Wednesday, October 24, 2012

INK (It's Not Kool)

I was watching Nightline this evening and I heard yet another tragic story about a youngster taking their own life because of being bullied.
As I listened, I was reminded that death has hit home for me in this way as well. My wife took her life two years ago. I listened and I cried and I sobbed, it just does not make sense to me why the practice of bullying seems to be cool thing to so many people.
Like many, I've had my share of being pushed around when I was young, but I learned to fight back, and as I got older I learned to do this with my words rather than my fists. Today I feel like I can handle most situations where I feel intimadated. A firm hold of my faith has been one way to deal with this.
The problem is that for many of our young people, they don't have these coping mechanisms. So I'm proposing a possible solution: I am asking every musician young, old, famous, not famous to help me to start a campaign to put and end to this practice.So many youngsters look up to us in the music world, and I feel as though we have the power to help this come about.
I will be petitioning all musicians to write songs about it or when we do our shows to address this issue.
We have seen how music has helped in all times of strife, and this time is no different. In fact it is epidemic.
We must stand together with our young people and show them that we take their cries seriously. When they take their lives it hurts us too.If you follow Twiter the hashtag will be #INK (It's Not Kool). If you follow Facebook or any other media, please pass the word to to all musicians.
It is beyond time to end this war against our children, Stand up for them. Life has enough challenges on its own without people pushing each other around. You may think it's fun but believe me, it's not kool.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Comes Love

When I was a kid, if you wanted to embarass a fella (especially if he was trying hard to be macho and cool...), you would kill him with the following lines: "Charlie and so and so sittin' in tree, k i s s i n g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Charlie with a baby carriage."
That line would completely destroy your cool; not that I was per se' but I was trying to appear that way.
Now, as an adult, I've come to realize that being cool is not all that it's cracked up to be, but that line "first comes love,' really has a deeper meaning.
What I've learned from that venerable line is that in order to really truly become good or great at what you want in life, you must learn to have a deep seeded love for it.
You can take pretty much any example and see the point of what I'm saying...let's look at Derek Jeter of the Yankees. You know that when he shows up at the ballpark he is ready for business. The team may lose, he may even be a contributor to that loss, but you will know that he is in it to win it.
Another example is cellist, Yo Yo Ma; there has never been a time when Ive seen him perform that I didn't want to go home and throw away my instrument; he just sets the bar so high, that you know as a musician, you'd better get your game face on, or give up (luckily, I'm not giving up...)
There are so many ways for you to see the point here.
It is imperative that if you strive to be in the music biz, in whatever capacity, that you give it your all, practice hard day in and day out, utilize your memory to the best of your ability, which will aid in helping you to become great. Have some humility, which goes a long way to aid your cause. Do not get embarrassed because you love something, as it may be just the uniqueness that you need to set you apart from the pack.
Cast you fate to the wind, plow forward throught the storm and find your rainbow.
Life is hard enough without your realizing that you are worthy enough to find your happiness, to achieve your dreams or to find fulfilment, but just remember that in order to get there, first comes love.

I'm really sorry that I've been away for so long, I've been a little depressed the last few months (it's a combination of many things), but I still want to share my thoughts with you because I do care...and I always will. Thank you all for all the love that you send, it does reach me.

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.
Don't forget that you can follow the Carpenter Ants on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Deep in the heart of Texas

