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June 20th, 2018...

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A CAT NAMED PIPPIN. Misty and I have had 6 dogs and 1 cat in our life together. We loved them all. Pippin was an Orange Tabby. He was abandoned by his original owner and became the hobo cat of the neighborhood. He learned how to beg, and which homes offered handouts. He was outdoors in all weather, and he and I became friends when we met on the streets. Then, when Misty and I would go for walks, Pippin would trot along with us. We took him into our home and he became part of our family. We loved him. Pippin could be a block away and when I called his name he'd run all the way home. One morning he died on our doorstep, poisoned by an antifreeze leak from a car. Life is too damn fragile! * * * KIRBY STONE. In the 1980s, when our big country bookings got scarce, Misty and I filled the gap by playing jazz clubs and hotels around New York State. At that time there was a popular vocal/comedy group called The Kirby Stone Four. They were all over network TV and got a Grammy for "Baubles, Bangles and Beads". Kirby heard about us and was going to book us in a famous NYC hotel lounge for lots of money. We didn't hear from him for a week so I called his number. I was told by his wife that he had just died. We felt sorry for her, and a little bit for us. * * * TONAWANDA, NY. One early morning when I was nineteen a deputy sheriff knocked on my door. He wanted me to go with him to "just have a talk with the sheriff". My hangover saved the day. I must have looked bad because he asked me if I was sick. A very creative lie just popped right out of me: "I've got the measles." He took a step back. Then he said, "Well, come down to the Office when you can." I hitch-hiked to Florida. * * * When I was a young brat a lot of the kids in our neighborhood were getting their adenoids taken out. It was a war to eliminate adenoids from the Earth. I don't think anybody knew what they were, but they wanted them gone. * * * Before I got into music full time I worked in a lot of factories, tried selling encyclopedias, dug graves, greased cement mixers, drove a school bus, and did a bunch of other jobs. I had a perfect employment record: I never worked anyplace I could go back to. * * * MY INVENTION: A hands-free umbrella for bald guys, with a plunger on the bottom to hold it on the head. Copyright © June 20, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

June 12th, 2018...

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PICTURE AT A RAILROAD STATION. (For my dad on Fathers Day.) The cavernous old railroad station was dimly lit, or seems that way in my memory. My parents, my sisters, and I headed toward the big doors that led to the platform where the trains chugged and waited. It was the end of an era. One of us wasn't coming back... ever. We had never been your average family. My mother had been an artist and a model. My father was a flamboyant jack-of-all-trades: A stock broker at times, head of an oil company, owner of a gambling ship that never sailed, a mortgage broker, an aviator, and author of a course on aeronautics. He was a party thrower and the life of every one, and made every holiday a festival. He was rich one year and broke the next. As a young man he was a boxer and a daredevil. During World War Two he was drafted to be General Manager of the Bell Aircraft plant, at the same time there were rumors of his involvement with the black market. I came home from school one afternoon and couldn't get the front door open. It was stuck against silver fox furs. The whole house was knee deep in them. I don't know where he got them, but I wasn't too surprised. We all knew him and were ready for anything. There was a distinguished couple in the living room, browsing through the pelts, a New York State Supreme Court justice and his wife. He was brilliant in an off-beat way, and an adventure as a father. Then he got sick. His disease had symptoms similar to Alzheimer's, and the smart, witty man of the world became like a child. He couldn't work. He tried. My mother submitted a resume for him, and got him a job on his track record as a mechanical engineer. She dressed him in a suit and tie and took him to the job. He called a few hours later to be picked up. He had ordered his crew to put way too much pressure on a ship's drive shaft they were working on, and blew it through the factory roof. The family was broke and had to split up. My father was to live with his sister in Ohio, "just until things get better". The rest of us were to sell all the furniture and belongings, and move in with my mother's parents in Florida. Certain memories stick in my mind like clear snapshots and never go away. One of those is the night at the railroad station when we kissed my father goodbye, and lied to each other that it was just temporary. I remember pushing through giant swinging doors that led to the train platform. The steam from the idling engine puffed out across my knees. The ceiling was dark and high with sooty light bulbs in it. And that's all I remember! The rest is gone. I do recall seeing him one more time several years later. I was hitchhiking from Florida or somewhere and I stopped in Miamisburg to see how he was. He opened the door, and after a minute he recognized me. I didn't think he would. He grabbed me in his strong arms and hugged tight. One moment in time again... like a photo... and everything after is blank. I don't have any memory of hearing of his death, or a funeral. I have a thing about funerals: People tell me I was there, but I have no memories of them. All in all, he was the tailor made father for me. We had so many good times, it's funny that this railroad station picture surfaces so often. After he died I kept seeing men who looked like him for several years. A car would be ahead of me in traffic and I'd see the back of the driver's head. It was him! I'd hurry to catch up and it was just a stranger. Or was it, I wondered? Maybe it was my dad for the minute before I caught up. Copyright © June 12, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

May 26th, 2018...

