Happy birthday

You may may noticed that music creeps into this bike blog on a regular basis. Usually it is squeezed into some other topic.

This time it doesn’t fit with the next scheduled post, so Charlie McCoy gets his own. Charlie McCoy is one of the greatest harmonica players out there and you have probably never heard of him. He mostly works as a sideman in the country and western genre but I’d put him up there with the blues greats.

One day my roommate came home with an album by this guy I never heard of. We played it constantly.

We think of this as a fiddle tune, but the harmonica was made for railroad songs.
Jazz standards, anyone? (Written by Hoagy Carmichael, best known for Ray Charles’ rendition.)
Gospel
Yes, he plays the blues and he pays his dues to one of the greats.
How about The Beatles?
One of his earliest recordings, with Roy Orbison

Charlie McCoy was born in West Virginia on March 28, 1941. He has been active as a Nashville session player and is one of those people you have heard many times without knowing it, having played on up to 400 sessions per year at the height of his career. He also plays guitar, bass, trumpet, and drums in addition to his better-known work on harp. He sings now and then. He played guitar on Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”. He was the bassist on all of Dylan’s album “John Wesley Harding”. He was probably best known as Musical Director for the TV show “Hee-Haw”, source of the first clip here. For all of its corn, it had some amazing music. He has also worked with Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ringo Starr, Steve Miller, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, JJ Cale, Al Kooper, and Paul Simon, among many others.

Happy birthday, Charlie…and thanks to My Old Pal Ovaltine for introducing me to his music some 50 years ago.

Contrary to the proverb that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”, this year March came in like a lamb with a temperature of 49 degrees F (9.4 C) and is going out like a lion with a temperature of 26 (-3.3 C) as I write this on 3/28 and a forecast for snow on 3/31.

You say it’s your birthday

Is there any significance to sharing birthdays? Astrologers would say yes. If you share your birthday with someone you admire, you might be tempted to say yes in hopes something rubs off on you.

Today (November 29) there are a number of people who share a birthday. John Mayall, who is credited as a parent of the British Blues Revival, is 88 today. Among the guitarists who passed through his band, The Bluesbreakers, were Eric Clapton (hailed as “god” by fans in the 60s), Peter Green (who replaced Clapton and about whom B.B. King said “He was the only guitarist who made me sweat” and when someone asked what happened to Clapton, Mayall said “Don’t worry – we’ve got someone better”) and Mick Taylor (who went on to play with the Rolling Stones).

In this case, Mayall does not stand in the background and showcase one of his brilliant guitarists.

Felix Cavalieri (organ and vocals with The Young Rascals) is 79 today.

Joel Coen (of the filmmaking Coen Brothers) is 67. One shot in their first film, “Blood Simple”, convinced me that I was going to follow these guys. Adude in Austin might appreciate this one.

The only light in this scene comes from the window, and then through a series of holes shot in the wall. It was the light through those holes that won me over. Screen shot from “Blood Simple” by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Actor Don Cheadle (“Devil in a Blue Dress”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Ocean’s 11”, “Crash”) is 57.

The theoretical conception date for these men would have been March 8 – International Women’s Day.

Is there any significance in this? I don’t know. Time to go ride my bike.

Favorite Son

Busch Light can in its natural habitat. It will eventually assume its protective coloration. (The blue pigment fades to a pale green. The process has begun.)

A Busch Light can means the half-fast cycling club cleaned its adopted highway again. No further news on that front.

I never tire of this view. Sorry if you do. Look! No litter!
Madison’s Favorite Son, Joel Paterson (from a previous festival – I brought no camera this time)

Our neighborhood summer festivals were combined into one this year. We walked down to the park just long enough to see the set by the Joel Paterson Trio. Joel grew up a few blocks from here. He spent his teen years playing the blues at a neighborhood bar, then moved to Chicago where he plays in multiple bands. A self-proclaimed guitar geek, he plays swing, rockabilly, country, and blues (and a little Hawaiian guitar).

Joel on all instruments in a home pandemic recording
From his all-Beatles solo acoustic guitar album
Guitar and clarinet blues jam
The Western Elstons, his country band
And here’s a full set of his band Modern Sound, from a festival in Spain.

There’s lots more where that came from, including some Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist) and Chet Atkins tributes. I think he should be famous. Listen and see if you agree.

Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike a lot. Back-to-back weekends with centuries coming up in September, so 50-60 mile rides twice a week as well as daily commuting and Wednesday night rides. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in a day since 2019, so we’ll see if I still can.

Hot and humid Wednesday Night Ride

It’s tobacco season, so last week I rode past a crew out cutting tobacco, and this week rode past sheds full of drying tobacco. If you’re not from around here, you probably didn’t realize Wisconsin is tobacco country. Tobacco used to be grown here as cigar wrappers and is now mostly for chewing. It was once a major cash crop. A farmer got an allotment from the state, allowing a set number of acres to be grown. It was hard work (hand planted, hand cut, hand tied and hung, hand stripped from the veins after curing, and bundled for sale) but virtually guaranteed income. If you had an allotment, you grew tobacco. I had a friend who bought a farm with a small allotment and the neighbors thought she was crazy because she chose not to grow tobacco. The tobacco shed (a large barn with louvers that can be opened to increase airflow, and a network of framing from which to hang the poles with bundles of leaves draped over them) was used for storage.

