The Convoluted Path Part Twenty-Six

25 May

My senior year was pretty much uneventful other than the fact that I continued to get stretched to the limit of my endurance as I continued to only get about 5 hours of sleep at night when I needed at least 7 to feel my best. I drank coffee like it was a magic elixir but during my junior year I quit drinking coffee altogether for about 6 months.  At the time they said it was bad for you and caused high blood pressure which I had in spite of running 5 miles a couple times a week, working out and eating healthy. The result of my no longer drinking coffee was that every day in my first class with Dr. Eno and my last class with Dr. Duffield I fell asleep or was fighting sleep off, almost every day. By my senior year I was drinking coffee again and never fell asleep in class after that.

Kathy became pregnant with our third child in late Fall and just like in the case of the last two she had severe morning sickness for the first few months. The morning sickness diminished her appetite and reduced it to “Sprite” and saltine crackers. Fortunately she was able to eat some nourishing food so that she and the baby were healthy but she never gained much weight and didn’t look pregnant until the seventh month.

Working out relieved all the stress that I was under as I exploded through my workouts. By this time multi-media was one of the last things that I was thinking of other than the yearly review presentation every New Years Eve. People still hired me as a freelance photographer to shoot weddings or other events for them. During my junior year George Shearer, who graduated from LIFE a year before me in 1977, recruited me to be one of the yearbook photographers. Since I was present for every church function I just carried my camera with me so I could capture anything important.

I didn’t watch television too much because I didn’t have time and was not interested in most secular issues unless they had theological implications. When Bill Cassidy stayed with us he would watch “Midnight Special” on Friday nights with Wolfman Jack. Since I started work at 6:00AM every Saturday except for once every five weeks I usually was either in bed or would only watch the beginning except for once a week. When Bill got his own place and unpacked his record collection I looked it over. Music had changed since 1971 when I last followed secular music. Folk rock seemed to dominate with Crosby, Stills & Nash in the lead with America, Poco, Jackson Brown, Dylan and all the folk artists of the 1960’s nurturing their fans. There were some surprises as I saw some of the Detroit artists that I used to see for free or at local festivals become super stars. Artists like Ted Nugent, Bob Seeger, Grand Funk Railroad and Iggy and the Stooges filled arenas and led the charge into the future of rock & roll.

The only thing on television that caught my interest enough to force me to carve out time for it on certain days was a series called “Roots” about the history of black people in America from slavery until now as told through the ancestors of a single slave named Kunta Kinte. It was based on a book by Alex Haley and I watched every episode. Although I’d worked with and was friends with many black people over the years I never looked at them any different than I did my Italian, Polish, Belgium and Scotch friends. We all had our histories and there were books and films created about them all from “Tarus Bulba” to “The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots” but I never saw one about the African forced immigration.

The rest of us came here by choice and this was their story that I really understood now for the first time. Although most black people didn’t know their history much better than I did they lived with the pent up rage and sorrow of 400 years in their genes and this explained it to the world. Some years later, once again after watching a film by Spike Lee about “Malcolm X” I picked up the book that the film was based on and it was written by Alex Haley based on interviews that he did with Malcolm X in the early 1960’s before his assassination. The thing that impressed me in every case was the unrelenting determination and perseverance of the main characters of both sagas in spite of every possible negative circumstance that stood before them. I found it inspiring because of the spiritual essence that was at the heart of every story.

Another television mini-series like “Roots” was “Holocaust” which was about Nazi Death camps and the “Final Solution” for liquidating the Jewish population. At the time that it was on I was taking a night class that occurred the same night that two of the episodes were on but I was able to make it home just as it began at 8:00 PM. However, I had a dying black & white TV that took around a half hour to warm up the picture tube before an image appeared. So I turned it on before I left the house for class and it was going strong when I arrived hours later. It was the first time that such a detailed film history of such an appalling subject was on during prime time.

President Jimmy Carter was in office since he won the election in November after the Bi-Centenial on July 4, 1976 when President Ford, Nixon’s successor was still the Commander in Chief. It was a relatively seeming peaceful time after the divisive ten year war in Vietnam finally ended in 1973. The only blip in the picture was the chaos of the Arab Oil Embargo but by 1978 everything seemed to be back to normal. However as Bruce Cockburn, whose music later became as influential in my life as Bob Dylan’s would say, “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse. We were now used to paying over twice as much as we used to for gas and accepted it as a fact of life and were happy just to have as much gas as we wanted instead of waiting in line for a rationed amount.

Since I didn’t have any language classes my senior year I had more time to do things with my family. We’d have at least one day a week where we all went somewhere for a family day. We’d go to Disneyland every couple of years along with Knott’s Berry Farm which had a section that didn’t cost anything to get in and had some children’s rides that were under a dollar. Going the beach was always fun and it didn’t cost anything, even for parking, at the time. It was a time that would soon end by the next decade when all the free things disappeared and a price tag was put on everything and everything that already had a price tag on it had it augmented.

One of my friends who owned his own home that he purchased for less than twenty-thousand dollars explained it this way. He said that he always wanted to live in a hundred-thousand dollar house but he didn’t expect it to be the same one he already owned. His good fortune was the bad fortune for every future home buyer as of the end of the 1970’s.

I only worked out two days a week usually on Monday and Friday at the Glendale YMCA.  My work out consisted of lifting weights for over an hour and then ran four miles in thirty minutes or under on their roof top track. If I had more time I would even swim laps for fifteen minutes after running and then go in the sauna for fifteen or twenty minutes before I took an ice cold shower. Ever since George Odell turned me on to weigh lifting when I was in the army I was bit by the iron bug as some would say.

It’s an addiction but it’s a good addiction as long as you don’t get too fanatical but then that is a gamble with anything that involves the ego and that is what drives some people to experiment with steroids. I never used any because the original reason why I was working out was to not only shape my body but improve my health and stamina. Steroids were also expensive and illegal unless prescribed by a sports doctor. One of my sermons for homiletics class was a defense for working out at the gym base on a New Testament passage in the book of I Timothy 4:8. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

My final semester at LIFE was made up of advanced classes in Biblical studies, sermon preparation and a class in science and theology. It was one the most interesting classes because it dealt with many controversial issues like the seven days of creation, Noah’s Great Flood and Evolution. Just as when I had a class in Hermeneutics with Jim Kingsbury and we studied the liberal German theologians of the early twentieth century like Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Adolph Von Harnack and Paul Tillich.

We compared their views of the creation of the Bible and how it should be interpreted based on the most recent historical and archeological evidence along with using the original languages that all scripture was penned in. It was a brutally complex system in which biblical interpretation could radically change based on new evidence from a recent archeological dig like the Nag Hammadi texts back in 1945 that produced ancient texts long thought to be lost. These texts were from the Gnostic Gospels which were suppressed by the Orthodox Church that became dominant.

Then there were the “Dead Sea Scrolls” that were ancient texts going back to the 3rd Century BCE and up into the 1st Century CE. This and a variety of other more recent discoveries added information to help in providing substantiating evidence to support biblical events that were written about in scripture. Buried debris from invasions and the remains of cities in specified geographic locations were useful for pin pointing and dating events.

Homiletics III was my favorite class since I enjoy talking in front of a group of people. However, one of the hardest audiences is your peers in class and if you can get a reaction out of them you are on your way. At the same time the instructor may not like the style of the most popular conversational preacher as much as the more didactic three point monotone traditional one. When it came time to prepare for graduation in March student speakers were chosen based on recommendations from instructors to give short sermons at the final school gathering before graduation. I was excited to be chosen as one of the five speakers and then they asked me to give my testimony about how I became a follower of Christ on tape to be played during a slide show with other student testimonies.

