My Twenty Favorite Album Covers of the 1970s!

I think album cover art is one of the great casualties of the digital era.  Something really cool was lost forever; but then I think, hey, the horse and buggy was also pretty cool and we survived its passing.  You often find pieces rhapsodizing over that moment when you would get home, tear off the album wrap, gently set the needle in the vinyl grooves and spend the next 40 minutes intently analyzing the cover art and singing along with the accompanying lyrics.  It was a rather magical moment.  And if it also came with a poster…well, it was goodnight Vienna.

My vow to you is that I will not write about that moment.  Instead, I will talk about my favorite album covers of the 1970s.  Out of thousands of possibilities, I have condensed my list down to just twenty; a near-impossible task.  The only rule I made is that I would not repeat artists.  For me, the best album cover art is about the feeling it gives you.  Just think of The Beatles’ so-called White Album.  They were so completely hip; they could take a minimalist cover like that and make it the coolest thing around.

When it comes to album covers, there are a lot of intangibles involved, so I expect very few people to agree with me here; but that is the whole fun of lists.  Some great record covers did not make the list: Carly Simon’s “Playing Possum,” Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” 10cc’s “Deceptive Bends,” Blue Oyster Cult’s debut album and “Kiss Alive” are just a few.

So, here, in no order, are my twenty favorite album covers of the 1970s!  Hope you enjoy!


  1. Santana- Abraxas (1970)

Santana’s second studio album was a biggie, coming off their career-making performance at Woodstock.  This fantastic cover was done by an artist named Mati Klarwein.  It was a piece painted in 1963 called The Annunciation.  It was different, exotic, sexy, and as Santana noted, “It fit like a hand and glove to the music.”  Klarwein, predictably, went on to fame and fortune in the art world and died in 2002 at the age of 70.  I spent many hours staring at this thing.


  1. The Clash- London Calling (1979)

London Calling was The Clash’s third studio album and its cover is considered one of rock’s greatest.  It shows bassist Paul Simonon smashing his bass against the stage at The Palladium in New York City on September 20, 1979.  Simonon was annoyed by an unresponsive crowd until his frustration reached the breaking point.  The photographer did not want the photo to be used, thinking it was too out of focus, but the band loved it.  The cover artwork was a tribute to the design of Elvis Presley’s self-titled debut album.  Q Magazine named the photo the best rock photo of all time and stated that “It captures the ultimate rock’n’roll moment – total loss of control.”


  1. The Rolling Stones- Sticky Fingers (1971)

Those bad British boys were at it again.  Yes, Sticky Fingers was one of their best records, but the cover was one of the most unique covers ever conceived.  It played on the innuendo of the title and showed a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch with a working zipper and mock belt buckle that opened to reveal cotton briefs.  It was the conception of pop artist Andy Warhol and contrary to popular rumor…the crotch did not belong to Mick Jagger.  Yes, it was outrageous; it was ground-breaking; it was expensive, and it was unforgettable.


  1. Joy Division- Unknown Pleasures (1979)

This was post-punk band Joy Division’s debut album and its memorable cover was designed by Peter Saville.  It is an image of the intensity of successive radio pulses.  The image became iconic and appeared on T-shirts.  One critic stated “Its white on black lines reflect a pulse of power, a surge of bass, and raw angst.”  As for Saville, he went on to design many album covers and is alive and still working.  As for the music; well, there is a reason the cover has outlasted it.


  1. The Allman Brothers Band- Eat a Peach (1972)

The Allman Brothers’ third studio album is one of my favorites and the cover is also quite memorable.  It was created by W. David Powell and came from some old postcards he purchased at a drugstore in Athens, Georgia; one depicting a peach on a truck and a watermelon on a rail car.  The title came from a Duane Allman quote when he was asked what he was doing to help the revolution.  He replied, “Every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace.”  There has been a false rumor for years that it was named after the truck Allman crashed into; supposedly a peach truck.  Powell is a working artist living in New York.


  1. Pink Floyd- Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

The music here was very special and so was the prism design created by George Hardie.  Few album covers are as instantly recognizable as this one.  The spectrum of light emanating from the prism is mysterious, bold, and works on several levels; the most obvious being the futuristic laser-light stage shows for which the band became so well known.  It was the first Pink Floyd album to include the lyrics on the album’s sleeve.  Dark Side of the Moon fascinated us with its “deep” concept and it remained on the charts for 741 weeks.  Hands down, it was the number one record to play when you were in the mood for a little consciousness changing.  Designer George Hardie retired in 2014.  At ease, soldier…well done.


  1. Bruce Springsteen- Born to Run (1975)

This is when the Bruce Springsteen legend really began and the cover art is just too cool with Bruce holding a Fender Telecaster and casually leaning on his buddy, sax-man Clarence Clemons.  The shot was taken by Eric Meola, who shot 900 frames in the three-hour session.  Springsteen and Clemons would even occasionally duplicate the pose onstage for a few seconds while on tour.  Meola was apparently born to click and is still enjoying a fantastic career in photography.


  1. Joni Mitchell- Blue (1971)

Blue is one of the great “relationship” albums of all time and its cover is one of my favorites of all time; actually, it may be my favorite.  Album-cover-art pioneer, Gary Burden, did this exquisite cover, taking a black and white photograph by Tim Considine and tinting it blue.  Joni had come off a tough break-up with longtime boyfriend Graham Nash and had begun an intense relationship with James Taylor.  Joni’s expression says it all; haunting, intense, exposed and unbearably sad.  It is simply the perfect visual accompaniment to the music, reflecting the emotional turmoil she was experiencing at the time.


  1. George Harrison- All Things Must Pass (1970)

After the announcement that the greatest rock band in history would be no more, the “quiet Beatle” turned out a triple album that, arguably, was the greatest of the Beatles’ solo albums.  The packaging was massive as albums go, but the cover photo is what grabs me.  It’s a black-and-white picture of George taken on the main lawn at Friar Park and he’s surrounded by four comical-looking garden gnomes, obviously representing The Beatles.  When you take into consideration the album title, the photo, and the timing of the release, it all adds up to one very special, historic cover.  The shot was taken by noted photographer, Barry Feinstein, who had over 500 album covers under his belt.  Feinstein died in 2011 at the age of 80 in Woodstock, New York.


  1. Miles Davis- Bitches Brew (1970)

Mati Klarwein (the creator of Santana’s Abraxas cover) did the surrealistic artwork for this, Miles Davis’ first gold record and it is striking in its beauty.  Its Afro-centric complexity provides the perfect bridge that leads you to the music contained within.  Klarwein was much like Miles himself; intense, and fearlessly determined to follow his muse, and apart from seeing it on an album cover, it stands up as a remarkable painting in its own right.


  1. 11. Fleetwood Mac- Rumours (1977)

The cover of Rumours is simple and elegant, showing Stevie Nicks in her flowing Rhiannon stage garb with drummer Mick Fleetwood in a Renaissance-style outfit, over an off-white background.  Fleetwood Mac is well known for its troubled interpersonal relationships and even these two band members had a fling together, thought not as of the time the photo was taken.  Of course, Fleetwood’s two ever-present wooden balls are there hanging from his belt.   You can read into Rumours’ album jacket, whatever innuendo you’re able to come up with, but at its essence, it is a beautifully designed cover by Desmond Strobel.


  1. The Cars- Candy-O (1979)

The Cars’ second studio album was a fine record, but its cover was a real beauty…literally.  It features a lovely redhead sprawled across the hood of a car and was painted by famed pin-up artist, Alberto Vargas, who created the iconic World War II-era pin-ups for Esquire magazine in the 1940s.  The 83-year-old Vargas had retired several years earlier but was persuaded to take the assignment by his niece, who was a fan of The Cars.  The artwork was exquisitely-detailed…until record executives instructed them to do away with her nipples.


  1. Led Zeppelin- Houses of the Holy (1973)

This is one of my favorite albums and one of my favorite album covers.  It was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End.”  It’s a collage of several photographs and was the design of English art design group, Hipgnosis, who created cover art for many, many rock albums.  The two children that modeled for the photos were siblings Stefan and Samantha Gates.  Houses of the Holy was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.  Would it cause a stir if released today?  You bet it would.


  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young- Déjà vu (1970)

This record is a masterpiece of song craft and features a very cool cover with a Civil War-era look to it, at the request of Civil War buff Stephen Stills.  It was taken in Novato, California in the back yard of David Crosby’s rental house and the tree is still standing today!  The shot is by Tom O’Neal, who has done over 100 album covers and is still working in the San Francisco area.  The dog just wandered into the shot and, unknowingly, became a part of rock history.


  1. Paul McCartney- McCartney (1970)

Paul McCartney’s eagerly-anticipated solo debut was a charming little project; sort of an “anti-Beatles” production with him singing and playing all the instruments, apart from Linda’s vocal contributions.  In keeping with the do-it-yourself-vibe, Paul designed the cover himself with Linda’s photos featured throughout the packaging.  If Paul’s life as a Beatle had been a bowl full of cherries, then the front cover shot of “spilled cherries” told us that there had been a drastic change in that life, indeed.  The back cover is an iconic photo of Paul with baby Mary tucked inside his jacket.  It has become maybe the best-known of all McCartney photos.  All in all, this record’s music and album-art have stood the test of time and shows Paul McCartney gamely readjusting to life outside of The Beatles fish bowl.


  1. The Who- Who’s Next (1971)

I love this album cover.  It references the monolith in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  In this cover photo, shot by Ethan Russell, it shows the band having urinated on a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap; a typical show of cheeky irreverence from the band.  In this case, most of the group was unable to urinate, so they tipped rainwater from an empty film canister to give the desired effect.  Ethan Russell has a singular claim to fame: he is the only photographer to have shot album covers for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who.  He is still working.


  1. Yes- Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)

My list would not be complete without an example of the great Roger Dean’s artwork.  Reaction to the album was mixed, but almost everyone agreed that the exotic, surreal landscape on the cover was one of the greatest covers of all time, with fish seemingly swimming through mid-air.  In the painting are a collection of actual objects, which were suggested by members of the band.  It is probably the best-known of all of Dean’s album covers, and deservedly so.


  1. Stevie Wonder- Innervisions (1973)

Innervisions was a remarkable album recorded during what is known as Stevie’s “classic period” during the years 1972-1976.  The cover, illustrated by Efram Wolff, is also pretty remarkable, as it depicts Stevie’s “inner vision” as a beam of light, seeing the world and all its problems, despite his obvious blindness.  Efram Wolff continues to pursue his art, working in bronze and other mediums.


  1. XTC- Drums and Wires (1979)

XTC was a new wave English band and this was their third studio album.  The cover art, created by Jill Mumford, was striking in its color and design, and it, most likely, left a far greater impact than their music did.  It displayed a feeling of sheer exuberance and, even better: it looked great on a T-shirt.