COVID cases are on the rise again and I just finished another tour of duty on the COVID units. Most of my patients this week were not vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December and January. While it is true that I am now magnetic, that’s just my personality and I was that way before the vaccine;) If you have seen the videos of people purporting to prove that the vaccine makes one magnetic, they are either more ignorant than I think they are, or they just blatantly dishonest. The videos show people sticking non-ferrous metals to their skin and claiming it is because the vaccine made them magnetic. I have duplicated that with a penny, bobby pin, paper clip, money clip, button, and a Post-It note. Only one of those would have stuck were magnetism at play. Lest you think I did anything heroic this week, I was safer in this gear (and the sanitation process I go through as I enter and leave each room) than you are if you go into a store, restaurant, or bar (especially if you don’t wear a mask, or anyone else in there doesn’t). You don’t know if you are near someone who is positive. I do.

Ain’t that peculiar?

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I’ve ridden past this corner many times. Tonight I finally stopped for a picture.

I startled a pair of deer on a recent ride. Rather than run uphill away from me, they ran along the shoulder of the road for about 100 feet, then dashed across my path and headed down to the wooded creek bank. Trying to think like a deer, I imagined that they figured that if they were going to be pinned down somewhere, they wanted water and shelter. Either that or they’re just stupid, running across the highway in my path, instead of away from it.

I came around a bend quickly and encountered a pair of sandhill cranes. I braked and swerved to give them space. One paid me no mind. The other, with a few graceful wing beats, rose a few feet off the ground and soared 20 feet down the road, coming to rest in the road again. I was enthralled by how such a big bird could get airborne so quickly and gracefully, and come to rest so smoothly. Apparently it had realized I wasn’t a threat. Its partner was still strolling. Thinking anthropomorphically, I imagined the flyer was trying to be cool and pretend it hadn’t been startled. “I just decided to fly a few feet. It’s cool…”

Another red tailed hawk flew over head. I managed to keep both wheels on the road this time as I watched it soar by 15 feet off the ground. It helped that it crossed just ahead of me, rather than directly over head.

In my continuing Wednesday Night‘s Greatest Hits tour, last week I rode from Lodi to the Baraboo Bluffs, crossing on the Merrimac Ferry and climbing Devil’s Delight Road – short but steep enough to require switchbacks anyway. If any of you remember biorhythms (a popular schema in the ’70s), the theory posits that we have three rhythms that follow sine waves at different periods. If all three line up at the top of the wave, you have a great day. If they all line up at the bottom of the wave, it will be a bad day. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I had no energy. Every climb was a chore. Even going down was hard. There seemed to be headwinds in all directions. After climbing Devil’s Delight, I turned around and headed back down, short of the ridge and cutting at least ten miles off the loop I had planned. At least I got two ferry crossings in.

Luckily I saved the ride that is usually that week and did it tonight. The ride starts at Black Earth; if you see the ground being turned in the spring the reason for the name becomes obvious. The Black Earth Creek watershed contains incredibly rich, black soil – even after 150 years of farming. The route crosses the ridges multiple times, with five steep climbs. The person who wrote the cue sheet for this ride illustrated the climbs with evil grinning jack o’lantern demon faces. I felt much better tonight and the five climbs were great fun, as was the 5 miles along Blue Ridge Road, staying on the ridge until the 40 mph downhill. One of the ridges is occupied by the Camp That Must Not Be Named, where my daughter spent many summers and some winter weeks – and I was a counselor-in-training there 51 years ago. The route includes the “easy” side of Sutcliffe Road, meaning that the downhill side is the one where I have hit 50 mph on my steel bike. Tonight as I approached 50 mph I felt a little oscillation in the frame. Rather than just squeeze the top tube with my knees, I feathered the brakes. Either this bike feels less stable at that speed, or I’m just getting old.

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One couldn’t ask for a better late July day for a ride…85 degrees (30 Celsius), dew point 59 (15 degrees Celsius), winds less than 5 mph, just enough clouds to give the place atmosphere, and the smell of corn ripening in the fields.

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My post-ride beer was a timely one. I’d seen it in stores but hadn’t tried it. Since I forgot my church key tonight I needed something in cans, and voila!

While my guitar gently weeps

The song could have been written (but wasn’t) while listening to Peter Green. One more round from his guitar gently weeping. First is this BB King song, with an opening that sounds like Mose Allison could have written it – “I’ve got a mind to give up living/And go shopping instead”:

There is also a great 1968 live recording of BB himself available on YouTube; BB being the other great guitarist who knows it’s not the number of notes you play, but the soul you put into those notes. That recording also contains a great organ part and a horn funeral dirge. I’ve been listening to Peter Green all week. Slow blues may not be your cup of tea, but he and his guitar continue to weep with his own song:

It almost hurts to listen to Peter Green. He doesn’t play notes, he draws beauty and suffering from the instrument. His voice aches. But when the song is over, I feel at peace.