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Music Is My Ticket

Tracking the musical journey of Bill Prince could keep a family of mapmakers busy for years. This master musician has traveled and performed in all 50 U.S. states and in 81 countries. He has walked the historic streets of Europe, the dirt pathways of South African villages, and sailed the oceans, performing his unique multi-instrumentalist show on multiple cruise ships. Music Is My Ticket touches on historic events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, while providing insights into the music and musicians he played with—the famous and not-so-famous personalities he met during a remarkable career.

Bill formed strong bonds with many musicians, former students, and fellow teachers over the years, and you’ll hear from some of them. Their shared memories add insights into a life rooted in music, describing Bill Prince as a once-in-a-generation talent. From the time he picked up his first trumpet at the age of eight, writing his first arrangement in junior high school, to performing with celebrated big bands and performers, Bill’s musical gifts took him places he could only dream about.

No need to pack your bags to accompany Bill Prince on his musical journey, but hang on tight and enjoy the life story of a joyful traveler who made his mark on the world of music.

“When I first watched Bill Prince play, he blew my mind out. Not only did he play every instrument that he had on stage, he played each one as though it was his major. Personally, I had never heard any musician play with such artistry and confidence.”
Bobby Herriott, former Assistant Bandleader, NORAD Band

“I learned to appreciate Bill’s love for travel and how much one could grow as a person by being on the road. I was in the thick of greatness thanks to Bill and as the years roll by, I look back now to see how really fortunate I was to experience jazz education and performance at its very best.”
Mike Rossi, former Bill Prince student and Professor in jazz and woodwinds at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Bill’s book is available from Amazon by clicking this link.

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It was 6:45 in the morning, and I was already more than an hour into my bus ride to work. As we rode through the old community of San Marco, I worried about my truck rather than photography.

When going up a hill, such as the bridges in town, the engine spit and backfired and cut-out and bucked like a bronco in a cowboy story. Three independent mechanics and a dealer had been unable to find the problem. The truck was at a shop that specialized in Fords – my last hope.

Old San Marco is one of Jacksonville, Florida’s residential areas bordering the St. Johns river. It contains upscale older homes and a shopping district filled with restaurants, jewelers, gift shops and even an old, still operating, movie theater. Occasionally, some new development takes place, but residents like the old feel of the neighborhood.
The bus swung through a part of the shopping district and began to move past apartment buildings. Suddenly, the bus swerved to the curb and stopped.

“You sit down, sit down right now,” shouted the bus driver, looking to the rear in her big mirror.

Two Hispanic women, 38 African-American women on their way to domestic jobs and the only man on the bus, me, turned and looked towards the rear. Three children, 9-10 years old were standing in the aisle. They glared back at the driver, but the two girls sat down.

The boy, however, slowly lowered himself so that he sat with his legs in the aisle. No more than one-quarter inch of his buttocks touched the front edge of the seat. He showed his coolness by staring at the roof of the bus.

“Little boy, you get up here and get up here now.” The driver pointed to the seat just behind her.

The child sauntered to the seat, then sat in the same way – legs in the aisle, on the very edge of the seat.

Wop! We all looked at the driver, who was drawing back to pop the child a second time.
“You sit right. This is not the school bus. You don’t disrespect the Jacksonville Transit Authority.”

I knew there had been problems on school buses. When I was a news producer in the late ’90s, we learned that many of the school buses had video cameras aboard, and that the tapes were public records. We got copies of the videos and did an entire series of news stories on the problem of misbehavior on the way to school. Kids were standing in the aisles, on the seats, pushing and shoving one another, throwing things. Within the newsroom, we joked that the series should be called “Bastards on the Bus.”

The child looked at the passengers for support, but was met by 40-pairs of eyes that said they would be glad to exit the bus, cut a switch, and deliver their own discipline.
The boy slid until his own back rigidly rested against the seat back.