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WHY WE LOVE FLORIDA. It's only May and already tropical storm Alberto is looking at us funny! Here's what I wrote on this subject last year. * * * We're busy packing for hurricane Irma. We're throwing each other into plastic bags. If we pack all our irreplaceables Misty will have to leave me behind. The stations were out of gas, Publix was out of water, but they had Peanut Butter Cups so I had 4 to cheer me up. We're going to a local motel Sunday. If the storm comes sooner we can't get there. All hotel rooms are booked solid. We're going to be sitting in the hotel lobby from midnight Saturday till 3PM Sunday. I hope they don't mind our drinking beer, smoking cigars, and having sex. Late night watching the Ch. 2 weather guy, I said, "I think he's growing a mustache". Misty said, "It's the shadow of his nose." I said, "That's an old song." When we were checking into the motel, people were sitting around the dining area eating breakfast. They were the exact same people from the hurricane last year, sitting in the same seats... like some kind of weird painting. There may have been dogs playing poker. I was carrying loads of stuff in the rain. A guy said, "You're all wet." I said, "I must have sneezed while peeing." My hands are so swollen I can't get my ring off. I'll have to use the can opener. We heard there was a missing cat in the hotel. Later, at the height of the storm, Misty said, "I just saw something fly by the window!" I said, "Was it a cat?" We were so tired from all the preparations and loading & unloading that we slept through the actual hurricane. One more hurricane and they're gonna hear from me! Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

May 17th, 2018...

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A FEW MUSIC MEMORIES. A long time ago, Misty and I went to a Christmas party at Charlie Pride's house. Waylon Jennings was there in a leisure suit. This was before we all got to be outlaws. We were doing a Southern tour with Leroy van Dyke, and one place didn't have enough electricity to run our show. Leroy offered to let us plug in to his bus generator. Merle Haggard used our PA system once when his wasn't working. Friends share on the road. Walt Disney World put on a Country Cavalcade. The three acts were in three sections of the park and we alternated show times so the crowd would move from one stage to the next. Roy Clark was at the front by the castle. Hank Williams, Jr. was at the opposite end of the Park, and Misty and I and our band set up in the center, near the big merry-go-round. Our section was called Vanity Fair. It was a great day to be in show business. We got some celebrities in our club in Orlando. Roni Stoneman would come in and play her banjo with us. One night she finished an amazing solo and the audience stood and cheered. She said, "I bet you thought I was just a pretty face." Fabian was in the audience a lot, always with a good looking date. He didn't sing, but we'd sit and talk with him. The first time Ferlin Husky came in he sat at a corner table. We loved Ferlin. He was such a classy guy. Unfortunately, when we introduced him to the crowd he stood up and almost knocked himself out on a TV platform. We felt bad about it. In the 1970s we did "The Three Couples Tour": with Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely, George Jones & Tammy Wynette, and Misty Morgan & me. Good times. Misty and I were on the road in our motor home. It was about 2 AM and we pulled in and parked in a Walmart lot, and turned out the lights. A watchman pounded on our door and yelled, "YOU CAN'T SLEEP HERE!". We both shouted, "WE'RE NOT SLEEPING!" * * * I was out walking yesterday. The neighbors said, "Jack looks so lifelike!" Copyright © May 16, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

May 10th, 2018...

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THE TEAR. For Mothers Day. There's something about a photograph. Many people believe that having your picture taken steals some of your soul. I look at pictures of friends and relatives who have died, and I can see that soul, especially in the eyes, the expression, and even the body language. I have a picture of my mother taken at a holiday gathering during her later years. She was smiling, and seemed to be in the Christmas spirit. I've looked at that picture many times, but a few weeks ago, I enlarged it, and thought I saw something. I hit the 200% button, made it really big, and zoomed in on her face. The smile was still there, but in her eye I saw something unexpected: A tear. I sat back in shock and took a deep breath. What could she have been thinking? Was it a tear of joy or sadness? Did she know that it may be one of her last family moments? I asked her that question aloud, but the photograph didn't answer. I'm sure we were all enjoying the moment together, but at the same time, taking it for granted. You always think there will be many more. Now I realize my mother was not taking that moment for granted. I keep going back to look at the photo, even though it's burned into my mind, and my heart. When I discovered the tear behind her smile, I had tears to match hers. We spoke to each other beyond the limits of time and space. There is soul in a photograph. Copyright © May 10, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

May 2nd, 2018...

