Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Had To Cry Today

* in my continuing effort to be clever, I am naming blog posts after songs. This one was done by Blind Faith in 1969

It still boggles my mind the power and effect on my life music has.

There have been certain songs in my life...I'll call them mile posts...that have come into not only my sense of hearing but have captured my soul. There have been some that, at a later date, have no longer been appealing to me. There are some songs I can listen to and cry every time I hear them because they have connected with some  strange musical umbilicord chord.

Even though some of my friends hate the song, "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg resonates with me. Mainly because of who I was with at the time, but most importantly, I've lived that song.
In my life.

Music rescuced me at various points in my youth but really from all of the white noise of my high school years. From the countless nights spent alone as those nights marched on through my adolescence holed up in my room, to working the over night shift at a restaurant and becoming good friends with the overnight DJ at KSTT in Davenport because I wanted to be like him.

The one constant has been music. All kinds of music, from Hank to Hendrix, Motown, to Yes and Led Zeppelin (don't forget the Beatles), music has been the one constant to mark where I've been and what I've been doing in my life.

I cried today when I found out Dobie Gray died. Probably a silly thing to do, I didn't know him. How can I put into words the magic I found in three minutes and fifty five seconds of his contribution to the soundtrack of my life? "Drift Away", when it was released in March of 1973 was like a light in the darkness. It reached out of the radio, went through my ears, past my head and captured my heart and soul. Don't ask why. I've learned not to do that. Especially with me,It's usually a complicated answer.
The power, mystery and mastery of music.

Most of us stumbled and bumbled our way through high school. I tried to just survive. So, when something, anything grabs your attention, and makes you feel better, it usually means something. This did. A lifelong friendship.

"Day after day, I'm more confused... yet I look for the light through the pourin' rain...
you know that's a game that I hate to loose..and I'm feelin' the strain...ain't it a shame?"

Holy crap! What a song, what a voice. Go on...

"Beginnin' to think that I'm wastin' time...I don't understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind...now I'm countin' on you, to carry me through"

Oh man, am I digging this, my question to Dobie was, how did you get so inside my head? Not only was this song getting to my head...but also my heart

"And when my mind is free, you know a melody can move me.
And when I'm feelin' blue, the guitar's comin' through...to soothe me.
Thanks for the joy that you've given me....I want you to know I believe in your song,
and rhythm and rhyme and harmony...you help me along...makin' me strong"

Right about at this point this 17 year old realized that no matter the resistance, no matter all the macho I could muster, I was a quivering bowl of jello. I had found a lifetime friend in this song and when things were not what I had hoped through my life I could always call on a friend for a sweet refrain...

"Yea, give me the beat boys and free my soul...I wanna get lost in your rock n roll..and drift away..."

And I did drift away, to free my soul and I got lost in my rock and roll.

This song will be played at my memorial service...right up there with "Born to Run" and "Into the Mystic".

One of the people I regret not being able to meet.

I think I would have said thanks...thanks very much.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Happy Anniversary

Hey bro,
You'd be 63 today.
I guess that's one nice thing about leaving this world early, no one knows what you look like when you get old. It's been 18 long years, bro. I sometimes wonder how on Earth you could leave me here. But, I know you are in a far better place....playing cards with people who know how to play euchre...and pitch.
Like I always told you...always count on your partner to get at least one.

It's your 63rd birthday. 18 years too late.

Goodbye Again

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on." -- Steve Jobs

Friday, September 30, 2011

Things Goin On'

Lynyrd Skynyrd 1973 (I'm trying to name blog posts after songs).

I have a very good friend who has a completely different take on everything. He is interesting, witty and he will challenge you to think. We usually discuss our "theories" in the sauna. Sometimes we'll get talking so much that the next thing we know, we're almost passed out. We had a very interesting discussion about religion the other day and his postulation was this...

We're a very young planet,comparatively. Our sun is a "new" sun, not an old one. So, if there is indeed a planet out there who has evolved way past us, they have the answers we've been seeking. Everything we know is wrong, starting with the theory of relativity. We can go faster than the speed of light, other "species" have done it and have visited us in the past.

He thinks that we are one big experiment. When this planet was much more sparsely populated, a being from another world was put here to teach people how to live their lives. His name was Jesus. He came with the message of peace and love and taking care of each other. He was proven to have created miracles just to show the world that he was the one to follow.

Yes, he said, the words of the bible are true.

The experiment went like this...we'll put this being on this very young planet and see how many people will follow him and his word.  We'll set him up where he has a physical presence but he also knew that in order for the Earth to follow him, he must show that there is a place where there is everlasting life and that for the people on this earth, you must be like he was in deed and actions. 

He died, went "home" and returned to spread the word that, indeed, there is such a place in the sky. Those who do believe and live their lives as he taught them will, when they die, have their spirit transported to this far off planet ("heaven"), and those who don't...won't.

We also discussed "Pascal's Wager". This was put forth by the mathematician in the middle ages who threw something like this out for people to think about....while the presence of God has not been proven, if indeed, there is a God, I couldn't imagine facing him and saying..."I didn't believe in you."

So, whether or not you believe in God is your opinion, I, for one, will not take that chance.

Now, about the first part, I can't totally discount him. If Jesus did come from a far and away more developed civilization to come here and try and save the world, that's not too far off from his message. Is heaven another dimension that we know nothing about? It hasn't been proven. But, then again, we're disproving just about everything we know now.

