Twist My Arm

Originally published in Sound Waves Magazine April 2021

Spring has sprung and so have I.  There’s a spring in my step, as it were.  Could be my new sneakers, or, it could be, everything.

At an outdoor family gathering the other day I was asked to sing a song, any song.  “But why?” I said.  “Because!” they said.  “But what’s the point?” I said.  “Because you can!” they said.  Oh twist my arm.  Surprisingly, jubilance ensued.  Sheer joy resulted.  I had forgotten the feeling.

It got me thinking about the “Framing Britney Spears” documentary from the New York Times.  In some weird conservatorship battle with her father where she’s unable to have control over her own life, the movie reflects on Britney’s career and how she has wound up in this situation.  My favorite segment is a 2020 interview from the “As NOT Seen on TV” podcast with her brother Bryan Spears.  Bryan Spears says, “The women in this family are very, very strong-minded, and have their own opinion, and they wanna do what they wanna do and as much as I admire that as a guy, being, like one of two guys in this entire family, it kinda sucks man.”  So the pod cast interviewer, in a bit of shock, repeats for clarity:  “They’re strong-minded.  They want to do what they want to do.  Kinda constitutional, you know?”

Yeah, it’s our right to do what we want.  I got so mad at these comments my face turned into Jennifer Lawrence’s at the end of “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” when she’s lying on the hospital bed and Gale tells her that there is no more District 12.  The camera focuses on her face and the pent-up anger in her eyes;  her resolve to do something about it.  That’s sorta like my face after I saw the clip.

Britney Spears can’t do what she wants, locked away in some room, but I sure can.

I’m sure you’ve heard that for most musicians, performing live is where we get our air.  Well, I’m done suffocating.  I’m done with the frown upside down.  After all the loss of life, heartbreak and suffering in the past year, we simply have to go on, don’t we?  (If we’re not locked in a room.)

I sure do hope Britney escapes her stronghold because of her strong-mindedness.  And I for one look forward to breathing again musically, more honestly, more fervently, with more purpose and love… It is my constitutional right!



Finding the Music

Originally published in Sound Waves Magazine December 2020

When the bars and the schools and the live music venues and the world shut down in March 2020 so did the music, so it seemed.  Rather than put my quarantine time to good use by writing some introspective songs on my guitar, I left it there, lying on my band practice basement floor in its case, gathering dust.  I felt no joy in music.  It was all too sad for me.

The silence was deafening at first.  I live a half a mile from I-95 and there was…nothing.  The quiet was eerie and scary.  I resisted but I gradually found music elsewhere.

I found it in the carillon at the top of the Union Baptist Church on High Street in Mystic, Connecticut.  On every hour the bells play Westminster Quarters and a tone for each hour, except for 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. when an entire song is played for 15 minutes.   I pulled my car over to listen, amazed at the rarity yet familiarity of hearing music of any kind. The church has stood since 1765 and a standard church bell had rung consistently at 10:15 a.m. to warn townsfolk that it was time to get ready for church.  When the hurricane of 1938 destroyed the steeple and town clock a year later they were replaced by a carillon and a new clock.  I spoke with lifetime deacon Bill Adams who told me he computerized the carillon in the year 2000 complete with a collection of 500 songs.  He and staff members choose the songs for the week depending on the season and the holiday, mostly hymns and during December, Christmas songs.   There it was:  Music in its simplest yet modern form.

When Andrea Bocelli sang on Easter Sunday at Milan’s Duomo cathedral, while drone cameras floated above empty cities around the world, it was the first time I had seen live music since the start of it.  I couldn’t help the tears running down my face as my ham warmed in the oven while my daughter, home for an extended spring break from college, a break that would last six months, looked forward to an Easter egg hunt in the yard.  Just she and my husband would be doing the hunting.  Hope sprang, for a short while.

I would sit on my back porch leaning my ears toward the highway longing for anything, anything at all.  Now and then I could hear a whirr or two from a big rig but motorcyclists, always living life undauntedly, added music too: Harleys a low hum, Kawasakis a fifth interval higher. 

As summer approached I found music more prevalently, because I so desperately needed to hear it.  There was a lone cricket in the garage, some dew drops through the leaves, a family of doves which had tripled in their numbers, the squeal of a red-tailed hawk, seagulls I could hear from Long Island Sound a couple miles to the east.  On foggy days that same ocean graced me with the perfectly timed foghorn from Stonington Point.  There was a trickle from my backyard stream.  I could certainly find the music when I cranked up a Netflix movie with a great soundtrack with the whish whish whishing of the air conditioners competing while a UPS truck’s backup alarm pulling into the drive grabbed my attention. 

