Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Phil Coultrip & the 2007 Mountain Music Festival

Phil Coultrip

 Remembers 2007

The Mountain Music Fest


Phil Coultrip is a survivor. As a teenager he booked acts like Bob Seger, The Amboy Dukes at the brand new Midland Center for the Arts and when the powers to be shut down rock & roll at the Center, Coultrip shrugged, thumbed his nose at convention and booked Apple records protégés Badfinger at the Midland High School. It proved to be a huge success. He was a shaker and mover before he even realized how deep he could go, hanging out with Bob Seger and learning the gospel from Punch Andrews, Seger’s manager. Phil had his own cross to bear as the lead guitarist for Breadfruit, a local Midland outfit that seemed destined for big things. Coultrip was a talented musician yet his vision went much deeper than Midland. He saw a wider vista of opportunity through building alliances with promoters as well as talent. Through the years Coultrip has rubbed shoulders with Country Music’s elite, stars as well as agents, writers and producers. Phil Coultrip is a man with soul. He’s been on the top and fallen hard. He’s real, resilient unassuming and just stubborn enough to do it all over again.



 Can you tell me about some of the decisions that led you to develop the Mountain Music Festival?

I was moving back to Michigan. I was living in Florida. I had a nice house down there and everything. We were doing great, and I couldn’t be away from my son. We were just starting school up here. He’s in his second year of high school now.

So I was looking for something to do, and I happened to be driving past a sign about eight mile lake so I drove to the property and I saw it’s for sale. I’d been thinking about putting a festival together. I drove in there, and there was this big huge natural landscape and I bought it for $650,000 and then proceeded to put 2.9 million in it for renovations. It’s got the biggest stage in the state of Michigan… completely covered. It’s got 350 acres for camping. I put in all the electricity, put in all the water, put in all the rooms, cut down all these trees, cut down everything, replanted everything. I put in filling stations that happened to be there and it was a perfect layout to the stage and made it easy set-up. It had a capacity of 75,000 people. It took me a year and a half to get all the permits, zoning, and inspections. It was very difficult to do but I finally got approval. There were two counties and two townships, and the biggest problem was the local township, they were not quite convinced. But we got it through, and it started snowing that night. Perhaps it was a signal. I had already wanted to have all the grass planted and everything for the next year. I spent a whole year on it. I had 12 different partners and none of them were in the music business.


Did you have a board of directors?


Yes,  but when it comes down to it the only person that mattered was me because they were outside of Michigan. They didn’t really know the community and they didn’t really want to participate. They weren’t involved in the management of it at all and they weren’t involved in the building and construction of it from the ground up. They were just all just, “You made it, you run it, you do it.” None of them were in the entertainment business before or after. They weren’t really partners. They were the investors… they were purely investors. In fact, there was nobody from Michigan involved at all!


Were the investors the same folks who knew you when you promoted country shows?


Yes and no, I was very comfortable with them and myself. But on hindsight I’d never have done it at all because I would’ve been my albatross for the rest of my life. The bottom line is I was highly involved with other things. They investors were making a fortune…it was so incredible because instead of renting the building, we kept everything. We kept the parking, the ticket charges, all the alcohol sales, all the food sales, all the parking sales. There was nothing we had to give away. If we had just rented the building, we’d have had to give all that away. The real true bottom line story was the crash of 2008…Lots of people, hundreds and millions of businesses went out of business, and Michigan was extremely hard hit by it. Detroit was just going to crap…that’s what happened.

I read an article about your almost frantic efforts to promote the Mountain Music Fest

Well, nobody knew about Farwell, it was off the map so to speak. I traveled to radio stations all over this nation and did a ton of interviews but nobody ever heard about us. I don’t think it really hindered what happened in the second year when the economy just hit the skids. It wouldn’t have mattered where you were…Minneapolis any of the major markets, they all were hit so hard. Disposable income was gone. People weren’t partying. People weren’t buying tickets in advance. Everybody was holding back. The housing market crashed, and everybody was losing their housing. Nobody could borrow any more money. It was much more severe that anybody realized at the time. It still has a huge effect on everything. I couldn’t set things in motion until we finally had approval from all the participants. Conditionally, we held all of that land and properties which allowed us to run.  We had a time frame and we had to get our liquor licenses in ASAP. We were very late. October 31st  was the first country show. We ended up doing all of this in the middle of the winter. There were people up on the stage blown sideways, and it was a terrible winter.