We know so little. We don't know 1% of what we don't know. I know that I'll live my life believing in God and his Son.

I look forward to the day I can look the Father in his eyes and say, "through everything that's happened to me on this Earth, I never lost my faith in you."

I'll probably puff my chest out a bit, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


..is a song by Paul McCartney on his "Tug of War" release, so the record is still intact.

Every once in a while, I'll go to http://www.allaccess.com/ website which is for radio people. I'll take a look at the job postings and wonder... Today, I saw a posting for a General manager in Palm Springs CA. I then went to mapquest and looked at where it was and then daydreamed about a place far away....

I'm needed here. Maybe this is what God put me here for.
At this time, I'm not sure I have any answers for anything. And time goes by slowly but surely. Tuesday is the day.

I can tell you right now that even without all of this, October sucks.

My dad, mother, brother and mother in law have all died in October.

I wish I could sleep for a month. Who am I kidding, I just wish I could sleep.

Maybe this time, the law of averages catches up with me and October is a good month? Not feeling it.

If you are reading this blog and are a believer...I can use all the help I can get.

"Lost and lonely child..."

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do." Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


What the hell was that over the three day weekend?

You guys sounded great. The "Now That's What I Call KSHE" had me listening  a lot this weekend.

So, what happened?

You're back today playing the same shitty 500 songs over and over again. Why did you do that this past weekend where there was NO playlist? To show your audience you could? What are they saying now? I think you guys took a classic dump on your fans this morning when you flipped the station back to Bob and Tom and the same 500 songs. What you've told your listeners is "screw you".

You had them program the station all weekend and now it sounds considerably different today. "Ha Ha, we have all of these songs, but you don't get to hear them...suckers. We'll only play them when we have a special weekend." And now you guys wonder why no one is listening.

KSHE, you have a thousand times as many listeners as I do and it's nice to see that you have come around to my way of thinking when it comes to programming a station that wants to  make a splash on the weekend. But, I would NEVER do that to my listeners.

I would never tell them to program the station and then in another move tell them that their music isn't good enough and our consultants know more than you, the faithful KSHE 40 year listener. We're back to the songs you've told us you're tired of cause very few of them made it on the air this weekend.

A once proud heritage radio station has to resort to tricks to get their PPM meters glowing.

If I was a faithful listener, I would wonder what message they are sending. Hey! We looooove you listeners and will give you a chnce to play whatever you want. But, on Tuesday, we were just kidding.

Nice to see that you guys are acknowledging and are aware of planetradio. I never thought you guys would be reacting to me and my little tiny media outfit. But, planetradio broadcasts 24/7 the songs that you haven't heard in awhile. In fact, KSHE sounded just like us over the weekend except for two things. I didn't have to play 14-15 minutes of commercials every hour. And my playlist today is the same one that was played yesterday and tomorrow and so on. I had 126 people listening on Saturday which, in itself is a drop in the bucket, but planet radio listeners came from somewhere.

And people wonder why I left.

I remember when The Rock! came on. I said something to Rick Balis about The Rock! while I was at KSHE and his comment was .."no one can hear this station and the songs they play don't test well. No one wants to hear these dead songs."

How did that work out for ya Rick? We handed you your ass until finally, after almost two years, you brought in a consultant that said..."just play the same stuff they do and you'll beat them." All of a sudden you started playing "those songs that no one wanted to hear." And your signal beat ours. So, now, that's twice, guys.

Twice I've been right while you flounder in your mediocrity.

Oh, and by the way, I was flipping the dial today and found that you even play the same songs as KHITS. Where's the variety? Two stations playing the same 500 song playlist?

Rick Balis (program director at KSHE forever)was quoted in the June issue of St. Louis Magazine as saying this..."we have a sophisticated music program that we spend an inordinate amount of time setting up...there are lots of types of songs we don't want to play too close together...female vocalists...jocks aren't computers and that's why we have computers..." And that's one of the reasons you aren't the force that you once were. My comment in that magazine about the current offerings in local classic rock radio..."tragic".

To this day, when I meet someone and I tell them who I am, invariably they will say,.."aren't you the guy..." and I'll say yes, that was me. And usually the next thing out of their mouths is ..."what happened to them?"

Stuff like taking their listeners for granted maybe?

Monday, August 08, 2011

On The Road Again

Travels and trevails take me on the road again this week. Heading to Rogers, AR to make a huge presentation to a very important regional client. With a stop in Springfield, it's a down home trip. From Rogers to Dalton Georgia to see an old student get married. Dang, do I feel old. Love the opportunity to hit the blue highways and drive my troubles away.
P90x is evil. Brutal. Sadistic. Cruel. But, now after about 6 weeks in, I've lost three inches in the waist and have gained three inches on my arms. Yikes. Down 16 pounds and sore in places I have never been sore before. It almost feels like I'm sore under the muscles. Since it's all about the core muscle group, I'm not surprised. Lighter and faster on the basketball court and now, if I can get back into shape, I'll be a happy boy.
Saw Collective Soul at the Franklin County Fair on Friday night. To let you know where I was, there's a flagpole that displays the Aemerican flag. There was a cross on top of that flagpole. Rural America, baby. Had a 16 kid step in and play the lead guitarists part. What a very fine band. Collective Soul came 20 years too late. If they had been around in the 70s, they would have been HUGE. But, they were between the generations when they came out in 1993.
Here is an email I received in my in box at work.