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THE WINDOW. The writer sits by the open window in his comfortable room, his feet propped up on the sill. He holds a yellow legal pad and a felt tipped pen. This is what he writes: "Twilight in the afternoon. Only two o'clock, but looking more like seven. Cold front moving in. "Big soft raindrops slap down random leaves on the bush that leans against the window. The tempo of the rain picks up. Now the breeze turns to wind, and the trees thrash around. It begins to rain on your feet. Feeling rugged and outdoorsy. The feet stay! "Suddenly, lightning, and then thunder! The feet come down. Rain splotches appear on your writing paper, and the blowing curtains drape over your head, creating a Mona Lisa effect. From somewhere across the lake, a train whistle. A sound often described as "lonesome", but more like "unrestful"... A moving sound, a signal to the wanderer inside us. "You turn on the lamp and security fills the room. The sky and lake are a lighter gray now and you reopen the window. The rain is letting up, mostly just the eaves dripping. A squirrel checking out the wet garage roof. The air smells different: Washed vegetation, damp wood, supper cooking. And it's colder. The feet return to the windowsill in fuzzy socks from the bottom of the drawer. "A storm is not bad from the inside, looking out. You recall other dark days, in bleak, hopeless places. You were alone, cold, and it was no fun." (That is all he puts on paper. His eyes close as he dozes off.) The policeman says "Come on. You can't sleep here". He's lying on cement, covered with a large piece of cardboard. He opens his eyes and sees the inside of a parking garage. There are oil spots in the empty parking spaces. It's chilly. He says: "What the hell?" The cop nudges him with his nightstick. "Come on, buddy. Let's go." He struggles to his feet, aching all over. "I gotta get home", he says. "My wife's cooking supper." The cop says "Uh-huh". Out on the pavement he tries to get his bearings. The unfamiliar street is lined with old warehouses and dirty brick buildings. Some of the second story windows have old shades, or shreds of curtain, as though somebody once lived there. The sky is clouded over gray. No telling what time it is. It looks like rain. He picks a direction at random and starts walking, collar turned up against the wind, hands deep in his pockets in search of warmth. A paper cup blows along the gutter. He thinks about the dream he had before the cop woke him up. Something about a warm house, and the smell of dinner cooking. He feels for a wallet, knowing it wouldn't be there. There is some change in his pocket, and a half-smoked cigarette. By long habit, he's looking for the edge of the city, so he can hitch a ride to a smaller town where help comes easier. Big cities don't care. He's almost across the city when the rain starts and the chill sets in. He spends some of his change on coffee at a Burger King, and is now entering the suburbs. The storm comes up fast and he ducks into a doorway. Lightning, and then thunder, almost at once. That was close! Now he's cold and wet. He's not going to make it out of town tonight. He's got to find shelter! He leaves the doorway and turns down a tree lined side street, with a small lake on the left, and sturdy old houses on the right. Lights are on in some of the windows. "It must be nice." Across the lake he sees some boathouses that might help him get dry. This street probably winds right around there. He sees a house that looks strangely familiar. Maybe a look-alike from his forgotten past. Now he notices the first person he's really looked at all day. There's a guy in an open window with his feet up on the sill. In this weather! He must be nuts! It's been raining on his feet, and he's asleep! The curtains have blown up around his head like a bandanna. He turns and walks away, shaking his head at the stupidity, On a day like this, if you have a window, you should close it. Copyright © May 1, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

April 21st, 2018...

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THINGS FOUND IN OUR SHED. We found a 1978 Armed Forces Radio show Misty and I did. On the other side of the LP is a show with Ferlin Husky and Betty Jean Robinson. We also did these shows with Don Gibson, Liz Anderson, and others. They are on almost worn out acetate discs. Under a pile of lost left socks, we found a Jack & Misty Columbia LP album that was never released. We also found a bunch of songs I wrote, recorded by other people. One was Billy Joe Burnette singing “Don’t It Look Like Georgia”. Another was Englebert Humperdink” doing “Second Tuesday in December”, and The Ventures playing “Gemini”. Cover records of our "Tennessee Birdwalk", by Buck Owens and Susan Raye, Rolfe Harris, and other artists. I found one I wrote with Sheb Wooley. Willie Nelson is the star of The Florida Strawberry Festival last year. We were the Strawberry Festival stars 40 years ago. Willie's coming up in the world. ******************************************************************************* And a few words found in our songs: "OLD SONGS." Mrs. Miller is singing the OLD SONGS With the nurses at afternoon games. She remembers the words to the OLD SONGS, But forgotten her family's names. The past is just over her shoulder And the music can turn back the years. Old times flicker by the corner of her eye When the OLD SONGS ring in her ears. So bring up the band and give them a hand. While we can, let's all sing along And maybe we'll find lost love in the memories That live in the heart of OLD SONGS. "FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL." I'm goin' Down to the roundhouse, And look at the trains. Up on the rooftop, spottin' airplanes. Follow the Bouncing Ball, Sing an old song. I don't mind if you tag along. Saturday matinee, give away a funny book, free of charge. Also a Cracker Jack. Read Red Ryder, Little Beaver. Trade it for a Dizzy Dean baseball card. Got no reason, Got no rhyme. Just kickin' a can down the road o' time. Follow the Bouncing Ball, Sing an old song. I don't mind if you tag along. ************************************************************************* A final thought: A Wendy's cashier demanded that I prove that I'm NOT eligible for a senior discount. Copyright © April 20, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

April 14th, 2018...

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OUR BIG NIGHT OUT. (From 2005.) Last night we went to a little beer and wine joint to see and hear a 15 piece modern jazz band. The decor was Early Dumpster, and we were the oldest people for miles. A girl put white bracelets on our wrists at the door, in case we escaped. A lot of the young guys wore long baggy tee shirts and ankle length shorts, like Charlie Brown. The girl in front of us had the US map tattooed on her back, in case she got lost. They were a small but friendly group. Empty heads waiting for information. You could look into their eyes and see that nobody was driving. There were no seats, so we stood on the cement floor We bought a couple of beers and put cotton in our ears for safekeeping. The echo in the room rolled all the sound into one big lump, so I can’t judge the music with any fairness. Much of it sounded to me like the mental hospital orchestra rehearsing “Flight of the Bumblebee”. I know the band is excellent, which only makes me feel dumber. They rehearse at this little bar where they charge fans to get in. During intermission, a guy armed with an electric guitar was allowed to play for free. They should have made him an offer to leave. He assaulted the strings for an hour on the same three notes, without letting go of a single musical idea. The best part was when he got his thumb caught in the strings. He eventually stopped, shook the saliva from his guitar, and left. The patrons drifted back into the room for the next band set. All in all, we did enjoy the experience. Sometimes I just complain to be funny. This morning is like Old Home Week. I’m old, I’m home, and I feel weak. Copyright © 2005, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

April 4th, 2018...