My parents we coming to Los Angeles to see me graduate in two weeks and I finished taking my finals and finished everything needed to get my diploma. My dad loved to visit Las Vegas and did so every couple of years even before we moved to L.A.  This time they took the Northern route and stopped in Reno where they got a room and dad went to Harrah’s while my mom took her time getting ready. When she arrived at the crap tables where my dad said that he would be she saw a crowd gathered around an emergency crew applying a defribillator to a man that she realized was her husband. She rode in the ambulance to the hospital but he was DOA and then she called me on the phone to tell me.

The next day was Saturday and I talked to Mark and Diana and told them what was happening. Mark volunteered to fly to Reno with me to help with arrangements since sometimes it was necessary as a pastor. We met my mom at the motel that they were staying at and I found out that my sister was flying out from Detroit to meet us. After all the arrangements were made for transporting my dad back to Michigan Mark flew back to Los Angeles. Mom flew back to Michigan with the body and Karen and I had to drive the car back to Michigan.

Part of the arrangements in Las Vegas included embalming and choosing a casket to fly the body back to Michigan in. The airline regulations required all this to be done before the body could be transported. Mom even designated the funeral parlor in Michigan that dad should be transported to and scheduled the first viewing for Tuesday afternoon. That meant that Karen and I would have to drive what is normally a four or five day trip in only two days. This meant that we would have to drive mom’s 1976 Dodge Charger non-stop all the way. It was already after 8:00 PM when we saw mom’s plane off and decided to sleep until 8:00 AM to be rested before we began our marathon drive.

The Convoluted Path Part Twenty-Five

21 May

We began giving a 10% tithe to the church on the gross amount of every cent that came in right from the start in 1971 and no matter how tight our budget was we gave our tithe. My parents would complain that they wanted us to keep 100% of any monetary gift that they gave us but I told them that I felt compelled to give my tithe. No matter how tight things were I made sure that we gave 10% of the gross on every cent that came in including my GI Bill. I believed in the principle of giving as Jesus told it in the gospel of Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount in 6:38 where he said “give and it shall be given unto you.” The theology was that you were kind of building Karma so that when you were in need the need was met.

After I started working at the church in 1976 I started to have regular workouts again. To save money I worked out in my garage where I had enough loose weight and bars and had built much of my own equipment out of wood including a bench, sit up board, calf raise machine and chinning bar along with purchasing heavy duty metal squat stands. I invited Robert Flores to come join me and he did every day after 5:00 PM when our duties at HPNC ended. Robert came to the house and we would go into the garage and do a brutal workout in very unglamorous surroundings.

Somehow we managed to find the extra money so I could get a membership at the Glendale YMCA where I had worked out for a year when we first arrived in L.A. in 1971 before joining Bill Pearl’s Pasadena Health Club in 1973. I’d been working out in my garage since Fall 1974 when I began seriously pursuing going back to school. It was a luxury to work out in a gym that had all new state of the art equipment. They had an entirely new weight room since I was last a member in 1973 and it was a pleasure to work out using padded benches and Industrial squat racks.

Unfortunately the shower room was filled with contagious foot fungus like plantar warts and athletes foot. I got a case of athletes foot so bad that it was coming up to my ankle bone before I went to the doctor. The doctor gave me a prescription for something that I got and it took care of the fungus. After that I always wore flip flop shower tongs to protect my feet. It was during this time period that I made my record bench press and injured my shoulder for the first time. I always read about how to work around injuries in the muscle magazines but never had an injury until now. I had already made my record 270 lb. bench press at a weight of 145 lb. when I injured my shoulder doing repetition parallel bar dips with a 25 lb. plate strapped around my waist.

After I dropped Dr. Walkum’s Greek class things were much easier but I noticed that the skin on the palms of my hands was starting to peel and in some case leaving nearly raw flesh. I concluded that it was caused by nerves from all the stress of going to school, having a family, having a job and a ministry and trying balance everything together. Now in retrospect I’m beginning to think that maybe it was a hand fungus from the weight bars at the Glendale YMCA because I changed to the Pasadena YMCA after that and the hand problem went away. Since I was working at HPNC I could take night classes at LIFE if I wanted and by my senior year it was nice to have that flexibility.

I was totally consumed by the desire to graduate from Bible College and become licensed and ordained so I could begin my official ministry. I never originally wanted to be a senior pastor of a church but they call Bible College a preacher mill. Everything is geared towards preparing you to assume the responsibility of being the pastor of a church somewhere in Podunkville. If you were lucky you would end up on the staff of an exploding mega-church like Jack Hayford’s “Church on the Way” in Van Nuys.

I was happy being on staff at HPNC and felt that I was light years ahead of many of my fellow students since I was already an associate pastor. We discontinued regular concerts on Friday night since by December attendance dropped and the music artists that we were sometimes having minister were sincere but lacked the talent to match their enthusiasm. However, every so often we would splurge and have one of the Maranatha artists perform and the attendance was usually pretty good with at least a hundred people. Whenever we had a special event I would make up flyers for it with one of my photographs and rub on lettering and have the church printer make a hundred to tack on telephone poles and post in store windows.

Sometime in late 1977 or early 1978 I was traveling to Okie Adams woodshop with him when he started to tell me about a cassette tape that he had and was listening to. It was about some guy who claimed that he was in some secret organization that controlled all the countries of the world and orchestrated their affairs. It was a satanic organization called the Illuminati and had a council of seven that he was part of that owed direct allegiance to Satan himself. He also said that many American businesses are part of the conspiracy including Safeway, Savon Drugs and other franchises. He said that he was going to give it to pastor Mark and I told him to let me listen to it first before he gave it to Mark.

By the next day I forgot about the tape and a month or two later at the mid-week service on Wednesday night pastor Mark began talking about a Satanic organization called the Illuminati and I knew that Okie had given Mark the tape. By the time that the service was over people were totally freaked out about shopping at Safeway and the other stores listed anymore and Marlene Knight even worked at Safeway. I asked Okie if he gave Mark the tape and he confessed that he did and then handed it to me.

I took it home and listened to it that night and if I believed everything that was said I would become a survivalist out in the wilderness with a ten year supply of food and enough guns and ammo for my own war. The person talking on the tape was a man named John Todd who was an early conspiracy theorist using Christians as his audience. After I finished listening to it I knew that it was bullshit because he was simply taking the existing Christian Eschatology and merging it with Satanic witchcraft scenarios.

The next day I shared my information with Diana Hirter the church secretary who was also an ordained minister. Diana had what was called a Standard Degree that she earned at LIFE rather than a full B.A. Degree which was only three years of study to get ordained and licensed. However Diana went back to LIFE taking night school classes and graduated with her B. A. in 1977. Mark also had a Standard Degree so he went back to night school at the same time as Diana and earned his B.A. Degree.

Soon after I told Diana about the source of the alarming sermon about a Satanic takeover of the entire world by a secret conspiratorial organization called the Illuminati she talked to Laverne who already knew about it. He said that the speaker, John Todd did not have a valid message and that he should be taken with much skepticism. By this time people were afraid to shop at Safeway anymore but Laverne talked to Mark on the phone and he tried to set things straight.