Dear “Fan”, I would like for you to know that of all the tributes to Dan that we have read; and there have been many, yours was very close to being the most moving and comforting to my family and me. Thank you for your article.
Incidentally, my son, David thinks he remembers you from an earlier time in your career. This is what he wrote:
“Wow!! I wonder if that is the same Randy Raley who is the radio personality from KSHE 94.7 and other stations in St. Louis??? I spent a better part of my St. Louis years listening to that guy. Maybe he retired and settled in Farmington?”
Milton Peek (Dan's dad)

RETIRED AND SETTLED? He does not know me well. I'll never be able to retire and I'm far from being settled. But after sending my last tuition check last semester, I'm looking at waterfront properties in this area. Dad's time.  Woo Hoo!

Miss ya Boo

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lady Jane

Boy, how do I do this? How do I put down in words the love, goodliness (which is not a word, but it should be), kindness and reverence one person can have? Are there words?

Word comes from my cousin that my Aunt Jane is off to meet her maker very soon and also to hold the hand of her beloved Martin. She's missed him desperately for the last 13 years.

My Aunt Jane burst into our lives in 1969 when my uncle Martin lost his first wife, Bette, who was my father's sister. I hated that woman. Profane, mean, nasty, smoked and drank and cussed with the men. I so totally despised her that the disgust toward her almost negated the love I had for uncle Martin.

Uncle Martin was Dean Martin.

Good looking, dark, wavy hair, smoked and drank and probably had an affair with my mother. We're pretty sure something happened in 1965 to split up my mom and dad and signs from myself and others in the family think it happened with Martin. I couldn't blame either of them actually, their lives must have been pretty empty.

He never gave it up. Ever.

Before Bette died, she had Jane's number in a Bible or something. After Bette's passing, Martin and Jane got together and she transformed him from a smoking, drinking party guy to a down to Earth religious man. He found Christ through her.

One life saved.

She came with Martin to the farm in Ava to meet our part of the family. It was 1969 and she could not have made a better impression on this young man. Being 13, she was exactly what the doctor ordered for Martin. I had never ever seen him so calm and cool. She was a cinch.

My mother was an alcoholic throughout my life and there were times she was just not there. Aunt Jane always was. She never had kids, which is a shame. But she knew what to say to me. Whether it was telling me I was lazy or slapping me on the back for a job well done. Don't ask Jane a question you couldn't handle the answer to. She told you the truth as she saw it which was usually the way it was.

When I moved away from the Quad Cities in 1979, one of the toughest to leave was Martin and Jane. I'll never forget what she said to me..."what are you crying for? Don't you understand this is what you've been waiting for all your life. Don't let the enormity of the situation cloud your common sense, son. Go. Don't look back. We'll be here when you get back. Let me know how it is."


She was my mother when my mother couldn't handle the job.
When my dear mother died, I was pretty emotional about it and she said, "I hope you're crying for how much you're going to miss her. Don't cry for her, for she is about to be set free from her chains and demons and for the first time know no pain."


As they got older they took pride in working in the ravine behind their house. That ravine was so full of flowers, shrubs, and gardening that the strongest among us couldn't handle, but there was Martin and Jane, every day out in the hot sun, working all day. "Working keeps you young." A  favorite saying of hers.
Of course as the years rolled on, Martin and Jane slowed down and she lost her beloved Martin at the age of 84 in 1998.

Devastation isn't a powerful enough word.

Looking back, her world was over at that time. Being away, I didn't get a chance to see her as much as I'd like. I regret that now. Jane kept treading water, she kept her life together as well as she could, but after having to quit driving at 86, she went downhill slowly but surely. The family entered her into an assisted living facility not long after.

Everytime I got that way, I went to see her, she always knew me, but sometimes it took a bit. Then her eyes would get big and she'd say "Randy" and smile. I'll never forget the look.

One day, about three years ago, I went to see her and she was feeling exceptionally well. "I'd like to go for a ride." she said. "Where to?" I asked. "My youth", she replied. So, we got into my car and went to the neighborhood where she lived as a young girl. It was right on the Moline Rock Island border. She pointed out all of the local landmarks, where she walked to school, where she stood waiting for the bus, etc. "My father built that house...and that garage...and that's the house I grew up in." Her eyes filled with tears as we drove around the neighborhood over and over. "That's the house I grew up in...and my dad built that..." What a blessed afternoon I spent with her. I knew more about her in three hours than I did in the previous 40 years.

She moved to a home in Rockford to be closer to her family and I saw her a couple of times. The first time, about a year ago, she was eating, perked up and said "Randy" with THAT look. We had a nice chat. I went up there about two months ago to see her. She was sitting in a wheel chair in the middle of the hallway, head in hand. My cousin Chuck was with me. We walked up to her and she didn't recognize either one of us. "I'll get the job done, but I'm slow, you know. I'll get it done, but it'll be a while. I don't like mistakes, so I'm real slow and careful. I can do the job, I really can, but it takes me awhile to do it. I like to make sure the job is done right, so I'm slow..." And on and on.