  1. Queen- Queen II (1974)

Queen wanted their second album cover to be a real attention grabber so they hired British photographer, Mick Rock, to take this dramatic shot of the band in diamond formation with their heads tilted back against a black background.  They wanted a bit of “glam” in there, and considered this pose as “sort of a knockoff of an old Marlene Dietrich shot.”  The band thought it was a bit too pretentious but Rock convinced them otherwise.  The image was later used to promote their 1975 single, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and 1985’s “One Vision.”

As an extra bonus, I wanted to include another album cover I found in my research.  I am calling it one of the worst album covers ever by a notable artist and it will make you appreciate just how special the good ones really are.  You may shield your eyes now…


Herbie Mann- Push Push (1971)

If you’ve ever wanted to see a sweaty, nude man holding a flute…here’s your chance.  For all I know, jazz flautist Herbie Mann could’ve made the greatest record ever, but I’m not plunking down my coin for this.

You are the last hope of unwanted dogs and cats…please adopt or foster today



Things You Never Knew About TV Characters You’ve Loved

Most of us TV buffs are familiar with the actors from our favorite shows through the years.  We saw them on talk shows and game shows.  But how much did we really know about the characters they played?  How much information do we have on the most patient and well-dressed dad of all time, Ward Cleaver?  Or the dippiest dip Mayberry, NC ever saw, Goober Pyle?  Dogs and avocados went deep into our vault and discovered an old piece that never made the cut…until today.  Sure, you thought you knew these TV characters but there is a lot you DON’T know.  We dug deep to find the autobiographical info you never cared about.  Well, Dogs & Avocados does care, dammit.   So grab the remote, lean back in that lazy boy and feast your tired eyes on “Things You Never Knew About Your Favorite TV Characters!”


Darrin Stevens- Bewitched

Bio- Parents were Phyllis and Frank Stephens.  He worked as an ad executive for McMann & Tate in Manhattan.  He lived at 1164 Morning Glory Circle.  He loved his alcohol.  He was the father of Tabitha and Adam.  He has an evil ex-girlfriend named Sheila Summers.

My Two Cents– He was possibly the dumbest man on TV.  He could have had Samantha whisk them away to Tahiti for the weekend or conjure up a feast with a twitch of her nose.  But noooooooo, he forbade her to use her powers, they stayed home, and she wound up with a burnt pot roast and a sink full of dirty dishes…which she had to wash by hand.

Dialogue- “SAMANTHA!!!”  “It MUST be the champagne.”  “I wish I had a drink.”


Arthur “Herbert” Fonzarelli-  Happy Days

Bio- Born in 1937.  Abandoned by his father, Vito Fonzarelli (a merchant seaman) when he was a child, the Fonz now lives over a garage owned by Howard and Marion Cunningham.  He was a former member of the toughest street gang in Milwaukee known as The Falcons.  He was a high school dropout.  His hero is the Lone Ranger.  He hates liver.  He endorsed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 presidential campaign.  His first spoken line on the show was “You played with her breasts?”

My Two Cents- Too cool for school, The Fonz was supposed to be a badass, but mostly just stood around looking tough. (Playing a tough guy was a stretch for Henry Winkler).

Dialogue-  “Aaaayh” (with a thumbs up).  “Live fast, love hard, and don’t let anyone use your comb.” “Who cares?” “Exactamundo.”  “Step into my office.”  “Sit on it”


Jim Rockford- The Rockford Files

Bio- Born James Scott Rockford, he served five years of a twenty year sentence in San Quentin (C Block) for armed-robbery until new evidence earned him a pardon.  He was awarded a Silver Star while serving in the Korean War.  A private investigator, he lived at Paradise Cove Trailer Colony  2354 Ocean Boulevard  Los Angeles, CA.  He kept his gun in a cookie jar in his trailer.  Favorite foods included Oreos, beer, a good steak dinner and a hearty, spicy taco from his favorite restaurant Casa Tacos.

My Two Cents- He wasn’t slick, he frequently got his ass beat, and was semi-cowardly, but he usually got the bad guy AND the girl.  His “200 dollars a day plus expenses” seems rather paltry now, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t matter, since he rarely got paid.

Dialogue- “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave a name and message. I’ll get back to you.”  “Oh, come on, Dennis!”  “Look, you aren’t gonna shoot anybody, we both know it, so why don’t you put that thing away before you have an accident.”


Herman Munster- The Munsters

Bio- Herman was created in 1815 at the University of Heidelberg by Dr. Victor Frankenstein.  Work on him was finally completed around 1850, along with his twin brother Charlie.  Leaving Germany for Great Britain at a young age, Herman was adopted by the Munsters of Munster Hall, a noble family living in the fictitious Shroudshire, England.  At some point, Herman moved to Transylvania, where he met Lily Dracula. In 1865 (technically at the age of 15, but physically older) Herman married Lily, and eventually the couple and Grandpa (Lily’s father) moved to America, where Herman joined the U.S. Army, fighting in World War II……..did you get all that?

My Two Cents– I preferred The Adams Family, but I am a Fred Gwynne fan, so The Munsters were high on my radar.  They beat the Adams Family in the ratings too.  On a side note, The Adams Family, The Munsters, and Bewitched all made their debut in the same week, which, in my opinion, probably makes us The Greatest Generation.

Dialogue- “Oh, goody!!”  “DARN DARN DARN DARN”


Jeannie- I Dream of Jeannie.

Bio– Born in Baghdad on April 1, 64 BC, Jeannie was imprisoned by the powerful Blue Djinn when she refused his proposal of marriage. Her punishment was to be turned into a genie, imprisoned in a bottle and forced to live an eternity of loneliness.  Some two thousand years later, Tony Nelson, a NASA astronaut, crash-lands on a deserted island and finds her bottle on the beach while attempting to make an SOS rescue signal. When he pulls the stopper from the bottle, out comes a stream of pink smoke which transforms into a gorgeous genie who speaks the words that most men would long to hear…”Thou may ask anything of thy slave, Master.” What did he wish for?  The possibilities were endless, but, in order, Major Anthony Nelson’s first three wishes were: 1) For Jeannie to speak to him in English.  2) For a ship to come to the island he was stranded on and rescue him or them.  3) To remove all curses put on Jeannie that caused her to be imprisoned inside the bottle.

My Two Cents- Just like Darrin Stephens and his witch, Tony Nelson was not the brightest bulb and did not take advantage of this beautiful harem girl and her magical powers.  So much for the sixties and the whole “free love” thing.  It was a huge deal to even catch a peek of her navel.  So, Jeannie…or Samantha?

Dialogue- “Thank you Master.”  “I will teach thee, Master”  “I must find a way to please thee, Master.”

eliz. montgomery

Samantha Stevens- Bewitched

Bio- Samantha was the daughter of a witch and a warlock, Endora and Maurice.  She was born on June 6th on the eve of the Galactic Rejuvenation and Dinner Dance, and had to identify herself as a witch under Endora’s encouragement from when she was very young.  Endora stated Samantha was the only child on the block with a unicorn.  Much to the horror of her mother, Samantha married a mortal.

My Two Cents- Like I mentioned earlier, the poor girl wasn’t allowed to use her powers…though that didn’t really stop her.  Samantha told Darrin she was a witch on their wedding night; a revelation that should have driven Darrin to his knees to thank the almighty Gods in the heavens.  It didn’t.  Idiot.

Dialogue- “Well?!?”  “Oh, my stars!”  “Mother!”  “Calling Dr. Bombay!”  “”Boil and bubble, toil and trouble, Mother, get here on the double.”


Barney Fife- The Andy Griffith Show

Bio- Bernard P. Fife is a deputy sheriff in the slow paced, sleepy southern community of Mayberry, North Carolina.  He is a blowhard with delusions of grandeur and is an emotional powder keg.  He served in World War II as a file clerk and never left the states.  He and Andy are cousins.

My Two Cents- Barney may be my favorite TV character of all time.  Everything about him was “off.”  His baggy suits, too-big fedora, his false confidence, his bug-eyed expressions, and his “expertise” with firearms (so bad, that he had to keep his one bullet tucked away in his shirt pocket).  And on the odd occasion where his one bullet found its way into his gun, it would, inevitably, accidentally discharge (this happened 11 times).  His pretty girlfriend, Thelma Lou, brought one thought into our minds: “Really Thelma Lou??  Barney Fife?”

Dialogue- “Nip it!  Nip it in the bud!” “Man gets his best suit spotted and pressed, spends two hours polishing his hat, and for what? Heartaches!” “What’s the matter, haven’t you ever seen a _______?”


The Professor- Gilligan’s Island

Bio- Roy Hinkley Jr. is a high school science teacher. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he is single, level-headed bookworm and in control of his emotions. Roy became a noted Boy Scout leader (the youngest Eagle Scout in Cleveland) and received six degrees (all by the age of 25) including a B.A. from USC, a B.S. from UCLA, an M.A. from SMU and a Ph.D from TCU .  His areas of expertise are agriculture, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, chess, dentistry, geography, law, marine biology, physics, psychology and zoology. His favorite dessert is halibut and kumquat sauce.

My Two Cents– The Professor was a genius and made all sorts of gadgets from the materials found on the island, including a coconut shell battery recharger to regenerate electricity for their transistor radio, a bamboo lie detector, a bamboo telescope, a Geiger counter, a telegraph and a pedal-powered washing machine, water pump, and sewing-machine.  But he couldn’t patch the hole in the S.S. Minnow.  Seemingly asexual, his entire blood supply was needed to operate his high-wattage brain, because he showed absolutely no interest in Ginger or Mary Ann.  He could have used a bamboo pedal-powered libido fortifier.

Dialogue- “It’s working!”  “No, Gilligan!”  “I’m making a polyester derivative of an organic hydroxide molecule.”


Ward Cleaver- Leave it to Beaver

Bio- The Beaver’s dad, Ward was a farmer’s son from Shaker Heights, Ohio which also has a suburb called Mayfield. Ward attended a prep school, was a veteran of World War II (having served as a surveyor in the Sea bees), a State college graduate (majoring in Philosophy), and member of a fraternity.  Of course, he was a responsible white collar professional working for a trust company, and an upstanding citizen. Ward met his future wife, June Evelyn Bronson, when they were teens. The two dated and went to State college together. They married and became the parents of two sons, Wally and Theodore (a.k.a. “The Beaver”).

My Two Cents- Ward Cleaver and his pipe was always good for a moral lecture, though he mostly carried a “boys will be boys” attitude.  But, if he brought the boys into his den, there would be hell to pay.  Ward and June were the entire reason sex, drugs and rock & roll exploded in the sixties, and they were the epitome of 1950s suburban life.  Ward ate dinner wearing his suit and tie, and June in her pearls.  I’m pretty sure they slept in the same clothing; in separate beds.

Dialogue- “Son, when you make a mistake, admit it.  If you don’t, you only make matters worse.”  “Yes, dear.”  “You know, Wally, shaving is just one of the outward signs of being a man.  It’s more important to try to be a man inside first.”  “Son, that sounds serious.”  “Delicious, dear!”


Goober Pyle- The Andy Griffith Show.