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EARL BLANCHARD'S SECRET. I enjoyed Uncle Earl's world and I’ve kept his secret all this time. Earl died some years back, so I guess it's safe to tell now. Some people have character. Earl Blanchard was probably a reincarnated pirate. His face, one eyed and scarred, wore an expression of jovial roughness. His medium height frame carried a stocky mass of muscle, which in his middle age was taking on a comfortable roundness. He had the big voice, jutting jaw, and bull neck of a football coach. I'm sure he could put his head through his collar without undoing the button. His hands were pudgy rocks, and his artificial leg gave him a distinctive limp. The family laughed a lot when he came to visit. Tensions were loosened while bottle caps popped and jokes were told. I liked him. They used that against me. My family thought I was being influenced by my bummy gang of friends. They didn't know I was the leader. They wanted to get me away from said bums to nip my budding delinquency. I should have suspected when the laughter from the kitchen turned to whispering. They were planning to send me with Earl on one of his business trips. I knew his work involved horse racing, which seemed more attractive than the nagging at home, and my family was sure he could straighten me out. We left at dawn in his beat up station wagon, loaded down with horsey gear, blankets, bridles, blinders, medicines, salves, and so on. The smell of leather was strong. I drove while Earl philosophized. I thought he was witty and responded with a lot of chuckling. We stopped for a beer in a place where everybody knew him, and nobody questioned my age. At the Hamburg Raceway I learned that Earl was a traveling salesman, selling equipment to horse owners on his regular rounds. Everywhere we went they smiled and waved when they saw Earl. He seemed to care more about socializing than about profit. Often they'd just buy a small item from him as a friendly gesture, or maybe in payment for the fresh jokes and inside news he dispensed. Sometimes they'd whisper about me, and I'd get an offer to stay and spend a few days, which I would decline. Warm good-byes, and we'd be on our way. I wondered if I could ever get used to the smell of stables. For some reason we took the old narrow roads across New York State. Our route wound through the Catskills, the land of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. It was a peculiarly beautiful area, where a strange mist haunted every hollow in the early morning. Just outside Saratoga he told me to turn into a gravel road, past a "No Trespassing" sign, and up a mountainside to a rambling brick house with gingerbread trim. We rang the door chimes and heard barking. Mrs. O'Hagen was a large white-haired woman with harlequin glasses and a brusk manner. She and Earl were an unlikely pair, but seemed to hit it off. She had two blind Boston Terriers and a foreign maid. The dogs ran and played all over the house, until one day a new housekeeper moved some furniture, and the poor dogs were bouncing off walls. I love dogs. The three of us took off in a Jeep for a tour of the ranch in the chilly mountain air. We drove for miles through forests and hills, without ever leaving the O'Hagen property. Groups of racehorses ran wild, to be rounded up later. That evening we rode to the racetrack in Mrs. O'Hagen's Cadillac, which she drove with a vengeance, never once dimming her lights for the oncoming peasants. At the track, naturally, everybody knew and liked Uncle Earl. I don't think the tour straightened me out, but it might have benefited my friends. Earl’s secret was this: Selling equipment was not his real job. He was a race detective, an undercover man for the Racing Association. His many friends who mourned his passing never knew, but he was keeping his eye on them. Copyright © April 4, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

March 27th, 2018...

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HAPPINESS IS HARD TO PIN DOWN. Miami. Early 1960s. Misty and I were struggling, mostly broke, and even homeless on the street for a few days. In the mid-1960s we had a trio on the road playing small clubs all over the East and Midwest. Our old car and homemade trailer kept breaking down, and taking all the money. Then we got lucky and landed a steady job at a Miami supper club. That's where we met Richard Nixon and other famous people. Things were getting better. We got a one month booking at a lounge in Key West, and two guys came in and signed us to a four song contract. We went to Nashville to record. There were no hits, but our song "Bethlehem Steel" got played, and Wayside Records signed us. In December, 1969, Misty and I were entertaining crowds at Orlando's Everglades lounge and commuting to Nashville to record. We had had one Billboard charted single, "Big Black Bird" on Wayside Records. We had a steady gig, a nice home, and bought a new Corvette. After struggling for years on the road playing low-pay gigs. The stress was off and we were reasonably happy without any hits. Our song "Big Black Bird" had gotten a Pop Pick in Billboard, along with Aretha Franklin and others the same week, although we considered it Country. Wayside Records got excited and negotiated with Mercury Records for distribution. Mercury was ready to go with the record, but the master sent to them by Wayside was faulty. They had to call Wayside and wait for another master. Radio stations were ready to play it but had no copies, and the record died. But now we were on Mercury, a major label. In early March, 1970, the phone rang. It was Little Richie Johnson at Wayside. He said, "You better get packed. We're selling 50,000 a day!" A month later, on April 4th, "Tennessee Bird Walk" hit Number One, and our life changed completely. A week later on April 11th, it was Number One again, and we were doing a show with Jerry Lee Lewis and Waylon Jennings at a performing arts center. Waylon joked, "You're killing my record. Please get off Number One." That was the wildest year ever. We were doing major network TV shows, state fairs and festivals, recording "Humphrey the Camel", "You've Got Your Troubles", and others, and dealing with big time agents and managers. We were disoriented, facing new problems, and on the road all the time. We often didn't know where we were. The money went through our hands to agents, managers, musicians, roadies, etc., and for expensive clothes for TV and big live shows. Our happiest times were in studios, recording with great musicians. It was a wonderful year, an exciting year, and a grueling year. A bunch of IRS guys showed up at our house. Would we do it all again? You betcha. Copyright © March 27, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