I'm hoping that the end comes quickly and peacefully. She needs to see her Martin. She needs to go home.

I love you so much Lady Jane. You shined a bright light into my life and you've helped save my life on more occasions than you know.

That's two lives saved.

"Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force."

Lady Jane passed this morning, 8/11/11
God has recruited another angel.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dan Peek

I spent part of the morning doing something I don’t think I have ever done before. I paid respect to someone I did not know. Well, I guess I knew part of him. He seemed to know me, anyway, as a 16 year old pimple faced young man whose face was horribly adorned by glasses and braces. He actually seemed to express parts of my awkward adolescent life and the things I was feeling at that time. He expressed it so magnificently through his music.

I am the type of person who isn’t big on dates but if you were to ever do a soundtrack to my life, I could tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing by the song that was playing on the radio at the time. And at the time I was listening to the radio a lot, he caught my ear.

The first time I heard him, it was a song about horses and deserts and such and since I was in a very singer/songwriter stage in my life, I immediately liked the song even though the words were very weird. “…in the desert you can remember your name..”

Ok, then.

But it was the next hit song of theirs that really grabbed my attention. It went like this…”and now you're gone, I guess I'll carry on, and make the best of what you've left to me.” But wait, how did he know that he hit an emotional grand slam home run with a lonely teenager who’s girlfriend just broke up with him in, of all places, East Moline, Illinois? How did he know how I felt?

And thus became my love affair with Dan Peek’s music. I have been in Farmington almost two years and I had no idea he lived here. I don’t know what I would have done if I had known, I don’t think I would have walked up to his house and bothered him to say thanks, but just knowing some one who has affected my life so much lived in the same community just blew my mind.

It seemed that Dan wrote for the disenfranchised, the ones who weren’t the most popular kids in school and his message was always, don’t worry, it’ll all work out. I wonder how he knew that. Because, somehow through the years of this pot marked, scarred life, it did. Like all great composers and songwriters, he had a gift to get below the surface and make a listener feel that Dan knew them and what they were going through.

“This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by. Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup and hide that highway in the sky.” There he goes again.

Dan has a place in the soundtrack of my life when music meant so much to me. His words and music reflect the feelings and emotions of a generation that grew up hanging on every word he and his band mates wrote. His spiritual, uplifting message cleverly hidden in the tapestry of his songs maybe, just maybe, saved a life or two by telling us, hey…”oz didn’t give anything to the tin man, that he didn’t already have.”

His music lives on through youtube and other outlets, but to my generation, we’ll remember him as a man who gave up the rock star life for his faith. We’ll remember him for being a part of our lives because in so many ways, whenever he was in our bedrooms with the headphones on and wherever we heard his music, we thought of him as a friend. And we heard his music a lot.

I got it, Dan, and thanks. It was my pleasure to stand in a room full of strangers and just say thanks. I introduced myself to your family as “just a fan”. I’m sorry I never got the chance to say that to you while you were alive.

If I had only known.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sweet Music

On this post, I give you song number two of the trinity.

The three (and a half) songs (records) that blew my mind in that 11th  musically magical but emotionally difficult year. I lived in a closet with three other people. This house, (if it had 800 square feet we were lucky), was so small I actually for awhile had to share a bedroom with my father. Then I moved into a closet into bunk beds with my sister. Shit. At least I got the top bunk. The house was so small, I could hear the TV from my bedroom like it was up against my ear. I could also hear beer after beer being opened by my mom, (when she wasn't working).

We lived there from mid 66 to late 67 when we moved back to the farm. My only solaces were basketball and the radio, which exposed me to music. On a post about two down, I talked about the fall of 66 and the wonderful sound of the song "Cherish" and what it meant to my brother and myself, having fallen in love with the same song being some thousands of miles away from each other. I was a music geek who would chart the songs every Thursday night and cry foul when my song failed to move up the charts. At twelve.

One day in early November I think it was, my mother went "visiting" which she did frequently. I miss that. Going over to someone's house just to chat, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. My mother "visited" with her mother a great deal. It was always an interesting dynamic to get a stubborn, tough mother daughter combo together in the same room. Add alcohol. Or, she would go "visiting" to a friend and, of course, my mother never liked baby sitters, so she'd drag us kids with her and back sometimes just in time to do homework and watch Carol Burnett tell us good night.

It was during one of these visits when I heard it the first time.
That sound.
See, the Beach Boys were big in my house. My brother was 8 years older to me and he was into girls, cars and music. So, vicariously and probably prematurely, so was I. The Beach Boys were The Beatles before The Beatles.
We were riding back home from one of the "visits" and the DJ said it was the new song from the Beach Boys. It was called "Good Vibrations" and from the very first moment of the song, I went on a musical acid trip from which I never returned. We reached home before the song was over and I begged my mom to keep the radio on, just for a second. This song sounded like nothing else on this planet, let alone another one. What a roller coaster...up, down, left, right, up, back, down, forward, stop, start. Whoa, what was THAT!? Holy cow. When it was over, that was as close to self gratification this 12 year ever got.

I heard it on a Thursday. On the following Saturday,  I rode my bike to the record store (about 3 miles away) and they didn't have it yet. Shit. Never fear, the radio was playing it and that song glued my ear to my transistor for the next six weeks. When I finally did get the 45, I played it over and over and over until my dad would bang on the door.

