There are 3 true to detail songs on the Kowbelle Album, "Our Red Cross". The song I just mentioned, "I Love My Family" and "Takin' a Break". These 3 songs are about things that happened to me or I witnessed. Now that Tornado Season is upon us, I would like to take some time and discuss this amazing, sad, but hopeful song. When you listen to and see the video to "Our Red Cross", please remember those that have been affected by any natural disaster and be thankful for all the wonderful organizations that help these victims during such difficult times. This song is the driving force for Kowbelle and our mission to raise funds and awareness for the American Red Cross.
On April 27, 2011, although I was, of course, very aware of the possibility of a major tornado outbreak (forecasted for days), my day started out pretty typical. I had a 10:00 AM appointment in Chattanooga, but was wondering if it would be safe to make the 60 mile round trip. I looked at the Weather Channel, and saw a window of no storms at least for awhile, and decided to make the appointment. 5 miles west of Chattanooga, is a suburb called Tiftonia. And when I drove through there, an F-2 tornado apparently had touched down earlier that morning. It just missed the elementary school, but caused a good bit of damage along the main road. I made the appointment and rushed home as soon as I could. That afternoon, I was glued to the TV set, watching the Weather Channel and seeing footage of a large tornado hitting Birmingham, blowing around debris, causing massive electrical flashes.
About 2 hours later, around 4PM, I saw something catch my eye out the window and I stepped outside on the deck. It was not raining but a little breezy. And then I saw something I have never seen before, stuff falling from the sky. The first thing I saw was a red, soda can size object fall heavily in my front yard, then a large red banner float down across the river, like one of those large banners you would see at a convenience store. After that, more stuff and at a faster rate, falling. This went on for about 45 minutes and it was obvious that all this stuff must have come from an area with a good amount of population, not a rural area.
That night was really upsetting seeing on TV all the destruction in so many communities, and actually feeling some guilt that my place was safe. Needless to say, I really did not sleep well with all that had gone on.
Early the next day, I got up, got dressed and went outside. There were small pieces of insulation scattered in my yard, and I looked towards the woods up the hill and started in that direction. Pretty soon, and only 300 feet from my cabin, was the back cover of a phone book, in pretty good shape, not rained on at all. I looked at this cover and saw the advertisements of two businesses in Cullman, Alabama. I went inside to look up Cullman in a road atlas and saw that that town was just at 100 miles away to the Southeast. I was amazed at this and realized how powerful storms can be, but my heart gave out, and I could not imagine the horror many people felt in Cullman, in Birmingham and in many other Southern communities. Seeing pieces of schoolwork lessons further in the woods the next morning, just made me lose it.
In the following weeks, I spoke to several people saying they found utility bills or other paperwork on the ground all having information on them, indicating where they came from: Cullman. Apparently what happened, (and what tornadoes generally do) is that the F-4 tornado hit Cullman and dumped the debris over the Chattanooga area. This all happened within 3 hours. No debris from any other tornado landed in our area. And so, there was the common link here, Cullman to Chattanooga.
I had just finished my 3 song demo, "Songs from Bar-B-Cutie" in early April. But this event inspired me to write more, and so I completed this song by mid May, paving the way for the rest of the Album's songs. This event helped shape what Kowbelle has become; that we want to enrich lives through our music, but we want to save lives with our mission of awareness.
And so I must stress that preparedness is vital in the time leading up to a forecastable natural disaster. Have a plan and stay informed, always. You also will find all kinds of helpful, useful information at redcross.org to help you in your disaster plan. And I will tell you, I am a little nervous about this Spring season, as I was 2 years ago. Be safe.
One cold Winter season in the early 1970's was when my father thought I was old enough to learn about one of his greatest passions, duck hunting. He was a skilled man and was known by his friends as a compassionate hunter, while still respecting wildlife and nature, and always strictly sticking to all the hunting rules and etiquette. He raise English Pointers and trained them to flush out the quail he also had raised. With about 30 hens and a rooster and some dogs, I'd say we probably had a little farm and I enjoyed all the animals around me at home.
