Posts tagged: Pit Bull

Shipe SW Tour Days 9 &10 – Race to Austin: gig un-booked!

Insomnia hit me bad after my Thursday night Pecan Grill show. I tossed and turned in an El Paso Motel 6. On one hour of sleep, I was awake at dawn to drive 8 1/2 hours for my opening slot at Gypsy Lounge in Austin.

As I drove out of El Paso, along the Rio Grande, I was suddenly hit by a an unpleasant surprise. Although Mapquest had promised me that I would arrive in time, I hadn’t noticed that the drive time was based on West Texas speed limits! Sure, you can drive 600 miles in 8 hours… going 80 miles per hour!

I don’t like riding my beat up 1990 Toyota Corolla Wagon so hard, full of gear. But what could I do? I’m a professional. I pony-expressed it all the way through “no-country-for-old-men,” freaking out the whole time, listening to my car’s every rattle, whistle, squeak and any utterance of old-automobile pain. By the time I got to Austin, my beloved vehicle had acquired 37% more rickitiness. (Isn’t that the technical term? Or is rickiticity?)

The good thing about the drive is the condition of Texas roads. They are so smooth. Either the great state of Texas has impeccable road priorities, or Rick Perry makes good use of Obama’s Recovery Act funding.

When I arrived at the Gypsy Lounge, guess what!? I was not slated on the bill. In fact, there was no “bill” at all. A dj was scheduled to start spinning at 10:00 pm. For the moment, however, I wasn’t even thinking about performing. I wanted a refreshment. Like range-riding cowboy just off the dusty trail, busting through the saloon doors. “Bartender, give me a drink!”

I played anyway. The owner asked me, “Are you good?”

“Yes, I’m good.”

For the time being, I have no will to get angry at my booking contact. I’m mostly here in Austin for the Pit Bull Events this weekend, hosted by Austin Love-a-Bull.

The V.I.P. Kickoff Party is tonight at 7:00. And the Texas-Size Pittie Pride Parade & Festival is tomorrow.

Superlative APBF concert for Shipe (7/16)

Before I delve into this extensive blog full of delight and gratitude about last weekend’s Pit Bull gala, let me just get one thing out of the way:

Lucky Five. Remember that band name. Lucky Five could become the best rock-n-roll band in the country. I won’t waste time describing them, only to say that if The Allman Brothers had a secret love child with Gnarles Barkley, Lucky Five would blow it off the stage at battle-of-the-bands. For the time being, Lucky Five belongs solely to Charlotte as their darling local band. But if and when they tour, watch out!

Okay, in the wake of the posting of my recent video Pit Bull Rescue Woman, I am aptly impressed by the Sara Enos, the director of American Pit Bull Foundation. This was a large, multi-dimensional event — a 6-act music festival/fundraiser that included vendors and booths outside the venue. (Amos’ Southend.) Although Sara has a bright cadre of volunteers, it’s clear that the buck stops with her on nearly everything. She handles it flawlessly, and pleasantly with no drama.

While driving me to the airport, Sara mentioned to me how “gracious” all the artists and celebrity guests were. I had to let her know that she was the reason we were on our best behavior.

“We artists are like children,” I said. “We need structure.” When we know what is expected, and when the situation is organized & professional, we don’t want to be the cause of it all devolving into chaos.

(Somewhere in there, I think, love of Pit Bulls may also have something to do with it.

I refer to “celebrity guests.” Indeed, I was a little starstruck. Pinups for Pitbulls was there. I found myself circling their table incognito several times before working up the nerve to approach them. I’m normally not so shy, and we already know each other from our online association. But I thought I should change into my stage attire before I met them personally. Plus, I wanted pictures, and I feel awkward asking for such things. It was sort of funny the way I went into my head just then. (It must have been that Southern humidity.)

The Pinups are so sweet you wouldn’t believe it. Lovely, bright, and committed to the dogs. They have wild & crazy tattoos on the outside, down-to-earth wholesomeness on the inside. The three ladies who were representing each have husbands serving in the military — one whose husband was coming home for R&R from Afghanistan the very next day.