This song opened my ears to listen to new and different things, to seek out good music and to be ready for what the Beatles were getting ready to do and King Crimson in about three years.  It made me realize the value of good production and quality sound. Surprisingly though, I don't think I've ever heard the song in stereo.

To this very day, after hearing it, I feel like I'm a kid and I'm hearing for the first time. There are but a handful of songs I can say that about. "Good Vibrations" is about number two or three on that list. I guess it was about this time that Brian Wilson flipped out. Because it was his song and he's nowhere on this video.

So, who influenced who? I hear a lot of Beatles in this song, especially snippets of different songs put together. McCartney's biggest hits "Uncle Albert", "Band On The Run" are songs that contain snippets of other songs in them. Maybe he learned that from this. I think these guys propelled and compelled the Beatles to be better and this song was serious shit.

This is song number two in the trinity of "musical mileposts" that happened to me in 5th grade. The third part came out in March of the following year. There were two sides to the 45 and they both were mind altering blows that set me on my musical merry way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Questions of My Childhood

"Well I walk the road of life among the strong, among the weak
And I ask them for the shortcut to the answers that I seek
But it seems nobody understands what is and what will be
Oh, the questions of my childhood weave a web of mystery..."      Kansas    1976

Lillian Webster Raley and young Guy 1908

Hard to believe my father would be 105 this year. I've decided to post a few things this father's day to rid myself of the stink I've put on him. I don't think my father liked kids much. The impression I get when I talk to my older brother (who is in his 80s) is that dad didn't like him much either. I know one thing, I didn't know him. At all.

I know for a fact however, how much my father loved the women of his sons. He adored my brothers wives and mine, too. I remember when I first decided to leave the factory and follow my dream to be a "DeeJay". It was something that my father couldn't understand. Follow your dream? I think my dad in his early life did what his dad told him to do. A lot. He expected the same in return and when he got me the job at the factory, I think he thought it was going to be a forever deal. But, I wanted to be on the radio and he was absolutely furious and when my wife and I split, I swear to God, he sided with her. "You're an idiot to walk away from this job. You could be retired in 30 years." I could also hate my fucking life for thirty years, too. "DJ?" "DJ?" "Stupid pipe dream" he said.

One day, somewhere around 1930, in the middle of the depression, my dad took off from Chicago to LA to "find himself" as my brother told me. He left behind a family(a wife and two kids) in Chicago. He never went back to them. My older brother, who I visited in Spokane a few years ago said his mom told him my dad left for Arizona because of his "allergies". My father was allergic to poison ivy and that was it. When I went out to visit my brother Adam, (who as a priest fell in love with a nun and they both received personal dispensation from the Pope), his first remark to me was, "I hope you're not here to learn about dad, because I didn't know him, either". Great.
My father 1937

As the story goes, my father was, according to who you talk to, a private detective in LA. I never figured my father for that kind of work, but I hear he was pretty good at it. He was also, in his spare time, one hell of a prize fighter in the circuit out there.
I found out how good he was when I was 17 and received one of the worst beat downs of my life over me working and not paying rent at the house. "You make enough money, you can start paying rent." "Bullshit" or something like that I said. I told him that I've been wanting to take him out for a long time but I'd feel bad about beating an old man. There wasn't much left after that. My mom said he hit me twice. I don't remember much after the first one. He caught me dead square on the jaw and that was it. I left home the next day, over the objections and the tears of my mother.

My father was one hell of a handyman. There wasn't much he couldn't fix. Each time we moved into a house, the routine was the same, he'd tear it down and build it back up from the inside to the outside WHILE we lived in the house. Then, he'd sell it and we'd move again. I wish he had the patience to have taught this inquisitive young boy how and what he did. He would just shoo me away.

My father and mother never showed any kind of affection. I never saw them kiss each other and never can remember them holding hands or dancing or...anything like that. The old guy was 50 when I was born and 53 when my sister arrived. Needless to say, we had very little in common. I think he deliberately chose the second shift because it kept him away from us. He never attended a sporting event that his kids were in, never went to a play, never showed much of an interest in anything that concerned his kids. I remember one little league game where I caused the winning run to score. I was crying about it when I got home and his response was ..."well, quit then, shit." So, I did. He never pushed me to be good in school, never inquired about my grades. I never got it.

Randy. William Guy sr, William Guy jr. 1958
I wonder if having kids so late in life caused him to be disinterested or what. I know for a fact that my mom cheated on him. We were cruising along one day and then, out of the blue, we move 500 miles away to a farm. And stay there. Something happened and my theory is this. My father got to an age where he couldn't perform. My mother, being 21 years younger than him, is not going to go the rest of her life without sex. She was a very sexual woman and even as a kid, I could sense that. I also think it was with a family member (by marriage) and my dad found out. So, we were sent away, which seemed to be the way my dad dealt with stuff. Just leave.