When you’re seriously involved with religion sometimes you get duped by a wolf in sheep’s clothing which is somebody who becomes a minister just to exploit the gospel for personal gain. There are many of those and the famous ones are infamously remembered. I almost joined a cult when I wanted to join the “Children of God” back at the beginning. They are one of the most infamous groups to come out of the 1960’s and are led by an Assembly of God minister named David Berg who changed his name to Moses David and started a harem involving incest.

One of the other popular cult like groups in L. A. during the Jesus movement was Tony and Susan Alamo. They had a bus parked in the most popular areas of Hollywood and Sunset Blvd’s and collected runaways, searchers and the curious. They brought them all to their ranch where they would participate in sleep deprivation and marathon prayer sessions until they were completely brainwashed into believing that it was the end of the world.

One time I booked a group to come play in concert that I met the manager of earlier who was very enthusiastic and talked big like he was going to get them a recording contract with one of the major companies. It was towards the end of the regularly scheduled Friday night concerts in early 1977. The group whose name I can’t recall arrived and it was comprised of five members made up of two women that were married to two of the three men. The fifth member was the male bass player that was in a wheelchair.

That night we had around two dozen people including the concert staff that was pretty much the old Agape Inn staff with Marlene Knight, Jerry Cash and Gloria Miller. The group began by doing some traditional gospel songs with a folk rock sound. Then they did some original songs and one of the guys would preach in between each song. After about an hour they had everyone on their feet singing along and invited everyone to come forward and then they had us join hands.

The guy who did all the preaching began to speak in tongues and suddenly one of the women in the group began to interpret what the message in tongues said. Then one of the women began to speak in tongues and the guy in the wheelchair gave the interpretation. I hadn’t seen anything this Pentecostal since I first spoke in tongues at the Assembly of God church in Azusa. However, HPNC was not a holy roller Pentecostal Foursquare church but was more in the vein of Calvary Chapel at this time. I caught Marlene Knight looking at me with a quizzical stare that said; are you going to let this go unchecked? I let the scene play itself out and after a few messages in tongues and interpretations it became apparent that they were just performing and not engaging the congregation on a spiritual level so when there was a lull I walked onto the stage and wound up the night.

I was raised a Roman Catholic and attended Mass thousands of times which is a solemn ritual that is completely devoid of all emotion. Now I was participating in emotionally charged Pentecostal Protestant religious services that sometimes transcended reserved cerebral thought. At the same time the final destination that these different views suggested were identical in the person of Jesus Christ.

My best friends who were all on the same wavelength at the time were Frank Greer and Robert Flores. Frank did his first year at LIFE by correspondence while still living in Florida and then moved to L. A. and began taking classes as a Sophmore in 1976. Unfortunately he had an accident at work at “United Parcel Service” (UPS) where he worked part time after school. While he was sorting parcels and throwing them onto an over head conveyor belt he got his shirt sleeve caught in the belt pulley and it sucked his arm in and broke it in seventeen places before it was stopped.

Frank was off for a year while he underwent surgeries to reconstruct his arm with pins. However after healing and rehab his arm was never fully functional again. UPS offered him the choice of a lifetime office job or a settlement and since he wanted to become a minister he took the settlement and bought a new stereo and some other items and banked the rest. Frank lost a year and began attending LIFE again as a junior just like Robert Flores and began to pick us both up at the church in the morning in his van.

Dion DiMucci Interview #3

17 May

Dion569 P R r

 

Dion DiMucci Interview for Blueswax & Folkwax, for Guitar Heroes album and DVD.

November 25, 2008

Dion Dimucci is a legend, who’s first name alone is enough to identify him. He’s a ground floor pioneer of rock & roll, who is part of the same pantheon that includes Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. A few years ago he acknowledged rock & roll’s debt to the blues when he released “Bronx In Blue” and then “Son of Skip James”. When Blueswax interviewed Dion about his homage to the roots that he grew from, he expounded and extrapolated about a plethora of personalities and other pertinent paraphernalia, contingent to the issue. So when contributing editor Bob Gersztyn learned about his new project, “Heroes – Giants of Early Guitar Rock”, that included both a CD and DVD, he jumped on the opportunity to talk to Dion about it. The following interview was the result.

 

Bob Gersztyn for Blueswax: What were you trying to communicate with your new project, “Heroes – Giants of Early Guitar Rock”?

 

 

 

Dion Dimucci: I had a video about 2 hours long, but they cut it back and they cut some of the guys out of it, the guys that I was trying to represent on “Heroes – Giants of Early Guitar Rock”. I talk about Paul Berlitson, who played for Johnny and Dorsey Burnett, the first family of rock & roll, and guys like Luther Perkins and Johnny Cash. A lot of these guys were very aware, like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore and James Burton, they were aware of T Bone Walker and Jimmy Reed. They learned from those great blues guitarists. So they were just changing it into…it was an era where you didn’t shred solos, you know, they had to be well placed in that 2 or 3 minute record. They were just freewheeling’. A lot of them were just bar drinking crazy teenagers.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Well, you do talk about how they were just a bunch of street punks with guitars. Were they involved with fighting and street gangs?

 

 

 

Dion: Well I didn’t know all of them like that, but they were pretty rough guys. Like I traveled with Duane Eddy, and a lot of them were just from the street really. In New York we called it the street, but the equivalent of. Like a James Burton coming out of New Orleans. Even Johnny Cash I feel like he was a punk rocker, was a rap artist. What I was saying was that there’s a lot of people that look at the fifties, kind of like a nice, like that Sha Na Na overview.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Then they didn’t see “Rebel Without a Cause”.

 

 

 

Dion: They have a different overview than I have. I see it filled with artists, especially guitar players, and songwriters and singers. I see it when Les Paul guitars were invented, and Fender guitars were invented and Tremelo with Bo Diddley, and grunge with Link Wray, and picking with Chet Atkins and twang with Duane Eddy. I see all the guitars and the whammy bar, a Bigsby. That whammy bar on the Gretch. It was all put in place for like the sixties. So how I started the letter was that I believe in my lifetime there were two decades when giants walked the earth, the fifties and the sixties. The fifties would be from 53 to 63, like kind of the Chuck Berry era, kind of. Then the sixties would be the Beatles and the Jimi Hendrix kind of thing. Just for an overview. Ricky Nelson was probably the only, or if you bought the illusion from a pretty clean cut family, but James Burton wasn’t. James Burton was a pretty rowdy guy and Scotty Moore. They were all like…and Paul Burlison who played, what was that Johnny Burnett song Train Kept A Rolling? I forget the name, but if you want to hear some grunge music, you gotta hear that Paul Burlison thing, because if you take the song, for instance this is what I was trying to do, you take a song like Believe What You Say, on that album Ricky Nelson made popular with James Burton. You got to understand, you know, us from the fifties, we’d watch the Ozzie and Harriet show just to see Ricky Nelson, at the very end of it, with James Burton. Just to see the last 4 minutes of it. Just to see what kind of guitar he was playing, and like that. Basically you take a song like, Believe what you see. If you go on his website, see they were the first family of rock & roll, and it was called the Johnny Burnett Trio. He got into a place where he started to getting poppy, I think that’s why he never really made it, and made the name. We’ve been trying to make people aware of him at the rock & roll hall of fame. What I want you to do, and please do this if you want to get a real kick. Listen to Johnny Burnett doing The Train Kept A Rollin’. Paul Burlison ripped through that with his guitar. It was the beginning of rock & roll, I think. So you take a song like Believe What You Say, that Johnny and Dorsey Burnett wrote, and Paul Berlison played on it, and they brought the demo to Rickey Nelson, and he sang it, and James Burton played on it. I’m just kind of following the history of it, because nobody knows Paul Berlison. Nobody knows him. I was talking to Billy Burnett the other day. He plays with John Fogerty, and he’s the son of Dorsey Burnett, and he used to hang out with Paul Berlison, who died a few years ago. What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of these guys who flew under the radar. What I wanted to share with you was, I was with a very popular DJ from the 50’s the other day, and I was telling him all this, and he was looking at me like I had 2 heads, he didn’t know what I was talking about. All he knows is songs from the 50’s, but I was saying, I said you know I have an overview of it, and he was going – what does that mean? And I was trying to explain it to him. I was looking at it like it was really the beginning of all these rock guitar players. Like they were aware of the blues guys, but rock & roll just tweaked it a little into a major key, so it went from there to what Chuck Berry did. I always said if you take blues, and you take country music, you got rock & roll.

