.

Yes, the field gave me answers. I was finally able to put their short flight into geographic perspective. They didn't get far.

Yes, my admiration for the music they made grew even deeper.

Yes, the modest monument and barren field beg you to project whatever emotional/spiritual things you bring to it.

No, the spirits of the young men didn't wade out into the field to give me any guidance. I thought more about how their bodies were tragically sprawled out in the ground I was standing. I found it sad. I found myself wishing they'd never chartered that airplane. It did not feel like it was over 50 years ago.

Then, when my visit was winding down, I smiled at Lisa and noticed the freezing winds had turned her photo snapping fingers blue. The emotions mixed and we quietly walked out of the field.

As we did, I felt a responsibility to share what I'd experienced.

I heard the field asking me, "Will you tell people to come visit?"

"Will you let them know how special this ground is?"

"Will you assure them that I'm a place of comfort, hopes and dreams...despite the tragic history?"

I whispered back...


Rock 'n' Roll Or Bust

I love the looks I get from friends and acquaintances when I tell them my new record is going to make me a rock star. 

Here are my two favorites:

1) Their eyes dart away from me. Then towards the ground. They shuffle a bit. I get a pained and loaded smile that speaks volumes.  "The poor guy. He got laid off. His job search has proved fruitless and painful. He's almost 50. He's panicking. He's reverting to a long-held dream that never came true in order to deal with this setback."

2) Their eyes widen and stare into some glorious distance. I leave them to their reverie. Then I sit back and listen to them tell me their dreams. I hear about their passions and what they'd always dreamed of doing. What they're still dreaming of.

And I encourage them.

No matter the response, there's always a pause. Various feelings fill the air as conversations run their course. Either way, I get this sign off look..."Are you serious?"

Yer danged straight I am! It's rock 'n' roll or bust.

I'm going for it. Why not? I'm not dead yet. I'm in great health. People go "Woo-hooo!!!" when I rock out. I just need to get in front of more of 'em.

THIS is the record that'll do it. Lemme tell ya how I think this is all gonna unfold.

Lord willing, the record will be available for sale and download on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon sometime in July. Once it's online, I will upload two videos to Youtube that I've worked on for months. One is a short movie Lisa and I made about our pilgrimage to the crash site of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The other is a comic book lyric video that perfectly delivers the novelty spirit of a goofy song I wrote years ago.

I expect both videos to go viral to a certain extent, bring awareness to my band and the record, and hopefully...start ringing up significant sales!!!  Then a good booking agency will see our live show and start securing concerts for us to play year round.

I'm so happy and excited with this record! My whole musical life was poured into it. My love of 50s and various decades of pop music were perfectly fused on this one. A Buddy Holly vibe came over me during its making. For about a year I'd been writing songs for the short movie soundtrack, and during the winter and spring something washed over me. Filled me. You'll hear that this summer.

OK...that's the dream. The plan. The fun stuff.

Here's the nitty gritty of it:  My severance runs out in early June. I failed at securing a good day job. I'll probably be temping through the summer doing something I don't particularly enjoy. That's OK. Gotta feed the family!

BUT!!! Knowing that all of my dreams were given such a good kick in the ass during my unemployment will lift my spirits. I'll wake up each day this summer knowing that it's only a matter of time before this dream takes off.

Why am I so sure? Because it's what I was born to do.

I hope your eyes are wide open right now.

With your dream in front of you. Don't ignore it. It's probably what you were born to do.

Buddy Ramone & The Mats Meet The Cats

HOLY ROCKA ROLLA!!! Are we ever making a rock 'n' roll record!!!

Folks, this one is stuffed with high-octane original songs. Yep! I wrote 'em all. 

It's interesting how this one started coming together.

Last summer we were planning to film a mini-documentary of a road trip to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. I'd been to the Surf Ballroom a couple of times (even played there in 2007!) and have driven through the area tons of times as I have relatives in Des Moines. I've often considered pulling off of I-35 to make a pilgrimage to the crash site of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and pilot, Roger Peterson. We never made it.

Something in me has put it off to this day.

We were going to cap the documentary with a visit to the cornfield where the plan went down. Just film us experiencing it after a nice lil' tour of the Surf Ballroom. It was going to be a low-key thing. I knew the documentary would need music to provide the right tone, but since synch licenses are so expensive and a pain in the butt to acquire, I started writing songs in the style of Buddy, Richie and the Big Bopper for accompaniment. I didn't plan on them being anything more than soundtracks. Well, I entered some vibe and never left it. It's been with me through the whole writing and recording of this record. Then something very cool happened...the songs started pulling from other parts of my music loving soul. 

The Ramones. The Replacements. Stray Cats. 

They all shaped me. It's starting to show. It's taken on a life of its own. I let go of the reins and man am I ever enjoying the ride!

The Stray Cats opened the door to a whole new rock 'n' roll world for me. Before them it had been pretty much 70s AOR acts for my rock fix. I flipped when I first heard "Rock This Town" on my Bone Phone (an early 80s fad). My heart got a jolt and my rockabilly soul was ignited. I went out and bought "Built For Speed" the next day. "Little Miss Prissy" was my favorite track on that album. It was punky, greasy, raw and rockin'. The easiest one to play too. From there I jumped right into Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Sun Studio era Elvis and all of the rockabilly compilations I could get my hands on. I'd already been way into all kinds of classic 50s music through my dad's record collection. Music from that era had always made my soul feel right. But it started meaning more. A LOT more.

