The Swamp Drivers


Since becoming  involved with cigar box guitars I’ve made a number of contacts in the world of these often weird homemade instruments. One of the newer friendships is with Ted Toscano who is a builder, musician, and member of a blues band named the Swamp Drivers. Ted and the band hail from Utica, New York and we are both members of a Facebook cigar box guitar group.

Continue reading The Swamp Drivers

Spark’s Cafe Events Poll

poll bFor some time now Spark Creative Artspace has been discussing staging a series of monthly Cafe events. The first is scheduled for Saturday evening, March 14th and will feature Cincinnati area musician and singer, Jerry Gillespie.

The question has been raised asking if such entertainment events would be well attended if staged on a week day evening, such as Thursday?

So to attempt getting some input they have requested CGS publish a simple poll. Please take a brief moment to respond to the following poll. Thank you.

Spark Week Night Events
If Spark were to hold one to two hour entertainment events on a week night would you consider attending?
Enter the code

Frequent Conversation

  • “What you doin’ Saturday?”
  • “Don’t know. Probably just another boring night watching TV with the ole man.”
  • “Yeah, never much to do in this town. Watchin’ paint peel is more exiting than anything else goin’ on.”
  • “I should con the ole man into movin’.”


  • Feb 21, Spark & Mother’s Club evening of painting and socializing.
  • Feb 28, G3’s annual Blues, Brews & Stews Winter Festival
  • Mar 3, Quilting classes begin at Spark
  • Mar 9, Spark’s children’s Fairy Garden workshop
  • Mar 17, Spark’s St. Patrick’s Diner at Three Spoons Diner
  • Mar 21, Spark’s Let’s Make a Canjo workshop
  • Apr 18, Spark’s annual Roots in the Field Music Festival
  • Wednesday nights, Open Mic at Catch 22
  • Have a margarita at El Canon Cantina
  • Socialize and watch a game at Furman’s
  • Enjoy a great meal or dessert at Three Spoons Diner
  • Attend a McClain athletic event

There’s nothing to do in this town is the old Greenfield. Are you and the ole man missing the new Greenfield?

The Myths of History

There are at least two histories in America, that which is based in historical reality and that which is based solely on accepted myth.

One of the things that contributed to my becoming a history teacher was taking the required class, US History 101. Fortunately I had a professor that didn’t teach straight from the textbook and loved to expose the accepted versions of history to the historical truths.

A classic example was the age-old story that George Washington cut down a his father’s cherry tree and because he was so honest he openly admitted his actions to his dad. The truth is that a traveling minister named  Mason Locke WeemsTo supplement his income Weems authored a few short books that he would sell along his travels. Since George Washington was such a famous and popular person Weems wrote a short biography shortly after Washington passed. There is no historical evidence proving that Weems’s story about the cherry tree happened but nevertheless it became accepted history and has been taught to centuries of American school children.

If you’re my age just consider that you know about the Battle of the Little Big Horn or what life was like in Tarzan’s jungle. Then read a book about either and compare the reality with what you learned watching Johnny Weissmuller in the roll of Tarzan.

muslim cowboyWhat prompted this post was having read an article in yesterday’s New York Times about the reality of Muslims in America. Islam didn’t just get off the Boeing 747 at Kennedy International. It got off the boat long before there even was a USA. They have been here forever, they have been here in larger numbers than what you may think, and they are and never have been a threat to this nation or its way of life.  What they have become is the most misunderstood and denigrated religion in our history.  Just ask the  Texas Muslim Imam how he was treated when ask to bless the horses, riders, and military personnel at a Fort Worth rodeo. One comment on social media read,  “Outraged at a Muslim prayer at an all American event!” “Cowboys don’t want it!”

Well guess what dude? Muslims were riding herd and punching Texas cattle long before there was a Fort Worth. Furthermore, you cowboys didn’t invent rodeo, you borrowed it.