I took to the outdoors more and there it was again:  The splish splash of kayak oars, the gulping of a bull frog, the twerp of a toad, the crackle of a backyard fire, steaks sizzling on the grill, a bug snapper, the kazoo of a quail, and keeping the beat, a woodpecker.  I noted that the pounding of the surf at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, Rhode Island is different than the lapping softness at Eastern Point Beach in Groton, Connecticut and that sand running through your toes makes a sound if you listen.

I soon found joy in the sound of cracking an acorn with my walking sneakers, crunching fallen leaves, kicking loose branches out of the way.  I found the rhythm with my chop chop chopping of autumn vegetables while prepping a five-hour stew and with the sprinkling of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme on my Thanksgiving turkey.  There was even a remote joy hearing the harmonies of a coyote pack and a lone gray wolf on a moonlit night, followed by an alerting hiss from a doe to her young. Soon there will be jingle bells, wrapping paper, scissors and tape to drown the silence.  There will be clinking of champagne glasses.  There will be hymns.  Maybe I’ll strum my guitar.  With winter upon us and the barer the trees, the more our voices carry.  Oh listen – there’s “Joy to the World!”


originally published in Sound Waves Magazine November 2020

Football just isn’t the same.  Baseball wasn’t the same.  Halloween wasn’t the same.  Thanksgiving undoubtedly, will not be the same.  I try not to think about the dissimilarities too much because they just make me ornery.  And nothing good ever comes of being ornery.  Grumpy old men who never got what they wanted out of life are ornery.  Aging spinsters and old maids who never married, if they’re mad about it, are ornery.  Scrooges are ornery.  Children who don’t get their way are ornery.  Musicians who never became rock stars can be the orniest of all.  I’ve seen them in action and it ain’t pretty.  I’ve even seen one in the mirror. 

It’s rather easy to be ornery these days, so hard to be upbeat and positive.  But historically, I have preferred to not be ornery.  I have preferred to roll with the punches and grab what kind of joy I possibly could.  I have preferred to bring joy, not more orneriness.

I was in a band once (remember those?) where the bass player was the orniest dude I ever met.  He was overweight and had constant back problems so therefore always had the perfect excuse for not helping load the equipment.  “Hey Jack, some help here with this one-hundred-pound bass cabinet?”  “No, not today Sue, back’s acting up.”  “OK, I’ll get it.  Rock on.”  And he would in fact rock on, he was a darn good bass player.  He could throw down some nice vocal harmonies too.  So, we let him stay even though he argued about every song choice, every arrangement, every gig, every dollar of low pay.  He was ornery, we knew, because of his constant pain, so as human beings trying to bring joy to others with our music, who were we to judge?  I’ve found him recently on social media, and wouldn’t you know it, every single post or comment from him is:  ornery.

Once an ornery dude always an ornery dude I reckon.

So in this grouchiest of years that is 2020, I’ll continue to try and not be ornery (I don’t want that label, no sirree.)  This month I’ll still cook a turkey with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and eat the leftovers for a week.  I’ll donate a turkey or two.  I’ll bring some canned goods to the shelters.  I’ll pray for an end to this thing.  I’ll think about playing music again.  I won’t let this thing turn me into that dude.

Happy Thanksgiving.


originally published in Sound Waves Magazine July 2020

Improvisation in music is a time-honored skill reserved for the best of the best musicians. In jazz, it’s downright required to have the skill. In rock, we call it jamming. In theatre, we call it sketches. Whatever the words we use it all means we’re making stuff up as we go along, and we’re rolling with it.

During this COVID-19 global pandemic and economic disaster, businesses across all industries are improvising to make it through. Restauranteurs are serving meals in their parking lots. Manufacturers are making masks. Distilleries are making hand sanitizers. The list goes on.

Musicians, those most creative of human organisms, are really getting clever. The need to express themselves and try to send out healing and comforting vibes is at an all-time high.