Bio- Goober was born and raised in Mayberry. He attended Mayberry High School where he played on the football team. After high school, Goober trained to be an auto mechanic in Raleigh and then did a stint in the National Guard.  Goober is a car mechanic. He is single, childlike and works outside of town at Wally’s Filling Station for $1.25 an hour. Goober likes to read comic books, play checkers, hunt, and fish.  Goober loves to eat pancakes and once won a pancake eating contest at the county fair by downing 57 pancakes in one sitting. Goober also won an arm wrestling contest four years in a row and a turkey shoot in Mt. Pilot two years running.  Goober’s favorite vegetable is corn on the cob; his favorite movie is The Monster That Ate Minnesota (he’s seen it ten times); and his favorite toy is a Teddy Bear named Buster. Over the years, Goober has owned as pets; a skunk, a canary named Louise and a dog named Spot (without spots).

My Two Cents- Goober is lovable and is sort of what southern stereotypes are all about.  Actually, I wanted to do his cousin, Gomer, but could find very little biographical info on the character.  However, I found tons of “Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle is gay” stuff.  So I switched to Goober.

Dialogue- “Judy, Judy, Judy!” (bad impression of Cary Grant.).  “Yo”.  “Hey, Andy!” “See ya, Andy!”


Daisy May Moses (Granny)- The Beverly Hillbillies

Bio- Granny grew up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  Granny can be aggressive but is often overruled by Jed. She is a Confederate to the core, defending President Jefferson Davis, the Stars and Bars, and the simple life. Short-fused and easily angered, Granny fancies herself a “dunked” (not “sprinkled”) Christian with forgiveness in her heart. She abhors “revenuers” and blue-coat Yankees. A self-styled “M.D.” (mountain doctor), she claims to have an edge over expensive know-nothing city physicians. In lieu of anesthesia, Granny uses her “white lightning” brew before commencing on painful treatments such as leech bleeding and yanking teeth with pliers.  Short and scrappy, Granny often wields a double-barreled, 12-gauge shotgun and fired it numerous times during the run of the show.   Granny spends much of her spare time trying to find a beau for her granddaughter Elly May, who’s over 14 and thus in danger of becoming an old maid.

My Two Cents- Everyone loved Granny.  She was only in her early sixties during the show, but looked 20+ years older.

Dialogue- “Jeeeeeeeeeeeeddddddddd!”  “For a city feller, he sure runs fast!”  “I’ll load my shotgun with rock salt and bacon rind and season his hind quarters for him”

Go rescue a dog or cat, dammit.  They’ll lower your blood pressure.



Michael McDonald: Wide Open



Michael McDonald’s first album of original material since 2000’s wonderful Blue Obsession is now in our sweaty little hands.  I really had no expectations about Wide Open, other than a high-quality record.  After all, seventeen years without an original solo album is a long time and I feel each record represents where an artist is, at the time he releases it.  Besides, “What a Fool Believes” was 38 years ago.  McDonald obviously isn’t a meticulous career planner; rather, it seems he wakes up each morning wondering what the day will bring.

Seventeen years.

Of course, he had the top-selling series of Motown covers beginning in 2003, and he has toured incessantly.  And, of course,  for those of us that follow him like an old friend, he really never left.  I did wonder what his reception on the charts would be like in 2017.  From his recent projects with some young, “hip” artists like Thundercat, and several high profile festival appearances playing for younger audiences, now seemed to be good timing.

Michael McDonald has always been one of the more self-effacing of rock stars, and you’ve really got to love a guy who has played such a significant role in rock history and, yet, remains so humble.  His time with Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, and the way he almost singlehandedly reshaped pop music through his legendary studio-vocal work will enforce his legacy forever.

Wide Open is excellent.  He is in great voice and the music is textured and dynamic.  He sounds inspired.  Lyrically, his sincerity shines right through; the years have deepened his wisdom at the age of 65, and I was quite moved by the narrative on many of these songs.  A man his age feels differently about the world around him than a man in his 20s.  McDonald’s songs tend to have a thread of self-doubt running through his protagonist’s narratives; the same self-doubt that plagues us all, if we’re being true to ourselves.  His thoughts are more profound, with a broader scope at this stage of life.

From “Honest Emotion,” a man’s self-discovery:

“I have wings on my shoulders,

I never thought to use them.

And these shadows in my heart,

I never thought I’d lose them”

“Hail Mary” settles into a nice R&B pocket that feels just perfect, warm, and rich sung in his mid-range.  His tone is fantastic here with the sound of his breath leavening the notes just a bit.  Love the horns and wife Amy’s background vocal, too.  Of course, he still explores his marvelous upper-register voice aplenty, but it feels like he is more willing to use all the arrows in his quiver.  “Just Strong Enough” is a bluesy understated gem with Warren Haynes and Robben Ford handling guitar chores while the horn arrangement slowly ratchets up the tension behind them; it’s incredible.

“Find It in Your Heart” has real hit potential.  “Honest Emotion” is lovely and touching.  The anthemic “Beautiful Child” is an emotional song and features a powerhouse vocal.  There is also some West-African-style pop among Wide Open’s 12 tracks.

Other guest players include Marcus Miller, Branford Marsalis, and drummer Shannon Forrest is a secret weapon here.

Each song clocks in at over 5:00, which I appreciate; I want a song to end when it feels the need, and not a second before.

I love the record and I love his continued growth that’s so easily apparent here.  So, is there still room for Michael McDonald in today’s music climate?

Are you kidding?  More than ever.


Please save a homeless animal.  It’s time for a new love in your life.



Pioneer Country Guitar Pickers!


I’ve always loved country pickers.  In a genre as basic and simple as country music, it’s fascinating just how great these guys are.  Of course “country” encompasses other styles too; like rockabilly, bluegrass, folk, and even blues.  The great players like the ones we’re going to discuss, almost always throw in some rock and jazz licks.  And who doesn’t love a little “chicken pickin'”?  There are so many great players out there like Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Doyle Dykes, Keith Urban, Brent Mason, and others.  But, in this article, I want to focus on my favorite old school guys; the pioneer guitar pickers.  I will do the new guys at another time.  These 10 players are part of the foundation of country guitar picking and they are my favorites.  All have played a role in my own musical development, especially Merle Travis.  I’m going to list them randomly, but I’m starting out with “Mr. Guitar” at the top of the list just out of respect.  Enjoy!


Chet Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001)

The Lowdown- Chester Burton Atkins was born in Luttrell, Tennessee, near Clinch Mountain and was the youngest of three boys and a girl.  His folks divorced when he was six and he was mostly raised by his mother.  He started on ukulele and fiddle but moved on to guitar at age nine.  Because of an asthmatic condition, he eventually moved to live with his Dad outside of Columbus, Georgia.  Because of his illness, he was forced to sleep in a straight-back chair to breathe comfortably. On those nights, he played his guitar until he fell asleep holding it; a habit which lasted his whole life.  He was a practice nut and by high school, was an accomplished guitar player.  When he was 15, he heard the great fingerpicker, Merle Travis, which pretty much changed his life.  Chet expanded the “Travis Picking” style to include the use of two more fingers of the right hand.  Chet began a long-time association with Gretsch guitars.  At 23, he made his first recordings for RCA Victor.  He began doing sessions and producing, and eventually taking over RCA Victor’s Nashville division.  There, he modernized country music, taking out the fiddles and steel guitars and creating the Nashville Sound, smoothing out country music by adding strings and sophisticated background vocals and giving country more of an opportunity for crossover success.  He went on to have hit albums and became an RCA executive, which he grew tired of by the late 70s.  Through the years, his stature as “Mr. Guitar” grew and he branched out to jazz and even classical music.  He never like being called a “country guitarist,” rather he preferred being known as a guitarist, period.  He is considered one of the ten most influential guitarists of the 20th century.  Atkins received numerous awards, including 14 Grammy awards and nine Country Music Association awards for Instrumentalist of the Year.  In 1993, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.   He died of cancer on June 30, 2001, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, ten days after his 77th birthday.  His memorial service was held at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.        

What Made Him Great- Where do I start?  He was an amazing finger stylist who perfected the ability to play chords, melody, and bass lines simultaneously.  He mixed harmonics, arpeggios and pure notes with a brilliantly clear tone; there was no cheating in his playing by using distortion effects.  His influence was vast as he branched out to styles like jazz, classical, and flamenco.  He introduced those styles to many players who’d never really heard classical or flamenco guitar.  Like I mentioned earlier, he was a practice freak; sometimes up to 16 hours a day.  His playing reflected it.  The guitar was an extension of his body and his love for it was plainly obvious.  Chet wasn’t an extremely verbal guy.  He would rather play than talk and he always seemed to be able to make it look easy.  Did you know he played on “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley?  Ditto for Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart.”  Chet jokingly granted himself with an honorary degree, the CGP (Certified Guitar Player).  He would go on to bestow it on other great players too; a true honor indeed.  In the links below, I’m including two beautiful examples of Chet’s playing.  The first one is an achingly lovely “Waltz For The Lonely” and the next is his brilliant version of “Mr. Sandman.”

Listen to the Master.




Albert Lee (Born December 21, 1943)

The Lowdown- Albert William Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire, but grew up in Blackheath, London.  His father was a musician, and Lee studied piano, taking up the instrument at age seven.  He picked up guitar at age 15 and quit school at the age of 16 to play full time.  He played with a variety of bands from then on, mostly playing R&B, country music and rock and roll.  His main guitar influences included Cliff Gallup, James Burton and Jerry Reed.  He had some success with Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds and then in 1968, he joined Head, Hands and Feet and became a guitar hero.  In 1974, he left for Los Angeles and got heavily involved in the session scene.  In 1976, he was asked to join Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, replacing one of his heroes, James Burton, who was returning to perform with Elvis Presley.  Then he spent five years with Eric Clapton and since then, his career has involved lots of session work in LA and Nashville, and one prestigious gig after another.  He is known as “the guitar player’s guitar player” and is also referred to as “Mr. Telecaster.”

What Makes Him Great- His skills on the guitar are jaw-dropping.  If you love lightning fast chicken picking, you will love Albert Lee.  He uses a “pickslanting” technique that allows him to fly smoothly across the strings.  Known for his virtuosity, he can also play beautiful, slow, melodic passages that almost have the silky sound of the pedal steel guitar.  He is a giant of a guitarist in the industry but not well known commercially.  He is a gentleman sideman who is not driven by ego, but musically, is the biggest man on the stage.



