Entries tagged with “Tom Waits”.

A man named Alice and his excellent band.

Not long ago, this year’s inductees into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame were announced. Among them were three of my favorites: Alice Cooper, Donovan and Tom Waits.

An eclectic trio for sure.

My first exposure to a national recording act was seeing Alice Cooper in the fall of 1971 in Cleveland, Ohio (not far from where The Hall of Fame stands today). Alice and his band had just released their second album, “Killer”, and the rock show’s line-up was a stew of styles–– Sha-Na-Na, The J. Geils Band and Alice Cooper in full theatrical regalia and pyrotechnics. Alice taunted the crowd with his boa constrictor (literally) and was hung from the gallows. Not bad, eh?

Alice and his band were incredible performers, charismatic and infectious. The music was hard driving and testosterone-fueled. It was a hell of an introduction for rock shows and still stands in my top five of all time.

Tom always delivers. Always.

The last great concert I’ve attended was Tom Waits at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Like Alice, Waits is a masterful showman. He just uses less mascara and 100% fewer reptiles.

Waits is one of my favorite songwriters; a man who’s voice is distinctive and extremely polarizing. There are very few people I spend money to see these days. Tom Waits is definitely in that short list. A must-see.

Hippy dippy hurdy gurdy man delivers songs of love.

As for Donovan, regrettably I’ve never seen him live but good gobs of gravy did the guy write some great songs that will endure forever.

Advertisers have discovered the power of Donovan. You can hear his work on spots from General Electric and Microsoft. Yes, his music that good.

It’s good to see these three transformative artists pass into the pearly gates in Cleveland. It’s certainly about time.

Remember your first? Your last great? Do share.

His given name is Lawrence Travagliante, a mouthful for sure, and the kind of name that’d bust the bank if you were printing softball jerseys.

But millions of rock fans know him as Kid Leo, the greatest rock DJ of all time in the opinion of this half-deaf boomer. Kid Leo’s still doing his stuff 4-7 PM on Little Steven’s Underground Garage on satellite radio (channel 25 Sirius, channel 59 XM). “Little Steven” is Steve Van Zandt (AKA Miami Steve), legendary E. Street Band guitarist, Tony Soprano’s main man, Silvio Dante, and evil music pusher.

Rock 'n roll music is Satan's soundtrack, beware, childrens!

If you’ve never heard Kid Leo, you’ve never heard rock radio as it was meant to be, before the days of heavy rotation vanilla corporate rock.

From 1974 to 1988, Kid Leo spit into the microphone at WMMS-FM (The Buzzard) in Cleveland. Back then, the format was called ‘Progressive Rock’, a fancy way to say album rock or whatever the hell vinyl the DJ wanted to play. From ’79 to ’87, WMMS was named Radio Station of The Year by readers of Rolling Stone (this is a bit of a cheat as legend has it the #1 vote was the response “Radio sucks”). Still, WMMS was a force and one of the main reasons the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is located by Lake Erie. Kid Leo was one of the key drivers of WMMS. I was an avid listener, when the signal wafted into the outer reaches of northeastern Ohio.

Once, a buzzard ruled the airwaves. Imagine.

The Kid’s voice is gruff, like a Harley Davidson engine on a cold morning. He speaks in beat-influenced hipster slang patter, making the English language his bitch.

He’s the guy your parents warned you about when you were growing up, the one who had no job, smoked one Pall Mall to light another, smelled of stale whiskey, swore colorfully, had a stack of well-worn Penthouses, drove a muscle car way too fast and would happily buy you and your under-aged friends some PBR on the sly–providing there was a six or so in it for him.

He knew all the bands and all the songs, with an unrivaled record collection, and would craft a playlist that’d have you riding an emotional roller coaster– like you had a fist in your gut. At the end of his musical journey, he’d deliver you exhausted and begging for another ride ‘round the track.

Before the days of manufactured boy bands, ‘focus-grouped sounds’ and crossover media megastars, Kid Leo identified and gave air cover to interesting, compelling artists he thought were worth hearing–– Springsteen, Bowie, Patty Smith, Pretenders, Ramones, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Mink DeVille, Graham Parker and The Rumour, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits, on and on and on. He nestled them in deep tracks of great bands and great songs from obscure bands you felt shamed for not knowing.

It was an audio stew that continually coaxed your fingers to dial the volume control knob louder and louder and louder still until blood trickled on your shoulders.

On Friday’s at 6PM, he officially ushered in the weekend for northeast Ohio by playing Springsteen’s Born to Run , and it was like the green flag had been dropped.

Kid Leo conjured musical magic that made beer taste better.

He ended each shift with his guttural signature, “It’s time for me to punch out and wash up” and that about said it all. Kid Leo worked in the rock and roll mill, manufacturing one hell of a good time. At the end of his shift, he was dirty and spent. And so were his listeners.

If you’ve never heard him, he’s worth the price of admission to satellite radio. Join Kid Leo during one of his work shifts, work up an honest sweat and see if you don’t agree he’s the best there is and quite possibly the best there ever was.


Taste some mad gone drizzles, daddy.

Taste some mad gone drizzles, daddy.

Come gather ’round cats and kittens while I laddle a little beat poetry into your soul waffle iron.

Here’s seven slabs from my book of beatnik poems entitled Burma Signs Express: Observational Poetic Hogwash bled from Skids Turmoil. Don’t look for it on Amazon or in Barnes & Noble, it’s published by copy machines I’ve passed along the way on my career path.

The backstory. I worked a couple crappy ad jobs, got fired, saw an ad in AD AGE for “Circus Marketing Directors”, laughed with a pal in a bar about how funny it’d be if I applied for it (sweet beer courage), applied for it, interviewed, got the job and ran away and joined the circus. I traveled ahead of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus Big Top and pimped the show in glamorous locals like Methuen, MA, Oneonta, NY, Bluefield, WV, Greenwood, MI, Port Arthur, TX– you get the drift. 

I was the lonely carny man, a stranger in town living in cheap motels and hunkered over plates in greasy spoons slurping weak coffee and fighting the madness of loneliness. A young man trapped in a Tom Waits world.

I did that gig for a circus season and came back to reality. Then, at the tender age of 23, finally got around to reading Jack Keoruac’s “On The Road”. Having just come off the road, the manic prose of that way gone daddy was like angels blasting my eardrums out. I had heart palpitations. There were times I had to put the book down. Had to, man, lest I bust.

I had always suspected I was born in the wrong time. Always thought I was born too late. I was late to the beatnik party and beat was what I felt I was. I was young man out of time.

So for the next year and a half, I casually explored my beat soul: working my ad job by day and exploring my beat world by night. I wrote 96 of these beat poems, assembled them in an order that made some sense to me and called it “Burma Signs Express”  because like the old Burma Shave signs that were used along the road for so many years, together these poems would tell a story. Maybe they did, I don’t know, but the beat journey was fun (and much cheaper than therapy).

Oh, and the name “Skids Turmoil”, well, artsy fartsy types call writing under a different identity a nom de plume (pardon my French). I call it a fun beat name. These poems were written on an ancient 1950’s IBM electric typewriter with a gorgeous font and erratic key striking pressure. I think the machine added to the beat soul of the project.

Here then are seven swatches, seven signs along the road. Maybe they’ll add up to something for you, dig.