You a great line-up of talent. Did you personally sign the contracts with all of the artists?


Yes I was used to doing that. I mean that’s what I’ve done for several years. We had contracts

But we were better off starting the year in advance, and I was doing it less than six months out. You know I was in Las Vegas until then with the International Association of Fairs and Festivals which is running right now, this weekend. I was just trying to buy up everything I could.


I recalled an episode in which you getting searched, investors folding . Did that happen?


They just went out of business like hundreds of other business during this time when banks were failing and the Feds were bailing them out. One of my investors had a big family, had three nurseries, nurseries that were quaint, right? I mean for a hundred years they had these businesses set up and running. All three of them went out business in 2008. The reason is because nobody was landscaping any more. There was no new construction so you had no new income.  He had two million dollars worth of stock sitting in those nurseries and he went from $400,000 a month to $20,000 a month to $10,000 to $5,000.

How many associated businesses were like that? … It was always done legally. There was no, there really weren’t any lawsuits at all.


 How did it go so wrong for you?


Well, we weren’t selling anything in 2008, plus we were being audited. We had two customers in June and July of 2007. The recession started in August, one month later. I was down in Louisville with my investors, and they were saying “We can’t borrow any money now.” There were credit crunches here. We couldn’t borrow a nickel if we had to, nor could anybody else. The bankers said, “We have no suggestions for you whatsoever.”



This was your vision. You had to be devastated.


I was devastated! I had some people that came to me before I did it, and said, “You know the only thing you can do is walk away from it” - I wanted to own it! I wanted to have my own place. I convinced myself that I could work so hard that I could make it happen. Ultimately  the creditors got all the money. We couldn’t sell a pop if we had to. We couldn’t sell a beer if we had to. We couldn’t sell a parking space. They were screwing us on the ticket charges. You know, you’d have a $50 ticket, and they’d have a $35 surcharge on it. It was ridiculous.  I hated it. I wanted so bad to do it on my own and it was just the wrong moment in time. I don’t think we did anything wrong, but it was bad timing. We got hit by the recession.


What could you do about it? Did you make the investors angry?


The bottom line is that I tried to pay everybody I possibly could, but when you go out of business, you’re out of business. That’s all there is to it.  I went to the investors and said, “That’s all there is. Good bye. Good luck. No hard feelings. We lost. It’s done.” If you were still in business, you’d still be paying all your creditors, but when you’re out of business, you can’t pay your creditors. I would’ve loved to, and I tried to. I did everything I could to pay them back but I had to take the punishment.


What kind of punishment did you have to take?


Besides losing the Mountain Music Festival… which only lasted one year, you know, it’s the terrible feeling that you built all this in such a short period of time and see it disappear so quickly. It came and went so fast that it was kind of like a dream. I decided to move forward, to start something new.

 I’m trying to rebound with electronic dance music, EDM. There’s a big musical movement in the world right now. A lot of people don’t even know what music is. They don’t care who the stars are. I could name you artists that you’ve never heard of yet they are making 25 to 50 million dollars a year. They have their own prioduct line. They’re world-wide stars. In fact, they’re smaller stars in the United States than they are in the rest of the world. I don’t mean that to be mean, but I’m sure you’ve never heard of any of them… I’ve been there. Las Vegas is like a bigger carnival. They have 300,000 people there just for the music EDM, and that is not a lot. Every hotel room is sold out. Now the second-largest gathering of people and the most profitable gathering of people is in Las Vegas. All of the events, all of the hours, and they’re number two.


The music, the dancing I couldn’t make heads or tails of it


It’s exactly this. You like the music, you like the song, you gotta dance, you’ve got to have big, large crowd areas, you have a need for a theater, you have need for an arena, and they get that stuff from head to toe. It’s just what it is. It’s peace and it’s love, it’s taking care of each other and so I’m very drawn to it.


Are you part of this now?