Glen Campbell (born April 22, 1936)

The Lowdown- Glen Travis Campbell was born in Billstown, a tiny burg near Delight, Arkansas.  He is the seventh son of twelve children and his Dad was a sharecropper.  He gives credit to his Uncle Boo for teaching him guitar.  At age 18, he moved to Albuquerque, NM to join his uncle’s band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys.  In 1960, he moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician.  Later that year, he joined The Champs, who had a big instrumental hit, “Tequila”.  His session work grew and he became part of a legendary group of studio musicians later known as The Wrecking Crew.  Glen played on just about everyone’s records including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Merle Haggard, and many more.  In 1961, he signed as a solo artist with Crest Records, and the next year signed with Capital with only minor success.  From 1964 to 1965, he was a touring member of The Beach Boys filling in for Brian Wilson; playing and singing harmony on their album Pet Sounds.  In 1967, he hooked up with John Hartford and became an “overnight” success with “Gentle on My Mind.”  Also in 1967, Campbell began a working relationship with songwriter Jimmy Webb that would indeed catapult his career into the stratosphere.  He and Webb shared a rare synchronicity; it’s as if their musical chemistry was fated.  It is a rare and special thing for an artist and songwriter; Burt Bacharach enjoyed the same mysterious connection with Dionne Warwick.  Huge hits followed: “By The Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston;” Campbell was a certified star.  He got his own TV show and the hits kept on coming.  He even did a little acting.  In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

In June 2011, Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six months earlier.  According to his family, symptoms of the disease had been occurring for years, becoming more and more evident as the years progressed.  Sadly, Glen is currently living in a Nashville memory care facility and is in the final stages of his disease.

What Makes Him Great- Glen Campbell has always been a musical hero of mine.  He can play anything and has a great singing voice too.  His versatility on the guitar is one of his greatest strengths.  He can play any style and play it with speed and accuracy.  A great studio player like Glen had to be able to deliver quickly with minimal takes.  He is one of the greatest session players ever and he is a pro’s pro.



Merle Travis (November 29, 1917 – October 20, 1983)

The Lowdown- Merle Robert Travis was born and raised in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.  He became interested in the guitar early in life and originally played one made by his brother.  From the age of 18, he began making a name for himself by playing various weekday radio shows including WLW radio in Cincinnati.  In 1943, he and Grandpa Jones began recording for King Records. Because WLW barred their staff musicians from recording, Travis and Jones used the pseudonym The Sheppard Brothers.  With World War II and the threat of being drafted, Travis enlisted in the US Marine Corps.  After his hitch was up, he helped form The Brown’s Ferry Four which has been called “possibly the best white gospel group ever.”  What followed next was various stage shows, “soundies”, bit parts in B Westerns, and various recordings.  In 1946, he recorded an album of folk songs that included his composition “Sixteen Tons.”  It became a number one hit in 1955 for Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Through the 40s and 50s, he did numerous radio and TV shows.  Travis did have his demons.  He was a heavy drinker, very insecure, and suffered stage fright.  He was very highly respected by other musicians and Chet Atkins even named his daughter Merle Atkins, in Travis’s honor.  His career got a lift in the early sixties with the folk music revival.  In the 1970s, he appeared on numerous country music TV shows and did some duet albums with Chet Atkins, as well as various other recordings that were well regarded.  In 1983, at the age of 65, Travis died of a heart attack at his Tahlequah, Oklahoma home.

What Made Him Great- His “Travis Picking” style allowed him to play melodies, rhythm parts, bass parts, and chords all at once.  With just a six-string guitar, he could sound like a mini-orchestra.  I learned his picking style as a teen, though he was obviously a million times more advanced.  He used a thumbpick that he could also use as a flatpick as he incorporated bends, slides, and harmonics.  His style incorporated elements of ragtime, blues, boogie, jazz and Western swing.  He really was a remarkable guitarist and is considered one of the most influential American players of the 20th century.  He could sing too!



Roy Clark (born April 15, 1933)

The Lowdown- Roy Linwood Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia and lived as a teenager in southeast Washington, D.C., where his father worked at the Washington Naval Yard. At 14, Clark began playing banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and by age 15 he had already won two National Banjo Championships and world banjo/guitar flatpick championships.  At 17, he had his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.  At age 23, he obtained his pilot’s license and then bought a 1953 Piper Tri-Pacer, which he flew for many years.  By 1955, he was a regular on Jimmy Dean’s TV show.  Dean, who was a stickler for punctuality among musicians in his band, the Texas Wildcats, fired Clark for habitual tardiness, telling him, “You’re the most talented person I’ve ever fired.”  In 1960, he worked as a guitarist in Las Vegas.  When Jimmy Dean hosted The Tonight Show in the early 1960s, he asked Clark to appear, introducing him to a national audience for the first time.  Following that, Clark had a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies and also appeared on The Odd Couple and The Jackie Gleason Show.  He pursued a fairly successful recording career and had a #9 hit with “Yesterday When I Was Young.”  In 1969, he and Buck Owens hosted Hee Haw, a country music and comedy show that ran for 24 years.  It made Roy Clark a household name.  In 1983, Clark opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, becoming the first country music star to have his own venue there.  He sang at Mickey Mantle’s funeral, wrote an autobiography, and still occasionally tours at the age of 83.  In 2009, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

What Makes Him Great- It seems like Roy Clark has been around forever.  Give him anything with a string and he’ll play it.  He is just a fantastic guitar player.  He has a very muscular, aggressive style with a jack-hammer right hand; there is nothing meek about his guitar playing.  He is also an amazing banjo player.  After all, he DID win two National Banjo Championships by age 15.  He has a great sense of humor and sometimes his comedy overshadows his guitar skills.  Often, he’ll play a very complicated instrumental while mugging and making goo-goo eyes at the audience.  He once explained that he lacked confidence and his humorous antics were meant as a cover-up.  He is a very well-rounded performer that sounds absolutely authentic in any style he plays, be it straight country, gospel, or a world-class version of “Malagueña”.  Roy Clark’s audience loves him and he loves them back.



James Burton (born August 21, 1939)

The Lowdown- James Edward Burton was born in Dubberly, Louisiana.  Burton began playing guitar as a child.  By the time he was thirteen, he was playing semi-professionally. A year later he was hired to be part of the staff band for the popular Louisiana Hayride radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana. While he was still a teenager, Burton left Shreveport for Los Angeles, where he joined Ricky Nelson’s band. There, he made numerous recordings as a session musician. Burton played the guitar solo on Dale Hawkins 1957 hit song “Susie Q.”  He made his name doing session work for stars like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and he held one of the most coveted jobs in music; as Elvis Presley’s guitarist from 1969 till Presley’s death in 1977.  He toured and recorded with Emmylou Harris and was with John Denver until his death in 1997.  With Denver, he recorded 12 albums and toured around the world.  He also toured intermittently with Elvis Costello for a decade.  In 2001 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2005, Burton started the annual James Burton International Guitar Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana to raise money for his charitable foundation.   In 2007 he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in  Nashville, TN as a member of the legendary L.A. session player group known as The Wrecking Crew.  He still maintains a steady schedule of gigs and recording sessions, and has several album projects planned.

What Makes Him Great- James Burton developed the “chicken Picking” style of guitar that we keep mentioning.  Using a fingerpick and a flatpick, and using a bright, clear, crisp tone he could make the guitar snap, pop and stutter, while incorporating double-stops, pull-offs, hammer-ons and open strings.  He has been called the “Hardest Working Guitarist in the Business.”  He has played with just about everyone and has been a sideman for almost his entire career.  Let’s put it this way: Elvis Presley could have hired any guitarist in the world; he chose the man with the Telecaster, James Burton.



Jerry Douglas (born May 28, 1956)

The Lowdown- Jerry Douglas plays a Dobro (resonator guitar) and for my money, he is the best picker on the planet.

Gerald Calvin “Jerry” Douglas was born in Warren, Ohio and began playing the Dobro at age eight with encouragement from his father, who was also a bluegrass musician. By his teen years, Douglas was already a member of his father’s band.  Douglas was discovered at a festival by the Country Gentlemen, who took him on tour with them for the rest of the summer and later brought him into the recording studio. From there, Douglas established himself as a hugely in-demand session musician; he has played on more than 1,600 albums with a hugely diverse group of artists like Ray Charles, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Phish, Eric Clapton, Ricky Skaggs, Elvis Costello, Johnny Mathis and so many more.  He is also a producer, a solo artist, composer, and has been a touring and recording member of Alison Krauss and Union Station since 1998.   Douglas has received fourteen Grammy Awards and has won the Country Music Association’s ‘Musician of the Year’ award three times.  His nickname is “Flux” which is sort of a capo for a Dobro, or the bar he holds in his left hand.  If you’re lucky enough to get Jerry Douglas to play on your record date, you’re getting the best of the best.  On top of all that, he’s a helluva nice guy.

What Makes Him Great- For starters, he just has the gift.  He is a virtuoso that can play whatever he wants.  He has eclectic tastes which run toward bluegrass, jazz, blues, folk, rock, Celtic and straight-ahead country as well.  His right hand attack can be fierce and aggressive and he can also play the sweetest, most sensitive lines you’ve ever heard.  His playing will raise goose bumps on your arm.  He makes it look easy…but it’s not.  He plucks the strings using a plastic thumbpick and metal picks on his index and middle fingers.  He also uses the edge of his palm to mute strings near the bridge.  You have to find your notes by ear.  He mutes unwanted strings and eliminates the noises and sympathetic vibrations with his pinky and ring fingers.  It is not easy, and when you consider the skill he displays, it seems it would be easier to flap your arms and fly.  Jerry Douglas is a pioneer and is to the Dobro, what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric guitar.



Buddy Emmons (January 27, 1937 – July 21, 2015)

The Lowdown- Buddy Gene Emmons was born in Mishawaka, Indiana.  When he was 11 years old, his father bought him a 6-string lap steel guitar and arranged for lessons at the Hawaiian Conservatory of Music in South Bend, Indiana, which Buddy attended for about a year.  By age 15, Buddy’s playing had progressed considerably and his parents bought him a triple-neck Fender “Stringmaster” steel guitar, and he began performing with local bands in South Bend such as The Choctaw Cowboys.  He quit high school at 16 and the next year found him in Detroit playing with Casey Clark.  The next year, Little Jimmy Dickens heard Emmons playing with Casey Clark and offered him a job with his band, so at the age of 18, in July, 1955, Emmons moved to Nashville to join one of the hottest bands in country music.  The next year, Dickens dissolved his band to go solo, and Emmons began doing sessions in Nashville.  He was now firmly on his career path of contributing exquisite steel playing to the records of some of the greatest stars of country and contemporary music.  He also contributed heavily to the design, development, and evolution of the pedal steel guitar as a musical instrument.   Around 2001, he began suffering from a painful repetitive motion injury to his right thumb and wrist, which caused him to stop playing for over a year.  Though fully recovered, Emmons chose not to return to regular recording session work.  He retired in 2007 after the sudden death of his wife Peggy.  Emmons died of a heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee on July 21, 2015

What Made Him Great- As Lloyd Green, a highly in-demand studio steel guitarist said of Emmons in 1977, “He’s not an ordinary guy.   In my opinion, Buddy Emmons is probably the most intelligent and talented musician who’s ever played the instrument. He’s like Picasso or Michelangelo. That might be laying it on a little thick, but he’s just flawless in his playing. Nobody is the composite player he is. He was the first modern great steel player and nobody’s surpassed him yet.”