March 20th, 2018...

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THE GANGSTER. Very few people are as good or as bad as the first impression. We can protect ourselves by being suspicious of new people, but our suspicion can bring out a dark side. Sometimes they will play whatever roll you write for them. On the other hand, a bad guy can be a saint with us if we don't expect evil of him. He unconsciously tries to be whatever is expected of him. I know this from experience. There was Joe M., a notorious gangster in Miami who treated me like a son. He was an elderly man who bore a strange resemblance to Edward G. Robinson. I played piano and managed two nightclubs for him. He was always more than fair with me. He even protected me from other mobsters. I think the secret was this: I'd never heard of him. He just seemed to me like a nice old man, and he lived up to that image. When I heard about his bloody and violent career, I couldn't just turn off the friendship. It was like the news stories were about somebody else. I heard all the stories, but he and I never discussed that side of his life. I kept up the pretense that I didn't know. We trusted each other. Joe had a trick he liked to do for friends. He could take my shirt off with out removing my suitcoat. I still don't know how he did it. He was old then and is surely dead by now, and he will always be a villain in the public memory, but if they ever ask me, I'll give him a good reference. He was nice to me. Copyright © March 20, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

March 8th, 2018...

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ONE FINE WEEK IN ATLANTA. Misty and I often did shows with Jerry Reed, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, and Archie Campbell. One of those shows was a week long booking at Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheater, an outdoor venue. It was Boots Randolph's show, and he always treated the artists, musicians, and staff as honored guests, with long tables of food and drink backstage, and the party feeling that carried over to the audiences. Before the first show, Roy stepped out of his bus carrying a glass of unknown iced beverage. Misty said "How're ya doin', Roy?" Roy smiled and said "Gettin' well, honey." The drinks never caused any real problems, although a couple of times the emcee tried to take acts off stage before they were done. They were innocent mistakes, and kinda funny. We were all friends. Like most amphitheaters, it was bowl shaped, and the bands were pretty much protected from the weather, but the act out at the front of the stage could get a little wet if it rained. This can be a thrill if you are hooked up to electrical equipment. We had just finished our show and were walking off, when Archie Campbell was heading out to do his act. I said "It's pretty windy out there, Arch." Archie ran his hand suavely over his hair and said this: "I don't have to worry. I bought the casual style." He was always funny... on or off stage. The crowds were huge and Saturday night was our closing show. We all met back at the hotel where Boots and his manager X. Cosse had us staying. They had the hotel dining room set up like a king's banquet... tons of food and anything you want to drink. It was a party for everybody in the show, including roadies and friends of friends. For the first hour everybody was there having a good time, except Jerry Reed, who was conspicuous in his absence. He bounced into the room at about 11:30, said quick hellos to the gang, grabbed a take out box, went through the food table like a lawnmower, and was gone with the wind and his doggy box of food. Jerry was on Fast Forward, and his whole appearance lasted about seven minutes. Misty went into his bus and got his autograph when we worked together at the Citrus Bowl. We loved Jerry Reed, and he was also my favorite guitar player. Then, later in the party, there was some excitement going on at the ballroom door when some medics rushed in with a stretcher. We wondered what was up. Roy Clark grinned, raised his glass, and said goodbye to everybody. Then he made himself comfortable on the stretcher, and was carried out to the ambulance and rushed to the airport. He was late and had a plane to catch. I've tried to report the week's events exactly as they happened, down to the finest detail, but remember, I may have had a beer myself. The music business used to be more fun than it is now, and we miss all our old friends a lot, but we're so lucky to have been part of that wonderful era. Copyright © March 7, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

February 28th, 2018...

