Mark Knopfler – Better than Dire Straits 

I first heard Mark Knopfler the way just about everyone else did, on the Dire Straits song “Sultans of Swing” back in 1978. Upon first impression, and it wasn’t just mine, I wondered who was playing those cool Fender Stratocaster licks on a new Bob Dylan song.

Sadly, I missed my chance to see Dire Straits on their first American tour back when I was in college. (I know, stupid, stupid, stupid!)  But I did follow the group throughout their career, as Knopfler’s songs and the band’s arrangements grew more…

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Piracy – It’s Not Just on the High Seas / An open letter to music thieves 

Dear Music Lover,

As an independent local professional musician, I can’t put into words the gratitude that I feel for those who come out and listen to me perform music, both my songs and the covers of songs by other artists. And when you really show your appreciation by buying a CD (or downloading an album or track from iTunes or CD Baby), it’s the ultimate validation of what it is that I do. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

The rest of this column is for people who aren’t loyal music fans. If you…

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The Strangest New Year’s Gig – Starting 1984 in Santee, South Carolina 

1984 was an important year in my life (the year my Keys adventure began). Although still in my early twenties, I was already a veteran road musician. I had been performing for a few years in a duo with Sallie Foster, a wonderful vocalist and entertainer who still performs regularly in season at the Bull in Key West. This story, however, is about how 1984 began at a New Year’s Eve gig in Santee, South Carolina.

Santee is a small town in Orangeburg County – notable only for its proximity to Lake Marion and…

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You Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em – Life lessons in spades (hearts, clubs, and diamonds, too) 

I have devoted more than a few hours of time over the past several years learning the game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. I consider myself an above-average player (yeah, who doesn’t?). I have put in the time learning the game from myriad books written by poker pros with names like Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson. I have observed the pros in tournament play. I have learned a lot about reading people through my years of experience in advertising, publishing, music, and politics. I have played in cash games and…

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No Revival Necessary – John Fogerty lends credence to the belief that 68 is the new 38 

Last week I had the good fortune to see John Fogerty live in concert at the Hard Rock Live. As many of you know, Fogerty was the singer and songwriter behind the legendary group Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as his own solo recordings. He is a card-carrying member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was on my bucket list of musical legends to see before I die.

I can cross him off my list. I just wonder which of us is going to die first. John Fogerty is 68 years old, but seems 30 years younger…

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The 21st Century Musician – Bowie was right about the ch-ch-ch-changes! 

It seems hard to believe, especially for me, that I’ve been performing music professionally for more than 30 years. My aspiring amateur status dates back even a few more years. Aside from qualifying me as a geezer, having played music since the 1970s means I’ve seen some major changes in the business, from the lower rungs on the ladder where I reside, all the way to the top, or what’s left of it.

When I started out, this rock music thing was still quite a youngster. Rock-and-roll is officially just six…

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Shock, No Awe 

Not even a week after I wrote about the horrific and tragic murders in Aurora and Conch Key, caring people’s hearts were broken again as a hate-filled murderer took the lives of six others before losing his own at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Once again, tears flow. Once again, people mourn the loss of family members and friends. And once again, a community’s members are left bewildered, trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and wondering how something like that could have happened in…

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Two Kinds of People 

At the risk of oversimplifying a much larger problem (and way over-generalizing as well – a tragic flaw of anyone who claims to be a writer), there are two kinds of people in this world: those who care about their fellow human beings, and those who don’t. (Yes, I know that there are really more than two kinds of people – there are at least three. Just follow along for a while.)

Our great American society has a real problem when it comes to dealing with mental illness. We (as a society) really don’t do…

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Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011 

My first introduction to Clarence Clemons was probably the same as it was for most everybody. In 1975, Bruce Springsteen released his Born to Run album. On the cover, in black and white, was a portrait of black and white. There was the Boss, a somewhat ratty-looking Bruce Springsteen, holding his hot-rodded Fender Esquire guitar and leaning against a large, well-dressed man blowing into a saxophone.

As the Springsteen legend continued to grow throughout the 1970s, so did the legend of the Big Man. There…

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50 Years of Americans in Space 

   I was a space brat.

   There was no better place to be a kid in the 1960s than Cape Canaveral (then Cape Kennedy). Rockets went off in my backyard. Not just Titans and Deltas, but honest-to-God Saturns. There was nothing quite as amazing as watching (and hearing and feeling) a Saturn V leave the launch pad and climb into the sky on a pillar of fire.

   I was born the same year Alan Shepard became the first American in space (1961), losing the first man in space honor by a few weeks to Soviet cosmonaut…

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