 

 

 
Blueswax: What part do you think that rock & roll being created, acted as a catalyst in the integration of the black and white races? Going through civil rights and all that.

 

 

 

Dion: Well I think that in some ways it brought the races together, because God knows…I was playing the Paramount, and I was playing with Little Richard and Bo Diddley. Those guys were like from outer space. I would have never got to meet guys like that on the street. Never! Even in New York it was a little, that segregation kind of thing, but in a way doing shows like that brought the races together in some way. Today it’s more selective. I think it is, I’m not sure, but it seems like you have your rap station and you have your country station. The music kind of has its own audiences.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I remember back in the early 60’s, in Detroit, when we had WJBL, which was a black station, WKNR which was a country station and WXYZ which was a pop & rock music station, but people’s ears could easily cross over the genres and racial lines. A few years ago I interviewed Bo Diddley, before he passed away, and we were talking about bringing people together in the Middle East, and he says to me, “what they need there is some rock & roll.”

 

 

 

Dion: Right! Exactly! Exactly! Which brings. Yeah it’s like an international communications tool. It brings people together. It’s an art form, and you have to look at the blues in that way, because it’s 3 chords. What an art form, you could express any emotion. It’s like the naked cry of the human heart, longing to be in union with each other. It’s any amazing art form, and when you really know what you have, and if you grow through all of your resentments, and angst, you really realize that you’re holding an international communications tool in your hand, and you could reach the hearts of Beijing or India.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Right after 9/11 I interviewed Peter Max, the pop artist from New York, and I was asking him about the “Moscow Peace & Music Festival” that he created the stage for and attended in 1989, two years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc “Iron Curtin”. He said that when he looked at the people attending, it looked just like he was in New York city. Rock & roll bridged the gap and drove in the wedge that collapsed the “Evil Empire“ that was the USA’s nemesis since WWII ended.

 

 

 

Dion: When I was a kid, I could tell you some stories. I was in Spain with Rickey Nelson, and we bought Ramirez guitars. They were made there. They were like Segovia was playing them, and we had a way of not paying any dues on them. They were like…the top of the line was $350.00, that guitar was the top of the line, but the kids couldn’t care less about Ramirez. They wanted to know, where do you get a Fender and Levi jeans, and that was 1961. They wanted Fender guitars and Levi jeans, and we were like, wow, we’re going to go there and we can get these Ramirez guitars, because we knew that they were top of the line classical guitars.

 

 

 

Blueswax: The grass is always greener on the other side.

 

 

 

Dion: I guess that with the album that I made, I was trying to champion the cause of some of these guys that flew under the radar, and it’s a funny thing. I know one guy who said, what are you doing all the old songs for, why don’t you help out some of the new writers? I was thinking, you know I am trying to help the new writers, that’s why I did this. I said I want them to hear, they’re not aware of some of like the roots of some of these great guitarists. Maybe I get them interested through this album. Putting it all under one umbrella with a DVD, they’ll get interested in some of these guys and check them out.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I really liked what you did with Runaway, by Del Shannon, where you had Bob Richardson do a guitar solo at the end.

 

 

 

Dion: I used to see Del Shannon play that thing night after night. Probably of all the guys on that album, I traveled mostly with Del, and I was probably closest to him, but he was a guitar player, and a great guitar player, and a great songwriter, let alone a great singer. He was a very under rated guy. He could sing all night. I mean country songs, you wouldn’t believe it. The guy was great.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I loved Del Shannon. I still have all his hits on 45 rpm records, Runaway, Hats off to Larry, Ginny in the Mirror. They were some of the best stuff that came out of the early sixties. Here’s a funny story about the first time that I ever heard of the Beatles, when they were doing a cover of Del Shannon’s song From Me To You. It was the Summer of 1963, and I was listening to WXYZ, in Detroit on my Japanese transistor radio, when the DJ announced that he was going to play a cover of Del’s song by a group that was #1 in Great Brittan at the time. I listened to it and I thought, that sucked, I like Del’s version better.

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah, Del Shannon was great man. He was a very under rated artist. Very under rated. One time I was telling Crow Richardson, my guitar player, that I remember when I went in to do my song The Wanderer, I cut an album in one day, because I had this hit record out called Runaround Sue, and so I went in with all these guys from the Apollo Theater Sticks Evans on drums and Buddy Lucas on horn. I did a song called Kansas City, because I loved it. In fact The Wanderer was fashioned a little around that, and around what Bo Diddley used to do. So I went in there with these two songs from the session, Kansas City and the Wanderer, and I did Kansas City first, and I played a guitar solo on it. Then we were going to do The Wanderer, and I said, well it’s the same kind of tune, same kind of feel. The drummer said I’ll reverse the shuffle, and I said Buddy why don’t you take a sax solo, because there’s a guitar solo on Kansas City. So he took a sax solo, but when I did this new album I was going to do it with a guitar solo, because, you know, it was meant for a guitar solo, but it was so ingrained in my head that I let my friend John play the sax solo.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Man I love The Wanderer. It was the theme song of my adolescence. What was the inspiration for it?

 

 

 

Dion: Well there were two inspirations. I was working with Bo Diddley at the Apollo. I knew Bo from like 57, I knew him for 50 years, and he used to do I’m A Man. This was kind of like the white version of I’m A Man. It was like black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood and it came out with an attitude, or filtered through my Bronx neighborhood, coming out like – Yo. That’s my interpretation, coming from my perspective, of how to do it, at that age. The other inspiration was a little bit of Kansas City, because that song was popular at the time and I loved it. The big inspiration was this kid in the neighborhood, who’s name escapes me right now…I think his name was Jackie Burns. He was a sailor and he had tattoos all over him. Like he had Flo on his left arm, Mary on his right, Janie was the girl that he was going to be with the next night, and then he put Rosie on his chest, and he had it covered up with a battle ship. Every time he went out with a girl, he got a new tattoo. So the guy was worth a song.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Runaround Sue was about your wife before you married her, wasn’t it?

 

 

 

Dion: She’d like to believe it, because it’s good for the image. Actually it wasn’t, but she goes around telling everybody, yeah, I’m runaround Sue. I said, why do you tell people that? She says – they remember me. She said, if I don’t tell them that, they won’t remember me.

 

 

 

Blueswax: On your DVD you talk about Johnny Cash leaning into his marriage when he wrote I Walk The Line. Elaborate on that.