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TRANSITIONS. (From February 28th, 2015. A look back.) It's a cool gray rainy day here, a transitional day, with the remnants of Winter and early signs of Spring. Standing under the edge of our carport I can see almost a mile of tan fields and lines of trees, until the landscape gets lost in the mist. The trees and Spanish moss are moving with the breeze, as are the flags on our street. These are mostly World War Two people and that kind of patriotism doesn't go away, even though the nation has changed over their lifetime. I didn't like Florida for a long time after I landed here. The palms annoyed me. They were foreign and reminded me that I wasn't home; that this was all temporary and I didn't belong here. I could go to almost anywhere up north and not feel like an outsider, but Florida felt unreal... like a movie. As I stood just out of the rain today and took in the palms, the giant oaks in rainy-day colors, and the Spanish Moss like graceful fringe on a gown, it occurred to me that I like it. When did that happen? I still love Buffalo with it's four seasons and the energy in the air, but it's mostly the Buffalo in my memory. The last time we visited there, I enjoyed it, but I had a sense of being outside looking in. The world has changed so much that maybe we all feel a little like strangers at times, but this subtropical place has sneaked up on me and it's started to look right. Maybe I'm home... or as close as I'll ever get. Copyright © 2015, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

February 19th, 2018...

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A 1971 VISIT TO DISNEY WORLD. (From my Orlando newspaper column, 1971. That was Walt Disney World's first year.) Saturday afternoon, through no fault of my own, I found myself being patted on the butt by the Disney turnstile. I had already been forced to memorize "Goofy 746-118B" under threat of never seeing my car again. I tried to get back out through the turnstile, but Misty and our guest took me by the ears, and dragged me, sobbing, into The Magic Kingdom. The music of a 200 piece rock band was being magically forced through a 3-inch loudspeaker. At a lunch counter we stood in line for a while, and we were abruptly awakened by a teenage counter girl. She glared at us silently, waiting for our order. They must have been out of Mouseburgers, because all she gave us was a small cardboard box containing three small cardboard hamburgers. "The one on top is 'without sauce'", she said. That was true. None of them had sauce. I was startled to find she could talk. At the first big show, there were several hundred of us waiting in the theater lobby We were jockeying for position. A young hostess with the microphone had been waiting for this. 'LAY-DEEZ AND GEN-TUL-MEN", she screamed into the P.A. system, which was set at number ten. A lady in front of me rolled her eyes and collapsed to the floor. To my left, a businessman clutched his chest and flung himself over the railing. A child's voice cried, "I didn't know the Lord was a lady!" "YOU ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT ME, so you might just as well stand there and listen to what I have to say!" The meek dropped like flies all around us. "When I see fit to open the doors you will quickly move into the theater and hurry to the opposite end of the room, dragging your dead and wounded! There will be no eating, drinking, smoking... no talking, no flash cameras, no holding hands, and no giggling! All right! You may now march into the auditorium in a quiet orderly manner. We hope you enjoy our presentation." Inside, another starlet took over. She was good, but she couldn't top her ugly sister out front. She sort of sang her speech: "Immediately upon the conclusion of our presentation you will exit swiftly to the left of the herd. Do not touch or lean on the railings! They were only constructed to maintain discipline... blah blah blah oral hygiene and regular dental care." After the show I said: "How 'bout a nice relaxing boat ride back to the parking lot? Fun's fun, but I'm worn out!" The ferry captain waited till we were away from shore to do his number on us. He never once stopped mumbling over the mike, which sounded like a giant toilet paper tube. Not one word was in any known language. It sounded like a Winston Churchill speech played backwards. His volume was a couple of decibels above the point of pain, and passengers were leaping ecstatically overboard. At the main exit we were divided into squares, and loaded onto people movers. The conductress of the tram was armed with a microphone. "IF THERE ARE MORE THAN FIVE OF YOU IN A SEAT, WE ARE NOT GOING TO MOVE!' A man behind me said: "We just got here and they're threatening us already!" I said; "Yes. Isn't it great?" "IF THAT CHILD IS MORE THAN THREE YEARS OLD, HE WILL HAVE TO GET OFF YOUR LAP!" I got off Misty's lap. "If you drop a package, a baby, or if your hat blows off we are NOT allowed to stop!" The tram began to move. "We will pass throught the Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, and Freaky sections of the parking area! We have twelve thousand cars parked here, and if you miss your section we can NOT take you back! So, Lots o' luck. Ha ha." "This is our first stop. Grumpy people exit quickly to the driver's right! Goofy people exit to the left!" We exited to the right. We were grumpy people. Copyright © 1971, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

February 14th, 2018...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

VALENTINE'S DAY, 1991. That was the day of the strong arm robbery. We were playing in Jacksonville Florida, and Misty wanted to go and buy a red blouse for Valentine's Day. She was already wearing a very nice red blouse, but I kept my mouth shut. We drove to a Pic 'n' Save store on Dunn Avenue. I dropped her off near the door and drove to the nearest parking slot. It had just gotten dark. As I was locking the car door I heard a woman scream. I had never heard Misty scream, but the sound came from where she ought to be... by the door. I started toward the building and saw a big guy running from the door area, from right to left across the front of the building, and carrying a woman's purse. He was going about 35 mph when he saw me running directly at him. He shouted: "NOOOOOOO!" We crashed head on and I knocked him across a bunch of shopping carts. I spun around, flew a few feet, and landed on the point of my index finger, like an acrobat. The finger bent into an "L", and I did a neat landing on my face. People in the parking lot closed in, held the guy down and called the police, while I looked for my glasses and bled from a variety of places. He had been running toward the high chain link fence where he was to throw the purse to his brother, who was waiting on the other side. The brother disappeared. The cops told us that if he hadn't taken at least $400 they couldn't send him away, wink, wink. Funny, that's the exact amount we reported. Meanwhile, Misty, who was also hurt from being knocked to the ground by a blow to the ear, was helping me into the store to get assistance. Something had gone wrong with my leg and I couldn't walk. The pharmacist said he couldn't help because it would be admitting liability. I'm leaning on Misty with broken glasses, an injured leg, a bent finger, and bleeding like a lawn sprinkler. I reached across the counter, grabbed the pencil out of his pocket, pushed him aside, took some tape from a shelf, and made a rough splint for my finger. The next day we went to a walk-in medical clinic where the doctor put a splint on my finger backwards, Later I turned it around. I was on crutches for a couple of months and the crook went to jail. We sued the store and came out of it with a nice used car. Since then I don't forget Valentines Day as I used to. Copyright © February 14, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