And so my father was avid about teaching me everything about duck hunting, and I remembered that every Saturday morning, throughout that one cold Winter season, I would be gotten up early, about 4 or 5, and my dad and I would soon head to his favorite hunting place, a vast, wooded marshy area in Northern New Jersey. This was about a 30 minute drive and Dad always had his favorite AM station playing in our station wagon. And it seemed that, every Saturday morning we made this trip, I would hear the same awesome song on the radio. At the time, I never knew who sang on that song, since I did not ever really listen to the DJ, but just looked forward to the music part of the broadcast. But I loved that one song and later learned that it was sung by Gordon Lightfoot, a song called, "If You Could Read My Mind". To this day, whenever I hear this song, I always think about my Dad and the cold frosty days we went hunting together, as if I was really standing in a field by that woody marshland, watching my dad do what he loves.
About 8 years ago, and I don't know why I took so long, I bought Gordon Lightfoot's CD, "Gordon's Gold", which had 21 tracks of his best songs. And when I drove out West in the years to follow, I would always bring that CD and would listen to it at least 6 to 8 times during the the whole trip, there and back. And when that song started playing, I would think about my dad (who had passed away on a cold November morning in 2006), and I would remember our hunting days in the cold, and I would wish that I could hunt with him just one more time. My dad was gone, the song and my memories were still here.
Kowbelle photographer Mark Butler and I saw Gordon Lightfoot perform at the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga back in March, 2011, the first year he got back on tour. That was the time I was working on my 3 song demo recording. We were sitting in the third row from the stage, about 20 or thirty feet from this great musician. I remember feeling many things and how I connected with Gordon in a certain way; that was I seem to be diving into the same career and passion as he was in, the music business. Near the end of the concert, he sung "If You Could Read My Mind", and it was then that I started to really tear up. And I was thinking of my dad and those cold Winter Saturdays, and the song on the radio, and the field that Dad and I would walk across. I remembered looking at Gordon and feeling thankful for the gift he had given me through this song.
But Gordon gave my dad a wonderful gift as well. It was last Christmas when my mom pulled out my dad's small CD collection (about 20 CDs) She said that I can go through them and take which ones I wanted. I picked up one CD, showed it to my mom, and said, "I already have this one and it is absolutely my favorite". That CD, as may have already guessed, was "Gordon's Gold". My mom told me that this CD was also his favorite and she remembered him playing it quite a bit on the long road trips they would take.
I am quite sure that my dad would also think about our days, hunting in those frosty fields, every time he would listen to Gordon. And when I put the CD back in my Dad's collection, I looked at my Mom and showed the same tears I had when I saw Gordon in concert. I think it is possible for a song to have so much meaning for a family, and as you watch this video, I ask you to think about the ones you love and how many people love you.
When I started this blog in August, I told you that I would write about any future natural disasters when they unfold. However, this time and with Superstorm Sandy, I am finding it very difficult to even think about the mass destruction of homes, entire towns and neighborhoods, and emotions from this storm. Aeriel footage of this destruction is pouring in and it is very unsettling, if not totally haunting. This collection of footage is sure to wake up our sense of caution and urgency for future events that are sure to take place, more frequently and more powerful. Evacuation will finally become a human instinct and need.
In August1992, Hurricane Andrew was truly devastating, but the focus was on how entire neighborhoods and the town of Homestead, Florida was destroyed. Focus of the loss of life ran high as well. But it was Hurricane Katrina that first showed us how vulnerable our infrastructure really is. Superstorm Sandy simply showed us that we have no choice but to concentrate on our infrastructures immediately. Sandy also serves as a precursor of what we will expect in the future, and also serves as a testament that Climate Change is a real thing and can no longer be ignored.
I was in New Jersey three weeks ago. I grew up in Somerset County, New Jersey, went off to College in Central Pennsylvania, lived outside of Philadelphia for four years after that, and even spent many days at the Jersey Shore. So you might imagine how many friends and family I have up there. I am worried about all of them, and I am worried about the many victims I do not even know.
In August, you may remember me talking about my knowledge and study in environmental science. My instinct about natural disasters becoming more frequent and more devastating is exactly the reason why I built this project: the Album "Kowbelle--Our Red Cross", and why my main focus in life is to raise awareness and funding for that organization. That is why I am also a volunteer.
This storm is of epic proportions, and I can only take so much of these disturbing images before I have to just turn off the TV. I think much of America is upset and nervous about what might come next.