 

 

 

Dion: Either I bought the illusion, or I truly believed him, because he a…they say that Johnny Cash never walked any line, but I believe he did. Especially with June Carter. He was like, he adored the woman, and I took him at his word, you know. I thought this could be the way to do it. Leaning in. You know? Because most of my friends were leaning out. I wanted to know what it felt like to be a man, a real man, so I kept leaning in. I guess it was a little of my Catholic upbringing too, that the monsignor used to say to me, the happy man is a virtuous man. So I was trying to take the high road, and that song kind of fit in with it. You want to know something, it worked. I must say, it did work, because my family is still together, and I’m a crazy rock & roll artist, what the hell could I tell you?

 

 

 

Blueswax: That is pretty unusual.

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah, I think it is, I think it is. And I mean you know why, because when I look back at all those guys on that album, they’re all gone, except Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers, and the Everly Brothers have a hard time getting along with each other.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Going right along with that I thought it was interesting how you and Bob Crow were talking about Cliff Gallup turning down the opportunity to be a rock & roll star and then working as a janitor for the rest of his life.

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah, he’s one of those guys that…there were a few guys like that. I remember my friend Jack Scott. Do you know who Jack Scott is?

 

 

 

Blueswax: No. I can’t say that I do.

 

 

 

Dion: Well he had a few hit records in the fifties and he just left the road. He said I can’t take this. My girls back home. I’m going to ruin my health doing this and he left, and that was that. He had a song called What In The World’s Come Over You (sings), that’s the way it went, and he played this big J200 Gibson and that was it, and he never looked back. He left the road and that was it. And he’s still around. He looks like Hercules. He’s a bodybuilder and back then he was a young great looking guy. We were playing the Uptown theater in Philly and he said, I can’t take this, eatin’ all these rotten hamburgers. He was very conscious of his body and he left. That was it! That was it.

 

 

 

Blueswax: There are people who would trade forty years of their life to have a flash at fame.

 

 

 

Dion: It’s a funny thing, but even though for myself…even, it’s at the core of my being and it’s probably what I’m made out of. You know music, I know it’s, it’s…I really know who I am. I feel like I’m flying. It’s just the most liberating feeling. So to me rock & roll at its best is expressing your individual freedom and individuality. But I never really gave up everything just to follow that and said this is what is all important, me, me, me. I just didn’t do that because I love the family too much, and yeah, I did keep a balance. It’s hard. It’s not easy, but I did do it. I’m glad I did, because my kids know me. I know them. I’ve been married forty-five years. I know my wife for like fifty-three years.

 

 

 

Blueswax: You got really involved with the Jesus movement at one point too. I talked to you before about it at one point.

 

 

Dion: I guess you could call it the Jesus movement. I don’t know if it’s a movement?

 

 

 

Blueswax: When the hippies became Jesus freaks.

 

 

 

Dion: Where are you from?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Originally from Detroit, Michigan, but I moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1971, and I got involved with Calvary Chapel.

 

 

 

Dion: I keep saying that a Jesus freak, is a, is a, interesting words, I don’t know, it’s….

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’m interested in what you think a Jesus freak is, or was.

 

 

 

Dion: It’s almost like a contradiction, because Jesus took the freak right out of me, so I don’t know what a Jesus freak is, for forty years I’ve been on this road. I’ve been with the church and I love it. I love it. So….

 

 

 

Blueswax: The reason why the Jesus freak thing started was because hippies were freaks and then some of them turned on to Jesus, so now instead of being acid freaks, or whatever other freaks they were, they became Jesus freaks. It was also used as kind of like an insult in a way, by the straight people.

 

 

 

Dion: Well you could say the way I am…it’s all like a badge of honor to me (laughter). I’m like a…for me it’s like going first class, you know? It’s like going with the Lord is like going first class. I was thinking about it recently, I thought…I was down at my church and I was looking at the kids going to school and I said, you know I think I’m going to get into some kind of ministry with a friend of mine. We’re going to call ourselves the “Kings Men”, and we’re going to go in there and talk to these kids and tell them God has a plan for your life, and you know you should trust Him, and build your house on rock, because anything else, it falls, when the rains and the storms come, it just crumbles. So you know a very simple message of like keep God in the equation. You know? It’s kind of like the first commandment, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It works. I mean God works. Personally, I think that the most courageous thing that you can do is open your heart to your creator, but there are so many people who look at it as trite. I don’t know how they look at it, but I look at it as very deep. You want to know how crazy I am is? I was talking to someone about Sarah Palin. They were thinking that she was a real lightweight, maybe politically, but I was thinking, you’re missing the point man. This girl is deep. This girl is deeper than you’ll ever know. She has a world view far beyond what you are talking about. She gave birth to a “Down’s Syndrome” child, who evokes a very special kind of love. I said, do you know the kind of courage and world view you have to have? Most people would nuke that kid and move on. Most of these people who goof on her, they’re like skating on ice. All they see is what they see. They don’t know what is under the ice. There’s a whole world under there and you don’t know it, and that’s the way I see it. I like her, I think she’s beautiful, and they probably resent her because she’s having good sex with her husband and the dog sled thing.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I assume that you voted for McCain then?

 

 

 

Dion: I did! I did, but you know, in a way….In a way I rejoice. I’ll be honest with you, in four years, I pray that I’ll be salivating to vote for Obama. For guys like you and me, we probably have one prayer, and it would go for whoever was voted into office. And it would go something like, Lord bend his will to your vision and your heart. That’s it. What are you going to do? They’re only human. I do in a strange way, on the racial front, there is something in me that rejoices about Obama, because I recorded a song forty years ago, for a reason, and it’s the fruition of that song (Abraham, Martin and John). I never thought that I’d ever see it.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I agree with you, perfectly, it’s like the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

 

 

 

Dion: Very much. Very, very much. The reason why I didn’t go for Obama, was because of the “Freedom of Choice Act”. I am religious, so if you read that it is so far out that it actually takes away freedom of conscience. Catholic hospitals would have to close down. Abortions on demand sort of thing. You know? I don’t want to get political, but it was an issue that my heart is wrapped up in.

 

 

 

These guys on this album that I did…I knew all of them. I didn’t know Bill Haley. He was a little older and he didn’t hang out in New York, and for some reason I never met him, but Danny Cedrone, who played guitar for him is another one. You listen to Rock Around The Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll. His records, you can hear Danny Cedrone on those. He was great. So I was hoping that it was just more than a…to me I really didn’t approach it in a cover versions way. It’s funny, but I wasn’t thinking that. When I saw James Taylor’s album, “Covers”, that he did recently, I thought that’s something like what I do, but I wasn’t looking at my album like a covers thing. It kind of came from inside out. Not like if I do all of these songs I’m going to sell albums, because I was talking to my friend Time, who is forty years old, and he loves blues and every once in a while he’ll throw me an album of “Black Cheese” and people like that, you know? I asked him, do you know who Cliff Gallup or Gene Vincent are? And he said, didn’t he play with KISS? I said if you don’t know who Gene Vincent is, you probably don’t know who Cliff Gallup is. So I started with Be-Bop-A-Lula, because I got to show these young guys about these artists. I just want to give them a clue. I want to kind of infiltrate their world with this stuff. I thought I’d do some interviews and get it out there. It’s like every once in a while you’ll here somebody talking about Cliff Gallup, like Jeff Beck or Clapton, but you don’t get all these guys under one umbrella, where you can talk about the great guitarist’s of the fifties, you know? So that’s what I was trying to do.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Well I think that you did a good job on it, but I think that it’s a shame that they shortened the DVD down from two hours. I’d like to see the whole thing.