I’m trying to be…I’m looking at dates. That’s the truth. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to build from scratch, making a lot of money. I’m going to be in other cities. I’m not going to compete against what they’re already doing. I’m not going to even think about it, but there are lots of cities and lots of connections that aren’t over saturated - Los Angeles and New York, Atlanta, and Miami. I have some investors interested, the productions and the video are so over the top…everything, everything is generated by that one autograph, that one signature.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Chris Currell Leaps from Question Mark & the Mysterians to Michael Jackson


Christopher Currell Remembers

Question Mark, Michael Jackson and Good Vibrations

Christopher Currell is one of Saginaw’s forgotten musical heroes. He is an incredible talent who learned the ropes from local icons including The Bossmen, Count & the Colony, The Excels, The Pack and the Caravans. The early years of rock & roll were spent in garages across the globe and Saginaw was no exception. At any one time you could find Butch Burden, Larry Wheatley, Bobby Balderamma, Pete Woodman, Clark Sullivan or Dick Wagner honing their skills in garages and backyard barbecues. This was the canvas in which Chris Currell honed his skills. He would grow, change and learn at a rapid pace, out lasting many of his compatriots with his keen intellect and spiritual base. He possesses an uncommon humility for an artist that has achieved international recognition. His meeting with Michael Jackson in 1985 proved to be prophetic. They became close friends and musical comrades until Jackson’s untimely death on June 25th, 2009 as they were about to embark on the This Is It concert series.


Tell me about your influences in Saginaw that may have shaped your journey in music

I played in a lot of bands when I lived in Saginaw. My experiences playing in these bands prepared me

for becoming a professional musician. I was in junior high school when I had my very first musical influence, which led me to decide to play guitar and play in a band.  This was a Saginaw band called the Caravans. Another Saginaw band, which also influenced me was Count and the Colony. The sound of the electric guitar really grabbed me. It was magical to me!


You were with Question Mark & the Mysterians when Question Mark dismissed his original band and created a new type of music, a bit heavier. When did you get involved?

I do not remember the actual year I joined the band. I saw it as an opportunity to actually enter into the professional music industry and do professional recording. That experience was a bit shocking because I found out that the record company would not allow the band to play on the recordings. They only used their studio musicians. I did a lot of concert dates with Question Mark. Eventually the keyboard player left the band and it became a power trio. That is when the sound became heavy.


Was there a new cultural spirit that inspired your quest for other forms of music?

Yes, I really was inspired by how music could bring people together. In my early years, playing big concerts venues and festivals was very gratifying. But I had an epiphany playing a huge rock festival in Atlanta Georgia. I was still playing with Question Mark and the Mysterians as a power trio. Up to then, music had been like a big party for me. That night, I looked out at the huge crowd of 25,000 people and I realized…all these people were looking at me to tell them something. I had no idea about anything. Life was a big party and I was not taking responsibility for anything. I realized, I needed to re-evaluate myself and the purpose of my life. The next day I quit Question Mark. I began a personal quest to find out who I am and what life actually is. Of course this changed my music radically.

Who you inspired you?

Up to then, Michigan bands like The Bossmen, The Pack and the Amboy Dukes heavily influenced me musically. I then started expanding my music tastes. I was knocked out the first time I heard Cream. It was Eric Clapton’s playing that made me develop a vibrato on the guitar. Then along came Jimi Hendrix! He was a revelation for me! After that, the influences are a long list. The types of bands that I became interested in were progressive rock and rock fusion. This led to more Jazz fusion and eventually electronic and avant garde styles of music.

The list of guitarists that influenced me is just as long. Probably the most influential being Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Allan Holdsworth, Al Dimeola and Frank Gambale. The guitarist that influenced me the most though was John Mclaughlin. The musician that inspired me the most is Ravi Shankar.

When did you meet Michael Jackson?

It was in the summer of 1985 that I got a call from Michael Jackson. He had heard about me from the New England Digital company. They made a sophisticated computer based synthesizer called the Synclavier. I owned one. Michael had a huge Synclavier system. He called me on the phone and asked me if I would teach him how to use it. We finally scheduled a time where we could meet and begin my teaching. I went to his personal studio at his house on a Sunday morning. He introduced himself and we sat down in front of the Synclavier and began his first lesson.