William sr, Randy, William jr 12 years later
The farm was myself, my sister, my mother, grandfather and grandmother. Four miles east of Ava, Mo off county road FF. My older brother was there for a short time, became small town restless and bored and got caught breaking and entering into the drug store in town. That's one early Saturday morning I'd like to forget. What to do? Dad's 500 miles away, so they make a plea deal where my brother went into the Army. Shit. Great. It's only friggin 1966. Viet Nam was getting to be a pretty popular name back then.
After three years where I become completely detached from everyone and learn to be alone, we moved to a 800 square foot house on Campbell's Island and while all four of us are there, he decided to remodel the whole thing. By himself. He always did that. He sold the house and we moved back to the farm, this time with him. Not long after he moved to the farm, he remolded the whole thing again, with us inside. He nearly died from a heart attack in 1970. With Springfield having the closest hospital 60 miles away, we decided to move back to East Moline. My father took it easy from that point on, only remodeling part of this new house on Oaklwan Ave.

I, for the most part, am glad I spent a great deal of time on a farm, it taught me that work goes on day after day, no matter the weather, no matter the circumstances. The basic principles of hard work were taught to me during that time.

By all accounts, my father was an honorable man, paid his bills on time, had great, long lasting friendships with people from the shop and the bowling league we went to every Sunday night. My dad worked hard, too.

He went to work every day, sick or well, and did the same job every night for 30 years at International Harvester in East Moline. My father's family hated my mother,too. She was a "floozy". She lacked the proper attributes for being a "lady". She did, however get along with my fathers mother, who, in her day was a stunning woman. Granny did not come from wealth but married into it. She could see the tough, scrappy person in my mother and maybe recognized her as being of a familiar ilk.  I think my mom and my dad's mom were tough, stubborn southern broads who took no shit from anyone. I only remember her as being very old. She died in 1967 at the age of 88.

I also think my grandfather was extremely hard on my dad. I think grandpa (who died in 1953 of a heart at the age of 65) was a stern, serious man. There was very little humor in that household as each of my dad's siblings were dry as toast, except his sister,w ho was one of the most hateful, profane woman I have ever known. She showed outward disgust for us kids. She was a smoking, drinking, swearing almost evil person who was married to the person rumored to have been with my mom. Hell, I don't blame him. I hated Aunt Bette and dad's brothers were...old.

My father upper left. He was the short one. Damn.
My dad grew up on a hemp farm in central Kentucky. They grew, harvested and processed hemp for the most part on their own farm. I drove past the house one day when I was a kid and a had just learned what the word mansion meant. I would today say plantation. A very huge house with servants. There is a picture of my dad with a young black child. Dad called him Seymour.  My dad came from the "monied" part of Hodginsville KY.

It seems all was well in the Raley house until one day, when my dad was in Calfornia, the US Government outlawed hemp. Thank God they saved their money, but really, it pretty  much devastated the whole family and certainly cut into any (none) dollars that may have made it down this far on the genealogy tree. He immediately came back from California and went work to support the family. Apparently, my dad and his dad had a severe falling out also and were never close again.

 My dad was a fair man although his definition of fair is still being debated. He had an underlying feeling that us kids were pretty much unable to be much. I think we were in the way. He didn't have much patience for the nuances of everyday fatherhood. He didn't understand the passion and love I had for a)radio and b)basketball, even though he had to have applied the same principles in boxing. He forced me to quit going to radio school when I was sixteen because he thought there were better ways to spend my money. I was even paying for it. I worked steadily and regularly through high school with sometimes three jobs going on at once. I got that from him. I've always worked hard and have his work ethic.

I never ever saw him look at my mother the way a husband should look. I never saw them go out to dinner. I never saw them do something fun together. I never saw them laugh. I never saw them connect. I never heard him tell her he loved her.

One thing my father gave me was toughness. I have walked through some of the more dangerous, more terrifying mine fields this life has to offer. I've been sick, I've lost everything and gained it back, I've broken hearts and had mine broken. I've lost just about everyone in my family. And I'm still here. So, while my father never really showed much emotion (the only two times I saw him cry was when he hugged his son goodbye on his way to Viet Nam the first time and when his 15 years old daughter told him she was pregnant), he seemed to have answers to everything. He could figure out a way to get something done and if thst didn't work, he woudl have a plan B set up.

One summer day as my dad was unloading plywood from his truck, he and my also ex-boxer uncle got into an altercation. My uncle, being 20 years his junior, was mouthing off and me being 13, didn't have much of a chance to do anything if this escalated. Bang! My uncle sucker punched the old man (he was 65 then) and down he went. As my uncle walked away, my dad grabbed his ankle, tripped him, and proceeded to beat the absolute hell out of him. And then just walked away. That was impressive.

My father, in the normal sense sucked as a father. But as a teacher, I learned toughness, how to be cool and calm under pressure, how to work hard and to always conduct yourself with a modicum of class and decency. Finally, one of the first I learned from him was what NOT to do when dealing with my kids. I love you is spoken freely and there's no question how much I love them. All three have graduated from college, something that wasn't important to my father so he never thought it would be important to me. I have been there to help pick up the pieces when they fall. But, like my father, I've allowed them to fail. So much I've had to unlearn, and so much I've carried from him that lies just below the surface.

He's given me my DNA and as I get older, he appears to me more and more when I look into the mirror. Physically, I'm becoming him. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually, he's not the man I am, but ironically, I wouldn't be this way without the not normal childhood I went through.