 

 

 

Dion: They don’t like that much information. It was almost like a teaching, and they wanted it to be entertaining, and some info, so they cut it down, to where I do a little blip on each guy, but I had talked about some of the stuff I’m telling you – Paul Berlison, Danny Cedrone, some of those guys…Luther Perkins, who was Johnny Cash’s first guitarist. You know, I went on and on and on about the different guitars, who invented them, and the equipment, but maybe it was a little redundant, I don’t know, but I got a chance to tell you anyway. To give you an idea of what I was going for. I just wanted to give people a different perspective, because some people look at that era, like I said this disc jockey was looking at it like, all he knew were the song’s. They were all disconnected, and it was just the surface of it. So I said, I should do what I see, like I said under the ice there’s a whole world. I saw the guitar player, and that’s what I wanted to bring out, the guitar players and what they were playing, and how they were playing it, and what they were trying…you know, like, that’s why we put a little segment in there about Eddy Cochran putting the amp in the men’s room to get the echo, and that kind of thing. That it was all in place for the sixties, for what was to come. It kind of laid the foundation.

 

 

 

Blueswax: One of my son’s is a musician and I told him that I wanted him to see your DVD, and listen to your CD, because he’s always asking me about influences that he doesn’t know about.

 

 

 

Dion: How old is he?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Thirty.

 

 

 

Dion: Wow, he’s really young, but if he’s a guitar player, I think he’d find that interesting.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Oh yeah. Yeah he plays a number of instruments, including guitar, so I know that he’d be interested in some of the technical discussions, that you and Bob Crow had. What do you think that the next project that you will have, will be?

 

 

 

Dion: See now the other thing is, this guy, Crow, he’s exactly like the guys we’re explaining. He’s flying under the radar. His mother doesn’t even know that he plays guitar. I mean he told his mother. Hey ma I made an album, and she said, gee I didn’t know that you knew how to play like that. You know what I’m saying?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Yeah. Who did he play with?

 

 

 

Dion: He was one of those guys that had a group, and he’s probably a little younger than you. He’s probably in his mid-fifties or something. He’s talking from reading articles and stuff, and I’m talking from experience. He had a rock band in the sixties, him and Bob Guertin, you know the guy who played bass. They traveled around and tried to make it, but they never made it, and they went about their way, and they started different businesses, but I always knew that Crow could play, and I said that I’m doing this album, and I brought him into it. It was a real album to make him shine too. It happened and it was a great connection, and I’m so glad that I could give him the opportunity. I think that he’s real proud of it too.

 

 

 

Bob: Any final closing remarks?

 

 

 

Dion: Keep rockin’. I love the music and I hope that you enjoyed the album.

 

 

 

Bob: I was still listening to your Bronx In Blue album and I thought maybe you had something new, so I checked out your website at http://www.diondimucci.com . When I found out that you released “Guitar Heroes” I got a copy and love it.

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8mYHZuqg6A

Dion DiMucci Interview #2

16 May

Dion568 #1 R r

 

This interview was actually part of the last interview but because of the totally different subject matter being discussed I separated it. I sent it to the Wittenburg Door, a religious satire magazine that I was working for at the time since it was an interview about religion with a famous rock star but I don’t think that it got published as I now recall, because the magazine was ceasing publication at that time. So it may never have been published until now.

 

 

 

Door: How has religion impacted your life?

 

 

 

Dion: It’s totally changed me. Right before I made Abraham, Martin and John, I started getting babies. We have three daughters. It started happening when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper went down in the plane. The next day I was thinking, who am I? Where am I? What’s life about? Where am I going? Why am I here? That was what I was thinking about. It kind of crystallized some questions in my mind. You start looking and you kind of get lost with that, because, especially coming from New York. The mid sixties were hard for me, because I was taking a lot of drugs, and I wasn’t thinking straight, but one day I got on my knees and I said a prayer, back in sixty-eight, and I haven’t had a drug or drink since. It was like God touched me on the head. I got up, coming out of that church, and I went and spoke to somebody about this, and I said I have daughters, and what’s going to keep us together? What’s the glue. Back then I made the Church the center of my life, or Christ the center of my life. I actually wrote a song called, Center Of My Life. For me, that became the center.

 

 

 

Door: What church was that?

 

 

 

Dion: It was Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, in the Bronx. For me, I came home, ever since that day, that’s what’s kept me going. In fact Susan and I just came from Mass, because today is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, to celebrate Christ’s mother. It’s beautiful to be there, and feel like family, and you know that you’re in a kingdom family, and that there’s a higher reality. I’m home! Home is an important word. I was talking to my friend Dave Marsh, because they asked me to comment on three Bruce Springsteen songs. So I did kind of a trilogy thing, but one of the songs was Everybody’s Got A Hungry Heart. I said wow, read this. You read it and the last verse talks about home. That’s an important word on a lot of levels. To be at home, at peace. Like I said, union, it will lead you into union with God. To a lot of people these days, from watching TV, that don’t fly too good. In New York we like to be clever. I found out a long time ago that it’s better to be clean than to be clever.

 

 

 

Door: Explain that.

 

 

 

Dion: Clean inside. Clean soul.

 

 

 

Door: Do you mean like holy, or sanctified?

 

 

Dion: Holy! What a word that is! Holy! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Don’t say that, you’ll like freak everybody out, but that’s a beautiful word. That’s something beautiful to seek, I think.

 

 

 

Door: It’s interesting how on your spiritual journey, how you were in the Protestant Church for a period, and then you went back to the Catholic Church. How did that change happen, where you went into the Protestant Church, in the first place.

 

 

 

Dion: I met some guys, and I didn’t know too much about scripture, or where it came from, or about the early fathers, or the apostolic fathers, or the history of the church, or scripture, but I met a bunch of guys, and I used to go to these Bible studies, and it was wonderful, man, just to read this ancient wisdom that came down through the Church, for the last two-thousand years, four-thousand years. Its just beautiful, it’s like a love letter to me, so I enjoyed all that, but as I started reading I started asking questions. Of myself, and where the Church was? I saw that you could get five different Protestant Churches that don’t agree with each other. Like the Methodist Pastor can’t preach in the Baptist Church, and the Lutheran….This is off the record. I don’t want to get into theology. Can we keep this off the record?

 

 

 

Door: Everything that you said so far, or from now on?

 

 

 
Dion: I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing an denominations, because I’m not. What I learned in the Protestant denominations was I became very knowledgeable of scripture. So I could sit with any Protestant Pastor, and I know my faith, and I wouldn’t feel challenged, intimidated or threatened or anything. I just came back into the church because I felt like it was the fullness. I felt like there’s a lot of American denominations that are a thin veneer of who Christ is, they don’t go deep enough, and when I read history I ceased to be Protestant, because I started seeing fifteen-hundred years of people who were martyred for their faith, and they never carried a Bible. I said how did they get saved? When I read what they believed, I saw the Catholic church. I didn’t see these other denominations. I saw that they had authority, there was a living voice of authority. I saw that the church had that authority. I saw baptism. I saw the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, in the Lord’s Supper, because these people were martyred for it, like Justin Martyr or Athesis, when he was a young man, because they chopped his head off, because they said, are you a cannibal? He said no, we’re partaking of the eternal God, and he said I’ll explain it to you, and he wrote it out, and they chopped his head off. In John chapter six where Jesus says “I am the bread of life and he who partakes of me….” There’s a lot of different ways that people interpret that, but I said to myself, gee I wonder what John’s friends thought. I looked at Ignatius, and a few other guys like Polycarp and Clement and all those guys. I thought Peter and John ordained these guys and they had letters. So when I started reading, I started seeing that they took Christ exactly for what he said. He said this is my body. This is my blood. He didn’t say it’s a symbol or it’s figurative. When you read it, and when you go to it without any prejudice, I started seeing the Catholic church. Then I started seeing that all the denominations that I was in had total misconceptions about what the Catholic church taught. They think that Catholics worship statues, and worship Mary and confession is no good. Then you start reading and saying wait a minute, as you hit these obstacles, it’s like you have to jump through these hoops, because I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I thought wow, I could go to any Protestant church, but I can’t go there, I can’t go to the Catholic church, they’re off the rails. I was like anti-Catholic for a while, but after I started reading, I came home.

