Friday, August 21, 2009

Sometimes, It's About The Jar


Tonight, at 12:47am, my concrete floors conspired with Grant's Scotch whiskey to claim the life of my trusty whisky glass.

I reclaimed that glass from a falling-down barn behind the Washington Hotel during my first summer there. I found it holding rusty and fouled spark plugs, clearly the organizational method of someone like myself. Later that evening, around a communal table in the house I shared with the Eastern European workers of the hotel, I poured a tall slug of Jim Beam rye into that jar, to the mixed delight and horror of those around me. One, they didn't understand the drinking of straight whisky, and two, it reminded them of a Metallica song called, appropriately, 'Whiskey In The Jar.' The reference escaped me until they brought it up.

Of course, most any vessel will do the job when it comes to the task of conveying whisky into my head. But that jar was special. It had tradition. History. Meaning.

To me, that jar was a I-IV-V chord structure: solid. Dependable. I knew the form of the song I was listening to, but the content was always different. And even though a jar is a jar is a jar, it had its particular nuances that I learned over the years with it.

I'm going to miss it.

But I'll find another one. It won't be the same, but it will be good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Piece of the Stanley Story Fades into Legend: Les Paul Dies at age 94

The trailblazing guitar player, songwriter, innovator and inventor Les Paul died today at age 94. He leaves a legacy of music behind: instrumental in the development of early electric guitars, and an early adopter and innovator of multitrack recording, his influence on rock and roll - and recorded music in general - can still be heard today.

But, other people will cover this portion of his life better than myself. I have a tenuous connection to Mr. Paul that I had only begun to explore a couple weeks before. Clyde Stanley, the man who hand built a guitar he later gave to my grandfather, and which I inherited, is said to have hosted Les Paul in his home for informal jam sessions. Clyde's daughter, Muriel, has told me that she remembers Les visiting the house to play guitar with Clyde on more than one occasion, and being joined by Mary Ford at least once. Having just heard about this possible connection, I had been planning a trip to New York to meet Les at one of his weekly gigs at the Iridium, to ask him if he could shed any light on story, and if he had any direct knowledge of the guitar I have. With his death, it looks like another part of the legacy of the infamous Clyde Stanley will fade into legend.

The solidbody, handbuilt Stanley guitar that I have was clearly influenced by Les Paul's eponymous Gibson guitar. Most obviously, the Stanley's body shape recalls the Gibson's - which is itself an echo of archtop acoustic guitars - with a twist found in the Stanley's small cutaway on the bass side of the body at the neck. The Stanley also differs from the Gibson in that the Stanley has a flat top, as opposed to the Gibson's carved, arched top. (Gibson later offered a flat top Les Paul in the Junior model beginning in 1954. I have been unable to establish a build date for the Stanley.) Other similarities include the solid mahogany construction (although the Stanley eschews the Gibson's maple cap for a one piece slab of mahogany for the entire body), set neck joint, and trapeze tailpiece similar to the original Gold Top Les Paul.

I had the pleasure of recording with the Stanley on Trigger 5's record Heartbreak and Regret. The two solos on 'The Sangria Isn't Strong Enough' were played on the Stanley, though a Smokey Amp - an amplifier self-contained in a pack of cigarettes. Marlboro reds, in this case. The Stanley's thick hunk of a neck takes a little getting used to, but the tone from the single neck-mounted DeArmond pickup is pure hot, vintage tone that's unattainable with anything newer than 40 years old.

It's a joy to play and an honor to own - made even more special knowing that none other than Les Paul may have had a direct and personal influence on its construction.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Heartbreak and Regret" will be released at our party on 8.21.09 - Will you be there?

Well, it's done.

After months of work on rewrites, rehearsals, recording, mixing, mastering, duplication, design, printing, cutting, folding and stuffing, I have a box of finished copies of Heartbreak and Regret on my shelf, ready to go out to press, to radio stations, and ultimately, into the hands of country music lovers.

We've worked our collective butts off on this project, but we weren't alone. In the interest of giving credit where it's due...

Thanks foremost to Peter Dycus of Shine Studio, who put in a lot of long nights getting these songs recorded and mixed - and putting up with us and our seven different opinions. I think it was a pretty different experience within the walls of Shine, recording a country band - mainly live - but he adapted to our needs and requests seamlessly. The man does fine work, and we're all over the moon with the way it sounds. Thanks a lot, Peter.

Charlie Smith is the man behind Trim Industries, and the overall print image of Trigger 5. He's been doing posters for us for a long time - actually longer than I've been with the band - and they never cease to impress. His design for the CD sleeve and insert is no different. He captured our classic simplicity just perfectly with this design. Good work, man.

Last but certainly not least, big thanks to my good friend Kirsten O'Loughlin of Sensura Studio. She got us first thinking about the sleeve design (and pointed us in the direction of these fantastic Arigato Packs from Stumptown Printers), and made Charlie's design a working reality. She kept Mike and me in line - and our fingers thankfully unsquished, - during the letterpress process. That's right, these things are printed the old fashioned way, and we've had our grimy paws on every one of them, so bring your hand sanitizer. We couldn't be happier with the way they turned out. Thanks Kirsten (and Jason)! You're awesome.

Folks, if you need design, branding, printing, sound recording or unique artwork done, you'd do well to look up these fine (young, handsome, charming, well-mannered, well-dressed) folks. They've done right by us, and their dedication to their craft pushed them all to go above and beyond on more than one occasion. I hold this beautiful piece of work in my hand thanks to their efforts.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't personally extend my thanks to my lovely girlfriend and my unflaggingly supportive family (Trigger 5's biggest fans?). You guys helped me do this in more ways than you realize. Thanks. I love you.

And the band! I didn't realize when Greg brought me to that first rehearsal (thanks, Greg!) that I'd be working with such a talented group of people. We've really made something to be proud of here, 5ers. I can't thank you enough for letting me be a part of it. Yeah, on August 21st the world will officially get to hear the fruits of our labor. But even if nobody heard this but us, I'd still feel like we accomplished something with this record. Thanks, guys.


Our release show is at the Fox Hole at the Atomic Cowboy in the Grove on 8.21. Doors at 7, show at 8. We'll be performing this album in its entirety, live, that night. The album will soon be available on iTunes and in our online store, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to check it out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Family Portrait

Here's the family portrait as of March '09. This lineup will be changing soon, so I thought I'd get everybody together for one last party.
Top row: the Mongrel (For Sale), Alvarez RF30 (For Sale), Ibanez Artcore AG75 (For Sale); Middle row: '64 Harmony Rocket H59 (my #1), ca. '60-'64 Stanley banjo (made in Marquette Prison by inmate Clyde Stanley), turn-of-the-millennium Danelectro Hodad (For Sale); Bottom row: ca. '60-'64 Stanley solidbody (made in Marquette Prison my Clyde Stanley), Yamaha T100C (sold), Peavey Delta Blues 115, '48 Epiphone Blackstone

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Moto Fest

In lieu of progress on my A (which, if you'll recall from a few posts ago, was the point of this little blog), here's something else. I wrote this after the Moto Fest this past summer. Enjoy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Moto Fest

Last weekend was Moto Fest, the official grand opening festival for the new Moto Museum in Grand Center. Our shop was there as a vendor (along with our little group, LouVinMoto), selling t-shirts (available in girls' sizes, and in a wide variety of colors in guys' sizes), and handing out branded shop towels. A friend of ours, Michael Kiernan has a shop on Chouteau at Grand where he deals collector bikes, and the occasional car. Lately, he's been getting incredible stuff, like a Vincent Black Shadow, a Hailwood replica 900SS Ducati, a real Slater brothers Egli Vincent with 15 miles on it, and a certain '73 MV Agusta 750 S. Michael was threatening to make me bump start the MV one morning of the Fest, as its battery was almost dead, and after I ran it up and down the stunt area on the grounds once, he said, "Ah, hell. Just take it out on the street. Don't let the cops catch you, though."

So, I donned my helmet, pulled on my gloves, and wound that beast down Locust at 7:30 am. It sings like no four-cylinder I've ever heard. It's easily the most impressive bike that I've ridden, and not because it's tremendously fast. It is, but that's not it. This thing just has presence - gravitas - sitting there. It's underpowered, overweight and three times more expensive than competitive Japanese machines of the same era, but it easily outclasses them. The fact is, the connection between the 750 S and Gilera/MV's GP-winning bikes of the late '50s and early '60s is incredibly direct. It feels like you're standing next to a proven race bike, of which only 200 were made. It's all original, it all works. And it's $48,000

My experience on the MV alone that morning only compares to one other two-wheeled moment, which also occurred that same weekend, on another bike belonging to the benevolent Mr. Kiernan. In lieu of hauling his bikes back to his shop, I persuaded him to ride them. Great marketing opportunity, starting those things up and having them bellow through the crowd. I selflessly volunteered myself for the task. So, he bumped the MV and I kicked over the Hailwood - a bike made in commemoration of Mike the Bike's return from a ten-year racing retirement to win the grueling Isle of Man TT road race on an outdated Ducati. At this point, a crowd was gathering, and I was saying to myself in the helmet, 'Dontstallit, dontstallit, dontstallit.' We paraded out of the main pedestrian gate, gratuitously blipping the throttles on our open-piped, race-bred, vintage Italian machines and moved slowly onto the street. On a beautiful, expensive (though not as mind-numblingly so as the MV; only $15,000) race-ready bike belonging to someone else, I took it easy as I moved East on Olive St. As I made the turn South onto Compton, I glanced over my right shoulder to see a wild look flash into Michael's eyes through his old Bell helmet, and see his wrist twist the throttle on the high strung MV, bring it up into the power that lives around 9k RPM on that bike, and proceed to overtake me on the outside of the corner. I took this as a sign. The Ducati's torque made quick work of the lead that Michael had put on me, and as he was dancing on the gearshift trying to keep the MV on the cam, I pulled easily alongside him. We exchanged a quick glance, and we both wordlessly agreed that if we were going to do this, we had to do it right: as the bikes crested the hump on the Compton bridge over the railyards and oncoming traffic came into view, we both clicked down a cog, tucked down on the tanks in full racer crouch, and opened the throttles on all six Dell'orto carburetors.

At this point, I was visited by the spirit of Mike the Bike himself. He was proud. Mike's presence, though, distracted me from only one detail I wish I could store in my memory along with the rest from this all-too-short experience: the looks on the faces of the occupants of the oncoming cars. Can you imagine: being in the car, not thinking about much of anything, just getting from A to B on a Sunday afternoon, hearing the sound of...something...something that sounds angry...coming down the road, closing at a high rate of speed, seeing two round headlights with the crowns of full faced helmets peering over them crest the hill and streak past in a blur of intermingled red, green, white and blue, getting full fury of the business end of six open exhaust pipes, maybe hearing the relative whisper of maniacal laughter from the two riders holding the throttle cables taught, and grasping, finally, after about twelve seconds of confusion that something extraordinary just happened.

We stopped at his shop, and if decorum and gentlemanliness hadn't prevented me, I would have kissed him. He made this young man's day, to say the least.

So, all in all, good weekend. The Museum, by the way, is utterly world class.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Lifer - Update

Interesting new facts have come to light about The Lifer, specifically the inmates responsible for the record. Thanks to the state of Michigan's prison record system, I've been able to glean some information about the personnel on the record.

When the songs were cut, most of the players on the weren't in prison for life, but for other, comparatively minor sentences. Most of the band members, in fact, were only in for a few years on a charge of Uttering and Publishing, which seems to relate to forgery or passing bad checks, with a couple notable exceptions.

Al Gliva, the songwriter, was in the joint on two occasions: he did 12 years for armed robbery, unlawful use of an automobile, and Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile. He served time in the clink again for second degree murder, but the records are sketchy here. It looks like he was released in 1967, either on parole or at the end of his sentence.

Clyde Stanley, the man who was employed by my grandfather at his HVAC repair business after WWII, and who built a banjo and guitar for my grandfather bearing the Stanley name while in prison, did worse. He was in the can for 11 years on charges of Uttering & Publishing and Kidnapping. He was released in 1964, and came to St. Louis and found a job with Pat. Four years later, he was convicted of firs degree murder and sentenced to life in Marquette. He died in prison in 1981, the year I was born.

If you have any connection to or any more information about any aspect of the story surrounding The Lifer or the people who made it, please contact me directly at, or leave a comment to this post. Please include your email address in your comment, so I can reach you with further questions.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Lifer

My current obsession, among others, is this record.

The story of The Lifer (quoted verbatim from the back of the record sleeve)

"The story of The Lifer began about four months ago, when Al Gliva wrote a letter to Dewey Groom of Longhorn Records in Dallas, Texas, and asked permission to send a tape recording of a tune he had written called 'The Lifer.' Dewey frankly didn't see much in the tune, as the first tape was very biblical and didn't have much commercial value. But Clay Allen, who works and records for Longhorn Records, and who is also a fine songwriter, thought the tune had possibilities. So, on the advice of Clay Allen, Al Gliva rewrote the tune as you hear it now. Of course, we ran into another problem, that of getting a tape cut there in the prison with enough quality to record. So, after two more attempts at making a tape of good quality, we decided that as it was impossible for them to come to Dallas, we would take our own recording equipment up there and record. So with the kind permission and cooperation of Warden Raymond Buchkoe, George McCoy, our recording technician, flew via jet, to the prison on Mon., Sept. 10th and made this record Tues., Sept. 11th, 1962. So Recording History has been made. The proceeds of the sale of this record will go to Al Gliva and his prison band. It is our sincere hope that my our efforts, this record of 'The Lifer' might keep some boy from turning to crime."

Alexander (Al) Gliva, inmate # 62055, was indeed serving life for murder. Roger Chase sings a bare chorus that bookends the recitative, spoken by Gliva, that's an attempt to convince someone - the parole board, the world, God, himself, who knows? - that he's now a different man than the young man who committed the murder years ago.

The song tends toward the preachy end of the spectrum, as you may expect, but knowing that it was recorded by inmates, inside the walls that were destined to confine most of these players for a very long time, and that the words being spoken are those of a man who's been sentenced to spend his remaining life there, is honestly chilling.

Most important about this record to me, though, is the guitar player, Clyde Stanley. My grandfather, Pat Moore, employed Clyde in his HVAC business here in St. Louis after the War. Clyde also made a guitar and banjo in the joint, which he later gave to my grandfather, and which I now have and play frequently. To the best of my knowledge, Clyde played the guitar he made on The Lifer. That guitar is now in my living room.

One of my main motivators in posting this, aside from just telling a fascinating story to which I'm connected indirectly, is in the hopes that somebody else is searching for the same information I am. God only knows how many of these 45s Longhorn even pressed, or if anybody else alive aside from other members of my family even knows of the existence of this record. I would think that family or friends of the other inmates on this record are the only remaining likely sources of information. Those other inmates, by the way, aside from the aforementioned Al Gliva, Roger Chase and Clyde Stanley, include Jess White, Carl Gilkerson, Howard Moore, and one man only identified on the record sleeve as #62054.

If you have any connection to or any more information about any aspect of the story surrounding The Lifer or the people who made it, please contact me directly at, or leave a comment to this post. Please include your email address in your comment, so I can reach you with further questions.