What did you think of him?

He was very hospitable and polite. I liked him right away.

Did he hire you on the spot? Or did you have to go to several auditions?

Well, after three hours, I had taught Michael how to power up and boot up the Synclavier, call up his sound library and showed him how to call a sound down to the keyboard for him to play. He said “That’s all I can take for today, can you come back tomorrow for a session?” I said “sure!” I came back the next day and we worked on one of Michael’s songs. He wanted me to come back every day. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the most interesting next four years of my life!

So if that was an audition, I guess I passed!

Did he give you a say in the music once you passed the audition?

He always had a say in the music but at the same time, he respected my input. He was very easy to work with.

What was your opinion of Michael as a singer?

Michael was a great singer! Totally professional! Singing was easy for him. In fact, he could also imitate different instruments with his voice as well.

What about his lyrics?

I always thought he wrote about interesting subjects. Obviously his lyrics connected with people as well as his singing.

A  musician – did he play various instruments; was he proficient?

His main instrument was his voice. But he was also very adept at playing percussion. He amazed me one when he started playing air guitar to Led Zeppelin music in his studio!

Did he prove to be helpful, to open doors so to speak and get better pay, residuals, contracts etc

My association with Michael changed my life completely. We became friends and he introduced me to many people. My phone was always off the hook with people calling wanting to do something with me. During the making of the “Bad” album, CBS records said I was their highest paid musician! I will always be grateful to him for helping me! People still call me for projects based on my work with Michael.

Michael had a great sound onstage in their live performances?

Absolutely! Michael was in the position to have the best of everything! We had the best musicians, the best singers, the best dancers as well as the best sound and lighting production crew. We took two Synclaviers on the “Bad” tour and they also contributed to the amazing sound onstage!

Did you play loud in concert?

I did not play too loud. I only played loud enough to feel the music properly. I am very conscious of protecting my hearing! But in front where Michael performed, the sound was bone crushing loud from all the front monitors and side fills! Michael always liked the music loud, in the studio and onstage!

How many shows did you do with Michael?

The “Bad” tour lasted about 16 months. We performed 123 concerts to 4.4 million fans across 15 countries.


Who was your road manager? Or did you have to lug your own equipment?


John Draper was the road manager for the “Bad” tour. I was playing 1.4 million dollars of gear just myself! There is no way I could have moved that equipment myself! Ha! Ha! This tour was the over the top and broke many world records…totally professional! I never saw the equipment until I walked on stage to perform! 


We had a huge road crew of about 150 people that set everything up…sometimes as many as 300 people! At the beginning of the “Bad” tour in, a 707 cargo jet was used completely filled to transport our equipment to Japan! Later in Europe, it took 43 semi trucks to move our equipment!


Tell me about your life in another country?


I currently live in Japan. I fell in love with the culture when I first came to Japan with Michael. After working with Michael, I continued to travel to Japan for music production work. I was living 50 percent of the time in the states and the 50 percent of the time in Japan. About six and a half years ago, I decided to permanently move to Japan. I currently have 14 albums out and performing my own music. I also am researching how sound can expand consciousness and awareness. I have my house and recording studio in the mountains and forest above the ocean overlooking Mt. Fuji. I like nature and it is a great creative environment.


What was your impression of the seventies/eighties scene? Meet any of the big players?


I grew up in the Saginaw and Bay area music scene. At that time, the music scene was very active with many bands and concerts. It was a very exciting time for me as a growing musician. I was constantly being inspired. There were also many places to play. I did meet many of the big players from the area and all over Michigan.  In general, after participating in the music scene and watching it evolve through the seventies and eighties, I think it was the most creative time of the music business. I think the sixties were probably the most creative and eclectic artistically. The nineties up to now has been a time of creative and artistic stagnation for music. It is mostly about fame and fortune and no music content. But of course there are always exceptions and there always have been, and still are, great bands and artists. You just have to look harder for them. You generally won’t find them in the popular commercial rock music scene today.