He was the world’s foremost steel guitarist and he just played it better than anyone else.  His innovative playing ranged from tasteful ballad accompaniment and classical music to be-bop jazz, big band swing standards, and Western swing.  He could play fiery, complex, single-note solos that just would leave you amazed, and also play really imaginative chordal work.  He made it all look so natural and effortless.  He was an innovator on the instrument and the music.



Jerry Reed (March 20, 1937 – September 1, 2008)

The Lowdown- Jerry Hubbard Reed was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  His parents separated four months after his birth, and he and his sister spent seven years in foster homes or orphanages. Reed was reunited with his mother and stepfather in 1944.  He picked up the guitar as a child, and by high school, he was already writing and singing music.  At age 18 he was signed by publisher and record producer Bill Lowery to cut his first record, “If the Good Lord’s Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”. At Capital Records he recorded both country and rockabilly singles to little notice, until label mate Gene Vincent covered his “Crazy Legs” in 1958. By 1958 Lowery signed Reed to NRC, and he recorded for NRC as both artist and as a member of the staff band, which included other NRC artists Joe South and Ray Stevens.  He then served two years in the US Army.  Afterward, he moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career (Brenda Lee had recorded his “That’s All You Got To Do.”).  He became a popular session and tour guitarist and he met Chet Atkins in 1965 who signed him to RCA and produced some of his tunes.  Reed would later credit Atkins with all of his success.  In 1967, he did some sessions with Elvis Presley, who had a hit with Reed’s “Guitar Man” and Jerry played on the session at Elvis’ request.  In 1970, Reed had a #8 hit with “Amos Moses”, did an album with Chet Atkins, became a regular on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and in 1971 he had his biggest hit, the chart-topper “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” which won him the 1972 Grammy for best male country vocal performance.  Reed was eventually given the title of CPA (Certified Guitar Player) by Chet Atkins; a very high honor.  Reed spent his career touring, doing sessions, pursuing a solo career, and had a pretty fair acting career; he was in all three Smoky and the Bandit movies.  He also invested in the Nashville Sounds, a minor league baseball team.  Jerry Reed died in Nashville, Tennessee on September 1, 2008, of complications from emphysema.

What Made Him Great- Jerry Reed was a lot like Roy Clark in that he was a big cut-up while playing.  His laughing and joking and “good ol’ boy” persona tended to downplay the fact that Jerry Reed was a monster guitar player.  Chet Atkins actually said thought Reed was a better fingerstyle player than he himself was; amazing.  Jerry Reed’s guitar playing was underrated due to his comedy and acting but he had mind boggling guitar technique that incorporated intricate fingerpicking, gorgeous cascading harp-style runs, and an infectious, funky sense of rhythm and humor.  He was fearless on the instrument.  He was an emotional, sensitive and charismatic guy.  He was so fun to watch, not only because of his humor and guitar technique, but also because he made playing the guitar look like so much fun.



Tommy Emmanuel (born 31 May 1955)

The Lowdown- William Thomas Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia, as one of six children.  His mother gave him his first guitar at age four and taught him to accompany her as she played lap steel guitar.  His moment of epiphany came at age seven when he heard Chet Atkins on the radio.  In 1961, his father created a family band, sold their home and took the family on the road.   With the family living in two station wagons, much of Emmanuel’s childhood was spent touring Australia, playing rhythm guitar, and rarely going to school; that is until the authorities insisted the Emmanuel children had to go to school regularly.  His Dad died in 1966 and Tommy eventually moved to Sidney where he started winning talent contests late in his teen years.  Through the 70s and 80s he did sessions and played in various nationally known bands and was becoming well known throughout Australia.  In the late 80s he began a solo career and the world would soon discover his skills on the guitar.  In 1997, Emmanuel and Chet Atkins recorded as a duo and released the album The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World, which was also Atkins’ last recorded album before he died. Atkins stated about Tommy: “He is one of the greatest guitar players I’ve ever seen.”  In July 1999, at the 15th Annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention, Atkins presented Emmanuel with a Certified Guitar Player award (CGP), an honor Chet personally bestowed to only four other guitarists.  Chet Atkins described Tommy as a “fearless” fingerpicking guitar player.  In 2000, Tommy and his brother Phil performed at the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Sidney to a televised audience of 2.85 billion people.   In December 2007, Emmanuel was diagnosed with heart problems and was forced to take a break from his hectic touring schedule due to exhaustion, but returned to full-time touring in early 2008.    

What Makes Him Great- We started this piece with Chet Atkins and its most fitting that we end with the wonderful Tommy Emmanuel, since he could be called the heir apparent to Chet Atkins.  Like Chet, Tommy possesses almost supernatural chops, but where Chet was the “Country Gentleman,” Tommy Emmanuel has more of a wild man personality; can handle anything on the acoustic guitar and do it with a rock and roll attitude.  Like most fingerpickers, Emmanuel plays bass lines, chords, melodies and harmonies simultaneously using the thumb and fingers of the right hand.  Amazingly, he has never had formal music training, and does not read or write music.  As a solo performer he never plays to a set list and uses a minimum of effects onstage, and he usually completes studio recordings in one take.  He enjoys incorporating percussive effects on the guitar with his hands while he plays.  This leaves his guitars looking pretty beaten up.  Onstage, he is a whirlwind of motion; while handling melody, bass, and chords, he’ll throw in warp-speed licks and cascading harmonic progressions.  Tommy Emmanuel is an emotional guy who plays with great passion, technique, humor, and showmanship.  And he loves The Beatles too!




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The Songwriters: Carole King



This week we continue our “Songwriters” series with a profile on one of the very best: the great Carole King.  We all know her as simply one of the finest songwriters of her generation.  Her music is like a conversation between friends.  At the age of 74, she is still everyone’s favorite Earth Mother and she still radiates a natural beauty.  Thank goodness, she is still not ready to retire.

And so, my farm-to-table-eating friends, let’s get started on looking at the fantastic career of the woman who once wisely asked the question: “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”

1947: Carole King and parents Eugenia and Sidney Klein.

Carole and parents Eugenia and Sidney Klein.

Carol Joan Klein was born on February 9, 1942 in Manhattan, NY to a Jewish family.  Her mother, Eugenia, was a teacher, and her father, Sidney N. Klein, was a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department.  Her mother had learned to play piano as a child, and since the age of three, Carole always had a great curiosity about music.  Her mother began showing her some basic piano skills and by the age of four, Carole could name a note by just hearing it.  Her mother began giving her proper piano lessons.  In the 1950s, she formed a band called the Co-Sines, changed her name to Carole King, and made demo records with her friend Paul Simon for $25 a session.


Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Carole attended Queens College, where she met her future songwriting partner Gerry Goffin.  When she was 17, they married in a Jewish ceremony on Long Island in August 1959 after King had become pregnant with her first daughter, Louise.  They soon quit college and took daytime jobs; Goffin working as an assistant chemist and King as a secretary while they wrote songs together in the evening.  They were eventually hired by publisher Don Kirshner to write songs at the Brill Building, and after writing The Shirelles’ #1 hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (the first No.1 hit by a black girl group), Goffin and King quit their day jobs.  They were off to the races.  She and hubby Gerry Goffin made their mark in the 1960s, writing songs like “Up On the Roof,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman and many others.  But by 1968, their personal and professional relationship had run its course so Carole and her two daughters left New York City and moved to the artistic ground of Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.  Not only was Laurel Canyon a haven for the counterculture of the 1960s, the scene there also nurtured the likes of Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Papa John Phillips, Jim Morrison, The Byrds, and many others.  Carole King fit right in.


Despite having severe stage fright, King began her solo career and released a debut album, Writer, in 1970.  She never really set out to be a singer, but I’ve always loved her singing voice.  Yes, it has cracks, crevasses, and flaws, to be sure, but she just sounds so damn good, that her vocal flaws make her music even more endearing.  She expresses her feelings with raw, straightforward honesty.  Writer was a relative stiff commercially, and not many of us bought it.  But that all changed with the February 10, 1971 release of Tapestry.


Tapestry found its way into everyone’s record collection and became one of the best-selling albums of all time.  How did this happen?  Well, it represented the zeitgeist of a generation and it seemed to have a little something for everyone.  The songs were killer.  It felt earthy, personal, organic, and just about as familiar as your favorite pair of old blue jeans.  Tapestry sold over 25 million units, was number one for 15 consecutive weeks, and garnered four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.  You just weren’t considered very hip if you didn’t own this record.  Despite her stage fright, the little Jewish girl from Brooklyn was now a superstar.


Carole King’s career since Tapestry has been long and fruitful.  Her songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists.  She has four children (with four marriages now behind her); she lives in the mountains of Idaho, and has been honored at the White House.  In 2012, she published a book, A Natural Woman: A Memoir.  It was a terrific read and I gained a whole new appreciation for a woman that I had already greatly admired.  I was impressed with her sincerity; with her generosity of spirit, and I learned that she is a passionate lover of nature.  I also learned that she is a sucker for love and she doesn’t always make the best decisions…but she is not alone in that boat.

She is a legend and she will continue making music and performing, as well as pursuing her political and environmental activism, and yes, I will still love her tomorrow.


I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of my favorite Carole King songs.  The hardest task was in choosing from so many.  I will list them in chronological order to keep me from having to choose my favorites.  Please enjoy, as we look back at some of the best of Carole King!


  1. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (1960)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- The Shirelles

The Lowdown- This, of course, was a number one hit for The Shirelles in 1960 and was recorded as an up-tempo rendition, that was pretty typical of early 60s pop. Carole’s version is a whole other animal. Here, she slows it down and brings out the nuance in the song’s reflective lyrics about a woman who’s considering having sex with a guy and wondering how it will impact their relationship. It takes a different angle for a love song and it feels real and meaningful. The moment feels sacred to the woman in the song.  It’s a favorite for me. Listen to the background vocals and you’ll hear James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.  Credit goes to Gerry Goffin for writing such sensitive lyrics from a woman’s viewpoint.
“Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure
Can I believe the magic in your sighs
And will you still love me tomorrow?



  1. “Take Good Care of My Baby” (1961)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- Bobby Vee

The Lowdown- In looking for material for Bobby Vee to record, his producer, Snuff Garrett, came across a demo of Carole King singing “Take Good Care of My Baby.”  He liked it, but felt it needed an introductory verse as was the style back then.  He met with Carol and she banged out the intro verse he wanted.  Bobby Vee’s version became a smash hit.  It’s been covered numerous times and, in fact, The Beatles played it during their audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962 with George Harrison handling the lead vocal.  The song was also used in baby care product commercials.

“My tears are fallin’ ’cause you’ve taken her away
And though it really hurts me so
There’s something that I’ve gotta say
Take good care of my ba-a-a-by
Please don’t ever make her blue
Just tell her that you love her
Make sure you’re thinking of her
In everything you say and do.”