At this point, I would like to stress to all of you who have not been affected by this storm, to realize that you are strong, and not weakened by this, and have the ability to give time or money to any one of our great Relief Organizations. Whether it is the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, United Way of any other national of local organization, now is the time. There are so many people who are suffering, who need help, and who desperately need hope if that is at all possible.
It is very hard, after a storm like Sandy, to expect some to even be hopeful, but it is extremely important to help try to restore some hope, and for all of us as a national community to come together to help overcome the worst storm ever to affect our country.
Let's face it...most of us really like cows and we consume a lot of dairy. Cows are cute, funny, and can be seen all over rural America. Not a day goes by when most of us will see a cow on TV, usually in a commercial. The California Dairy Association has a great TV ad with Selma Hayek desperately trying to find milk all night into the wee hours in the morning. My favorite comedy movie is Rat Race, and how the cow is portrayed as a victim of, basically, comical greed. Mississippi State University football fans love the cowbell, use the cowbell during home games, and of course, must like cows. Saturday Night Live is known for one of it's most cherished skit of 'More Cowbell' and has set a trend for a common phrase of 'needing more cowbell'. My mom enjoys Skinny Cow ice cream straight out of the cow motif container.
And so the list is really endless. Cows are probably one of the strongest images in America. They can grow real big, about 1500 pounds and more, and let's not forget the important, historical roles cows had as we settled westward during the 19th century. Cows come in all colors and patterns, have unique personalities from one another, and some are our pets.
I do not own any cows but wish I did. They would have a great home, and a loving home. But I know some farmers in the area that look forward to seeing me show up so I can just hang out with some of them. The cow really has given me drive and purpose with the "Kowbelle" project, and I will never forget the good times going on a 'cow mission' to get some great pictures of these cows that were used on our CD sleeve material. Some of my friends have known for me to say all of the sudden, "Hey, let's look for some cows, I need more pictures." And off we go, lookin' for some cows.
Do you have a great cow story? We would love to hear about it. And remember, if you are ever down or frustrated, maybe you can try what I do. Just shut your eyes, breath, and think of the funniest cow face you could imagine. I bet that will make you smile.
It is always important for anyone who may have a great product to have a marketing plan just as strong. That is what I have tried to do with the Album, Kowbelle, and some people are really talking about a very special and unique car. Kowbelle's 'rolling billboard on wheels' is a 1988 Lincoln Towncar and is in nice condition inside, outside, and under the hood. This is no ordinary Towncar, but one that makes heads turn and children laugh and smile. It is a happy car and one that serves an important role as Kowbelle's true representation.
About four years ago, I was looking for a used white Lincoln Towncar (preferably 1988) to replace another one I had that had been crushed a year earlier. This unfortunate car was a victim of someone who fell asleep at the wheel at 10 in the morning. My Towncar was parked at my mechanics, a business located on the side of and close to the westbound lane of the main road going into town. This car was only parked there for less than a day, and when the sleepy driver roamed off the road, he had hit my mechanics truck and sandwiched my car between the truck and a SUV. Needless to say, the Towncar was not only totaled, but the back seat area was caved in about halfway from the force of the bumber of the large truck. Two good newses here. First the sleepy driver was unharmed, and second, my insurance paid me about $600 over what I invested in this car.
I was not even thinking about writing and coordinating a country music album at the time, but had the itch to find another Lincoln about a year later. The Summer of 2009 found me in Maryville, Tennessee looking at a Lincoln, much similar to the one that got crushed and forgotten. This one had a real nice interior and seemed to be in better shape as far as the body and paint. I went ahead at bought it for $1,000, and drove it in the pouring rain at night for two hours until I got home. For the next week or so, I detailed the inside and outside of the car and was quite pleased until the transmission gave out. I decided to stick with it and got the tranny rebuilt.
I was always curious how a pair of bullhorns would look like mounted on the hood of a Towncar of this style. Usually they worked well with any Eldorado of the mid Seventies. I asked my Mom for some horns for Christmas in 2010 and she found a nice pair saying, "Here you go son. But I have no idea what you want to do with them". I hung the horns on a wall in my cabin and they stayed up there for a good year and came down after we finished the Album in December, 2011. About a month later, it all came to me, but all along I may have been thinking subconciously. The bull horns got mounted on the hood of the Towncar, and the black patches came about another month later. In April, a specialized car horn was installed so the this car would 'moo'. (This horn also boasts 9 other animal calls and ten different sounding sirens as well). And there it was, the perfect advertising tool for Kowbelle.