But, I had stopped paying attention. Across the way was a wonderful sight. The sun illuminated a beautiful old stone wall. It looked much like those government projects built by the WPA during the depression. The stones formed intriguing shapes and textures and contrasted with the gates made of wood and wrought iron. I could see the potential for great pictures.

Two days later, my truck was repaired. It was one of those things – a pinched wire. When going up a hill, the wire fell against the engine block and shorted the computer. When the road leveled, the wire fell away from the block and the computer functioned again. It was an intermittent problem that required someone to actually look over the engine, not simply hook it up to a testing device. It other words, the repair required an old-time mechanic.

On Thursday morning I got up, left for work early, and arrived at the wall just as the sun was rising. After pulling through a little access road, I parked on a side street. After unloading, I set up the camera and searched for the right picture.

The human brain seeks out patterns. Visual artists play to that feature, and the patterns of the rocks in the wall and the way the sun played off of them is what drew me to the spot. I loosened the knob that held the tripod tight and swung the camera around looking for interesting patterns.

I selected a view that showed part of the stone wall, part of a wooden gate, a small part of the wooden building on the other side of the wall, and the plants on my side of the wall. The patterns as well as the contrasts in textures, shapes and luminance would make a good photograph.

After exposing one negative, I realized it was almost time to be at work. I packed up and drove away, planning to come back on Saturday, when there would be more time to shoot.

Friday morning was torture as I visualized the images I would make at the wall. Saturday finally arrived, and I loaded my truck with cameras before dawn. I sped in to town, passed through the old shopping district, zipped onto the access road, and looked for the wall.

It was gone. Every last stone. Every piece of the wooden gates. Every twist of wrought iron. All of the shrubs. And most of the building on the other side lay in rubble.
I walked around the corner and saw a sign. It advertised a new condo complex which was to be built on the site. I walked back to the place the wall had been and stared, sick at my stomach.

Let that be a lesson, I thought. If the photo’s there, take it. Don’t wait.
For a handcrafted fine art print of this image on Kodak Azo paper, contact John at the email address in the sidebar. There is limited availability.
For a printed version of this photograph on various media, go to Fine Art America through the link below.

Art Prints

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The Twelfth of Never

Carolee Bertisch is a long published author who has just published a new volume of poems and paintings – The Twelfth of Never.

She was Writing Coordinator for the Rye Neck School District in New York, and now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. There she leads two book discussion groups and participates in A Gathering of Poets. The latter group gathers at the Ponte Vedra Beach library to critique poems. It also performs Poet Theaters for local arts groups.

She’s also poetry chair for the Florida Heritage Book Festival. There she organizes poetry sessions including speakers on and teachers of poetry. She organized a poetry contest for high school students.

Carolee was also one of the people who worked hard to organize the area now known as Bird Island Park.  It surrounds the public library in Ponte Vedra Beach. It’s a passive park that offers opportunities for small gatherings of people, but it’s on a flyway, so it offers even more opportunities for birds as a sanctuary.

Carolee shares her unique observations of modern life in The Twelfth of Never and her heartbreak over the death of her husband. Included are some of her interesting paintings. The Kindle version features the paintings in color. You can buy it through this link.

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After deciding to look away from Windows and Mac, I had to pick an operating system. Which one to choose?

Berkeley Software Distribution – BSD

I originally thought I’d get a version of BSD. What’s that?
Back in the 70s AT&T developed the UNIX operating system (the basis for most all operating systems now). They gave a copy to MIT and another to the University of California, Berkeley. The two schools and various private developers continued to develop the operating system, and the Berkeley version is called BSD for short. It’s given away free.

About ten years ago, I experimented with a version of BSD called pc-bsd. It was a desktop oriented version that worked pretty well. I looked for a new version and found that pc-bsd had become trueos, but that trueos had decided to become a server operating system. Project Trident had taken over the desktop side of things, but there was not yet a downloadable version.

All of those were based on FreeBSD, so I went to their site and took a look. It told me a lot about downloading and setting up the OS, but I’d need to learn much more about UNIX in order to get things going. That would be a waste of time. I searched in their forums and found several threads asking about a simple way to set up FreeBSD as a simple desktop, but found answers that were generally hostile.