Also there was Shorty Rossi, to MC the event. Just in from Nicaragua, en route to Vegas, with his dog Hercules (and assistant Juan), Shorty the Pit Boss was in splendid form for such hard travel. A professional, with a sense of humor.

I mention Ken Foster (author) in a previous blog. He’s from New Orleans, with tales to tell about canines and hurricanes. I had the pleasure of dining with him the night before, so I got a taste of the human voice behind his writing.

And, oh yes, the bands. Top notch, every single one of them, leaving me with the impression that Charlotte has a brilliant music scene.

I’m listening to The Situationals right now. A fine work — excellent songs. But like so many bands, they have more power on the live stage. Loud, with a fine female vocalist and a pair of aggressive Americana guitarists. (I thank Mike for his tuner, ’cause I had no room for mine in my carry-on luggage. Sorry I kept it up there on stage, Mike. I hadn’t expected Shorty to introduce me while I was tuning up.)

Jared Allan & Company. If I had known what they sounded like, I would have asked to sit in. Jared is a singing voice to be reckoned with. (Not many can get away with covering Ray LaMontagne.) With mandolin accompaniment, and being from the South, Jared’s brand of acoustic Americana makes me envious. It makes me wish my family had kept me near the Ozarks where I was born. (I can strain that loose association all I want, but damn me, I’m a Yankee!)

Charlotte has a Reggae band called Jah Fishermen. While they jammed, Situational Mike and I sat outside ruminating over how difficult Reggae Music is to play. It’s simple sounding, but it’s hard to play. Most musicians can’t. They think they can, but they can’t. Jah Fishermen get it right. And a good reggae band is always a peak spot on any multi-band bill.

Porcelain Mary is temporarily deserted by their Germany-bound lead singer, so they were unable to play their originals. Nevertheless, in true “the-show-must-go-on” ethic, they plowed through a set of classic rock covers–as a power trio–including Big Head Todd’s “Bittersweet.” Two things: 1)This guitar is good enough to pull it off. 2)I’ve thought that some of Big Head Todd’s music would be better with a less-busy rhythm section, as this one is.

Lucky Five!

My own set? I frickin’ love playing solo on big stages — especially to an audience who is waiting for particular songs to sing along. (That would be “Pit Bull Blues” and “Pit Bull Rescue Woman”) The question is always, “But will they like my other songs.” I think this audience did. Having been invited to come so far, I really wanted to please. So I didn’t hold anything back. It was honestly the best I could do.

One last thing: Thank you to Sara’s family for the bed in which I got my best night’s sleep in months.

And I haven’t even yet begun to talk about the things I learned at the booths outside the concert. Stay tuned.

Pit Bull Rescue Woman

I said I’d do it, and I did it….finally. My cohort John Grimshaw and I made a video/slideshow out of “Pit Bull Rescue Woman” (Thanks to a multitude of contributors in the world of Pit Bull Rescue, the list of whom you’ll see on the YouTube posting.)

Although the song waxes tongue-in-cheek, I hope the message of gratitude and reverence rings out loud and clear.

I’ve got a confession, though: The seed of this idea does not belong to me. It belongs to Mr. Grimshaw.

Back in April, I had just returned from an event in Phoenix, a benefit for May Day Pit Bull Rescue. I had had such a rewarding experience, and I was so impressed with the woman who ran the operation, that I couldn’t stop bragging about how smart, organized, and authoritative she was. And somewhere in the conversation, the subject came up that she also very attractive… uh…. as a woman…

“Oh,” said John G. “Is she single?”

“Um,” I said. “I don’t know.”

“Well,” said John G. “Maybe next time I could go with you. And you could introduce me to her.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“What do mean?” he replied.

“Well” said I, with unusual thoughtfulness in my reply. “She’s a pitbull rescue woman.”

“What do you mean?” asked John G.

“A pitbull rescue woman,” I replied, “ain’t for the faint of heart.”

“Is that right?” said my friend John Grimshaw.