 3. “Go Away Little Girl” (1962)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- Steve Lawrence

The Lowdown- How innocent were we in 1962?  “Go Away Little Girl” was about a young guy asking a young attractive woman to stay away from him, so that he will not be tempted to betray his steady girlfriend by kissing her.  Shocking, eh?  It was the first song to reach number one by two different artists, Steve Lawrence and Donny Osmond.  It created a bit of controversy back in the day with some critics thinking the song was referring to an under age girl.  Okay, maybe it WAS a little creepy coming from “Mr. Las Vegas” Steve Lawrence, but Goffin’s lyrics were well-meaning, I’m sure.

 “Go away little girl
I’m not supposed to be alone with you
Oh yes I know that your lips are sweet
But our lips must never meet
I belong to somebody else and I must be true.
Please go away little girl
Go away little girl
It’s hurting me more each minute that you delay
When you are near me like this
You’re much too hard to resist
So go away little girl before I beg you to stay.”



 4. “Up On the Roof” (1962)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- The Drifters

The Lowdown- This is a beautifully-written tune and has always been one of my favorites.  You don’t have to live in a New York City apartment building to understand the romance of this song.  The imagery of climbing the stairs up to the roof to escape the surrounding urban landscape where the stars “put on a show for free,” is a powerful one.  In the heart of a huge city, it is a testament to Carole King’s songwriting chops that she can make being up on the roof, with crime and urban decay all around, seem as idyllic as a walk in the park.  It’s a well-traveled classic that started as a number five hit for The Drifters.  Gerry Goffin said it was his favorite lyric of any he had written.  The original suggested song title was “My Secret Place.”  My favorite version is James Taylor’s remake from his Flag album.  JT turned in another sterling song interpretation and had a #28 hit on the Hot-100.

“That right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a paradise that’s trouble proof
And if this old world starts a getting you down
There’s room enough for two, up on the roof”




 5. “Hey Girl” (1963)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- Freddie Scott

The Lowdown- “Hey Girl” is one of my all-time favorite songs.  Freddie Scott’s original was great, peaking at #10 on the Hot 100; it was Scott’s highest charting song.  The “Bye bye baby” background vocals were heartbreaking.  It is one of the greatest begging songs ever written with the protagonist literally willing to say whatever he has to say to get her to stay.  When you reach that point, you’re pretty much playing your last card.  “Hey Girl” has been beautifully covered by many artists and I love many of the cover versions I’ve heard.  Billy Joel did a nice job with it, as did Barry White.  It is a great song.  But Mike McDonald’s take on it is a little bit different (included in the link below).  “Hey Girl” is usually sung with a pleading quality and, for sure, Michael pleads…but there’s also a seductiveness to his approach.  While Freddie Scott’s heart was hanging in the balance by a thread, Michael McDonald is seducing her…or trying to anyway.




 6. Oh No, Not My Baby” (1964)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- Maxine Brown

The Lowdown- This is a terrific song that sounds like a classic Carole King melody right away.  It tells how the singer’s friends and family repeatedly warn her about a partner’s infidelities.  The Shirelles originally recorded it with each member taking their own lead vocal, which made it a bit of a mess and unable to be released.  Maxine Brown sang her hit version over the Shirelles’ backing music with the group’s vocals erased.  It peaked at #24 but spent seven weeks in the Top 40.  It’s been covered many times and Linda Ronstadt also did a fine version, which I’ve included below.




  1. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967)

Writer- Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Jerry Wexler

Artist- Aretha Franklin

The Lowdown- The story goes that one day, Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler drove by Gerry Goffin on the streets of New York and shouted out to him that he wanted a “natural woman” song for Aretha Franklin’s next album. There you go, Mr. Wexler, would you like fries with that? King and Goffin were so thankful that they gave Wexler a songwriting credit and the checks rolled in for the rest of Wexler’s days. Of course, by now, we know that Aretha Franklin completely owns this classic when she sings it. It’s amazing to consider how well Goffin did in writing from a woman’s point of view, just as he did on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” Where Aretha’s version was bigger and more aggressive, Carole King’s version was intimate, softer, and more vulnerable. It has become an all-time classic and is one of Aretha’s signature tunes.  I’ve included three versions: Aretha’s original, Aretha’s amazing version at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Carole King, and lastly, Carole’s own version.

“When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it.”





 Lou Adler and Carole

  1. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (1967)

Writer- Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Artist- The Monkees

The Lowdown- This was a huge hit for The Monkees and was thought to be a commentary on consumerism, or an ode to the simple life in suburbia…take your pick.  Goffin’s and King’s inspiration for the name was a street named Pleasant Valley Way, in West Orange, New Jersey where they were living at the time.  Mickey Dolenz sang lead vocals, and was the only member of The Monkees who did not play an instrument on the track; the drums were handled by a session musician.  It reached number three on the Hot 100.  Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork cited “Pleasant Valley Sunday” as their favorite Monkees tune.  As pop songs go, it is a rocking piece of ear candy.



 9. “Where You Lead” (1970)

Writer- Carole King and Toni Stern

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- This is a great song and now, of course, I immediately think of the TV series Gilmore Girls when I hear it. Carole and her daughter Louise Goffin re-recorded an excellent version of it for use as that show’s theme song.  Lyrics were written by Toni Stern.  Back in 1971, the critics came out with some nonsense about the song reinforcing stereotypes about women sacrificing to “please their man” but I think the song’s sentiments are sweet. Then again, I’m a guy so…
“If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely, and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train.”




  1. “It’s too Late” (1971)

Writer- Carole King and Toni Stern

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- This is perhaps the greatest breakup song ever written and it’s my favorite Carole King song. Toni Stern wrote the lyrics in a single day after the end of her affair with James Taylor (apparently James really has seen some fire and rain). If you’ve ever lived through the agony of an ending love affair, you will find a home inside these lyrics.
“One of us is changin’, or maybe we’ve just stopped tryin’.
And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late,
Though we really did try to make it.
Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide,
And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no.”

It hits close to the bone.
I guess what really gives the song such import is that no one here is assigning blame. That space normally occupied by anger is filled with sadness and resignation. When there is not even enough passion left for anger, it is really and truly over. Along with “I Feel The Earth Move” it was her first and only solo number one song.



  1. “So Far Away” (1971)

Writer- Carole King

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- This song has always felt very special to me with its sad longing for a far-away lover. It speaks for many of us, as most great songs do, and reminds us of the disconnectedness we all sometimes feel.
“So far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?”
It would be so fine to see your face at my door.

Doesn’t help to know you’re just time away.”

It was the album’s fourth single and was producer Lou Adler’s favorite. It peaked at #14 on the Billboard chart. This song was important to a lot of us and was played at the end of singer Amy Winehouse’s funeral.




  1. “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971)

Writer- Carole King

Artist- James Taylor

The Lowdown- This tune is beloved by everyone and was “stolen” from her by her buddy James Taylor, giving him his only number one hit. Even today, James sheepishly explains to his live audience that it was actually written by Carole King. It won them both Grammy Awards; James for Best Male Pop Vocal and Carole for Song of the Year. It has been covered by many artists.
“You’ve Got a Friend” is the perfect ode to friendship; love may come and go, but best friends are usually there for a lifetime. Winter, spring, summer, or fall…all they have to do is call.
King states that “the song was as close to pure inspiration as I’ve ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside myself, through me.” It is a perfect marriage of lyric and melody and if you ever question the song’s importance in our lives, just watch the audience swaying and tearfully embracing each other at a James Taylor concert. Carole’s version is great and is almost identical to James’. Why one version becomes a hit over another, remains a mystery.
“You just call out my name
and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again.”



  1. “It’s Going to Take Some Time” (1971)

Writer- Carole King and Toni Stern

Artist- The Carpenters

The Lowdown- The first time Richard Carpenter heard “It’s Going to Take Some Time” he knew it would be a hit and they recorded it for their fourth album A Song for You.  It peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained in the Top 40 for 8 weeks.  Carole modestly said that her version was like a demo compared to The Carpenter’s.  The song’s protagonist has messed up but hasn’t given up and she is determined to learn from her mistakes.  Karen Carpenter’s vocals are, of course, sublime.  Tim Weisberg provided the nice flute solo.

“It’s going to take some time this time
To get myself in shape
I really fell out of line this time
I really missed the gate
The birds on the telephone line (next time)
Are crying out to me (next time)
And I won’t be so blind next time
And I’ll find some harmony
But it’s going to take some time this time
And I can’t make demands
But like the young trees in the wintertime
I’ll learn how to bend.”



  1. “I Feel The Earth Move” (1971)

Writer- Carole King

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- It’s been called “the ultimate in hippie-chick eroticism” and features Carole aggressively pounding the keys; so much for the whole mellow Laurel Canyon vibe.
“I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around.”
The raw grit in Carole’s voice reflects the song’s joyous sexuality.
It reached number one and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. For Carole King, this was a blistering rocker and has become a favorite in concert.



  1. “Been to Canaan” (1972)

Writer- Carole King

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- The wonderful “Been to Canaan” appeared on King’s 1972 release Rhymes and Reasons.  It peaked at #24 on the Hot 100.  It was more classic Carole King, as the melody and music mirrored remembrances of a wonderful time in her life.  Canaan represents a cherished memory and a place she would love to revisit.  I never tire of revisiting this tune.  It’s a fun one to sing too.

“Green fields and rolling hills
Room enough to do what we will
Sweet dreams of yestertime
Are running through my mind
Of a place I left behind

Been so long, I can’t remember when
I’ve been to Canaan and I want to go back again
Been so long, I’m living till then
‘Cause I’ve been to Canaan and I won’t rest until I go back again.”



 16. “Jazzman” (1974)

Writer- Carole King and David Palmer

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- This is Carole King getting her groove on while Tom Scott blows killer sax over an uptempo arrangement.  The song refers to Ray Charles’ former saxophonist and music director Curtis Amy as the “Jazzman.”  It reached #2 on the Hot 100 and was kept out of the #1 spot by “You Aint Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive.  It earned Carole a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance but she lost out to Olivia Newton John’s “I Honestly Love You.”  For you Steely Dan fans, her co-writer is the same David Palmer who sang Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” and “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me).”  .

Lift me, won’t you lift me above the old routine;
Make it nice, play it clean jazzman.
When the jazzman’s testifyin’ a faithless man believes
He can sing you into paradise or bring you to your knees.
It’s a gospel kind of feelin’, a touch of Georgia slide,
A song of pure revival and a style that’s sanctified.
Jazzman take my blues away;
Make my pain the same as yours with every change you play.
Jazzman, oh jazzman.”



  1. “Nightingale” (1974)

Writer- Carole King and David Palmer

Artist- Carole King

The Lowdown- Appearing on her 1974 album Wrap Around Joy, “Nightingale” was a joy of a song that peaked at number nine on the Hot 100 and reached number one on the Easy Listening Chart.  Her daughters Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin were children at the time and sang backup.

“Like some night bird homeward wingin

He seeks the sheltered nest

Like the sailor’s lost horizon,

He needs some place to rest

The songs that he’s been singin’

No longer make much sense

And those stranger’s cold perceptions

They’ve killed his confidence

Nightingale, she sails away upon a sea of song

Nightingale, she serenades his lonely, lonely life along

When his tired voice is broken

His golden hope is gone.”