It’s too bad experts in so many fields are like that.

Linux

So, I decided to turn to Linux, and I had several people recommend Linux Mint as an easy to use system.

I went to their website, downloaded and installed. Installation was extremely easy. Just remember that installing a new operating system will (except in some special cases) wipe out everything on your hard drive. Make an image of your old hard drive if you might want to go back. (There are articles online about how to do that.)

Linux Mint offers several desktop “environments”. I took the default “Cinnamon” – a lot of people like “Mate.” They are just ways of organizing the desktop. Don’t worry about it, you’ll get used to whatever is there. I found Cinnamon to be organized much like Windows – with a Menu button at the bottom that works about like the Windows Start button.

Download the program to a USB thumb drive, make the drive bootable, then install the drive into the computer on which you want Linux Mint. Start your computer and select which drive to boot from (usually by hitting F12 repeatedly) and choose the thumb drive.

Follow the onscreen instructions. There are also instructions on the linuxmint site. When asked to enter a password, be sure to enter something you will remember. On Linux machines, you can’t do anything without the password.

We’ll take a look at the programs you receive with the download, and other programs you can use in our next installment.

 

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A few days ago I turned on my laptop to begin a writing session and was greeted with a pop-up from Microsoft telling me I needed to do a Windows update. I punched go and went to the kitchen to make coffee. Two and a half hours later the computer finally finished downloading and updating and downloading and restarting. Windows has gotten absurd and is driving me to build my special writing computer.

And Microsoft knows it. The company helped lead the computer revolution with the idea that big, mainframe computers with remote terminals were obsolete. Bill Gates envisioned a computer on every desk. In fact, this vision meant Microsoft missed the very beginning of the Internet revolution because Gates didn’t see the usefulness of connected computers.

Now, with cloud computing, Microsoft is all in. They almost require you to be connected to work. They now call Windows a service, not a product, and there are reports that they will soon demand that they control your entire desktop – they call it DaaS Windows and Microsoft Managed Desktop. And of course, for your convenience, they will charge a monthly fee for doing it. If you don’t pay, you don’t need to use a computer.
All of this has led me to investigate building a free software computer for writing.
I’ll update in the category Writing Computer available in the menu at the top of each page.

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Last week, I mentioned Dru Lombar. This piece about his death was first written for the JaxBeachJournal in 2005.

Dru Lombar passes away.

I’ve been bummed for a week – not really depressed, just feeling low. I thought it must be because of New Orleans, but I really felt that the sadness was closer than that. I didn’t feel like writing for this site – I had to force myself to mount and frame photographs for several shows. I knew something, somewhere was wrong. Then last night I got an email from a friend. It said that last week, Dru Lombar died.

I met Dru in the late 70s. I had moved to Macon, Georgia fresh out of law school ready to make something of myself. Dru was a neighbor. We both owned old, Victorian houses high on the hill just above downtown – not far from the H&H Restaurant.

Dru had already made something of his life – along with Randy Howard, Joe Dan Petty, Steve Miller and Rick Burnett, Dru had formed Grinderswitch, and had been the opening act for The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, Wet Willie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bonnie Bramlett – one of many folks who connected Macon and Jacksonville through music.

Grinderswitch was always kind of second-tier in Southern Rock, but folks who knew the genre always said they were the baddest of the bands. Just look at that photograph of Dru with his big smile – we were young, didn’t care how poor we were – unlike the hippies, we didn’t care about The War – all that mattered was playing the music.

Early Career

A few years ago, Dru gave an interview to Hittin’ The Web, and talked about his early musical influences.

When I was 8 or 9 years old I heard Freddie King’s “Hideaway” on the car radio. It knocked me out. I was hooked. I always loved early ELVIS so the natural thing was to pick up a guitar when I was 10. It’s been downhill ever since. I would listen to WLAC out of Nashville late at night and hear Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Albert King.