Moments later, I found myself sitting on the couch in the next room, a little dazed, and wondering why I had said what I just said, as if I really knew what this pitbull woman was like. And suddenly, I heard, faintly from the other room, my friend John Grimshaw strumming lightly on his guitar, and singing: “Pit Bull Rescue Woman, she ain’t for the faint of heart………”

And this reminded me: One of the great secrets to being a successful songwriter is knowing when a good song is staring you in the face. “Pit Bull rescue woman; she ain’t for the faint heart.”

I confess, I’m a little embarrassed, as a songwriter, that I missed the obvious song-hook moment.” But that’s what’s collaboration is all about.

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APBF Pit Bull show / Bill Burr my fave comic

It’s time to spread the word throughout North Carolina of another Pit Bull Benefit where I’ll be performing.

What: American Pit Bull Foundation’s Summer Concert
When: Saturday, July 16th
Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
Venue: Amos’ Southend

Click Here for Tickets

I always look forward to these events. And I’m never disappointed. (My upcoming music video “Pit Bull Rescue Woman” will testify.)

On a semi-related tangent. My favorite stand-up comedian is a fellow named Bill Burr. A consummate, in-the-moment perfomer.
He has a DVD out called “Let It Go.” If you like stand-up, and you like Pit Bulls. You oughtta check this out.
About 48 minutes into his show, he goes into a routine about how he got to know his girlfriend’s dog.
Hilarious and somewhat touching.

Pit Bull News: Rescue Women/Android Petition

Pit Bull Advocacy on my mind this week:

My friend (and former drummer) Dyson has posted a Petition requesting Android to block a Dogfighting App. Click Here.

For the record, I am not an advocate of censorship. However, I am all for pressuring companies to voluntarily make the right moral decisions in the free marketplace.

Also for the record, I am not entirely certain that video games directly cause bad behavior amongst the kids who play them. (As a musician who lived through the anti-heavy-metal crusades of Tipper Gore, I understand the argument “this is only role-playing fantasy.”) However, everyone has their particular outrages, and this is mine. I work with Pit Bull Rescue around the country, and I am aware of the absolute, abject, insane cruelty inflicted upon these canine creatures. If you learn what I’ve learned, you’ll sign this Petition.

Now for something more fun: I’ve got a project going called “Pit Bull Rescue Woman.” And I am need of photos of women who work in Pit Bull Rescue. If you are a foster, a volunteer, an adopter, or the director herself, please send me photos of you and your dogs. But I don’t just want women kissing and hugging cute dogs. I want the full complexity and humanity of women who do this work. From determination & toughness, to compassion & gentleness. From hard-nosed gritty to sweet & soft, to sexy. (But please, this is NOT a request for women to send me sexy photos.) Candid shots are best, especially of woman building kennels, treating sick dogs, training dogs, etc. Better yet, pictures of women with very, very bad-shaped dogs, to reveal just what sort of suffering y’all attend to.

See my contact page for where to send jpegs. Thanks, and bless you.

To avoid complicated legal issues, I’d like to treat the sending of any photo as permission for it to appear in a YouTube slideshow.

In conclusion, sign this Petition that even Michael Vick agrees with.

Mayday Pitbull Benefit Success

Phoenix, AZ

The The Mayday Pit Bull Rescue benefit couldn’t have gone better. It was held at a first-rate venue:The Compound Grill (which is home of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival)

President Jennifer Mazzocchi desired the event to be more of an entertaining, music-centered concert than a quasi-political presentation. I took that to heart, dug down deep to have fun on the stage, and played one of my livelier sets. It meant a lot, because they were so welcoming and gave such great hospitality. They refused to let me pay for anything, from meals, to hotel, to a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum. With that in mind, it was a big relief that turnout was fantastic and generous in terms of revenue. (The last thing I want to do is cost them.)

Ironically, I made more money playing “for free” than I ever make gigging here in Hollywood. How? I sold a ton of CD’s. (Almost all were The Song Clearance ’cause it contains Pit Bull Blues.) When I play a benefit, I like to donate part of the profit, but Jennifer insisted that support was abundant on this particular evening.