Funny thing about the radio deal. After it was all said and done and the pieces of my life were being picked up after having my wife leave me for choosing a radio career, my dad mellowed. After doing a shift on one of my very first radio jobs, I came over after and found him on the back porch with my country station on. That was odd, he didn't care for that kind of music. He was reading the paper and he said from behind it.."was that you on earlier today?" "Yes, that was me". At the time, I needed a "radio" name, so I called myself Randy Lee. "What's this Randy Lee shit? You ain't good enough to be known as my boy?" That was as close as I would ever get to getting a compliment from him and he seemed to be more at ease with it from then on.

There wasn't much of a "then on" as not too long in the future, he came into the extra bedroom while I was taking a nap, kicked the bed and said "get up, I'm having chest pains". Shit. It was 30 minutes to the hospital, we made it in 17. Maybe the ride to the hospital killed him, but he never came home. He died about two weeks later, after waiting for one of his kids to get to the hospital. For a person who didn't seem to care much about kids, we all knew he waited for Carole to get there before he said his goodbye.

Maybe the last picture taken of him. All but two of these people are dead.
While yes, he was a very cold person who really never said or did much, he was a man of great character and when my father gave you is word, it was done. While growing up was incredibly uneven and mostly disappointing time, the only thing I can do is filter out the bad stuff and keep the good. And while the bad was more than the good, hanging on to the good has blessed me with having walked through the minefield with three. 
Jess is so tough and is such a great mother. She has faced the hardship of raising on infant while finishing college by herself. Her day is yet to come. Paul has the mental discipline to do anything, as fisrt diagnosed by his refusal to put the Nintendo game down until the enemy was destoyed. He's now building and designing satellites for the Defense Department. Emily has such an old kind soul but his her grandmothers "fuck you" attitude. When she finds here niche, she'll rule at it.

This exercise will hopefully eject the bad juju I have had for my father for years. Couple his aloofness and unemotion with my mother's alcoholism, and it was a very lonely place to be. But, I made it. Thanks, Dad.

And what I wouldn't give right now, this instant to say hello to you and ask you how I'm doing.
I'd only need a heartbeat to know.

Are you proud of me?

The kids?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goin' to California

With apologies to Led Zeppelin.
It has been a whirlwind of activity of late and a mixture of emotions and observations.
Saturday was graduation day. The third of my three children has now finished college and what a sprint to the finish line. It was the worst semester of her life with everything that went on. Perseverence pays as she finished as a member of the dean's list. Woot. That also means dad wrote last tuition payment this semester, too. What started as a failed mission to Dayton and a frantic phone call to come get her ended with a joyous, triumphant in the Mabee gym on the campus of Fontbonne College. I know how hard she worked and I'm incredibly proud. Incredibly. I did manage to hold it together on Saturday over the joy of knowing she's done with that part of her life. Saturday night was spent at Hacienda as it all came around in the "Circle Game". The girl has been going to Hacienda in utero and was joined by her lifetime friends to celebrate. Her order? Same as always. Always.

ali, the girl, kristen, dana
Sunday morning brings panic at the disco as we arrive early to an absolutely packed Terminal 2 at Lambert. Lines everywhere. Thank God we had the ability to print our boarding passes in advance. It saved us countless minutes. The flight to LAX was uneventful and the drive to the boy's house was familiar. At 4pm, we arrived at our getaway on Hermosa Beach. We were here last year in March, and while I would love to live here, I sometimes get the feeling I'm in a foreign country. It must be the beach. My past times here are spent walking up and down the beach figuring out which houses I'm going to buy when I win the lottery. I will post a picture of the winner tomorrow. A picture of the neighbors house. He's about 45, she's gorgeous and they have an old yellow lab. Not that I was looking or anything
the neighbors

The Green Store and The Bottle, a fine Italian restaurant

The sign board at Martha's mmmmm...Martha's
Martha's, a Hermosa tradition.
The front of our place for a week
the view out the patio door

Emily is here with her friend Kristen. These two are the original, meeting at age 3. Ali came a short time later and Dana maybe ten years later. So far, so good. Kristen's never been here, the girl's been here 4 times now. I think she likes it here but her only exposure has been Hermosa Beach, which would make anyone want to move here. Me included :) Last night was Italian night at Mama D's with the boy. He is the reason we are here as he gets commissioned as a captain in the USAF on Thursday. I had a great walk of about 2 1/2 hours today. it can be warm and chilly within seconds of each other on the beach. Tonight, it's smuggled turkey sandwiches as we hang in the abode, drink copious amounts of alcohol and make many trips to the mightiest ocearn of them all, one of the few things anymore than can fill me with awe in it's vastness. I feel this way on cruises when I am out in the middle of the ocean with NOTHING in sight. I'll be sure to post then.

We are shocked to hear about what happened in Joplin. I came thisclose to taking a job there. I've been through there many times. So many tornadoes...what's going on? Always connected to reality I guess. It's 3pm here,which means it's 5 pm in St. Louis, time for a fruity libation. Lots of limes, I'm sure.

the beach front at hermosa

one of my top five favorite beach houses. think of the view here

love the stately archtecture.

nice block

Ahhh, margaritas and the beach. They go together so well. The previous pictures are shots of houses along the strand. Just imagine the view from your place. Some of these homes are unthinkable and unimaginable to me. If I ever win the lottery, one of these babies would be mine.

 A pelican is not necessarily news in Los Angeles but I don't get to see one everyday. One the building right across from us
 Out by himself this morning, it wasn't really warm. Off for a nice bike ride.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Songs of Our Youth

For the first few years of my life, my mother and older brother were the foundation of things that would ultimately decide who I was. When it came to things like attitude, eating, sports, spirituality, communication and other things like music.

