On the Road to Somewhere Else


It was early morning 59 years ago today when a small airplane crashed in a lonely, snow covered farmers field near Clear Lake, Iowa. Its story is rich in lore, consequence and unnerving circumstance.

A future country music legend, then just a bass player, gave up his seat to one of those who perished. Another band member would lose a coin toss for his seat. Both would be shaken by those events for the rest of their lives.

Today, travelers on the road to somewhere else, stop at the cornfield to pay homage to the first stars of a new genre of music, and to the memory of the youthful dreams of an entire generation. Nothing much has changed there except for a stainless steel memorial placed in tribute. It marks the spot, where Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson and Richie Valens were killed, on the day the music died.

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The Old Familiar Carols Play

The Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is based on an 1863 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was  the nation’s preeminent poet of his era. The song proclaims the narrator’s despair, as he heard Christmas bells in the distance.

He bows his head, “There is no peace on earth,” [he] said,
“for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men.”

But then the carol inexplicably changes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among mankind.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So why the change and how did the poem come to be?

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Music Monday – My Father the Singer, Songwriter

Next Saturday June 17th would be my father’s birthday. I don’t remember him. I was two years old when he died, but I think of him often, a lot more so as I’ve grown older. It seems he’s never far from my thoughts. Over the years I heard a lot about him. Of course he was loved by his family and he exemplified love as a devoted son, brother and uncle. People said he was kind-hearted with a great sense of humor.

Richard Delmont Lines (1924-1955)

Described as tall, good-looking, broad-shouldered and physically strong he was also blessed with musical talent. It was said he was a gifted singer, well versed at playing guitar and a songwriter.

My dad, like his nine other siblings who lived into adulthood, had a rough life growing up. Coming from a broken home, they struggled through the years of the depression. At a very young age they often had to fend for themselves… just to eat. And on occasion some found themselves at odds with the law.

In talking about those days and their tough, undisciplined childhood an uncle described one of his brothers as “one rough character, eleven years old and packing a thirty-eight revolver.” That young boy, through his own determination, overcame those beginnings, and even before the war, was well on the road to turning his life around. He would go on to honorably serve his country as a combat soldier. He was one of the most respected, admired and finest men I’ve ever known.
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Music Monday – Flanders Fields

It was the early days of World War I in the Second Battle near the town of Ypres. A 22-year old Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed, from the explosion of a German artillery shell. He died 102 years ago tomorrow, May 2, 1915.

Ypres a small, ancient Belgian town saw some of the most intense and sustained battles during the war. Helmer was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as his friend, doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.

John McCrea

The son of Scottish immigrants, for McCrea, medicine, the Army and poetry were family traditions.

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Music Monday – A Fine Sight to See

It was a year ago this past week while on the first leg of my long anticipated Around the USA road trip. I was cruising along Interstate 40, eastbound at 80 miles an hour approaching Winslow, Arizona.

It was nearly 11:00 at night. I’d left Las Vegas 5 hours earlier and had a long trip ahead. Other than a few stops for naps I was determined to make it to Huntsville, Alabama, still 21 hours away, for my first layover to visit family.

Weeks earlier I’d researched the routing, and possible sightseeing stops. Now, nearing the first possibility at a spot in Winslow’s downtown corridor, I was having second thoughts. After all it was late and I found myself unsure I wanted to delay my momentum so early in the trip. Would it be worth the bother?

A check of my GPS indicated it was just a mile or so off the Interstate. Had it been five miles I probably wouldn’t have stopped. Turned out it was just too close to pass by.

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Music Monday – A Brand New Day


Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner was born in October of 1951 and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Following work as a bus conductor, a construction laborer, and a tax officer, he attended a teachers college and in the mid 1970s taught elementary school children. During weekends, evenings and breaks from teaching Gordon would play in jazz bands. While performing he’d wear a black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes. Some thought the sweater made him look like a bee. Soon he would be nicknamed “Sting”.

The rest — as they say — is history. An international sensation he’s received sixteen Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations. He is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Sting is one of my favorites.

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Music Monday – Christmas in the Trenches

It is good that war is so terrible, lest we become too fond of it.
~~ General Robert E. Lee ~~

Time for another Music Monday and since this is the holiday season this latest installment will be all about… what else?  Christmas!

Even in the depths of bitter war Christmas can bring its indelible influence and for a short time, peace on earth, goodwill toward men can rise above the carnage.  Probably no better example is the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914.  It was a brief pause in a violent and desperate fight between British and German soldiers on the Western Front during what was called by earlier generations the Great War…  more commonly known today as World War One.

This true event made world-wide news and was later memorialized in a ballad as seen through the eyes of a fictional British officer Francis Tolliver.  The song was written by American folk singer and story-teller John McCutcheon.  My favorite version is performed by the Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott. Continue reading