Don’t turn your back on homeless animals!  Adopt!




Classic Albums: Rumours’ 40th Birthday



The seventies were pretty crazy.  If the sixties brought us the sexual revolution, challenged convention, and gave rise to the counterculture, then the seventies took it out for a spin and stepped on the gas.

Despite what you’ve heard about the “Disco Era,” it was a great decade for music.  Funk, soul, glam, progressive, fusion, rock and the dreaded term “soft rock” all left their mark.  Soft rock was nothing more than songwriter-driven pop music by acts like Paul Simon, Jim Croce, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, James Taylor and others.  Seventies funk has become legendary.  The music wasn’t all good though.  We also had to wade through stuff like Paul Anka’s “(You’re) Having my Baby.”

In the seventies, hedonism was in; cocaine was in; people were going to clubs, and everyone was on the make.  In post-sixties, pre-HIV America, you could step outside your front door and hear the sound of zippers dropping nationwide.

At least that’s the way I remember it.


Forty years ago this month, Fleetwood Mac made an album that represented the seventies quite well: Rumours.  The songs and the performances were uniformly terrific.  Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie comprised one of rock’s most solid rhythm sections.  Christine McVie’s smoky voice, keyboards and songwriting were an invaluable element in their sound.  Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were the main focal points both on stage and on record.  Buckingham’s quirky pop sensibilities, songwriting and production choices were unique and he often took Stevie’s songs and fleshed them out in his own hit-making production style.

Portrait Of Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks was THE focal point of the band and her personal songwriting style, and raspy toned vocals, combined with her mystical, witchy beauty, had everyone’s attention.  The Mac were fresh off the breakthrough success of their eponymous tenth album and were also personally coming apart at the seams with the end of John and Christine McVie’s marriage, as well as the end of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ long-term romantic relationship. Even Mick Fleetwood was in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife, Jenny.  Fighting, break-ups, drinking, drugs…Fleetwood Mac had it all.


So, with such chaos in the air, the only proper thing to do would be to make their greatest album, right?  And so they did.  Rumours is still the favorite record for many and it’s easily among the best pop records of the seventies.  It sold over 40 million copies worldwide while capturing the zeitgeist of the times.   Rumours featured fantastic songwriting, production, and vocal harmonies; and it just had that unexplainable “right place, right time” quality to it.  The entire package was top notch right down to the cover.  The songs themselves read as an autobiographical dialogue between former lovers.  Following along with a lyric sheet, you’ll see all the romantic entanglements are right there and it’s incredible that it ever got made at all.

Forty years later this month, Rumours remains in most of our record collections and Fleetwood Mac, amazingly, is still gigging.  The songs are so familiar to us, it feels almost like a greatest-hits album.  At Dogs and Avocados, our thought was that this would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for our readers; a chance to rekindle those memories from February 1977 when Rumours ruled the charts; when Stevie Nicks ruled every young male’s fantasies, and when getting our groove on seemed to take up so much of our free time.  Let’s look back at Fleetwood Mac’s classic album and examine it track by track…forty years later.

The Cover– The cover of Rumours is simple and elegant, with Stevie Nicks in her flowing Rhiannon stage garb and drummer Mick Fleetwood in a Renaissance-style outfit over an off-white background.  Fleetwood Mac is well known for its troubled interpersonal relationships and even these two band members had a fling together, though not as of the time the photo was taken.  Of course, Fleetwood’s ever-present wooden balls are there hanging suggestively from his belt.   You can read into Rumours’ album jacket whatever innuendo you’re able to come up with, but at its essence, it is a beautifully designed cover by Desmond Strobel.


  1. “Second Hand News”

Writer– Lindsey Buckingham

The Lowdown- This was a great way to start the album as it sort of stated the fragile state of the relationships within the band right up front.  Okay, “Second Hand News” actually was a “kiss off” to his relationship with Nicks.  Plus, it was a nice rocker.  Musically, everything comes together in a joyful “off-to-the-races” gallop with Buckingham leading the way with his wordless vocals on the chorus.  The acoustic demo was titled “Strummer.”  When Buckingham heard the Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin’” he changed the feel of the tune, playing a groove on the back of a studio chair.

“I know I got nothin’ on you
I know there’s nothing to do
When times go bad
And you can’t get enough
Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass
And let me do my stuff
One thing I think you should know
I ain’t gonna miss you when you go
Been down so long
I’ve been tossed around enough
Awh couldn’t you just
Let me go down and do my stuff.”



  1. “Dreams”

Writer– Stevie Nicks

The Lowdown- This, the second single from the album, became Fleetwood Mac’s only number one single ever.  Amazing, I know.  Stevie wrote “Dreams” in about ten minutes on a Fender Rhodes piano.  The band didn’t like it at first and Stevie insisted that they give it a try anyway.  Lindsey Buckingham rearranged it and the track became magic.  The lyrics cut to the bone in Stevie Nicks’ typically confessional way.  It’s still a favorite.

“Now here you go again, you say 
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost, and what you had, and what you lost
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say women they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know, you’ll know”



  1. “Never Going Back Again”

Writer– Lindsey Buckingham

The Lowdown- Lindsey Buckingham remembers this being one of the last songs written for the album, after he had started a rebound relationship with another woman.  Ouch.  It’s a jaunty acoustic finger picking tune notable for its simplicity in saying a lot with just a few words.  The new girl here is showing him there is life after Stevie Nicks.  It is amazing they could work so closely on material as personal as this.

“She broke down and let me in
Made me see where I’ve been

Been down one time
Been down two times
I’m never going back again

You don’t know what it means to win
Come down and see me again.”



  1. “Don’t Stop”

Writer– Christine McVie

The Lowdown- This is Christine McVie’s contribution to the kiss-off theme of the record; this time singing “Don’t you look back. Yesterday’s gone.”  Brutal.  Bill Clinton surely liked it better than Christine’s ex John McVie.  He co-opted it for his first presidential campaign; particularly at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.  After he won the election, he talked the then-disbanded group into reforming and performing it at his inaugural ball.  This little shuffle peaked at number three on the Hot 100 and is one of the songs most people think of when they think of Fleetwood Mac.

“If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it take just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be even better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Why not think about times to come
And not about the things that you’ve done
If your life was bad to you
Just think what tomorrow will do.”


  1. “Go Your Own Way”

 Writer– Lindsey Buckingham

The Lowdown- This was the first single released from Rumours and it peaked at #10 on the Hot 100, becoming their first top ten hit in the US.  It was written in Florida in a beach house the band rented and the atmosphere there was tense; band members were not getting along very well.  Stevie Nicks asked Buckingham to remove the lyrics “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do”, but Buckingham refused.  She felt like he was pushing her buttons by stating things that weren’t true.  Musically, the song packed a punch with Fleetwood contributing an aggressive drum track and Buckingham playing a soaring guitar solo.

“Loving you
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I
Ever change things that I feel
If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day.” 



  1. “Songbird”

Writer– Christine McVie

The Lowdown- “Songbird” was released as the B-side of the single “Dreams”.  It simply features Christine McVie on piano with Buckingham on acoustic guitar.  It’s about how true love requires sacrifice and it served as sort of a healing type of song, keeping everyone together during the making of Rumours.  It was recorded in an auditorium on a nine-foot Steinway piano; the sound engineer loved the vibe in the room.

“For you, there’ll be no more crying.
For you, the sun will be shining.
And I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right.
To you, I’ll give the world.
To you, I’ll never be cold.
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right.
And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.
And I wish you all the love in the world.
But most of all, I wish it from myself.”



  1. “The Chain”

Writers– Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks.

The Lowdown- “The Chain” is a band composition (one of the few) and is comprised of previously rejected material.  It’s the first song Fleetwood Mac plays in their live shows.  It began as a Christine McVie song called “Butter Cookie (Keep Me There)”.  Bits and pieces of other tunes were worked in and “The Chain” is the end result.  The chain metaphor represents the band’s resilience in overcoming personal difficulties and hardships.  I love the swampy little Dobro riff at the beginning of the song.  The band worked hard on this track and spent five days just on getting the drum sound alone.

“Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise
Run in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies
And if, you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain (Never break the chain)
And if, you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain (Never break the chain)”



  1. “You Make Loving Fun”

Writer– Christine McVie

The Lowdown- This tune was inspired by an affair McVie had with the group’s lighting director Curry Grant (Grant also had a fling with Stevie Nicks.  Remember, it was the 70s).  “To avoid flare-ups”, McVie told her then-husband John McVie that the song was about her dog; he found out later what it was really about.  It was the fourth single from the record and it peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 chart.  An interesting feature of this track is Christine’s addition of a Hohner Clavinet part.  The song has become a concert staple when Christine’s touring with them.  During the recording of the vocals, Lindsey and Stevie would sing the chorus “Yoooooou Make Loving Fun” and in between takes, they engaged in vicious name-calling.  When the tape rolled again, they returned to singing together like they meant every word.

“Sweet wonderful you,
You make me happy with the things you do,
Oh, can it be so,
This feeling follows me wherever I go.

I never did believe in miracles,
But I’ve a feeling it’s time to try.
I never did believe in the ways of magic,
But I’m beginning to wonder why.”



  1. “I Don’t Want To Know”

Writer– Stevie Nicks

The Lowdown- This was written before the Rumours sessions when Stevie and Lindsey were performing as the duo Buckingham Nicks.  Nicks had written “Silver Springs” for Rumours and the band decided to replace it with “I Don’t Want to Know” because “Silver Springs” was too long.  Stevie was angry and did not want to cooperate with the rerecording but gave in when she realized that “Dreams” would, otherwise, be her only contribution to the record.  Lyrically, it’s a view of the end of a romantic relationship, though less bitter than the other songs on the album.  The couple in the song hopes they can find what they are looking for in a relationship whether they are together or not.  It features great harmonies, along with great energy.

“I don’t want to know the reasons why
Love keeps right on walking on down the line
I don’t want to stand between you and love
Honey, I just want you to feel fine
I don’t want to know the reasons why
Love keeps right on walking on down the line
I don’t want to stand between you and love
Honey, I just want you to feel fine
Finally baby
The truth has come down now
Take a listen to your spirit
It’s crying out loud.
Tryin’ to believe
Oh you say you love me, but you don’t know.”



  1. “Oh Daddy”

Writer– Christine McVie

The Lowdown- There is some dispute on who “Daddy” in the song really is.  According to McVie, “Oh Daddy” was written for Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood was the solid-as-a-rock guy in keeping the band together, hence the reference to him as “Daddy.”  Also, at the time, Fleetwood was the only father of the band, with two daughters.

However…both Lindsey Buckingham’s former girlfriend Carol Ann Harris and Stevie Nicks’ biographer Zoe Howe have stated that the song was originally written for the band’s lighting director, Curry Grant, who McVie had been dating at the time. (Grant was apparently a busy boy.  Not sure if he ever found the time to actually work on the lights).  Both Harris and Howe say McVie only later claimed that the song was written for Fleetwood.  Aaah, those crazy rumours.