Here are some rather interesting examples of ingenuity and improvisation I’ve witnessed on a musical level:

– Load a band onto an oyster barge, drop anchor, and tell other boat owners to gather ’round and drop anchor. Power up the amps, speakers and mixing board with a generator. Ocean Concert – Done

– Load a band onto the back of a flatbed truck. Same concept with the generator. Drive through neighborhood streets and crank it up. Encourage people to come outside and listen if they want. Stop the truck in front of a house if there’s interest. Band on a Float – Done.

– Set up a band on a stage in an empty field. Have fans drive their cars and park in the field and listen to the band. Drive-In Concert – Done.

I’m sure there are more. Let’s keep it up. It’s the American way!

God Bless America and Happy Fourth!

Miss You

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine June 2020

When I owned a music consignment shop a dude came in one day asking for stage lighting. He said it was for a very important show for a very important superstar. I thought it odd that he would come into my little shop for such an important event, but hey, I rolled with it. He said the lights had to be laser style and super cool. I happened to have a super cool light set, he bought it, and went on his way. I guess he went somewhere and tested the things and the superstar really dug them. The superstar gave me a call to thank me.

It was Mick Jagger.

We laughed and chatted about longevity in the music biz and so forth. He went his way and I went mine.

As time went on, he would call occasionally to see how me and my little shop were doing. “Oh, you know, same ole same ole,” I would say. I called him on his birthday just to say, you know, “Happy Birthday,” and he said he had been doing some research on me. So appreciative of the lighting thing, and the birthday call he said, “Hey, why don’t you come up on stage for a little numba at my next show at Gillette Stadium, just ’round the corner from you I believe.”

Gee, let me think.

So I get to Gillette, figure out how to get backstage, and I meet the superstar. He said, “What song you want to do lovey?”

I said “Well, my fav is ‘Miss You.’ How ’bout that?” He agrees. A few songs into the concert Mick waves me onstage, makes some introductions, picks up a guitar and starts jammin’ on the opening lick. I just kinda stood there for a while and he began singing, “I been holdin’ on so long, I been sleepin’ all alone, lord I miss you.” I throw in some “Whoo Whoos…” I just kinda do whatever. We get to the interlude “I been walkin’ Central Park, singin’ after dark, people think I’m crazy….” but he points to me as if to say: “Go!” So I sing the same line again except on the word “Crazy” I go up an octave and sing it like that song “Crazy” from Gnarls Barkley. I repeat, “People think I’m CRAZY!” like the Barkley song. I take over the band, as I am want to do, and sort of signal that I’m gonna take this interlude where no interlude has gone before. I started channeling Freddie Mercury like when he did that little “Day-O” crowd echoing call and response thing at Live Aid in 1995.

“People think I’m CRAZY!” I sing.

“People think I’m CRAZY!” the one hundred thousand or so people respond.

And back and forth we go. It was pretty glorious.

Quite amused, Mick leaned over and yelled in my ear: “I don’t know why you were never in my band and why it took us so long to meet! This is brilliant!”

And instantly, everything was right in the world.

They say during this global pandemic and now with this national unrest that we humans are having extraordinarily vivid and wild dreams.

This was a good one.

Let’s not forget to dream people. Dream of better days. Dream of healing. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt



originally published in Sound Waves Magazine April 2020

For my musician friends: I know you all have been bombarded with emails and newspaper articles on “what to do if you are an out of work musician during this global pandemic.”

It’s disconcerting, worrisome and can make you feel out of sorts, especially those whose only income is playing live music, teaching music and playing music with others.

Here are 13 Things Musicians Can do During a Global Pandemic:

  1. Stream yourself via Facebook Live from your living room. Set up a “stage” with some ambience and let her rip. Include your Venmo account for tips.
  2. If you’re in a cover band, find your old email list or send a Facebook event asking your fans for song requests your band can learn during this downtime.
  3. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to.
  4. Scour YouTube to find new tips and tricks.
  5. Order a new pedal or piece of gear from Amazon.
  6. Watch Broadway musicals via the BroadwayDirect streaming service.
  7. Write some songs.
  8. Remind your fans where and how to buy your previously released music.
  9. Read some famous musician biographies.
  10. Read novels with a musical theme.
  11. Call an old band mate or music teacher out of the blue, on the phone. Better yet, use Zoom for a video chat and social distancing band practice.
  12. Make an NPR Tiny Desk concert and submit it for consideration.
  13. Create a YouTube channel and record yourself playing one song at a time and release one a day. It will give you a reason to get out of bed.