Southern radio was always a strong influence on all the musicians of the south, that’s where I first heard “Memphis” by Lonnie Mack. I went right out and bought the album (my first). As far as slide goes, I was 17 and Duane Allman was pretty much the man. Then when I moved to Macon I was heavily dosed with Elmore James. Great stuff!!!

Grinderswitch

Reminds me of one afternoon when Dru was at my house in Macon. I had just gotten a guitar and was learning to play it. I couldn’t decide whether to play it right handed or left handed. Dru told me he had a hard time the first few weeks he played – he was left-handed, but Elvis played guitar right-handed, so he was going to learn to play that way, too.

He was a member of Grinderswitch at the time. Dru was a big guy – and had a big, warm personality to match. His gravelly voice was perfect for Southern Rock and blues. And unlike so many musicians at the time, Dru kept his head on his shoulders and saw what worked in the business, and what didn’t work. His goal was to keep playing.

By the time I had moved back to Macon, Southern Rock was in decline. Musicians blamed the rise of disco. Businessmen blamed record piracy. A group of us tried for several years to kick Macon back into the music business, but with Capricorn Records in bankruptcy, with various drug trials, and with the powers that be in the city not wanting the music business, a revival was not to be. Dru gave up in 1983 and moved away. I got out of town a few years later.

Dr. Hector & The Groove Injectors

By 1992, I was working in the TV business and had wound up at WJKS-TV in Jacksonville. One afternoon, I was eating lunch at The Mongolian Barbeque on Third Street in Jacksonville Beach. The fellow at the next table got up to go back to the buffet. I looked up at him and it was Dru. It was a happy reunion, and we learned we were neighbors again. He had moved back to his home of Jacksonville and was back in the music business.

Dru was running New South Productions. He was re-releasing several of the old Grinderswitch albums as CDs. He had formed and was touring with his new band, Dr. Hector and the Groove Injectors (available on Kingsnake Records.). The blues had made something of a comeback in the 90s with festivals around the country.

I ran into Dru a couple of days later at the post office. He showed me his mail – several orders, and checks, for Grinderswitch albums. He said he had no idea running a record company was so easy, then laughed. Dru remembered his roots.

No matter how busy, he set aside the first weekend in April to perform at the Springin’ the Blues festival in Jacksonville Beach. They always wowed the crowd with tunes such as “Safe In Your Arms Again.” (Written by Dru and Rick “Hurricane” Johnson – Heavy Chevy Music, BMI, Reed/Cane Music, BMI – from “Bad Connection” Dr. Hector and the Groove Injectors, Kingsnake Records).

When I left Macon I became a recording engineer/producer. Just local stuff, but it gave a new outlook on the whole record making process. Then I started New South to release old Grinderswitch Albums on CD. I have 2 titles, Live Tracks and Unfinished Business. Then I got involved with booking Blues Artists (Sonny Rhodes, Floyd Miles, Miranda Louise and others) I did that for 5 years while I was touring Dr. Hector.

Dr. Hector toured the U.S, Europe and Japan, and was very popular with the blues revival crowd.

When we went to Japan we were cooking and being there with Alex just made it a special time for Dr. H. We are trying to connect with someone to bring Grinderswitch and Bonnie over next year. I love the Japanese people. They totally get it.

With New South Productions, Dru was recording and promoting new bands – he’d even dug up a group of high school kids who played the blues. And really played. He worked hard to promote Thunder ‘n Lightening, but the band never caught on. The wrong music at the wrong time. People were listening to another Jacksonville band – Limp Bizkit.

As the millennium was turning, Dru decided to return to the road, and was working on reforming Grinderswitch with Joe Dan Petty and Randy Howard. But in January of 2000, Joe Dan died in a plane crash just outside Macon. Dru pressed on, putting together Grinderswitch with new musicians, and with Randy playing when he could. (Update – Randy died in 2015.)

Dru also worked again with Bonnie Bramlett.