 

 

 

Door: It was the scriptures that led me from the Catholic to the Protestant church, but at the same time, at this stage in my life I can see how a person could be a Christian in either one.

 

 

 

Dion: That’s great, because I love Protestants. I don’t look at them like they’re not Christians or anything. God know, there’s sometimes that they put us to shame. But I really do feel that the Catholic church has the FULLNESS. It has the beauty of truth, and the FULLNESS. You and I could take the Bible, because we love Christ and his word, and open up a church in a shopping center. We’d get a girl playing organ. Some pretty young thing.

 

 

 

Door: Yeah, in a halter top and mini dress!

 

 

 

Dion: —?!?

 

Door: Okay, a granny dress.

 

 

 

Dion: Then we could teach, you and I, we could really say a lot of good things, but we wouldn’t be in the fullness. We’d be kind of like in the back yard in a tent with a Catholic book. When you come into the church, it’s like coming home. You’ve got the fullness of the faith. I’ll be honest with you, I thought the Catholics were out to lunch, because everything I learned about the Catholic church I learned from Protestants. When I ran into Catholics who knew their faith, I started saying this is beautiful. There’s a web site called the journey home about three-hundred pastors who have come into the Catholic church. I have friends like Greg Laurie, who called me the other day, he’s a great friend. It has nothing to do with my love for him. He’s a brother in Christ. What I’m talking about has nothing to do with my love for you, or him, as a brother. We’re just talking. We’re talking about stuff, because we’re all on the journey.

 

 

 

Door: What are some of the other reasons why you feel the Catholic church is more on target than the Protestant.

 

 

 

Dion: Okay. Here’s something that will make you think. I was in a Presbyterian church down here in Florida. They’re lovely people, the Pastor and his wife, top shelf people. On the envelopes for donations they have a quotation. It says, “unity in the essentials”, because in the Presbyterian church it’s like the split peas they call them. Right?

 

 

 

Door: So are Baptist’s honey bees?

 

 

 

Dion: –?!?

 

 

 

Door: Please continue.

 

 

Dion: There’s like many denominations right within this Presbyterian church. So I was wondering, okay, where do I hang my hat? The truth will set you free, but you get five different denominations and they all teach differently on baptism. You don’t need the Catholic church involved. So I’m saying what’s this about? So on the envelopes, to explain this, it says “unity in the essentials, liberty in the non essentials and love and charity in all things”. That’s on the envelopes. You follow?

 

 

 

Door: Yes, I think we understand.

 

 

 

Dion: Okay, “unity in the essentials.” So I’m driving home and I’m thinking what are the essentials? It never occurred to me to ask anybody, or who to ask. So I’m thinking, well what are the essentials? Of course, the word of God, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and pertinent beliefs that your faith relies on. As I started to read I found out it was a St. Augustine quote and he was at that illustrious council that put the Bible together in the 4th century. He was a Bishop in Northern Africa, in Carthage, in Hippo. That was St. Augustine’s quote, so when I read what he meant by the essentials, he meant authority. The living voice of authority that Jesus gave the church. I will build my church upon this rock and I give you the keys. Jesus prayed for unity. He said I will be with you till the end of time. He said, the gates of hell won’t prevail against my church. Now either his prayer didn’t work, because I saw Protestantism like someone who would be going to your church and then they disagree with you, they start one down the block. So who gave anybody the right to start a new covenant. No one ever left Israel, they didn’t say hey I don’t like what you’re doing. You’re sinning, you’re off the road, I’m going to start a new covenant over here. I’m going to start a new Israel.

 

 

 

Door: I guess you never read the book of Mormon.

 

 

 

Dion: –?!?

 

 

 

Door: Please continue.

 

 

 

Dion: Well I started thinking about these things and I started reading back from there and that’s what lead me into the church.

 

 

 

Door: Most of the time church studies deal with the first century church. Second century church history deals with the formation and structuring of the Christian church in the Roman empire. It was called the catholic church because it meant universal, so in that sense you would be correct.

 

 

 
Dion: It’s like an acorn. You put it in the ground and it becomes a big oak tree. It doesn’t look like an acorn anymore. I don’t look like I looked when I was three years old. You wouldn’t even recognize me, but it’s the same DNA. So the Catholic church is universal. Do you know that every day we have Mass, just like the one that I just returned from, that in that Mass, with its three readings from the Old Testament, the Letters, and the Gospel, were read all over the world today. I could talk to someone in China and we could comment on what was read in the church today. I never understood the book of Revelation until I came into the church. Never! They said that there was a blessing there, never got it, until I became Catholic. That’s a long story, but you know what I’m saying? The Mass is made up of two parts, and it’s very scriptural. They read more scripture in the Catholic church than any other church. A Protestant Pastor will get up and recite a paragraph, and then talk for forty-five minutes. In the Catholic church you’ll hear three readings. We sing the songs. We sing the Gloria. We do the great Amen, holy, holy. It is Revelations. We’re in the book of Revelations. We’re in the kingdom. We’ve come back to heaven. It’s the kingdom on earth. It’s God’s kingdom on earth. A lot of churches don’t have that, so they have the rapture thing. They’re waiting to go, because they’re really nothing here for them. They don’t have what Christ really left us.

 

 

 

Door: So you don’t believe in the rapture then?

 

 

 

Dion: I was talking to someone yesterday about the Assumption. There’s one doctrine in the Catholic church that you can’t really spell it out in scripture. Even though if you read Revelation twelve you’ll see Mary there. You’ll see her at the beginning in Genesis and you’ll see her in Revelation. I was talking to a kid , from a church that teaches the rapture. I said, well you know Jesus took his Mother up, and he said that’s not scriptural, and I said show me where Joey is getting raptured in the scriptures, or where I’m getting raptured. Show me. Like Jesus didn’t take his Mother up, but he’s going to take you up. It seems a little absurd to me, because Mary, let me not get into it, but it’s so beautiful to see her role in salvation history. That’s the reason why you need an authority to tell you what the scriptures mean. Not what they say, because you and I know what they say, but sometimes the thirty-thousand denominations out there don’t know what they mean.

 

 

 

Door: I think that I’ve got more than enough here for the article.

 

 

 

Dion: I hope so, I don’t know what I’m talking about with you. You’ve got me into theology, which has nothing to do with the Blues does it? I just like talking about faith, and I love the people, because it’s family, and you feel like you’re encouraging each other and that’s a good thing.

