Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon
Howling at the Moon

Many years ago, I had Kansas Leftoverture on vinyl. It was a favorite recording for a long time. The composition and arrangements were rich and almost classical, which was typical of Kansas at the time. They were also concept albums, meaning there was a theme or storyline that ran through the entire recording — by intent. That is, the writers composed the music with a theme or themes in mind and the writing reflected that.

One of the songs on Leftoverture seemed to stand out from the others. It was a kind of music break or interlude, much simpler in composition, quieter, and more reflective — Magnum Opus:

This foolish game, oh it’s still the same
The notes go dancin’ off in the air
And don’t you believe it’s true, the music is all for you
It’s really all we’ve got to share
Cause rockin’ and rollin’, it’s only howlin’ at the moon
It’s only howlin’ at the moon.

I was looking for a subject for my Project 365 capture a couple of days ago. I let the day get away from me. I sat at my temporary desk and thought for a few minutes, when I noticed my toy wolf.

If you’d like a bit of Kansas, enjoy Magnum Opus.

Yesterday’s Rain

Over the last few years, I gradually collected all of the Winter’s Solstice recordings produced by Windham Hills Records, which is now owned by Sony. I play these collections of songs from Windham Hills artists during the holiday season, along with some other favorite music that celebrates the season.

When I snagged a copy of Winter’s Solstice VI, I discovered the track Yesterday’s Rain written and recorded by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, a guitarist and composer of much skill. I was immediately drawn into the deep romantic vibe of this song.

When Wife died, this song somehow became deeply linked with my loss. I feel it every time I play this song. But, along with that deep sense of loss, of longing for what is now gone, there is also joy. There is joy in what we shared all those years. There is joy in remembering the season during which we celebrate the Christ’s birth. There is joy in remembering how Wife loved this season, loved finding the right gift (to the point of being obsessive-compulsive about it), and how she loved playing the Santa Claus role, even after all the kids had grown far past that myth.

It didn’t matter. We all loved her enthusiasm and excitement. It’s a good thing. The memories are good, if poignant. The song is an absolute gem.

Tennessee Ernie Ford

A Country ChristmasWhile working through my Christmas music collection, I heard a couple of songs by Tennessee Ernie Ford, an old-school country singer (and a crossover artist as well). I was reminded of his work in radio, recording, and television.

I loved his big voice and his style. In reading the Wikipedia article about him, I felt a major sense of nostalgia roll over me. I’m not so sure why I feel this way, but it often happens to me when I think about how things were when I was young. It seems things were simpler, less aggressive, less narcissistic. Entertainment was more wholesome and nothing like what we have today.

There was plenty of evil. But I don’t recall the celebration of violence and baseness that seems to prevail in entertainment today.

Perhaps I’m just filtering. But that’s how I feel.

Mason Proffit

Last Night I Had the Strangest DreamI know it’s not really the time to write about music that isn’t holiday-related, but when have I followed convention… not often (but sometimes).

Over the last couple of weeks I fleshed out my collection of Mason Proffit recordings. There are a couple I don’t have, but they are compilations or the double-album re-release of earlier work. So, I think I’m satisfied.

I’ve listened to these recordings a few times, mostly in between Christmas recordings. I can’t quite do a steady holiday-music diet. I need some variety to keep me interested.

Bareback RiderWhen I listened to the music in chronological order, the progression of their work was apparent. Their songwriting grew as they continued working. The musicianship was always first-rate, but I think John’s banjo and guitar work improved.

Rockfish CrossingBoth the songs and the recordings hold up to the test of time very well. As was common during the time, the bass is rolled-off a bit and doesn’t have the punch that modern recordings have. That’s probably more a reflection of the technology of the 1970s, but it might relate to production values. I don’t really know why, but the difference is noticeable. (And these aren’t the only recordings from the period on which I’ve noticed this.)

This is good work. My old friend Ben reminded me of Mason Proffit indirectly a couple of months ago. I’m glad he did and I’m pleased to have their work on my library. I love good music and this music reminds me of some great times with family and friends.

Movin’ Toward Happiness

Movin' Toward HappinessI wrote about them a few entries ago, but Mason Proffit was the band assembled by the Brothers Talbot back in the late 1960s. They put together a country-rock sound that was fundamental to a number of very successful bands that followed them.

The brothers became Christians and moved on to other projects, coming together for a couple of records and then departing to walk their individual paths. I like their music.