Then I heard my first Ramones song at a college party in 1984: "I Wanna Be Sedated." I ran around the beer-soaked parking lot asking party goers, "Who is this!?!?" Finally, an enlightened soul informed me it was the Ramones. They still rock my soul. I never got to see them live, but watching Youtube videos of them in their punk prime thrills me. Educates me. They knew how to rock with a fury. As far as I'm concerned they invented punk rock. They wrote great pop songs steeped in Americana as well.

Another legendary band that rocked just as raucously was the Replacements -- a fantastic post-punk Minneapolis band lovingly coined The Mats by their fans. You never knew what you were going to get from them in concert. (Or their albums.) I was fortunate to see them twice. At one show they were too drunk to perform. At the other, they throttled me. I sat in awe of their greatness, knowing I was witnessing one of the most special American bands. Ever.

"I Will Dare" off of their classic "Let It Be" album was the first song of theirs to grab me.You can hear a rockabilly spirit in it. My favorite album of theirs is "Pleased To Meet Me." It's funny, it's serious, it's sweet, it's bitter, it's rockin', it's laid back, it flips you off. It's the Replacements.

I guess what I love so much about Buddy Holly, The Ramones, the Mats and Stray Cats is that they all became legends by blending pure American music forms with their own unique energies. I get a similar rush from all of them, just with different vibes and flavors.

In no way am I saying this record will be anywhere in their league. They're legends. Giants. It's just that they inspire me to put my freak on with this band. With this record.

I think you're gonna LOVE it.

Sometimes, Dreams Chase You

The phrases are often heard. "Go for your dreams." "Follow your dreams." "Make your dreams come true."

They're fun to say. Inspiring to hear. And very hard to do.

I'm feelin' a dream in a different way ~ it's chasing me.

It's been after me for a long time. Oh, I've chased it several times in the past only to shut the door on it. Usually in discouragement. Lately due to other wonderful dreams such as family and friends and the little things that bring me a lot of joy. But no matter how joyful I am with my family and activities, there's been this recurring pull. This thing that keeps enticing me.

A couple of years ago it whispered "You really better do this soon. You're running away from me. And you're running out of time."

I listened. And got busy.

The first time I really went for it was in 1987 with a band called The Law. We moved from Ames, Iowa to Minneapolis. We were really into the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum. It seemed like a great place to try and get a start in the music industry. We were already getting looked at by Slash Records/Warner Brothers due to an EP we'd released, and we quickly got into the club scene. We were fortunate to open for the the up-and-coming Gear Daddies a handful of times, and soon enough found ourselves playing in the First Ave. main room, the 7th Street Entry, The Uptown, the 400 Bar and the Cabooze. It was fun getting written up in the City Pages, Twin City Reader and the Star Tribune. It was even more fun hearing an A&R scout from a label was in the club checking out the bands.

I really thought that band was going to make it.

What happened?

Well, I was an emotional, chemical, physical and spiritual wreck. I freaked. Quit the band. Quit the lifestyle.

I quit the dream.

I thought it was over. I wanted it to be over.

I moved to Clark, South Dakota to work as a reporter/photographer at the Clark County Courier. It was four years of bliss. Absolutely loved the time and journey there.

A significant amount of time passed before I even picked up a guitar. Very unlike me. Of course, once I start plinkin' on it again, it felt great to hold, songs flew out, smiles stretched my face and I became obsessed with obtaining a 4-track cassette recorder. I HAD to record these new songs.

The dream kept calling.

I HAD to move back to Minneapolis and try the music thing again.

In a third-floor South Minneapolis bedroom I made a solo CD in 1995. It garnered some favorable press in Cake Magazine, letters from A&R scouts from major and indie labels and even a big publishing company. It was exciting. Rewarding. But nothing came of it. I was pretty cavalier about it. Another dream came along. Lisa and I were madly in love. Engaged. Married. Making music together.

Then, THE dream called again.

This time I had a craving to make power pop music and Florapop was born. Anybody who knows my music tastes can tell you how much I love Big Star, the Raspberries, the Beach Boys, the Beatles (I named my first daughter McCartney!), the Hollies, Cheap Trick, Marshall Crenshaw and many more. I'd never made an album of all that sugary music. So I made two. "Sunshine Saturday" was released on the Jam Recordings label in 2003 and an eponymous CD we'd made in 1999 was re-released in Japan on the Wizzard in Vinyl label in 2005. It was a blast making them, but they didn't sell much.

Then Lisa and I started making babies. That was fun. The joy of being a daddy, owning a home and experiencing all of the wonderful things Minnesota provides kept me sailing right along. For pretty much a decade.

The dream just came around again.

This time it did more than call. It chased me. Snuck up on me. Grabbed me by the scruff of my aging neck, lifted me off of the ground and growled, "You really better do this. NOW. You were born to do this. Don't waste what God has given you."

I went out and bought a Gretsch Tennessee Rose guitar. Slung it over my shoulder. Slicked my grey hair back and got busy honing my greatest musical passion and strength.


The Holy Rocka Rollaz were born.

The dream slapped me on the back and said, "Go son! I'm watching you."

I Walk The Dream

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