You mentioned once before that you were interviewed about Michael Jackson and you wanted to set the record straight. Were you able to do that? What did you Say?


My best response to your question would be to have your readers check out an in depth, four part series published at an online site called headphone. guru. The article is called “Synclavier, Music and Michael Jackson”. In the articles, I tell my story with Michael from the first time I met him, working on songs and recording the “Bad” album, the rehearsals for the “Bad” tour, and my experiences “on the road” with Michael and the “Bad” world tour.


Here are the links for the four Michael Jackson articles:



You’ve been a quiet icon in mid-Michigan. What would you like to say to your former friends, musicians?

I would like to say hello to everyone! I do not get back to Saginaw very often…I miss all of you and the good times jamming together! I keep in touch via Facebook! Anyone that wishes to contact me can find me there!

Any last comments?

I want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to communicate to music fans everywhere!

I would like to leave you with this message…

“Sound is a vibration. Like sound, the universe is also vibration.
All knowledge we seek resides there. All we have to do is listen.”




















Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Legend of The Hot Ratzow - A True Story


The Legend of the Hot Ratzow, Part I

Bicycle Jims, Jackson Prison


The Pursuit of Hope Versus Despair


                                                                    The Hot Ratzow

I met the Hot Ratzow in late 1975 when I applied for a job at Bicycle Jim's Restaurant. I can't remember why I chose that particular restaurant but I recall eating there a few times and sensing a good vibe. I was attending graduate school in Social Work at the University of Michigan and having feeling a nagging ambivalence. I had just completed a one year field placement as a psychiatric social worker at Jackson Prison, just barely passing. I was a 22 year old vegetarian, weighing 145 pounds and wearing my hair down to my shoulders. The convicts took one look at me and licked their lips and rubbed their hands together and they made no bones about eyeing me up and down and blowing me kisses…hmm, this was going to be a real test of how much I can endure while I try to learn psychotherapy. I didn't have a clue. Several of the cons asked me for sex therapy.  One prisoner - all 6ft 5in and 300lbs of him went so far as to ask me to make a referral to University Hospital for a sex change operation. In session he wanted me to call him Donna. So I did.My supervisor Ron Gilles only laughed...the prick. It turned out that Donna just wanted to get close to me for some sex therapy.

Before I stumbled my way out of Jackson Prison, I presented a case to a prestigious team of psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. One of the expert was a researcher from Michigan State University who had developed a Rorschach card (ink blots used in a projective psychological testing). I was nervous presenting to so many knowledgeable clinicians and researchers. I stumbled and stammered through my presentation. patient was more composed than me. He was a self-mutilator, a cutter, with at least a dozen tattoos. I can't recall the outcome of this important pow-wow except the Rorschach man had the furriest eyebrows I've ever seen. All he had to do was look in the mirror for the perfect Rorschach card. He reminded me of Jack Elam doing his best Dr.VanHelsing with a huge auto-erotic hypodermic needle that had more than a passing reference to phallic symbolism.

Anyway, my student loan didn't come through and my father refused to help. We were fighting.
I was lonely broke and depressed - a fatal combination for an aspiring graduate. I recently broke up with my girlfriend also a U of M student after a particularly intense acid trip. At one point I told her that I didn't really love her. As I continued tripping I curled up in a fetal position and tried to re-enter her womb. She wasn't having any of that so we ended our relationship.