I lived in a house filled with music. My mother LOVED country music and had a great regard for big band music. She had a lovely singing voice and would routinely sing me to sleep. "Pardon me boys, it's that the Chattanooga Choo Choo...track 29?" "See the pyramids along the Nile...watch the sun rise on a tropic isle...but just remember, darling, all the while...you belong to me." Those were the lullabies of my childhood and oh how it formed my psyche. Music really did soothe this savage beast.

My father never really showed an interest at really anything artsy. He never went to  the movies or do I remember him listening to music. In the car, he would get frustrated and reach over to the knob and turn down that "awful crap" I listened to. At his advanced age, I'm sure my Blue Oyster Cult sounded like German jets and their blitzkrieg of London.

My brother, on the other hand was all about Buddy Holly (he wore glasses), Bobby Darin, the Four Seasons, eventually the Beach Boys, and then the holy grail of The Beatles. He was in the room THAT night in 1964.

I'm not sure what the chemical reaction to music is inside your brain.

What causes us to really like certain things and dismiss what the critics like or hate? What chemical reaction is it when the guitar solo from Blue Oyster Cult's "Then Came the Last Days of May" makes the hair on your neck stand out? Or, embracing songs that no one has ever heard? Potliquor, Love Sculpture, The Pousette Dart Band, Blondel and Wishbone Ash have made such great contributions to my musical journey but any "casual fan" of music would scratch their heads at such artists. Having an older cousin who was a junkie helped turn me on to many of those artists listed and others, but I think it was the fact that I grew up appreciating what music can do.

My mother would put on the song "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson and cry. Which, in turn, would make me cry. ""You'll understand someday." I do. I really do. I can tear up at Dan Fogelberg in a heartbeat.

In the fall of 1966, I was ten, I lived on "Campbell's Island" an island that was on the wrong side of the tracks past the poor section of East Moline into an even poorer part of town surrounded by the Mississippi. It was called "Cannibal's Island" by my school mates. I was going to a school that ended up closing down. McKinley grade school never won a game in football or basketball the two years I went there and there was usually a fight or two just about every day. The closest we ever got was losing by 3 points in basketball. My brother was off to the service and I was stuck. Stuck living a house that was built for one person instead of the four that were living there. I couldn't breathe. My room was a closet.I excelled in basketball and football, but there was really no one else on the team that really much cared. It was not an easy place to grow up. The older neighborhood boys were tough and mean. They would beat you for looking at them wrong and then beat you again for fighting back. There were always treasures to find on the Island, but our Saturdays were usually spent riding bikes over God's great Earth or in the winter, playing football in the snow, or rain, or whatever. I just couldn't stay in that claustrophobic house for a long period of time.I had to get out and usually the river was my destination.

My solace, as it has been frequently in my life was the music and the guys on the radio. KSTT was the AM top 40 champion of the Quad Cities. While WQUA had a few good songs, they're music was bit sleepy, so KSTT was the station that played all the its, all the songs that mattered. In was in this element and this school year that the tri-fecta of songs that shaped my musical taste were released. In that year of school, there were three...OK, four recordings that launched my passion for music and what it could do to a person's musical standards.

The first song I heard not too long after I started school that year because the song reminds me of a girl I was interested in as the school year began. I was in my room doing my homework when the DJ announced a new song taking the country by storm by the Association. I liked them. They had "Along Comes Mary" and "Windy" as a part of their repertoire. But this song was absolute love at first listen.

"Cherish" was released in September of 1966 and it zoomed up the charts. I know it did, because a part of my Thursday night routine was to chart each song as the new "surveys" were debuted on the radio that night of every week. In between figuring out my English or Math homework, I would chart each song as it was kept by KSTT. "Cherish" entered the charts at 32 of 40 or something like that. It went to 14, 4 and number one faster than just about ANY other song I had tracked.

There was something about this song that got me from a guttural perspective. The harmonies, the musical prgression, the bells, the words, the structure, the dynamics and passion of pining for another person. The key change right in the middle that makes you know he's getting serious and I'd better listen now. Then in the last verse they're all in, it's serious and they are all declaring their love for someone. Golden. And at the age of ten, a wonder. I "felt" this song and couldn't wait for it to come on the radio again and again. I would reach my parent's limit whenever that song came on as I would sing it at the top of my lungs. And, I still do.

It was the first of three "epiphany songs" to come out that school year for me. I'll write about the other two in a very short time.

The Association didn't last much longer. I thought their music was done with great style and class. When my brother returned from Vietnam, he brought us a brand new technology called a "cassette tape". One of the cassettes had "Cherish' on it.

He later told me his passionate love for that one song and how he would get "lost" in the music in Vietnam. That one song was his lifeline home and he could never figure out why.  Two brothers, worlds away and eight years apart absolutely loving that one song. Music is genetic, maybe? From the guy who turned me on to "Telstar" by The Tornadoes and "Have I The Right" by The Honeycombs, it was high praise indeed. How nice we both felt the same way about it.

my brother and me  just about that time

Song number two of the "trinity" was released in October, just about the time the love for "Cherish" was cooling off. This song literally set my world on fire.

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