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July 2008 Archives

Tiki Bar & Black Buffett Bro /Video Outtakes

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6 p.m. July 22--

The tropical circus known as Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band appeared before 40,000 fans Saturday night at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wis. and is now moving on for shows Thursday and Saturday night at Toyota Park outside of Chicago. Those gigs will draw another 35,000 fans each night.
Those are good numbers for a bad economy.
Here's some testimony we gathered in the Alpine parking lot on Saturday. Thanks to Sun-Times cameraman Chris Sweda for the run through the high waters.


Jimmy Buffett Alpine Video

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11:30 a.m. July 20---

I've always wanted to visually document Tropical Tailgating before a Jimmy Buffett concert at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wis. Despite a fading recording industry, his concert audience continues to grow because of his shrewd (and fun) marketing sensibilities.
Saturday, 7/19 was no exception.
The noontime heavens were grey when we were drinking Bloody Marys and having German-Fried bratwurst at the legendary Brat Stop in Kenosha (gotta get the Laack's cheddar chese curds to go), but by late afternoon it was a picture perfect sky that kissed the funky Alpine ski lodge.
The concert was sold out, drawing nearly 40,000 fans. I still get goosebumps when I look at the crowded lawn during a love song like Buffett's "Come Monday." I think of passionate White Sox owner Bill Veeck who said there was nothing as beautiful as a full baseball stadium. That's how I feel at a Buffett show.
I'm guessing 5,000-7,000 fans were camped out in the parking lot before the show. Gates opened at 1 p.m. Showtime was 8 p.m. The rural setting of Alpine and nearby Lake Geneva draws fans from all over America, which is why Buffett makes this an annual stop. On stage Saturday Buffett mentioned people who trekked in from Colorado, North Dakota, Tucson, Az. and Hawaii.
With the cooperation of Buffett's management and Scott Gelman at Live Nation, here's some precious video of Saturday's pre-concert festivities. It was combat duty. My favorite sight? The group of middle-aged housewives from Sugar Grove, Ill. called "Steel Crazy." [www.steelcrazyband.com] They actually set up about 10 steel drums under a tent in the parking lot and played beautiful Buffett songs like "One Particular Harbor" and "A Pirate Looks at 40." Take a look..........

When Ex-Cub Rich Nye Was a Pup

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5 p.m. July 17--
There's nothing like the first time of being in first place--at least for 22 years.
In July, 1967 Rich Nye was the Cubs starting pitcher when the Cubs held sole posession of first place for the first time since 1945.
I was 12 years old and kept a daily Cubs scrapbook from clippings in all four Chicago newspapers. I Elmer-glued stories of the Cubs coming-out period into a loose leaf notebook. One headline actually read: "CUBS WIN--TIED FOR LEAD!" The Chicago Today newspaper even offered a blank Cubs scrapbook as a promotional item.
"I pitched against Cincinnati in the (nationally televised) 'Game of the Week'," Nye recalled while grinding down a chinchilla's teeth at a suburban veternarian office. Nye is now one of America's premiere exotic animal veternarians. Check out this great Jon Sall video of the crafty left hander at work. During our visit, Dr. Nye saw two chinchillas, an iguana and a turtle with an abscess:

"The 'Game of the Week' was the first time my folks (in Northern California) had seen me play," he said. "I don't remember the opposing pitcher. It was a 90 degree day........

Billy Joel

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7:35 p.m. July 14----

I saw that creepy black and white picture of Billy Joel that accompanied the fine Dan Barry story in Sunday’s New York Times. Joel looked like Harry Dean Stanton. It got me to thinking about my encounter with “The Piano Man” before a 1986 concert in Worcester, Mass.
People ask me about memorable interviews and there have been plenty: James Brown, Johnny Cash, Sammy Davis, Jr., Merle Haggard, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jerry Lewis (every time) Curtis Mayfield and the list goes on.
But Joel disarmed me.
He was riding a bicycle backstage while rehearsing high notes. He was chain smoking Marlboro cigarettes. He asked me what I thought of his current album “The Bridge.” What did it matter what I thought? The album was already in Billboard’s Top 10.............

Chicken Songs for the Soul

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4: 30 p.m. July 7

Soul music comes from the church.
This also begins to explain soul’s connection with American foodways.
Several years ago I caught the Rev. Al Green preaching at his Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, 787 Hale Rd. in Memphis, Tn. It was his birthday and the spread of neighborly food presented after the service was as abundant as his message. Last summer we returned to his church.
While Rev. Green was not present, I’m still recovering from brunch down the road at T.H. Hamilton’s Piccadilly Cafeteria, 3968 Elvis Presley Blvd. Green beans. Fried okra.
And sweet potatoes. Fried chicken. Crawfish etoufee. Chocolate chip pecan pie.
Herbert Wiley, vocalist-bandleader of the chitlin’ circuit legends Wiley and the Checkmates recalled the ambiance at an early 1960s juke joint before Sunday morning church in North Mississippi: “Hot in the summertime,” Wiley said earlier today while taking a cab to a New York lunch spot.........

Road Songs/Chuck Prophet

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8:55 p.m. July 6---

The highlight of my July 4 weekend was seeing Chuck Prophet and his Mission Express band kick off the 28th annual American Music Festival at FitzGerald's roadhouse in Berwyn, Ill. Based in San Francisco, Prophet doesn't get around these parts much. Prophet deals vivid mash-ups of soul, country and pop hooks that reflect his travels across America dating back to his 1985 band Green on Red.
I went back to reconsider a 2002 profile I did on Prophet when he was opening for Lucinda Williams. He called me from an economy hotel in St. Paul, Mn. to talk about absorbing the sounds of the road: "In the last five years of traveling, the one thing I've liked to do is pick up mix tapes," he said. "These guys will take Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody' on 45 RPM and put a beat behind it when it comes to the 'mama-mia' part. I'm a fan of DJ culture. I love the way they can turn things sideways....I listen to old music. I've always kept my eye in the rearview mirror, but I've started to look down the road ahead."
One of the highlights of Prophet's July 2 set was his groove drenched "Summertime Thing"" and the encore of a ladies choice instrumental "Theme From a Summer Place.' Lights on, hands off.
And every summer its inevitable someone asks me to assemble a good road mix tape.
Here's 18 songs to consider. Thanks for the inspiration, Chuck.................

Redneck White and Blue

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1:10 p.m. July 4

Steve McGranahan is a real firecracker.
But he's not the type of dude you might invite to your Fourth of July barbecue.
He can bend a frying pan with his bare hands. He also breaks 30 pound cinder blocks over his head with a sledgehammer. Who hasn't wanted to try that?
McGranahan is 6' tall and weighs 343 pounds.
He is an old-timey strong man, a slab of Redneck, White and Blue Americana.
McGranahan is billed as "The World's Strongest Redneck," and here's a video snippet of our meeting last Saturday before he performed before a Joliet Jackhammers baseball game at Silver Cross Field in suburban Joliet:

Yes, it was "Redneck Weekend" at the ballpark.............

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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