February 9th, 2018...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

STILL MORE ODDS AND ENDS. THE BALLET EXPERIMENT. Business was off at the ballet. The theater manager was sharp enough to realize that not everybody likes the ballet. Some people like trombone playing. He did an extensive talent search and found a ballerina who could play the trombone. He offered her big bucks if she could learn to do both at once. The house was packed on opening night. The ballerina danced "Swan Lake" brilliantly, playing the trombone all the way until the last act, which called for a pirouette and a seventh position trombone lick at the same time. She tripped over another swan, blew her teeth to the audience, and did an ad lib five minute pain dance. I know this story is true because I was that ballerina. ******************************************************************************** 1957. When my Dawn Breakers vocal quartet,were recording for a Detroit label, we stayed at an old hotel called The Barlum. A lot of traveling show biz people stayed there. I found it had a long closed penthouse nightclub with a white grand piano. I was up there alone writing songs each night and enjoying the view of the city lights. ********************************************************************************** Miami, 1960's. Misty and I were just coming off being homeless, when a couple of musicians who had always snubbed us asked us to fill in on their gig because they had something better to do for two nights. It was in Hialeah near the race track and a winner came in and tipped us $100. We almost passed out! That was like $1,000 then. *********************************************************************************** I wrote, arranged, and conducted the music for a government documentary film about The Everglades, called "Million Acre Playground". It was good experience watching the film and getting the live band to synchronize with the scenes. I went to the premier in Ft. Lauderdale and sat through it just to see my name fly by in the credits. ********************************************************************************** Starting out, we couldn't afford a Hammond B-3 organ, so Misty got a Wurlitzer and tinkered with it. She got the keys to pop like a Hammond by putting a switch halfway on. The audiences liked to see the sparks fly in the back of the organ. *********************************************************************************** Over forty years ago we were driving in heavy traffic down a six or eight lane highway near the Pentagon. There was a small injured dog trapped in the median. When I could stop a few miles later I called the police trying to get help for the dog. The cop said. "We ain't allowed to shoot 'em." Nothing I could do. Now, four decades later, I still remember that little dog, and the look on his face, and I still feel somehow guilty. ************************************************************************************ The teacher said, "What is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?" I said, "I don't know and I don't care." * * * "Bewitch me, darling. Bewitch me." "I'll bewitch you in a minute. I'm busy." * * * A group of rabbits walking backwards is a receding hare line. * * * I don't know why the doctor gave me an anti-depressant. .. unless it's because I had my hands around his throat. * * * I'm getting crows feet, but somehow my shoes still fit. Copyright © February 9, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

January 31st, 2018...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

HOW WE RUINED LUNCH HOUR IN DULUTH. We were not recording stars, and had no idea we would ever have hit records. We were just three Florida musicians, Misty, me, and our guitar player Doug Tarrant, who somehow wound up in the north country in December. Our booking was at the Black Bear Lounge in the Hotel Duluth. Our dog, Brubeck, accompanied us on the tour. He looked like a Jack Russell Terrier, but he wasn't anything you could pin down. Brubeck would not eat dog food. He would eat cat food or a foul smelling liver and garlic concoction that Misty cooked for him. He would also eat complete motel mattresses, medium sized linoleum floors, and my better clothes. We loved him! Misty felt a need to dress Brubeck up like a rich lady's poodle. He would be led through the lobby wearing a leopard print dog coat, a hat, and four yellow boots, at least one of which was always turned around with the toe facing grotesquely backwards. He would be shaking a rear leg trying to get rid of it. This gets worse. The hotel had a classy restaurant which was below ground level. The sidewalk and snow covered grass were exactly at eye level with the lunch crowd inside. The place was packed with business people enjoying their food, when Misty's legs appeared in the far right window, then the leash, and finally what looked like a dog in a pimp suit. The pimp dog went right up to the restaurant window and proceeded with a long overdue bowel movement. Misty, totally embarrassed at being the focus of every eye in the crowd, tried her best to look like she'd never seen this dog before in her life. It didn't work, and Brubeck went earnestly on and on. Then she made it worse by trying to drag him away while he was still going. A lot worse! The lunch hour business dropped off abruptly after that. Copyright © 2017 Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted b y kind permission of the author.