Movin’ Toward Happiness arrived this afternoon. I immediately put it in the computer to rip to flacs and MP3s. I will collect all of the Mason Proffit records, at least the main records. (I’m not sure the compilations/re-releases will work for me.) This is music I should have had decades ago.

There is a certain sadness that goes with this work. For one I remember all the times this music was part of my life not long after we were married. There’s poignancy there. Second, I’m reminded that things change, people grow, and nothing remains the same.

Young Son and I were remarking about the changes in our lives this evening. We miss Wife/Mom, but we move along trying to make a good life without her. I think none of us like it much, but it’s what we do. With practice, I think it will get better. We’ll keep after it.


Mason Proffit WantedMany, many years ago I came across John Michael Talbot, a fine singer/songwriter, at a Christian conference in French Lick, Indiana. I found a few snapshots from that trip (grossly underexposed) last weekend. Talbot’s work as a Christian musician impressed me. The work was good. The music was good. It was a great combination.

I picked up his early recordings as I could afford them. We had little money in the 70s and at about $8 each, records were expensive. It wasn’t until the late 70s I even had something to play them on.

John Michael Talbot went on to become a Catholic monk and turned his musical focus to worship music. While good work, I thought he lost the punch of his early work. That’s OK — people grow and change and decide to leave things behind in the search for what is next for them.

I knew it, but never acted on the fact that John Michael and Terry Talbot formed an early country-rock band called Mason Proffit. That work was seminal to their work that followed and the work of many other musicians as well.

I’ve been backfilling my music collection with artists I enjoy but do not have their early work. I decided to pick up the Mason Proffit catalog, now that it’s been issued on CD. This is music from the late 60s and early 70s. It sounds like it. However, the work holds up. It’s good work.

Walking Over the Water

MercylandThis is one of the best songs from Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. The song works on many levels. It’s well worth the listen.

I find Kearney’s singing a bit difficult to parse, so I looked up the lyrics to this song. I caught the emotional content just fine without completely understanding the lyrics. The words make it that much more poignant.

My mood fell late yesterday afternoon. I woke this morning, as a friend might put it, just OK. As my morning wears on, I find myself really missing Wife. It was 10 months ago she died. I wake many mornings about 0500 and remember those last few hours, and especially those last few minutes. I’ll be haunted by that time the rest of my life.

Was that you walkin’ across the water? Was that you shining in the face of my Wife?

Walking Over the Water
Mat Kearney

I raised my glass toward heaven
On that night that she was born
Praised your name and gave you thanks
And I bought the house a round

She came like a thief of glory
Stole my pain and gave me life
These tears I thought were long, long gone
Fell like rivers from my eyes

Was that you walking over the water
When the sunlight that came pouring through the cracks
Was that you shining in the face my a daughter
Never thought you’d come again to take me back

Raised my eyes toward heaven
She was floatin’ down our stairs
Backpack and a bright red skirt
And a river of long black hair

He came like a thief of glory
And he stole her heart that day
Ever since she started crawlin’
I always knew she’d sail away

Was that you walking over the water
Well, I watched my baby slippin’ through the cracks
Walked the aisle and gave away my daughter
Never thought there’d come a day she would look back

Raised my fist toward heaven
From that dark forsaken road
Blue lights flashed on broken glass
The siren left me cold

He came like a thief of glory
All he left are fingerprints
Should I thank you, should I blame you
In a storm that won’t relent

Was that you walking over the water
While the ocean came pouring through the cracks
Was that you calling out Adam’s daughter
I never thought you’d come again to take her back
You always said you’d come again to take us back

G&L Fullerton, Reprise

G&L George Fullerton Signature ModelMy (new-to-me) G&L George Fullerton Signature model guitar arrived this morning. The FeDeX deliveryman looked at me as I signed for the parcel, “A Guitar?” “Yep,” I responded.

At first, I resisted opening the box. But the need to confirm condition overwhelmed my desire to continue work. So, I cut open the end of the box and removed the tweed case carefully packed therein. I opened the latches and had a good look. The guitar is not perfect, but is in my kind of condition. That is, whoever had it before me cared for the instrument and took care of it.

I removed the instrument from its case and found the vibrato bar. The G&L vibrato bridge is one of the best I’ve ever used. I use a vibrato bridge when playing. That’s what it’s there for and it allows the player to drop and raise pitch, unlike bends, which can only raise the pitch.

I sat on the arm of my chair and played the instrument a little. The wave of emotion that washed over me was palpable. I was completely devastated by the intensity of my feelings. I’m still shocked at the strength of those emotions.