Speaking of Pit Bull Blues, my set was planned with a short interlude of before & after videos of rescued dogs (which was both heart-breaking and uplifting.) I would play the song to introduce the video–and again as my closer. This breaks one of my 3 rules: Never play a song twice in a show. But I obliged with delight by busting out a ukulele version. I even raised the key so that women could sing along.

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Pit Bulls, Hungarians, Deputies, Constitutionalists & Communists

I went to St. Petersburg to appear at a fundraiser, but I got much more out of this visit.

The event itself went as those events usually go. Meticulously planned, nearly derailed by unforeseen difficulties, yet pulled off miraculously through sheer energy and improvisation. Imagine a pack of devoted dog lovers parading a bunch of pit bulls around a sports bar beer-garden, intermingling with an overlapping engagement party that was double-booked by the venue.

Yes, the folks at Green Iguana kind of messed up with that double-booking. However, it was a blessing in disguise. Without the wedding party, there would have been no sound system. They told us they had one, but all they really had were two XLR outlets on the wall behind the stage, somewhere within proximity of the stereo system. The conversation may have gone something like this:

“Do you have a P.A.?”
“A P.A.?”
“Something our entertainment can plug into.”
“Oh, yes. We do.”

And technically speaking, they told the truth. There was something there that I could plug into. But, no actual system. Fortunately, the musician for the wedding party, a generous and awesome cat named “Johnnie B.,” stuck around and let us use his sysetm. This was a true expression of professional comaraderie. (I chatted with this man for some time afterwards. Great dude, with a fine Marc Cohn-like singing voice. Here’s a fellow who plays nearly 300 gigs a year without traveling more than about an hour to each one. Sheeee-it! I’m moving to Florida… after L.A.)

Now, about Krisztina Kallai who runs the Pit Bull shelter (Buster’s & Foster’s): she and Brian were unfazed by the fiasco-like circumstances unfolding. Steady, the exhibited my favorite calm problem-solving traits. (Think “No-drama Obama.” And speaking of whom… I’ll get to that later.)

Previously, on the phone, I couldn’t place Krisztina’s subtle accent. Was she always eating when I called? Had she been drinking? (No she doesn’t drink.) Was she in character of some sort? I finally found out why? She’s Hungarian! And anybody who knows anything about Hungarians, knows that their language is unique to itself, so the accent is unfamiliar. But hers isn’t even a full Hungarian accent. It’s dilated through Iowa and the South.

Not only is she Hungarian, she and her family escaped Hungarian communism in the late 80’s. I met her parents, and they are simply amazing people who kept me up until 3:00 a.m. with stories and life-enriching conversation. These folks bolted from their native land, found freedom in Iowa, and worked their way up to creating their own oak wine barrel business: Zemplen Barrels. (I am not a drinking man, but I had to try a certain Chardonnay as they explained to me how oak effects flavor.) They also filled me in on some Hungarian 60’s music, an band called Illes, whom I dig–like the early Beatles based on Hungarian folk.

I would have stayed up all night if Waffle House wasn’t calling.

This is bound to be a long-ass blog, so I’m throwing in the “read more” option. Read more »

Pit Bull Blues Chords & Lyrics

I get e-mails from all over the world asking for the lyrics and/or chords to “Pit Bull Blues.” So, I thought I’d post them here. (First the lyrics, then the chords.)

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On Michael Vick

I recently watched a program on ESPN about Michael Vick and his 49 former fighting pit bulls. Afterwards, my head was swimming with positive emotions. I wanted to blog, but I needed some time to process my thoughts.

Here they are:

The great thing about ESPN’s story was that it focused so little on Michael Vick. They got his basic details out of the way early. (He has been released from actual jail, remaining under house arrest, from where he can wander only to his place of employment and church.) There was no interview of the man himself. This story was really about the dogs, and that was good to get the spotlight off of the criminal, and onto the victims.

Considering the Sports network, you would think that most of viewers would be less interested in 49 dogs than in the guy who is potentially the greatest quarterback in football. But ESPN would not cater. Wonderful.

I would expect that some people, die-hard fans maybe, would have little or no concern for the dogs. “What’s the big deal?” they might ask. “They’re just dogs.”