January 17th, 2018...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

GHOST TOWN. Somehow we had missed the turnoff to the southern Ohio town. We went back to where the highway ought to be and found a narrow old road, with grass growing up through the cracks in the pavement. Could this be the main road to town that I remembered from my childhood? The sign said it was. The small city, after slumbering quietly for generations, had become a boom town with the coming of a large chemical company. For a while the population grew with the influx of labor. The little corner taverns where old cronies had once exchanged worldly wisdom became juke joints as the town opened up. Housing became scarce, money became plentiful, and the townsfolk began a new habit... locking their doors. That was the last time I'd seen the place, and the only memory I had to go by. I was surprised at the desolate weeded over road that had once been a main artery. We turned off the superhighway and followed the rustic lane toward the town, trying to spot familiar landmarks. There were new shabby buildings, some vacant and boarded up. There were new gas stations looking aged and toothless with their pumps gone. I thought I recognized an old building... a certain curve in the road... but the clutter made it impossible to get my bearings. Drifting into town, I was relieved to see the railroad station and its surrounding park untouched by time. I had often told Misty about the good times at Aunt Bess' house, where I had spent a lot of my childhood. Now I was about to show her the actual place where it all happened, but at first I couldn't find it. It used to be right there on the corner of Fourth and Maple. Now there was just a rundown Frankenstein house hiding in the weeds. We parked while I stared at it for a long time. I had somehow forgotten... They're all gone. The whole smiling, partying family had died off one by one since I'd been gone. I knew it, I'm sure, but I’d blocked it out. The small grocery store across the street had a new name but looked the same. I went in and asked, but they didn't remember who had lived in that corner house. They didn't recognize my desperately mentioned names, and they were busy. Asking around we learned that the chemical plant had laid off thousands of workers, and the government had built a superhighway that bypassed the town, so it went quietly back to sleep, somewhat the worse for wear. We searched the town all day, and it was sunset before we found anyone we knew. They were all together, as always. The squeak of the rusty wrought iron gate pierced the evening stillness, as we entered the old cemetery, and began brushing away weeds and dust, to peer at names on tombstones... names that clicked on familiar faces in my mind. We drove out of town and didn't talk for a while. Nobody said goodbye. If this was a ghost town these new people didn't know it. We were the ghosts. Copyright © January 16, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

January 15th, 2018...
WATCH THIS! Amazon is selling our 29 SONG CD new for $200, used for $50 to $100!... We are offering these NEW CD-Rs, exact duplicates, art work, sound & all, personally autographed to you, for $39.95 + shipping. Email, or write Jack Blanchard, PO Box 895444, Leesburg FL 34789. (P.S.: Click on the picture for a slightly larger view.)
January 3rd, 2018... And a happy new year to everybody out there, and welcome to our first news page of 2018. (But enough about that.) Here's Jack (but...)

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

ENOUGH ABOUT ME. Misty Morgan, my wife and partner, has a photographic memory for music. I call it a "phonographic" memory. She can play any piece she hears once, even if it's just background Muzak in a store, but she does not read music. She has never sung a note off key. Her first underage jobs were with pickup combos around Tonawanda, New York. They played standards, dance music, and a little country. As a piano single, she played and sang mostly standards, Broadway, and popular songs. When I met her she was playing with a country band at The Corral Barbecue in West Hollywood, Florida, under the name "Mary Male". One night, when we had only been together a short time, we went to a club to hear an all female jazz quintet. Somebody asked her to sit in on piano, and she accepted. I was embarrassed. I said, "Honey, you don't play jazz." She just said, "I can do it." As she went on-stage, I went to the rest room. I didn't want to see it. Then I heard this great jazz piano, a mix of Oscar Petersen, Erroll Garner, and Ramsey Lewis. I went out and looked and it was Misty. She brought down the house. I said, "Where did you learn THAT?!" She calmly said, "I told you I could do it" She can play all kinds of music, and never plays anything the same twice. She is the first female entertainer I know of to play six stacked keyboards onstage. Sometimes the strings, guitars, fiddles, and many other sounds on our records are really Misty and her magic keyboards. She can blend them with Buddy Spicher, Johnny Gimbel, Vassar Clements, and other musicians, so that you can't tell. unless you were there. Her ear for sound is a valuable tool I use when mixing sessions. I can write the songs, and we work out the arrangements together, but she has the final word on the mixdowns. She was the first woman to produce a Number One country record. When I write a new song I sing it to her first. She never says it's bad. If she says, "That's really nice" I know it isn't. I have go back and work on the song until she gives the right reaction. It's sort of an excitement in her eyes... sometimes even tears. She's always right. My final editor. Everybody remarks about her unusual harmony our duets. I have no idea what she's doing and I don't want to know. It just works. On top of all this, she is the perfect straight man to my funny stuff. She folds her arms and gives me a look that says this: "Whenever you're through, dummy. We're trying to do a serious show here." The audiences love her, and so do I. Copyright © January 3, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

December 28th, 2017... (From sometime in the past.) Well, here we go again, folks. If you get the feeling you just missed last year (what was it called, anyway?), you can now find it here! (And also on the Old News page, of course.) Here's to a safe, sane and happy 2018! Happy New Year, everybody! Jerry D. Withers, Your Friendly Neighborhood Webmeister™
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