These days, the KattleKar grazes mostly in the Chattanooga area and can be seen downtown on occasion, cruising along a scenic country road, or hanging out at car shows and cruise- ins. There is a nice restaurant with a large outdoor eating area close to the street where I like to drive by slowly with this mooing car. The best thing here is that kids love this car and it brings smiles to their parents. One of Kowbelle's missions is to make people happy, feel good about things, and appreciate great experiences. I try do do this through our music and with the humor and wit behind this KattleKar.
Hopefully this car will become a famous 'celebrity'. He has so much personality and appeal already.
Check out the before and after pictures below!
This is a classic Saturday Night Live clip with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken that will keep you laughing from beginning to end!
Writing an entire country music album was a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to get to know myself better. Three of the songs were true, in every detail, of my personal account of certain events. Eight of these songs were written in a six week period as I was experiencing a writers "rush". What worked for me in song writing was to think of a neat story and think about it for a day and play around with rhyming words related to the story. When I was ready, I would sit down and write the whole thing almost without pause. The words were written in my head already and found their way onto paper rather easily.
4th of July weekend in 2011 found me in Houston visiting a good friend. I had to write 3 more songs in order to offer a full-length Album. I wrote 2 of them on the 3rd, and had one left to go. The next day we went to Surfside Beach where I did my most favorite thing, bodysurfing. I love the water and I love to swim. We rode our bikes on the beach for a couple of miles and on the way back, I saw something amazing and just yelled to my friend to "Stop!". And there it was. Spelled out on the sand, very neatly and large, was the phrase, "I Love my Family". The 'word' Love was in the shape of a heart.
As my friend was taking pictures of this amazing creation, a little girl, no more than 9 years old, runs up to us and proudly said that her Mom made this. The girls name was Casey and I told her that I had a golden retriever with the same cool name. The rest of her family came down to greet us; Mom, Dad and her little brother. We all chatted for quite awhile and I told them how wonderful and how impressed I was with this arrangement of shells. I finally looked at Casey and asked her what was the most important thing in life. As I expected, she beamed and shouted out "Family". I told her that when she has a family some day, maybe it would be a great family tradition for them to spell out this phrase in shells every time they go to the beach. The family assured me that that was a good idea and plan to start this tradition.
My friend and I eventually left and rode our bikes away. Within a minute, I told him that I finally have my last song. That night I wrote this song in about 40 minutes. The song writing part of the album was done and I was relieved, tired, and excited all at the same time.
I never told Casey and her family that I was working on a Country Music album, but wished I had. I think about Casey now and then and hope one day she will hear this song, because when she does, she will know that those shells were hers. I hope some day I can meet the family and thank them for the inspiration that they gave me to write this song and finally finish the album.
Three points I want to make here. First, family is so important and we all must not take our families for granted, but to love each and every one every single day, Second, it is amazing how life can always bring people together perhaps coincidentally and maybe only briefly, but in a way where each one gains inspiration from the other. Where that person that you may run into actually touches your life in a special way. And last, although writing lyrics for a song can be challenging, sometimes a story or idea can just fall into your lap magically. Perhaps that is the the most fun and rewarding aspect to writing songs. And when someone may have 'writers block', that can all be resolved with a single and powerful experience. Just look around and you will see that there is so many really neat things out there to be discovered and appreciated. And maybe Casey knows that more than most of us.
As hurricane/ tropical storm/ depression Isaac winds down, its remanence somehow making its way back to the northern Gulf as of yesterday, we can only be reminded and teased of this awful storm. It lingered in the mid Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and dumped lots of rain on drought stricken areas, but just too late for many farmers who have already suffered huge crop losses. Central Kansas saw little to no rain and remains one of the worst drought areas. Isaac spawned more tornadoes, flooding and frustration. Haunting images from Isaac's unrelentless wrath keep pouring in, including a picture of two cows stranded on a strip of land in Louisiana. When it comes to animals in a flood situation, it seems that we see either cows stranded somewhere or dogs confined to a rooftop. Everyone likes animals and these images are disturbing along with what storm victims and communities have gone through as well.