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” – Washington Irving.


originally published in Sound Waves Magazine January 2020

I heard a hootin’ owl howling out my window last night, just like the song, “She went calling Wild Flower…,” the one with the epic piano coda at the end. In the song, the singer thinks that because he hears a hootin’ owl that his long-lost love will come back to him and they will both go riding on the horse Wildflower. He’s heard it three nights in a row so it must be true! For decades, because this guy said so, I thought hearing owls was some sort of good luck. As the sweet mystical sound echoed through my backwoods on a foggy Connecticut evening, I thought, OK, this is it. Something really good is going to happen.

Oh you silly bird.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that hearing a hootin’ owl is actually a BAD omen, as owls are believed to be harbingers of death.

Who knew?

Now that the holidays are over, and our holiday hopes and dreams and wishes upon a star are over, it’s time to get real. My hootin’ owl is definitely not going to bring me oodles of good fortune, so it’s high time I figure something else out. Or perhaps, except my fate.

When we’re young we feel invincible and we are sure beyond a doubt that everything we want is going to come to us if we just work hard enough. If you can see it, you can be it, as it were. That sort of thing. But as we get older, and we’ve worked and we’ve worked but still things haven’t worked out the way we had envisioned, and we find out the hard way that little things like luck and hootin’ owls bringing luck ain’t so easy to come by, or is just misguided thinking, our hopes diminish, our dreams scale down. We graduate from the School of Hard Knocks. We get real.

I watched the musical fantasy “Rocketman” about Elton John and I pondered, if fame had found me, would I have turned into an alcoholic cocained bloody nosed drug addict who would down a bunch of pills and jump into a pool in a suicide attempt in front of a ton of family and friends? Or would I have just taken it in stride like Springsteen? Would I have built an amusement park like Dollywood?

Anyhoo, because I’m hopelessly stubborn, and will probably never know that answer, I will continue to play gigs, write songs, drop new albums, work on my skills and try out new gear, until I’m as stiff as a stuffed owl.

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

By the way, hootin’ and howlin’ will still be encouraged at all shows.

Thank you and good night.



Good Girls and Boys

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine December 2019

As year-end approaches, we humans tend to ponder things, as we are slaves to our calendars, apple watches, and cell phone alarms. Tis the season to wonder why everything went so wrong the past 365 days, or why everything went so right. Today I’m mulling over, over my mulled cider: What is a GOOD Musician? Is a good musician someone who is highly trained who attended the very best performing arts collegiate programs? Is a good musician someone who can throw down Hark! The Herald Angels Sing on a dusty old piano at a holiday gathering with precision and grace? Is a good musician someone who can solo over just about anything? Is a good musician someone who can harmonize? Sing on key? Memorize 40 songs? Write lyrics that rhyme? Wow the crowd with rock faces and acrobatic stunts?

I offer, because I’ve already consumed all my green icing sugared reindeer cookies because I friggin’ love those things, the following examples of good little musician girls and boys:

– People who perform at gala benefit shows not for the exposure and to get their name in the paper, but because they actually care about the cause

– People who use their break time at a show to teach a kid a few tricks on guitar

– People who share ALL their tricks with other musicians

– People who lend all their gear to a band because all their stuff was stolen while loading out on a freezing cold December night

– People who give their extra instruments to someone who’s house burned down

– People who fill in for other musicians when somebody unexpectedly contracts the flu or feels just plain yucky

– People who play songs the crowd actually came to hear (besides Mustang Sally of course!)

– People who show up to band practice on time and prepared

– People who understand that it’s not about you, it’s about the listeners

– People who are humble and grateful

This is simple stuff here people. I want to wish you all the hap-hap-happiest of holidays – and see ya at the shows!



World Series of Rock

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine November 2019

We couldn’t believe it, but my sister and I had finally secured a gig at Madison Square Garden. Years of music business drudgery and beaten down dreams had come to this. On the day, we were carted into a secret entrance that led to plaque-covered walls listing the names of all those that had come before us. Posters from epic shows of the past came to life as we realized we were now one of them. A fully stocked dressing room complete with hair and makeup experts awaited us. We could hear the chants and roars and pounding from the sold-out crowd of 20,000 getting louder and louder. We glanced over our set list one more time. We did our weird vocal exercises, sprayed our throats and sucked on cough drops. We stretched our legs and abs and did neck circles. While the sound crews and lighting techs made their final tweaks, we were escorted backstage to stand behind a luxurious black velvet curtain. Like magic, the curtain rose while the crowd noise surged to a deafening crescendo. We took a deep breath and walked slowly and assuredly toward our speckled gold microphones. We inhaled, looked at each other and sang our first harmonized note, perfectly in tune, with strength and resilience. The crowd went wild.