I felt the void and realized something was missing...just didn't know what. The era was imbued with a fine paradox so pure in its contradictions that I existed in a vacuum of questioning authority and experimenting with choices. I was breaking out in a wildfire of heat and frenzy as if I was afraid the dancing would stop and life would fall silent and dreary. We all had grown up with bomb-shelter cold war paranoia and the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations. Many of us protested the Vietnam War and were horrified by the government brutality of Kent State. We were stunned by Watergate but smug in Nixon's disgrace. We laughed at President Jimmy Carter's lust in my heart statement as just a bit disingenuous. A Playboy interview was just too hip. Billy Carter became a marketing pawn with his Billy Beer. He was all the rage along with Punk rock and the Sex Pistols
The legacy of violence and betrayal left us a little cynical and even slightly embittered. We celebrated America's Bicentennial with our tongues-in-cheek as we sang along with Loudon Wainwright III on his big hit Dead Skunk hit and his cool-strange "T-Shirt" album. He seemed the perfect vehicle for our particular fear and loathing. I guess it was destiny or dumb luck that led me past Steve's Lunch and up the stairs to 1301 S. University. I noticed the Bicycle Jim's Restaurant marquee. I walked up the stairwell to the front door of the restaurant. The first person I met was none other than the Hot Ratzow's sister. I filled out an application and she hired me on the spot. She told me to report back on the next day and trained me for a position as a host. I would greet customers, seat them, and cash them out. I would also help bus tables and trouble shoot. Ms. Ratzow was friendly in a cold efficient way and was so fastidious about money that she would arrange all the dollar bills so they faced the same direction...north, I think. Eventually I met everyone...the management team of Joe, TK, Ann, and Kate as well as the revered head chef Roger Brown, Cathy, Linda Lou, Mary and the Hot Ratzow. 
This is a photo with me and the real Nell Carraway
I'm asking for more beer

How can I put this delicately?
The Hot Ratzow was the most beautiful man I ever met., tall but not too tall, lean yet muscular, His incredible physique was naturally sculpted like a Greek God. He had naturally curly blondish-brown hair and deep blue eyes that were penetrating and kind. He was gifted with a soft voice and manner that revealed a genuine appreciation of others. He was intelligent without preening. He did not have to state his point-of-view. He listened to others.

The Hot Ratzow and I become friends and even lived together like we were the odd couple. We hung out...Roger, Tom Knapp (TK), Hot Ratzow and others. I was more of an outsider. I never quite fit-in with anyone, not totally.
They listened to jazz and Janis Ian. I listened to the Monkees
But I loved them all. And we had several wonderful adventures...

                                                       This is my buddy Roger Brown            

In the spring of 1976, Michigan encountered an ice storm of horrific force and dimension. Ice blanketed the state. Power outages were reported from Detroit to Copper Harbor. The storm caused millions of dollars of damage. Towns and cities were shut down for several days. It was declared a natural disaster. So what did we do…we tripped on some sweet windowpane. It was better living through chemistry… Roger, the Hot Ratzow and me. It was the journey of a lifetime within the brace of an afternoon. It only seemed like a lifetime. So we dropped acid over at Roger's home on Division Street. I had just moved out of his basement and moved into an apartment with TK where I lived modestly with a mattress and blanket and a few prized possessions. I shared the space with St Bernard who shit all over the floor and - even worse – he was a sloppy kisser. I was the only one with a car when I bought a '64 Chevrolet Impala for $300. It was prized possession.
I would lend it out freely to my friends and between me and everyone else who drove it, I accumulated a mountain of parking tickets that eventually landed me in jail but that is another story.

 Well our acid trip was gradually altering our perceptions, I drove us a few blocks down the road and parked at the Arboretum. We disembarked and started our journey as the acid began to hit. I remember thinking how lucky it was that I was tripping with such acid veterans. I felt safe...for awhile. Suddenly I feel an intense rush of anxiety. I looked up into the sky and I see Roger Brown’s face and his face is laughing at me. As he continues to laugh, his image increases in size until it covers the entire sky.
I'm freaking out. So I look over to the Hot Ratzow and Roger for some kind of comfort and assurance that I hadn’t lost my mind and lo and behold they're freaking out too!.
So we are all shaking and moaning and we are beginning to understand that we are all too high, maybe the acid was cut with some poison or something. Our solution was simply brilliant. We lighted up a joint and drank some beers. In our mind bending state we thought dope and booze would help us come down and it did seem to help. We regained a trembling semblance of composure as we continued our amazing journey. It seemed likehiked for miles until the Hot Ratzow pointed out that we were walking in circles and getting nowhere. We were hopelessly lost despite the fact thatwe had all spent countless hours at the Arboretum, walking our dogs, throwing Frisbees and playing hacky sack. We gradually made our way back to the beginning but not before we encountered the carnage left by the storm, dead birds were everywhere, on the ground and stuck in unnatural and gruesome positions in the trees. Hitchcock couldn't have done it any better. Wemade it to my car.. As I slid into the driver’s seat. I told Roger and the Hot Ratzow that I was too high to drive. But they insisted they were too high to drive. So we compromised. We all drove. I'm in the driver's seat but for the life of me I can't reach the pedals and the steering wheel is three times its size, street lights are melting before my very eyes so Roger and Hot Ratzow helped out. Ratzow gave directions and operated the gas pedal. Roger filled-in with the over-sized steering wheel and the brake pedal. It was all very cozy.
We made it home but I was still in bad shape. So I called TK over at Bicycle Jim's and Theresa was dispatched to help me come down. She was an angel!