“Oh Daddy
You know you make me cry
How can you love me
I don’t understand why
Oh Daddy
If I can make you see
If there’s been a fool around
It’s got to be me
Yes, it’s got to be me
Oh Daddy
You soothe me with your smile
You’re letting me know
You’re the best thing in my life.”



  1. “Gold Dust Woman”

Writer– Stevie Nicks

The Lowdown- “Gold Dust Woman” was like many of Stevie Nicks’ songs; about 10-12 minutes long with numerous verses.  The challenge was to edit it down to a manageable length; not an easy task.  The vocal take they chose for the record was reportedly recorded at 4 a.m., after a long night of attempts in the studio and a lot of Courvoisier in Stevie.  Just before and during that final take, she had wrapped her head (though not mouth) with a black scarf, trying to block out her senses and tap into her memories and emotions.  Fleetwood set the scene for the vocal take, describing Nicks as “hunched over in a chair, alternately choosing from her supply of tissues, a Vicks inhaler; a box of lozenges for her sore throat and a bottle of mineral water.”  There is some confusion on the meaning of “Gold Dust Woman” but Stevie remembers there was a lot of cocaine around and it could have been a drug reference.



PLEASE rescue an unwanted animal today!




Their Final Resting Places


When all is said and done, no matter how rich, poor, famous, or anonymous; we all end up the same way: dead.  No one has ever gotten out alive, and so it is with musicians and composers.

I’ve always loved graveyards.  I’ve never found them to be spooky; rather, I see them as relaxing and tranquil.  Under each marker is the story of a life that loved, coveted, traveled, and lived in his/her own unique way.

Dogs and Avocados is taking a look this week, at the final resting place for those who made music their life’s work.  It is a humbling experience to see someone like, say, Frank Sinatra, who had such worldwide fame and influence; and he is now represented by just a simple marker.  Indeed, death is the great equalizer, and reminds us that fame…and life…are fleeting.


Roy Acuff (September 15, 1903 – November 23, 1992)

“The King of Country Music” was a fixture on the country music scene for many years and is remembered for hits like “Great Speckled Bird,” “The Prodigal Son,” and “Wabash Cannonball.”  Roy Acuff died in Nashville of congestive heart failure at the age of 89.







Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971)

The great guitarist for the Allman Brothers had a short, but blazing career that brought him fame as a fiery blues player, and he was particularly known for his tremendous slide playing, as well as his improvisational skills.  That career was tragically cut short in Macon, Georgia at the age of 24 when his he and his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle ran into the back of a flatbed truck that was carrying a timber crane.  He died at the hospital from massive internal injuries.






Berry Oakley (April 4, 1948 – November 11, 1972)

The great Allman Brothers’ bassist was one of the band’s founding members and was known for his long, melodic bass runs.  He was also known as the “peacemaker” within the band.  His death has become a part of the Allman Brother legend, as almost exactly a year after Duane Allman’s death just three blocks away, Oakley died when his motorcycle struck a city bus.  He said he was okay, declined medical treatment and caught a ride home.   Three hours later, he was rushed to the hospital, delirious and in pain, and died of cerebral swelling caused by a fractured skull.  He was 24 years old.  He and Duane Allman are buried side by side.





George Gershwin (September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937)

George Gershwin was one of the greatest American composers of the 20th century.  He and his lyricist brother Ira, were responsible for compositions such as Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, as well as the opera Porgy and Bess.  He also wrote more than a dozen Broadway shows, featuring songs such as “I Got Rhythm”, “Embraceable You”, “The Man I Love”, and “Someone to Watch Over Me”.  He died in Los Angeles, California at the age of 38 after an attempt to surgically remove a malignant brain tumor.





Isaac Hayes (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008)

Isaac “Black Moses” Hayes was a singer/songwriter whose deep, soulful voice was instantly recognizable.  He wrote scores of songs including “Hold on! I’m Coming,” “When Something is Wrong With My Baby,” “Soul Man,” and he had a number one hit with “Theme from Shaft.”  He died of a stroke at his home in Memphis, Tennessee, collapsed on the floor beside a running treadmill..






Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970)

This legendary guitarist really needs no introduction.  He revolutionized not only the way electric guitars are played, but he even changed the way we thought about the instrument. Everything about him was unique, and his influence is still felt throughout the music world today.  In 1970, he was found unresponsive in a London flat and later died in a hospital.  On post-mortem examination, it was concluded that he aspirated his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates.  He was 27 years old.






Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959)

“Lady Day” was a legendary jazz singer and writer who cast a long shadow over American jazz music.  Her voice was unique in her almost child-like tone and in the way she sang vocal phrases and improvisations.  There was no one like her.  Unfortunately, her life was marked by ongoing drug and alcohol abuse.  She died in New York City of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 44.






George Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013)

According to many, “The Possum” was the greatest country singer there ever was.  He was as old school as it gets, and could convey the lyrical meaning of a song just about better than anyone.  He was country, but sang bluesy and soulful, and could produce a variety of vocal tones by squeezing them out in various ways.  If your baby left you and you found yourself on a lonely barstool, George Jones is who you would want on the jukebox.  At the age of 81, he died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from hypoxic respiratory failure.





BB King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

“The King of the Blues” was a giant in the blues genre.  He and his red guitar, Lucille, were a familiar sight as he tirelessly toured America year after year.  He had his own sound on the guitar in the unique way he bent the strings and in his strong vibrato that became a signature.  He was also a great blues singer and was one of the most influential blues musicians of all time.  He died in his sleep on May 14, 2015, at the age of 89.  King’s cause of death was determined to be multi-infarct dementia, brought on by a series of small strokes caused by atherosclerotic vascular disease as a result of type 2 diabetes.






Bob Marley (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981)

Bob Marley is the reason why soccer moms play reggae in their SUV while taking their kids to practice.  He delivered this music to the world.  Few artists inspire reverence like Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley.  His music was where reggae, soul, pop, and gospel met in one glorious union.  His sound was infused with a sense of spirituality.  In 1977, a malignant melanoma was found under the nail of a toe.  He refused amputation, citing religious beliefs, and, instead, the nail and nail bed were removed.  It was a bad decision.  The cancer spread.   Bob Marley died in 1981 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami at the age of 36.  His last words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.”






Frank Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998)

Frank Sinatra was as big as a star can be, and his music is still considered timeless.  “The Chairman of the Board” did it his way; as an influential singer with sublime phrasing; as an Oscar-winning actor; and as a charismatic member of the sometimes infamous “Rat Pack”.  He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time.  He died with his wife at his side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  She urged him to “fight” while attempts were made to stabilize him, and his final words were, “I’m losing.”

He was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a Zippo lighter, and a dollar’s worth of dimes.  The dimes were reportedly in case he needed to use a pay phone.






Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27 1756 – December 5 1791)

Though often called a genius, most scholars consider the great composer simply to be a product of tremendous drive and determination…and talent, of course.  He wrote his first symphony at the age of eight and he composed more than 600 works in all.  His influence was profound; even Ludwig van Beethoven, fifteen years his junior, was a deep admirer of Mozart.  He was a giant among classical composers.  Mozart died in his home in 1791 at the age of 35.  The cause of death is uncertain, and 118 possible causes have been put forth, with acute rheumatic fever, streptococcal infection, trichinosis, influenza, mercury poisoning, and a rare kidney ailment as being the most likely culprits.  He was buried in an unmarked grave, but the memorial below, erected in the 1850s, marks the alleged spot.






Roy Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988)

Nobody could do what “The Big O” could do.  His high-ranged voice was so unique; so complex; so passionate and emotional; almost operatic.  “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” are sublime examples.  While most rockers of the period were mucho macho, Roy projected vulnerability in his singing and projected mystery behind those dark sunglasses.  It would be hard to find many modern performers who don’t love Roy Orbison.  He died of a heart attack at his mother’s home at the age of 52.  He is buried in an unmarked grave.  The family didn’t buy a marker, because they planned to relocate him, but never got around to it.

The clip here is from 1988, the year of his death.





Ray Charles (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004)

There are very few geniuses in music, but the Father of Soul certainly was one of them.  His voice was a masterful mix of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, moans, shouts, screams and hollers, making his one of the most recognizable voices in history.  He always seemed to tap into something very deep when he sang.   His version of “Don’t You Love me Anymore?” is heartbreaking.  I’ve never found anyone who didn’t admire Ray Charles, and when he passed, it felt like we all had lost someone very significant in our lives.  One of his signature songs was the great ballad, “You Don’t Know Me,” but truthfully, it always felt to me like we did.  He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California in 2004, surrounded by family and friends, as a result of acute liver disease.  He was 73 years old.






Buck Owens (August 12, 1929 – March 25, 2006)

He was the pioneer of the “Bakersfield Sound.”  He had 21 number-one hits on the country charts, and while others called it country music, he preferred to call what he played, American music.  His sound was lean with catchy choruses, twangy electric guitars, prominent drums, and high two-part harmonies.  He also spent 17 years co-hosting the popular TV series Hee Haw.  He died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, only hours after performing at his Crystal Palace restaurant, club and museum in Bakersfield, California.





Dusty Springfield (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999)

She was an English pop singer who sang as soulfully as anyone.  She was unforgettable; belting out “Son of a Preacher Man” from under a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, wearing an evening gown and heavy make-up.  She was instantly recognizable, and was one of the music icons of the sixties.  Amazingly, she was insecure about her voice and insisted the room be cleared while listening to a playback in the studio.  At one time, she was the best-selling female singer in the world.  She died of breast cancer in 1999.  She was cremated and some of her ashes were buried under the marker below in a church graveyard.  Her brother Tom scattered the rest in Ireland.






Levi Stubbs (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008)

I loved the Temptations, but I was always a Four Tops guy.  Levi Stubbs was the lead voice of The Four Tops and was one of the all-time great soul singers.  His big-toned baritone voice carried with it such power and pleading urgency.  It was perfect for delivering those great Four Tops songs like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and many others.  He and his wife Clineice were married 48 years until his death and they had five children.  At 72, Levi Stubbs died at his Detroit home, in his sleep, of complications from a stroke.





Stevie Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990)

Stevie Ray was a powerhouse guitarist who took electric blues to a whole other level.  To describe his playing as “fiery” would be an understatement.  He sounded like no other; wringing hurricanes of sound from his instrument.  His tone; his attack; his phrasing; it all was all uniquely him: a guitar hero for the modern era.  His name is still on the tongues of players everywhere and it’s sad that we’ll never see where he would have taken those gifts.  He tragically died in a helicopter crash, at the age of 35, after two shows with Eric Clapton at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin.


guitar sites




Carl Wilson (December 21, 1946 – February 6, 1998)

He was a co-founder of The Beach Boys and was the youngest brother of Brian and Dennis Wilson.  He played lead guitar and sang lead vocal on hits like “Good Vibrations,” “God Only Knows,” and many others.  His singing voice was a beautiful sound; a high male alto voice with a clear tone that just invited you in.  Carl died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family, just two months after the death of his mother, Audree Wilson.





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