But I have not heard such words uttered, not since this whole thing came out. In the world of sports, a lot of athletes get a free pass when it comes to bad behavior. Cheating (steroids) is sometimes forgiven, due to the pressure of high-stakes, highly-financed competition. But when it comes to abject cruelty, no one sides with the cruel.

Nevertheless, just in case, in answer to that cold “just dogs” mentality, I paraphrase Albert Schweitzer: Until we are able to extend our capacity for compassion to species outside of our own, we will not have reached our full potential as human beings.

Speaking of compassion and sympathy, most of us have none of it for Mr. Vick. (I don’t either.) But some hard-noses say, “Let him rot in jail. I hope he never plays football again!” And some folks deem his release as too lenient, saying he got off “scot free.”

I can’t say I agree. He didn’t really get off “scot free.” He did serve time, and he still has great obstacles to leading a normal life. But aside from all that, I have a strong belief in transformation and redemption. For me, that’s part of living in a Judeo/Christian culture. I’m not the most biblical guy in the room, but this much I believe: when a criminal transgresses against decency, you punish him to force his redemption, not merely for revenge. And in light of that, one must presume that redemption is the possible–if not probably–end.

Ostensibly, Mr. Vick is paying his proverbial debt to society (a society which includes the animals we love). Is it of any use beating him down for the rest of his life?

However, if he hopes to be welcomed to the community of the respected and well-liked, he’ll have to do something extraordinary to earn it—something that has to do with pit bull rescue, let’s say.

This brings me to another biblical principle: the idea of good coming from evil. What I see in this ESPN special is evidence that a lot of good has come from the busting of Mr. Vick’s ring. There is more Pit Bull awareness now than ever. Until recently, Pit Bull care was an underground phenomenon. Since Michael Vick, I’ve learned of hundreds of Rescue Operations, and people seem to be adopting more pets from shelters these days—even rehab cases.

On a tangent, I find myself indulging in some different kinds of thoughts, vague and disturbing in some ways. As I watched the horrific video clips, I kept asking myself what makes a person want to fight dogs. Why an athlete who seems to have everything going for him, with huge contracts and adoring fans?

I am closer to that answer than I care to be. I’ve been an athlete myself—addicted to competition, thrilled by high-octane activity just this side of violence, and attached to the idea of victory. Add to that my experience in stage performance, and I can say this much: It’s difficult to leave those feelings on the field or on the stage. They become a default disposition, the backdrop of your life.

In the lives of entertainers and pro-athletes, there is a lot of… well, a lot of “stuff.” On the dark side, there might be gravitation towards gambling, partying, etc.—anything to keep the rush going. On the light side, there are spiritual disciplines like devout Christianity or Eastern Meditation. (The former for athletes, the latter for actors and musicians… Generalizing here, but whatever it takes to calm down in between prolonged episodes of operating at the peak of one’s vitality.)

In my day, I had teammates who eventually went on to college and professional sports. Trust me, they are different from the rest of us, admirably so. It’s not just in their physicality. They have a monk-like, soldier-like concentration, and singular attachment to the outcome of competition. Victory is Holy Grail. Defeat is misery. There’s no “let’s-all-just-have-a-good-time-and-play-our-best” attitude. There’s an undercurrent of bloodlust, even for the most sportsmanlike and gentle of them. That’s what we pay to see.

(For my own part, I still recall the day I realized that I wouldn’t excel in sports, in spite of a .400 batting average, speed, and handy fielding ability: I just didn’t have the killer instinct.)

But I digress. This is about the dogs. According to the ESPN story most of the 49 have been successfully rescued. One was put down for health reasons. Another was put down, because it was too traumatized. Others are being rehabilitated and placed in loving homes—with children, no less. Talk about transformation! There are lessons to be learned here, I’m sure. If these animals, forced to fight on behalf of their own survival, can respond to affection… If they can soften, and socialize, against their previous brutal conditioning, perhaps anyone can. Growing beyond ruthless selfishness and knee-jerk defensiveness, perhaps anyone can transform into a decent person.

Perhaps even Michael Vick.