Sorry that I've been away for so long, the band has been seriously busy for the last few months. The new CD is out (if you haven't heard, the Carpenter Ants have released our new baby entitled "Ants and Uncles," a true labor of love...
Anyway, we are on our way toTexas to do the South by Southwest Music Festival ( So far the trip down here has been a blast, we played in Nashville on Tuesday night doing an internet TV show called the Billy Block show (I'll let you know when and where you can see it...). On Wednesday night, we played in Clarksdale Mississippi, at actor Morgan  Freeman's restaurant and night club called "Ground Zero."He wasn't there if you wondered, but everyone else was, a whole lotta folks...
And now here we are deep in the heart of Texas.
Larry Groce of Mountain Stage is joining us, as well as Bill Kirchen (of Hot Rod Lincoln fame), and we are poised to rock the stay tuned.
If you've been following me on Facebook and Twitter, you know that my son Dereke and his wife Aron gave birth to a gorgeous little girl named Maryah.
I haven't really talked about my children in these pages much, but I think it's time for me to let you know how proud I am of all three of them. Jeffrey Dereke and Kendra. I've never considered myself to be a good father, truly I wasn't in their lives the way I should have been, and I've always felt guilt about that, but I'm really trying to make up for it in my life.
I'm saying all of this to say that chasing a dream is very important, but not at the expense of your relationship and love for your family.Their Mother Wilma (my first wife) and Vickie tried to drum that in my head for so many years, but fear of losing my music kept me going in that direction instead  of putting my family completely first.
I'm lucky though, my children have mostly forgiven me my shortcomings, and we are all trying to pick up from here.
Which brings me back to this post. I am so happy to be able to pursue my music with a clear conscience. I feel confident that the music of the Carpenter Ants  will reach the masses, and starting deep in the heart of Texas, we are coming to you on  dusty road.
My friends, please read and understand, that I love being a musician, but more than anything  I absolutely love being the father of my family. Call it that warm Texas air, maybe it's the dust in my lungs, but life is lookin' real good to me right now. I feel a new sense of being, and I'm ready to take the next steps starting right here right now deep in the heart of Texas.
Have a great weekend, and always know how much I love you.

This post is dedicated to my children, Jeffrey, Dereke and Kendra Dunham. and my daughter in laws Aron and Alisha...from a grateful Pop. This is also dedicated to all of my grandchildren...
I love you all more than you know.

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.
Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter and follow the Carpenter Ants on Facebook.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Real or Imagined

I'm just really saddened by the news today of the passing of Whitney Houston.
I know that she is the product of a much younger generation than mine, but as a parent and a musician, truth is, they don't often come down the pike like she did.
As many know, in recent years our sister Whitney went into serious decline from the public eye, and I'm certain that it must have hurt her to a degree to see her light fade in the way that it had. The struggle to stay well is a very hard fought one for many (believe me, I battled for years...), and it's especially difficult when you have to endure that struggle publicly.
Despite the rugged path, I had very high hopes for her,and I wished her well. Whitney always reminded me of a neighborhood girl who you know at heart was really a good soul, but when she got around certain elements they would lead her down a dark path, and much to your chagrin she would willingly follow.
Everyone of us should learn a valuable lesson leaders and not followers. Demons are everywhere among us ready to take us down. If you can't lead then at least be mindful of those that you follow, and be certain that they are the right type of people to lead you.
In a span of a few weeks we've lost some of out greatest treasures from Don Cornelius and Etta James to Clarence Clemmons. It has been a blow to our musical psyches.
Real or imagined the world does spin, and in it's wake we encounter people like these who touch and enrich our lives, their music has given us hope and warmth, it has brightened our darkest days and provided us with a means to keep on.
So in their spirit and in the words of Whitney Houston always remember that I will always love you.
Whitney E.Houston 1963-2012
Goodnight Sister

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Getting Older

Lately I've been listening to the "fued" between Elton John and Madonna. Seemingly it's more on Elton than the Material girl.
Here's the situation: recently at the Golden Globe Awards, these two were up for the same award, and when Madonna won, John not only became undone about it, he also completely trashed Madonna and her efforts.
Now please understand, I don't for one minute think that either one of them are by far the greatest things that entertainment world has produced. I believe though that both in their own way are talented (to whatever extent is not for me to least in this sitting),but really at that level, sour grapes.
Both of them have contributed to pop culture, both have had major influences on the fabric of our lives, but sour grapes?
I am genuinely surprised at Elton John. It's hard for me to fathom him being this spoiled about an award that truly has no bearing on his stature in the music industry.
The simple fact is that we all are and will be getting older, and our time in the sun is limited at best and just because it's necessary entity we should use up this time focusing on much worthwhile things like figuring out how to change the political, spiritual and financial climate in the world.
If you've been following the political world, it is in a huge fix, these people can't agree on anything; it's an every man for himself mentality. In the spiritual realm, that climate is even darker. It's a cage match at best between all the religious factions. And yes from the standpoint of your own belief, Armeggedon could truly soon be here.
In the financial corner, and I'll say this from my own standpoint, I'm so broke I can't pay attention. you get the picture.
So why then would a man who really does have everything (at least in my mind...) get this bent out of shape? Just this morning Elton was asked about Madonna's upcoming Superbowl performance, and he made some comment about her lip singing. This is too much even for me to deal with.
When I was younger and even at the beginning of my blogging days lo those many years ago, I have dreamed of being on big stages playing my music for the masses. In truth, I still do; but I also am smart enough to know that 1. everybody is not always lucky enough to be accepted in this way, and 2. everybody is getting older, and might have to face the fact that some things must come to and end.
Elton John has been on the scene since the 70's. That's one helluva ride. He's thrown away dollars that I haven't come close to seeing. Madonna has been around since the 80's, and probably has thrown away just as much, but by comparison there is still time for her before throwing the towel.
What my two colleagues need to do is bury the hatchet, forgive each other their shortcomings and get on with it.
There is enough strife in the universe that we don't need more blood fueds. Each of these artists are different from each other; embrace it and make it work. There is no perfect song nor perfect performers. There is only emotion and feeling, and these are the only things that should be getting older.
Go out this weekend and catch some local performances. Have a good one. See ya soon.

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.
Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter and the Carpenter Ants on Facebook.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Simple Diversions

My bassist Ted Harrison and I share a passion outside of our Carpenter Ants gig, we both are huge baseball fans. Teddy is a Detriot Tigers fan, and I of course am a  New York Yankees fan.
I'm talking about this because as we speak the Tigers are trying to rally to win the American League Championship Series, so naturally Ted is on pins and needles hoping his boys will come through.
Although I would have wished for a different outcome with my boys, I still wish Ted the best.
Sometimes having something else to focus on helps us in our quest to go in the direction that we're intending.
A mere baseball game has taken our minds off of the hard drive of band business. We aren't of course giving up on playing (don't actually know if we could...) but simple diversions help keep us grounded.
One of the things that I have found that seems to help me while I'm playing is to imagine myself in a Yankee uniform on the field doing battle with another team (mainly the Red Sox...I can't even believe I'm mentioning them in my post, yikes...), when I need to pull off a great performance that's what usually does it for me (I'll even let you in on a secret of mine, if you see me on stage wearing a Yankee shirt expect a stellar performance, especially my NY Babe Ruth shirt, it's my lucky charm).
They're just simple diversions, but they work like magic for many performers and athletes alike.
Going at your goals full throttle is very time consuming, one could get easily stressed out trying to get somewhere, it's not that you don't need to work hard at things but you also need to relax and let other factors in once in awhile, because it helps the overall goal, and gives you a chance to step back and see it take shape.
Michael Lipton, my other bandmate loves Flea Markets, and he finds the greatest stuff ever in them. When we're on the road sometimes and he spots a yard sale, SCRREEEECH !!!, we're stopping and we must check it out, hey can't pass on a possible deal could we now?Jupiter Little, our drummer is into sneakers. I always tease and tell him that he is the Imelda Marcos of the sneaker world, he just got lots of 'em. If we ever make it big, I can see it now, a house for my sneakers.
Anyway, my point here is that everyone has their thing, outside of their thing
My other thing is that I love to fly kites. You can catch on many Sundays out in the park near where I live flying away, and I could be out there for hours on end no problem. These days during that time, I also send my thoughts and prayers up to my Vickie, it's my time to connect with my memories of her.
Although music is our ultimate goal, it's things like these simple diversions that keep it fresh in our hearts and fresh in our minds.
Take a break now and again, relax and unwind, find your true passion in life work toward it but realize it also takes time. Give yourself a reward for the work you've put in like a splurge on yourself, these simple diversions.
This post is dedicated to Ted Harrison...GO TIGERS!!!
Have and awesome weekend whatever you're doing. Thanks for stopping by. Just remember...