I was doing time at a local Office Depot copy center at the time, and worked closely with Dru on making covers for his old Grinderswitch CDs and designing new ones for the new band. We also got together frequently with the North Florida Music Association, an industry trade group. But Dru returned to the road, so the last few years, I didn’t get to spend much time with him.

Now I learn he’s gone. There will be a memorial service and fundraiser for Dru at New Life Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville. It will be Saturday at 2PM and will be live streamed on the Internet. grinderswitch.com should have the link when everything is set up. I’ll certainly miss Dru, though I’m sure he’s safe in Your arms again.

Update – A local newspaper is maintaining a guestbook for Dru – a lot of his friends have been signing with messages showing how much he meant to them, too.

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The Macon-Jacksonville Music Connection was originally written for The JaxBeachJournal back in 2002.

The cities of Macon and Jacksonville linked to create a musical genre – Southern Rock.

Macon’s place in the history of Rock ‘n Roll music is solid. After all, the city fathers (and mothers) could get away with promoting it as the birthplace of rock. Little Richard has traveled the world claiming to be the inventor of Rock ‘n Roll, and whatever he invented, he did it in Macon.

The State recognized Macon’s importance when it located the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in the city. But another southeastern city looks at the Hall and sees a lot of familiar faces. Jacksonville, Florida is beginning to see itself as the birthplace of Southern Rock.

“Half the folks in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame are from Jacksonville,” says Dru Lombar. It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Dru would know about those musicians. He’s one of them.

Dru lived in Macon during the heyday of Capricorn Records. He sang and played guitar with Grinderswitch, the band that was the opening act for The Allman Brothers Band.
Dru now tours the US, Europe and Japan with his blues oriented rock ‘n roll band, Dr. Hector & The Groove Injectors.

The number of world famous musicians who’ve made their way from Jacksonville to Macon and Atlanta is almost endless. And thanks to the hard work of one Jacksonville musician, you can learn about many of these musicians from the comfort of your home. (Update – Dru passed away from heart disease on September 5, 2005.)

Mike Fitzgerald arrived in Jacksonville as Southern Rock was beginning, and he met and performed with a number of the rising stars. He’s researched the history of music in Jacksonville, and through the North Florida Music Association, has put a summary on-line (now hosted here.) Just click the link at the top of the page to the Hall of Fame. (Update – unfortunately the site is no longer online.)

At the Hall of Fame site, you’ll learn how a Jacksonville school teacher, Mae Axton, introduced a then little-known Elvis Presley to Col. Tom Parker. Mae then went on to co-write Elvis’ first hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” Of course, Elvis sang one of his last concerts at The Macon Coliseum.

Duane Allman gained international fame on Macon’s Capricorn Records, but he began The Allman Brothers Band in north Florida. Duane first attracted attention as a session guitar player at the hot soul recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He dared singer Wilson Pickett to record a cover of The Beatles’ “Hey, Jude.”

Wilson accepted the dare, and Allman played a superb accompaniment on guitar. Macon’s Phil Walden heard Allman play and pushed him to form a band to record on Walden’s new label.

Duane headed back to Jacksonville and put his band together. The Allman Brothers Band played its first concert in the old Jacksonville Beach Auditorium. You can trace the careers of the members, and the various incarnations of their bands on the Hall of Fame website.

Before the Allman Brothers, another Jacksonville band headed to Atlanta to gain worldwide fame. Dennis Yost and The Classics Four put together their classic sound in Florida before hitting the Top Ten in the late 1960s. In the seventies, band members Robert Nix and J. R. Cobb formed The Atlanta Rhythm Section.

The cities of Macon and Jacksonville truly created Southern Rock.

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Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin tells us about writing blurbs – and particularly how to avoid writing bad ones.

Anyway, I thought we’d take a break from the interviews to talk blurbs.  Every time I link books for our book plug I come across blurbs that make me want to crawl away backward.

I am not the expert on blurbs among my group, but I can give you some clues about what to do and what not to do.  Because some of these blurbs are so bad anything will improve them.

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