Theresa Lockwood (T) and Ronnie Stoneman
@ the Possum Holler

It was during our time at our apartment at North University that we got to know an infamous Weatherman. The Weathermen were a radical faction of the Students For a Democratic Society (or simply SDS). The SDS carried some heavy political currency with an intellectual leadership that included Carl Ogelsby and Tom Hayden (later married to Jane Fonda). However, in 1969 at the SDS National Conference, a militant faction calling themselves the Weathermen released a position paper entitled, "You Don't Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows (a lyric from Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues).” They advocated for urban guerilla cadres to carry out the revolution with sporadic acts of violence. This led to the dissolution of SDS influence and signaled the beginning of the end for the New Left.  By 1976, the Weathermen were only a memory even though a few surviving members soldiered on in solitary pursuit of the working class struggle. So it was an unlikely alliance when we met a former disciple of the Weathermen. It started with Ann Arbor passing a leash law. Students and others would often allow their pets to run free in the Arboretum and other public places. In fact, some students would simply abandon their dogs before returning to their home towns. This resulted in packs of wild and hungry dogs that were sometimes quite menacing.
It was a problem.

Snow Puppy and I were use to going everywhere together - stores, record shops, coffee houses without a leash. No one seemed to mind. One sunny day the Hot Ratzow and I decide to walk our dogs at the Arboretum. We lived close-by and had to only walk through a small cemetery and squeeze through a fence. It was a glorious day until an animal control truck screeched to a halt right behind us. The Hot Ratzow and Taurus ran off with the Dog Warden and his deputies in hot pursuit, stun guns drawn and ready. They attempted to drive after them but Snow and I blocked their way. I was detained and issued a $50 citation. I gave my real name though I didn't have identification on me... duh! Several hours later everyone is at home. The weathermen dude was present and angry about the oppressive leash law. He suggested taking action such as putting a pipe bomb or sugar or something in the gas tank of a police car as a sign of protest. We unanimously declined.
I never heard from him again.
It seemed like things were getting a little strange. By this time the Hot Ratzow and I worked at The Little Brown Jug Restaurant.a pale comparison to Bicycle Jim's. In an unusual turn of events, the owner of Bicycle Jim's refused raises to the women of our management team (TK, Joe, Ann, and Kate) and in a show of solidarity, the entire staff walked out. I was hitching across country to California at the time. So I joined the strike in absentia. We all lost our jobs
and our friends and colleagues dispersed to the four winds. By now I lived with TK across town in an apartment complex. It was getting strained. We had a Dionysian  party complete with steaks, salads, cheesecake, and a huge mound of cocaine. It turned into a fiasco. Too many people taking the spoon...we had to move on. I moved back to Saginaw and worked for my father at White's Bar. I would get an occasional letter from my former roommate TK. He assured me that energy was building for a reunion of souls from Jackson Hole Wyoming to Corvallis Oregon. My friends were opening a restaurant in Corvallis.
Would I like to be involved?

Stay Tuned for Part II


Sunday, August 23, 2015

SOS - Support Our Scene Music Festival



Support Our Scene

Music Festival


Carl Abila is a believer in the power of music to soothe pain, evoke passion and instill the spirit of love. From his spectacular rise with Silverspork to Black Flower Blossom, Abila has always landed with his feet on the ground. He seems to have a gift for developing great bands, unstoppable juggernauts filled up with talent and heat. Abila is a rock solid guardian of the flame, an eternal promise of better things to come. It is in this spirit of giving that Abila has found the eight fold path and brought hope to so many vets, regular folks who’ve led extraordinary lives.