I suppose I repressed my feelings about music and guitars for some time. They jumped up this morning and bit me in the ass.

I put the instrument back into its case and returned to my worktable to try to work. That was a laugh. Instead, I sat in my chair and wept, nearly sobbing, for a half hour. Grief has a funny way of working itself out. My grief returned to me this morning and pummeled me for a half hour or more.

Although I’m still not sure what it was all about, I think my soul is telling me it’s time to pick up the instrument again. My first Fullerton was a marvelous instrument I should not have sold. It reached me at a deep level and was the first electric guitar I bonded with. It was an extension of my body and soul and allowed me to express myself musically in ways that I didn’t expect.

The timing is good as well. I’m nearing the end of my first purge of the house. The garage is nearly done so that project is coming to a close over the next few weeks. I have been wondering what will be next. In fact, I’ve been praying for guidance on what is next. I know when this big project is done I’ll be left hanging in that way that always happens after I am heavily invested in a big project and then it’s done.

My friend and master guitarist Scott told me to find a Fender Deluxe, either a ’65 model or the ’65 reissue. It’s not too powerful, has tubes (and tube tone), and will be a good match for my style of playing, my preferred music, and the Fullerton. I am not going to rebuild the pedalboard I once had, but intend to have only a few effects. They will be a delay, a drive, and a chorus/phaser/flanger.

What will I do with this? I have no idea yet. I think that for awhile my intent will be to permit myself to experience making music again as well as listening to it. Beyond that, I have no idea what will happen. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

G&L Fullerton Signature Model

G&L Fullerton SignatureAbout ten years ago, I sold my G&L George Fullerton Signature Model guitar. Some folks call them an “S-Type” guitar. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a Strat-lovers Strat.

My instrument had this dark sunburst paint job, just like the one in the image. It had the three single-coil pickups. It had the G&L dual-fulcrum vibrato bridge. The only difference is that my guitar had a rosewood fretboard and not the maple. My Fullerton had the deep V-shaped neck as well. A lot of electric players don’t like that neck. I’m an acoustic player and it fits my hand very well. I loved the neck of the Fullerton.

I thought I needed a double-humbucker rig for the rock and roll band I was playing in. So, I sold my Fullerton and bought a PRS SE. I used the PRS for the band and my regular gig (worship team leader). When I quit the band and the church, I was left without a goal for my music. Therefore, my instruments languished and have been stored since then.

I sold my Marshal Acoustic Soloist amplifier (a great little solid state acoustic amplifier) but was unable to sell my Johnson JT-50 modeling amp. The JT-50 is in my garage under wraps.

When I traded Jimmy my car for some cash and photographic equipment, he brought along a Japanese Stratocaster. It’s a genuine Fender guitar. Handling that guitar reminded me how much I loved that Fullerton. There was something magical about it. The neck pickup had this great fat sound. The in-between settings produced a scooped sound that was great with a little chorus or phaser. The bridge pickup had punch.

Although a guitar is a material thing; it has no soul. But I grieved the Fullerton after selling it. It was a bad decision.

I’ve thought any number of times I’d like to have mine back. It was one of those times I wanted to go back and undo something. That doesn’t happen.

The image is of a guitar I found while searching for Fullerton model G&L guitars. I did some checking and the price was fair. It wasn’t a great buy, but it wasn’t an unfair price either. So, I bought it sight unseen. It was shipped to day and should be here Monday or Tuesday.

I’ll order a set of Thomastik-Infield strings. I prefer the Power Brights and use a 10-gage set. When the guitar gets here, I’ll set it up for the strings and play it.

For now, the JT-50 will do. However, I think I’m going to find a Fender Deluxe because I love the Fender sound and can do just about anything but heavy rock and roll with a Fender.

I’m not going to rebuild my effects board. I’ll probably buy a delay and an overdrive unit and call it good. If I want time-domain effects, I can probably pick up a used Intellifex pretty cheap. They were popular a decade ago and have probably been supplanted by newer technology by now. I like a little chorus, phaser, or flanger sometimes. I have no use for Wah and never was able to really use one.

Musically, I probably need a goal of some kind. I think for now, my goal will be to practice some, get my finger back into shape, and bring up some of my classical and acoustic repertoire as well as enjoy my electric guitars. Then we’ll see what might be next.

Photography and music were always my passions. I added writing to that about 12-years ago.