I have to admit that, although natural disasters can be devastating overall, I am fascinated by climatology, meteorology, and environmental science, the latter being a concentration of study for me in college. I always felt that I would make a great weatherman but never got there. However my interest in weather phenomena is still strong. I watch the Weather Channel at least 20 hours a week. I do not "look forward" to seeing natural disasters occur, but just realize that they are going to happen one way or another, and are a part of nature and the Earth's natural balance. If any natural disaster happens in the future, I am going to process it and write about it in this Blog; you can bet on it.
As part of my Kowbelle album, "Our Red Cross", I wrote a song about a scary and awful time over the South last April 27, 2011. It is a true song about the monumental and deadly tornado outbreaks over the region. The song refers to a "back cover of a Cullman, Alabama phonebook" that I found in my back woods the following day. It had traveled 110 miles and landed here. I have spoken to alot of locals since and some have all reported finding things on the ground, some things such as invoices or utility bills with Cullman printed on them.
After intense investigation, I concluded eventually that the F-3 tornado that hit Cullman midday, carried lots of debris and dumped it over the Tennessee Valley 3 hours later. I will never forget the day when I saw the sky raining with debris that afternoon. Perhaps it may be a good time to refer to the song and video, "Our Red Cross" which you can view below. It really is a tearjerker and may really get you to think about things and that some thing in life, and life itself, should not be taken for granted.
I want to just take a moment to tell you that I have been recently certified in Disaster Assessment for the local Chapter of the Red Cross and it has really been an eye opening experience. This was a great opportunity to learn more about the organization and about myself. I do volunteer occasionally in various ways when I have time, but want to do more when I can. The Red Cross can always use more volunteers and they are great to work with. They are like a family full of compassionate individuals waiting to do whatever it takes to help those in need.
Lets try to always think about those people who have suffered through and rose above these disastrous events, and especially to those that we have lost. And lets never forget that we as individuals have a responsibility to reach out to the weak when we may be strong.
THE ALBUM 'KOWBELLE, OUR RED CROSS' DONATES 20% OF ALL MUSIC SALES TO THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
Hurricane/ tropical Storm Isaac.....August 29-31 Friday, August 31
I saw this morning on the Weather Channel and on the Today Show the same image of two cows stranded on the front porch of a house, surrounded by flood waters from Isaac. There was alot of water and the house was the only thing visible in what looked like a huge lake. Each cow had their ear tag, and each one had that look of fright and confusion, an almost human look, waiting to be rescued.
This is just one of thousands of images taken during and after Isaac. This was a powerful storm of longer than normal duration and in some cases, worse than Katrina. Some of the hardest hit areas were the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Slidell and Plaquemines parish in Louisiana. The biggest problem...severe flooding. It seemed like a part of the storm broke off and sent a huge band over to South Carolina where over 10 inches of rain caused severe flooding as well. 20 tornadoes, at least 4 dead in the Southeast. This was a huge storm, a costly storm, and one that will never be forgotten, probably in your lifetime.
We all know that 2011 was dubbed the "year of the natural disaster" and it was crazy. The United States suffered every possible natural disaster except for a devastating volcanic eruption. 2012 is not any better. From record wild fires out West, record drought in the Plains, a drying up Mississippi River, devastating tornadoes this past Spring, and more, we are wondering if things are going to get progressively worse, and permanently. We wonder what is causing all this destruction, not only here, but around the World.
We can wonder, but we can do things to protect ourselves and to help others. The American Red Cross in an outstanding organization that, not only helps many afflicted by natural disasters, but they teach the importance of preparedness and have been credited for saving many lives in that way as well as in other ways. We can only imagine how busy the Red Cross has been, and if these events continue to take place more and more often, they will continue to grow and continue to respond and help with the increased rates of these disasters.
It is times like this where many people come together, strangers helping strangers, crying together, hoping together, praying together. And what do those cows stranded on the front porch think? I am sure that they were just as scared and just as confused as many of us human victims from this awful and devastating event. I pray for all those people and all those animals and pets who are suffering right now. There can be hope, just knowing that the American Red Cross and society in general is always here, and everywhere to lend a heart and a hand to those in need during tough and terrible times.