Tell me about the project you have going.


That would be the music festival Bay City, Michigan, Saturday, August 29, 2015 which is a veteran’s drive, and all the proceeds are going to the VA Hospital of Saginaw.


Do you have a connection to the veterans?


I do have family that have served in the military. We’ve committed in Bay City to try to do this once a year. We’re going to see how the first year goes. We’d like to make it grow. So yeah, it’s something that we feel strongly about.


I think we all do. Will this include money that may go to helping vets with PTSD or other physical ailments, problems?


It’s going to help the wounded that are less fortunate essentially around our own area. We want to give back, to try to help, especially the vets that are homeless. I just don’t think it is right that veterans who serve our country are homeless and without medical care. It’s shame. It should never happen. These people have sacrificed so much for our country. I can’t express it enough. I do have some family in the service, and it’s a non-stop battle, even at home which is very unfortunate, especially when you get done with battle, you have to battle on your own stomping grounds, so to speak.


So in this event, music is the food of love. It can heal, and so you’re going to have a lot of music at this event. Can you tell us about that?


Well it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the term SOS. Mid-Michigan and the whole area for that matter has a lot of talent over the years music has always been the most important part of my life. I want to keep it going somehow. What I want to do is make a bigger, better scene, if at all possible.


You’ve been part of that through Silverspork and Black Flower Blossom. You’ve even had your own venue in Bay City so you’re one of the true believers. Do you see it that way?


Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any success without failure. I don’t think there’s any success without trial. I think you get up again and keep on doing it until you get it right. Everybody does. That’s just part of life. You can’t let it beat you down too much to where you don’t want to try at all. I have gotten to that point at times, but’s music actually that keeps me going.


You continue to flourish with Black Flower Blossom. They must be an integral part of the event. Could you talk about the current status of the band?


We’ve had some recent member changes so we’re trying to make that project grow as well. There’s a lot of bands I’ve worked with that have been around for a while, they’ve been around the block and have really great music to offer. Jay Burk is now on bass. I play guitar, Carl’s on drums and Melissa May from the former Thunder Chickens group on vocals


 Can you give us the line-up?

At this point we are the headliners. The rest of the lineup includes;

Filter International Outlier Fields of August, Pencilhead, Everyday Ghost, H&R Rustic out of Detroit and the Kincaids. These are bands that have been around a long time. I want to have these guys back for one great show, and this is a great time to doit. We have the opportunity for everybody to get back together and just have us a good rock show.


Where is it taking place?

WenonahPark in Bay City. Now there’s going to be a band shell there, bands, vendors with food and memorabilia, Hunter’s, Groovy Tattoo out of Bay City will be attending, Brooklyn Boyz Pizza. There’ll be all kinds of food and goodies, all kinds of merchandise for fans.


What groups of servicemen did you contact in order to get this together? 


Well initially we were going to somewhat surprise the VA Hospital, you know, walk over and give them our proceeds, but it was Vincent Christensen out of the Saginaw VA Hospital that, you know, we were starting to work together on this. I think that we would like to do it every day. He was our main contact to, you know, get something rolling.


You care, and when you say what you’re going to do something, you do it. You’re able to say things plainly and lay it out there and be succinct and elegant at the same time.


Yeah, I try. Like I said, sometimes it’s scary but you adapt to risks after a while and all you can do is try and you can only go up and if you’ve got to crawl up, that’s the only way you can go. If I can give back to our community somehow doing music, that’s plenty for me. For our first year we’re going to concentrate on music. But we will have Brooklyn Boyz Pizza, Steve’s BBQ, and we’ll probably have elephant ears and cotton candy and that type of thing as well.There will be alcohol, 21 with ID obviously, and we’ll have sodas and water and that kind of stuff.



What time of day does it start, and when does it end?

The show starts at 4:00, and it will probably go on until 11:30.

It will be outside and there’ll be two stages inside

We haveads that have already started running on Z93, you can look us up on Facebook on We have an official website, and we’re also on Twitter. Indie Spot is one of our sponsors and they’ll be recording the event.



Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate.