George Jones was a hard drinking country singer. Don Imus used to use an excerpt from “The King Is Gone (And So Are You)” as bumper music.
Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter
That looks like Elvis
I soaked the label off a Flintstone Jelly Bean jar
I cleared us off a place on that
One little table that you left us
And pulled me up a big ole piece of floor
I pulled the head off Elvis
Filled Fred up to his pelvis
Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone
And so are you
There is a tragicomic story about how one time his wife wanted him to stop drinking. I might’ve been Tammy Wynette. He had a few of ‘em. The nearest liquor store was eight miles away, so George couldn’t walk there. She hid all the keys to all of their vehicles. George’s stash had run out and he was getting dry. He had one last resort: a riding mower. Those things top out at maybe 5 MPH, but he rode it all the way to the liquor store. It was probably a three-hour trip; longer if he was already drunk.
Jones would often blow off shows. Literally; a manager introduced him to cocaine. So he had another vice. This would lead him to financial ruin and Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings would help him out. Jennings had battled his own demons. He’d been arrested for coke possession.
If you were a boy when I was a boy, you remember Jennings; unless your parents wouldn’t let you watch The Dukes of Hazzard. He was The Balladeer. Jennings was part of the outlaw country scene and did a duet album with outlaw godfather Willie Nelson. They had a hit with “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” Before he was country, he was a rocker. Played with Buddy Holly. Would have died in the plane crash that took the life of Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper. The Big Bopper was sick and asked Jennings if he could take Waylon’s seat on the plane. Jennings agreed. When Holly learned that Jennings wasn’t going to fly, he said in jest, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up” and Jennings responded, also in jest, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes”. This exchange of words would haunt Jennings for the rest of his life.
My dad was a Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra type of guy, but he liked Buddy Holly. Holly was a like the Kurt Cobain of his day. He had a short career with an Everest-high peak. And he’d go on to influence Bob Dylan and the British Invasion bands who were soon to follow. Holly was no longer with the Crickets at the time of the crash, but they were his most famous backing band. Buddy Holly and the Crickets first single was “That’ll Be The Day.” This was a catchphrase that Ethan Edwards used in The Searchers. John Wayne played Edwards in the John Ford film. The director and actor would team up a few years later for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. (I prefer spaghetti westerns, but I cannot deny the greatness of the Ford and Wayne combo.)
Burt Bacharach wrote an eponymous tune inspired by the movie. A young man from Rockville, Connecticut named Gene Pitney recorded it. My mom was a couple of years younger than Pitney and they were in chorus together. He signed her yearbook. Pitney was also a sound engineer and songwriter. Like Buddy Holly, he was a master of the overdub, which was in its infancy at the time. He wrote “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson. He befriended the early Rolling Stones. He even dabbled in country music and collaborated with… George Jones.
Bobby Flay liked to play the ponies growing up. When he became successful, he bought his own thoroughbreds. One of them won last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies race. More Than Real won in an upset by two lengths at Churchill Downs. Paid $29. She’s trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher apprenticed under D. Wayne Lukas who won a trainer’s Triple Crown in 1995. No horse has won the Triple Crown since the 1970s when Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed won.
Skip Bayless is an ESPN personality, but before that he was a sportswriter. Won an Eclipse Award for covering Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown run. His brother is Rick Bayless; a chef. He was a candidate to become White House executive chef under Barack Obama, but Obama had Cristata Comerford stay on. He also competed on Iron Chef America versus Bobby Flay in 2005 and lost a close decision.
Alton Brown hosts Iron Chef America as well as Good Eats. Before becoming a foodie, he went to UGA around the same time as R.E.M. and majored in drama. He was the cinematographer for the video of the song “The One I Love.” Subtract Michael Stipe from R.E.M., add Warren Zevon, and you have The Hindu Love Gods. They did an album of covers about 20 years ago and are mostly known (if known at all) for their version of “Raspberry Beret.” Zevon is more well known for hits like “Werewolves in London”, “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, and “Excitable Boy.” Also did a song “Bill Lee” about the wacky lefty pitcher.
Lee is lefty in more ways than one. In 1988, he was selected by Canada’s Rhino Party as their first American candidate. Ran for president against Bush the Elder and Michael Dukakis. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson was his running mate. Thompson knew a thing or two about presidential politics. Wrote Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail 1972. This was essentially an anthology of his dispatches to Rolling Stone magazine as he covered the race. He continued to follow politics for Jann Wenner’s mag. In 1974 he wrote an article titled “Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith.” It was probably the first national exposure that Carter received. The piece also had an awesome digression about breakfast.
Carter went on to beat Gerald Ford in 1976. Once elected, he appointed his crony Bert Lance to head the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB had an analyst responsible for nuclear energy named Ina Garten. These days, she is better known as The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.
Warren Zevon also once recorded a song called “Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song.)” It was written by Mitch Albom, of all people. Mitch is in an ad hoc group called the Rock Bottom Remainders along with other writers including Scott Turow, Amy Tan, and Stephen King. King’s short story “Trucks” was adapted into a movie called Maximum Overdrive. Directed by King, it was produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Dino’s granddaughter Giada is a Food Network personality.
As is Sandra Lee. She’s dating New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s father Mario was governor. Before that he was a minor leaguer in the Pittsburgh Pirate system. One of Cuomo’s teammates on the 1952 Brunswick Pirates was Fred Green. Green made the majors and was on the 1960 Pirates with Dick Schofield. Schofield was on the 1970 Red Sox with Bill Lee; the very pitcher immortalized in song by Zevon. Enjoy every sandwich.
I did a piece on Joe DiMaggio and Stephen Jay Gould for the Hardball Times annual (which should be out soon.) To give their readers a taste of my stuff I also sent them Gashouse Hillbillies for their website. It ran today.
The Wall Street Journal on Harvey Pekar. Tom Batiuk is from northeastern Ohio. I wonder how much of an influence Pekar was on him. I read “The Quitter” over two nites last week I liked it and am interested in reading more by him.
Thanks to Mark S for turning me on to him.
Rob Neyer would do these; even wrote a whole book of them. I was hanging out at BTF last nite (the Factory, not Backyard Tire Fire) and someone mentioned the Second Spitter Seinfeld episode. They said, ” They say the game was June 14, 1987, Mets/Phillies, and Keith had blown the game on an error. It turns out that the Mets played the Pirates that day and won 7-4 on with the help of a Hernandez homer.” I looked at retrosheet. Against Philly, he had a non-crucial error September 7th. He had one during a tie game vs Pittsburgh on the 18th, but that was at Three Rivers. I don’t think that Larry David or whoever wrote the episode cared about the historical accuracy of a midseason baseball game, but it would have been interesting if there was an element of truth to Newman and Kramer’s game description. I only checked 1987.
Is Seinfeld part of the Tommy Westphall Universe? I know that there is a tenuous connection between it and Mad About You. Maybe there’s a parallel MLB in that universe where Hernandez still won his MVP but blew that game.
I saw this title and immediately thought of Baseball Think Factory instead of Backyard Tire Fire. My worlds are colliding!
Is Funky Winkerbean dead, alive, or somewhere in between?