Support Live music today tomorrow and always
Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter and follow the Carpenter Ants on Facebook.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Your Inner Voice

With the passing of Steve Jobs, I thought this little post might be of benefit to my fellow strivers of music.

It's a safe bet to know that most of us in the world are dreamers. Some dream of peace, some good health, and the list goes exponentially on. It's also safe to know that many of  us while being these dreamers don't always act upon our dreams, we merely hold them inside and they rarely see the light of day.
I know this because I was one of the latter. I held on to my dreams and my wishes like a running back trying to make it to the uprights.
The reality though is that you really don't have to hold on so tightly, it would be better if you figured out who was in your camp and who wasn't and the make your way through the mire.
So often we let everybody and their mother dictate to us what they perceive as the way for us. How can anyone possibly know what is truly best for us.
Now I'm certain that you're going now wait a minute Charlie, you're blogging about that very thing. Yes this is true, but if you read my profile statement, the very last line is my disclaimer..."this is my journey..."
What I'm actually saying is that these are the things that I have been through and things that I am going through. There is some aspects of advice, but I'm not directly saying that you should follow that advice. If you go back to when I started blogging (2005 to be exact...), what you'll see is that my story is telling you to look at your own methods of getting where you're going. Mine is working for me, you have to follow what works for you.
This is one of the reasons I don't fill you up on endless stories about being in the music business, because in my opinion it takes many facets to tell a story and in my case, all the things that I write about are the things that have made up my being a musician, and striving in the world of music.
A few years ago, I got an e-mail from a young lady who reads me regularly; she is a saxophone player and wanted to know how she could further herself in the music biz. At the time I was pretty excited to make a new fan, so I set out answering the many questions that she poured my way. Until one of those questions, had I answered, could have come back and bite me in the you know where.
I told her that I wasn't comfortable answering this particular question and said I would rather that you had your parent ask me.Well a couple of days later her father reached out to me and thanked me endlessly for not taking advantage of his child. He went on to explain that she is a good girl but that she's heard all of these stories about the producers and casting couches and really only wanted to know how to avoid them.
That's all well and good, but I felt that had I answered, no matter how truthful I would have been, it could be miscontrued, and I might have wound up in trouble.
This is where the point of this post is. Just as Steve Jobs did, you have to follow your inner voice. Call it your spirit guide, call it your muse, but whatever it may be, if it compels you, then it should propel you.
I listened to my inner voice and it lead me away from New York and everything that I knew at the time and propelled me to Charleston West Virginia. Had I listened to my family who were all telling me that "this is a completely stupid idea," "West Virginia will never be able to sustain you, their economy is worthless there," the negative list also could have grown exponentially here as well, but I stuck to my guns moved here and look at me now.Don't get me wrong, I've had more than my share of heataches and setbacks including the loss of 2 wives ( and most of you know that losing Vickie was a blow that could go on forever for me ). Still I stand before you and say that I am relatively happy, I'm trying to make sense of the rest of my life, I have my head held high and I'm plowing forward. All that because I keep listening to my insides.
Steve Jobs really did have the right idea in following his voice, if he could build the empire that he left us, there is absolutely no reason why we can't going forward.
Listening to that voice is what can take away your darkness. That is not to say that everyone is going to stand in your way, but that listening to you should help you perceive who is real from the fakes. Sometimes the people with the best of intentions could be the biggest brickwalls in our lives, but the inner voice will help you undestand the difference, it will shed light where you are darkest, and help you to know who's real and who ain't.
So my friends, it's important that we take some things from the examples of Steve and so many others who have left us, incorporate those lessons and examples into who we are, sit as quietly as we can when we can, be truthful even with ourselves and listen to your inner voice. It may take awhile, but you'll be glad you did.

Have a wonderful weekend. I love you always.
Support Live music today tomorrow and always.
Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter and follow The Carpenter Ants on Facebook