Except that never happened. Not even close.

But that feeling, that we were on stage at Madison Square Garden to a sold-out crowd, was precisely the feeling we had when we learned our brother, after years of sports business drudgery and beaten down dreams, was headed to the 2019 Major League Baseball World Series. THE SHOW. THE BIG DANCE.

That actually happened.

You see, when someone you love achieves something so awesome, so well-deserved, so unexpected, you feel it inside just like they do. We had watched our brother grow, literally, from the time he was 3-foot high to a grasshopper when our Dad had first started playing catch with him in our backyard in Florissant, Missouri. Our brother had done it all, tried it all, and somehow had persevered to reach the epitome of what it means to love the game of baseball. His team was in the World Series.

Our whole family was right there with him every step of the way. When batters were down in the count, we were down in the count. When a tater blasted fair out to the upper decks, we flew along with it. When he was in a bus with a police escort, we were in the next seat over. When he had to face the press and explain himself, we telepathically sent him hope that he wouldn’t mess up. When he looked stressed in the dugout, we were stressed. When he had to stay up til 1 a.m. due to extra innings, we stayed up. When they won, we won. When they lost, we lost.

I don’t have to tell you sports fans what I’m talking about when you love your team, especially when your team makes it to the World Series, or the Superbowl, or the World Cup Finals or the Stanley Cup Finals. Phrases such as WE did this and WE did that are the norm when talking sports. WE must win this one. I can’t believe WE screwed that up. Even though us fans are literally sitting in our chairs or in the stands doing nothing, it’s OUR TEAM. We are IN THIS together.

Because inherently, when someone you love, or a team you love, achieves their ultimate dream, stretches human performance to extremes, it makes us all feel like anything is possible. We feel better about ourselves and, perhaps, maybe think about never giving up on our own dreams and staying in the fight.

How would my brother feel if his sisters did get a gig at the Garden? I would imagine like he had just won the World Series.



originally published in Sound Waves Magazine April 2019

For those following along, we’ve been discussing here why musicians do what they do, even at the age of 80 and beyond.  Thank you all for your insights and personal reasons for continuing the rock star struggle.  I’ve concluded, after more soul searching and input from my fellow pals in musicianhood, that the reason we still do it, in essence… is a conundrum.  It’s vexing.  It’s like an April Fool’s joke that never ends.

But the best reason I heard was: “We do it because we can, and we’d miss it if we didn’t.”  That’s the ticket!

If we stopped, we wouldn’t feel alive.  We’d look with ferocious jealousy upon the band playing in the bar we used to play at.  We’d beg for a slot at karaoke nights.  We’d religiously attend open mics, get there early to get our name on the list, for three minutes of shining.

We’re not like normal people.  We can’t just go to work every day and come home and cook a nice salmon filet on the grill and do it all over again tomorrow.  We want more.  We have something to say, lyrically or musically, and this is the only way we can figure out how to say it without being berated and dejected on Facebook.  Music is its own language.

We’re not going quietly into that dark night.  To continue on, we buy lighter weight equipment.  We book earlier and shorter gigs.  We try to stay in shape so we don’t fall down on stage.  It’s human nature, you see?  We fight to survive, aim to hold on to things that matter, to achieve, to be all we can be, no matter what it takes, even if it kills us.  We do what is required to fulfill our desires and to not have that Stepford Wife look in our eyes, trolling through our days.  We do not want to live a life of quiet desperation.

In a music store the other day I witnessed a guy blissfully shredding on a sunburst Tele flawlessly executing everything from Dire Straits, to Lindsey Buckingham to Duane Allman to Lynyrd Skynyrd and beyond.  He’s not in a band.  And I wanted to just simply cry 96 tears.  I had to sit there and take it, reveling in the glory of his talent, in solitude.

It’s hard work, staying in a band and performing and putting up with all sorts of atrocities.  But we’re following our dream – even if it most likely leads to nowhere.  This is why we still do it.  So, get off your cell phones and stop talking during our shows!  Peace out.