Shorter Chapel Spaghetti Diner

shorter chapelJust got a message from Shorter Chapel AME Church informing me they are hosting a “Love Fest” on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 3-6 pm. They will be serving up a free spaghetti diner complete with salad, garlic bread, desert, refreshments, plus fun and games for everyone. Shorter Chapel is located at the corners of North and Second Streets in Greenfield and the community is welcome to come together in a spirit of love, harmony, and fellowship.

Reach for hope, not the dope!


Got Me a Big Smile This Morning!

Tri-Dowel CBG (11)I’ve been learning the ins and outs of building cigar box guitars and other roots instruments for a couple of years now. Some of the earlier ones  made better wall decorations than they did music. But as time has passed I’ve gotten better and before Christmas I created a nice 3-string, fretless, instrument  made from a common cigar box and three 1/2″ dowels as the neck. Judy Beatty saw pictures of it on Facebook and purchased it as a gift for her son Lynn.

Lynn took a little time getting the hang of it and today sent me a video of him playing the Hank Williams classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Die” on my creation. I’m not much of a player and it is just overwhelming to see and hear something you created in the hands of a talented artist. Thanks so much Lynn!

The Axeman Cometh!

chikan johnsonI love music but I’m one of the most unmusical people on earth. It’s like loving to hear the French language but not being able to speak it. I love music but I have no fluency. Over the years, however, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some of the best. Back in 2010 at the Wheeling Heritage Blues Festival I was first exposed to James “Super Chikan” Johnson and his band, The Fighting Cocks.” The Chikan may have been playing the first homemade guitar I ever witnessed, a real double-edged axe made into a playable guitar.

Continue reading The Axeman Cometh!

A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Sub

sub-grinder mapSuper Bowl Sunday is just days away and the Mother’s Club will be assembling hundreds of sub sandwiches. As much as any single food, the submarine sandwich has become a Super Bowl staple.

In these days anyone in American can describe what a sub sandwich is. The most common fast food restaurant in today’s America is the Subway chain of sandwich shops. So, as the chain grew so did the use of the term sub to describe that pile of meats, cheeses, and toppings that get stuffed into a long bun.

Continue reading A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Sub

G3’s 4th Annual Winter Blues, Brews & Stews Festival

soupsIt’s the deepest, darkest, days of winter and you’ve had all the snow, ice, and despair you can bear. What’s you gonna do about it? Well, get off that sofa, put your rags and mukluks on, and come party a bit with Greening Greater Greenfield (G3). We got a hot live blues band, adult beverages, and lots of warm comfy food to help make the gloom outdoors disappear. Details are:

  • What: G3’s 4th Annual Winter Blues, Brews 7 Stews Festival
  • Where: VFW Ranch, 12868 Watt Rd., Greenfield, OH
  • When: Saturday, February 28, 2015
  • Time; 7:00 – 10:30 pm
  • Costs: $10 a person (includes live blues music and sampling of some great soups, stews, and chilies). Public decides whose soup or chili is best.
  • Band: Back Talk Blues Band from Dayton

Knights of Columbus will be serving up some great beers and other adult malted beverages. Soft drinks will also be available.
All proceeds to further the efforts of G3 to better the community that means so much to us all; Greenfield, Ohio.

Children must be accompanies by an adult.

If you, your family, your organization, church, friends, or business would like to enter a recipe for tasting and judging the rules and application form is available at

My Cyber Chimney

Blind Boy PaxtonBeing a member and supporter of Playing for Change is like having Santa Claus sneak down your chimney several times a year rather than just once in December. But unlike the real Santa, who you know will pay a visit on Christmas Eve, P for C’s Santa just pops up, unexpected. I got up from a nap this afternoon, checked my email, and down my cyber chimney came the present of a new video, Playing for Change Project 108 featuring “Blind Boy” Paxton performing the old blues standard, Candy Man Blues. Knowing that it better to give than receive I’ll pass this gift along to you. Enjoy and let it bring you peace.

Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton (born January 26, 1989) is an American multi-instrumentalist blues musician and vocalist from Los Angeles. He plays banjo, piano and violin and his musical influences are mainly rooted in the early blues from the 1920′s and 30′s. Jerron’s family, originally from Louisiana, moved to LA in the 50′s where he grew up before moving to New York city in 2007, where he currently resides. With a strong interest in blues and jazz music before World War II, Paxton’s sound is influenced by the likes of Fats Waller and “Blind” Lemon Jefferson. According to Will Friedwald in the Wall Street Journal, Paxton is “virtually the only music-maker of his generation—playing guitar, banjo, piano and violin, among other implements—to fully assimilate the blues idiom of the 1920s and ’30s, the blues of Bessie Smith and Lonnie Johnson.”

Parent-Child Workshop @ Spark!

On Tuesday, February 17 Spark is sponsoring a 2-hour parent-child event in which a playable, take home, 1-string roots instrument will constructed. I’ll be leading the workshop and will guide attendees through the process of building a traditional roots diddley bow instrument. The cost is $30 for parent-child team and will include all necessary materials and use of basic hand tools. If the parent would like to build a second instrument the added cost will be $20.

Registration and payment is by major credit card at Eventbrite. Click the payment icon below to enroll.

eventbrite pay button

Typical version of diddley bow called a canjo.

Sanka Bow (7)

And Let There Be Sitar

ravi shankar
Ravi Shankar

Ever since George Harrison hooked up with Ravi Shankar I’ve loved the sound of the Indian sitar. I have several Shankar CDs, one of Indian morning ragas, and one he made with the American classical musician, Philip Glass. In the early 60s the music shop in Downey, CA had a sitar and while I never touched it I did spend lots of time staring at it, marveling at its complexity.

In the YouTube era I’ve watched many videos of Shankar and other sitar players and I’m always stunned by how much beauty they can create with this assemblage of a few boards, wire strings, and a gourd or two. Just as magical is the lightning that lives in their fingers. To move so fast lightning has to be somehow a part of it.

Playing for Change seeks out musicians from around the world and makes them know through video recordings. On a recent Asian trip they taped a young Southern Indian man named Rajesh Vaidhya. Rajesh has mastered a type of sitar called a veena.

Continue reading And Let There Be Sitar

Shades of McCarthy at Fox News

You either have to be my age or have paid attention in your history classes to know how Senator Joe McCarthy pulled numbers out of his hat regarding the communist threat inside America. He never showed anyone his proof and the size of the threat changed with every audience he addressed. On one day he might claim having a list of 100 names of government employees who were card-carrying members of the communist party. On another occasion the list may be 27. It was totally manufactured and it has been rumored that in the beginning McCarthy didn’t even know what communism was. He just realized it was something people feared and that he could use that fear to further his own ambitions.

Continue reading Shades of McCarthy at Fox News

The Men Who Made the Music

Several Facebook friends, knowing my love of the blues, sent me links to a recent Huffington Post article about some of the men who have helped formulate and spread the word about blues music. Over super chikanthe years I have had the pleasure and good fortune of seeing many great blues players in live performance. Among those listed and photographed in the article are three I have met, James “Super Chikan” Johnson, “Bilbo” Walker, and T-Model Ford, who passed away last year.

I saw Johnson several years ago at the annual Wheeling Heritage Festival and witnessing him play his homemade guitars prompted me to begin building cigar box guitars. Last June I took my grandson on a road trip and one of the places we visited was the legendary Clarksdale, MS juke joint, Red’s Lounge where Bilbo Walker was playing. In 2005 I was in Red’s and got to hear T-Model Ford play one number. At the end of the piece he left the floor and joined up with a group of young college girls who got to buying him whiskey and rubbing on his knee. I waited a couple of beers worth for him to pick up his old Peavy guitar but it wasn’t to be. The “Tail Dragger” had left the room!

If you like the blues, especially its roots, check out the photos in the HP’s article. Click HERE.

James “Super Chikan” Johnson on one of his simple homemade instruments.

Purveyor of Fact, Fiction, Opinion and Rumor. Not responsible for lost children, pets, or souls. Read at your own risk!

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