Interview #1 With Dion DiMucci

15 May

Dion Interview #1 R r

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtud5juBncg

 

As of today Dion DiMucci is an eighty year old rock and roll legend that helped create the foundation of all the popular music that has evolved over the past sixty years. His career began as a doo-wop singer in the 1950’s with his group the “Belmonts.” He survived the tragic winter rock & roll tour that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in an airplane crash that Dion narrowly avoided in 1959 and went on to become a solo star. The 1960’s saw Dimucci re-invent himself twice, first as a blues rock artist with “Ruby Baby” and then as a folk singer with “Abraham, Martin and John.” After surviving and cleaning up a heroin addiction he became a “born again” Christian and released some gospel albums. By the 1990’s he returned to the Roman Catholic church and continued to perform all the music of his career. After the turn of the millennium Dion found himself more involved with preserving the blues and early rock & roll history with a series of albums and even DVD’s. I had the privilege of being able to conduct two different interviews with Dion, one in 2005 and one in 2008. They were originally published in Blueswax/Blues Revue and the Wittenburg Door Magazine and are reprinted here with permission. I broke the first interview into two parts because we went into two different subjects. First we talked about his new blues album and the influence of music on culture and society and then we talked about religion which will be interview #2.

Interview #1

Dion Dimucci (rock & roll pioneer) Born: 1939.

Interview Date: December 8, 2005

Bob Gersztyn For Blueswax: First of all, why did you decide to do a Blues album?

 

 

 

Dion Dimucci: It just wasn’t in my head, like a cerebral decision. I just think that it’s such a part of my makeup. I wrote a little letter along with the album (Bronx In Blue) stating that people think that I grew up to Rock & Roll, but I didn’t. I grew up listening to Jimmy Reed, and Lighting Hopkins and Hank Williams, a big influence, Howlin’ Wolf. I combed the Southern radio stations late at night to find this kind of music. These songs have been in my head for like fifty years, and in my guitar. I’ve done some of them at Columbia. People think it’s kind of a new thing, but it’s just part of me. It’s the cause of me getting in the business. It’s the cause for me doing the records I did. It’s the cause for me being who I am, so to speak. It’s the cause of my love for music. It’s the undercurrent of all the hits I’ve had, but I never thought that I’d make a blues album, because in the fifties you just didn’t do that. For me to show up at the Brooklyn Fox with Allen Freed and immitate somebody Black, like doing a Mick Jagger thing, it would have been like black face. It just wasn’t the time to do that, as an art form. I didn’t understand that as a kid, but it was always there, it was just part of me. I was doing an interview sort of like this, on National Public Radio, and I was punctuating my stories with some songs, and Richard Gottier, an old friend, who I wrote songs with back in the fifties, called me up and said, “why don’t you record some of those things. I said I could do that with one lip tied behind my back, that’s what I’m made out of. I went in and I did it in two days. I did eight songs one day, four songs the next. I just did the songs that I grew up to. When you hear the album you’ll see.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’ve listened to the album many times since it arrived, and sensed what you’re saying the first time I heard it.

 

 

 

Dion: You can see it’s not a false thing. You can see how comfortable I am.

 

 

 

Blueswax: That’s what impressed me about it right off the bat. The first time I listened to it was when I went for a walk after dinner one night and put it in my portable CD player. After a while I was just listening and got so into it that I forgot who I was listening to. Suddenly I thought, wait a minute, who am I listening to, because what I was hearing sounded so authentic and natural that I had to remember that they weren’t your songs. Repeated playing doesn’t change the way that it sounds to me. They flow in a natural uncontrived way, as if you wrote them.

 

 
Dion: Like I said before, it’s a funny thing, it’s like what I’m made out of so to speak. Everything that I do comes out of that kind of ground, fertile ground. It’s what I digested. I know that people like Eric Clapton have paid tribute to Robert Johnson, and I was thinking about how I was listening to Robert Johnson when I was at Columbia Records. When John Hammond gave me his album, before the 1960’s, he said “Dion, this album is by the king of the Delta Blues, a guy named Robert Johnson, and I’m so proud of this album, it sold twenty-five thousand, by word of mouth.” I went home and digested that whole thing. So I’ve been singing Walkin’ Blues, ever since 1959. Britain picked up on the roots of rock & roll. American’s dropped the ball. People that grew up in the fifties didn’t even know. A lot of them didn’t even move past that.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan, and there’s a lot of blues there, but I really didn’t even know what the blues was until about 1965, when I saw John Lee Hooker, at a coffee house that probably only had about thirty people in it.

 

 

 

Dion: I have to tell you that I wrote a song that’s on the album that’s coming out. I added it. I sent it up to Richard Gotterier, from Dimensions at Orchard Records. I sent him a couple of additional tunes that I did, because I went in and did a few more. I said Richard, you’ve got to put these on, they were so much fun. I wrote one called If You Want To Rock & Roll, but it’s like a John Lee Hooker tune. So when you get the finished album you’ll hear it. It has a kind of John Lee Hooker thing. I grew up with him. In fact, I don’t know if you read the letter I wrote, but I did a song called Ruby Baby.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Yeah, I remember when Ruby Baby came out. The first time I heard it I wondered to myself, “where did he get that from?” It was different than the other things that I had heard, like Runaround Sue or The Wanderer. You were going in an entirely new direction.

 

 

 

Dion: There’s no drums on that record. There’s very little drums. It’s a lot of foot stomping. I picked that up from John Lee Hookers natural foot stomping, on his recordings, like Walkin’ Boogie, that he probably made in about 1950. I’m not sure of the dates. This stuff is what I grew up to. I always say that it’s Black music, filtered through an Italian neighborhood, and it comes out with an attitude. If somebody was listening to me they would say, you don’t sing Black, you don’t sing White, you sing like the Bronx. So that’s why I called it “Bronx in Blue”.

 

 

 

Blueswax: At what age did you first really get into music?

 

 
Dion: I was, let’s say ten. I mean I probably was always into it, but I remember around ten years old I heard a Hank Williams song. It was playing in the back room of this little apartment my mother and father had. There was a radio in the back room and I heard Honky Tonk Blues, and that was like the first record that I said, what is that? I didn’t even know what Honky Tonk meant, but for a ten year old kid, in 1950, from the Bronx, to hear Honky Tonk…. I said, what the Hell is that? Then I heard Jambalaya, and I got a guitar. My uncle bought me a guitar for eight dollars. It was a Gibson. Somebody saw a picture of me playing it. It’s on the back of the album. They said, oh I saw you when you were a kid, you had a toy guitar. I said, what toy guitar? If I had that guitar now, I could sell it for fifteen grand. It’s a vintage authentic thirties Gibson. I forget what the model is, but it says, The Gibson, on the head of it. It’s an authentic kind of thirties guitar. You get that sound out of it, but when I heard Honky Tonk Blues, it threw me on the road, I was hooked. I would go up to Lou Cheketies store, on Fordham Road. It was called Cousin’s music store. They mentioned it at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame one day. I was knocked out. I said wow. I used to run up to Fordham Road to ask Lou if a new Hank Williams record came in. Then he finally got my phone number and used to call me when they came in. I would run up and get them. I had a collection of about over seventy-five songs, when I was about thirteen. “There was a record store on Fordham Road, Cousins, and the owner, Mr. Donatello, took a liking to me New York Times.

 

 
Blueswax: What year were you born?

 

 

 

Dion: I was born in thirty-nine. Just before it turned nineteen-forty.

 

 

 

Blueswax: The thing is you were buying and listening to Hank Williams records while he was still alive.

 

 

 

Dion: I was totally into Hank Williams by the time that he died. When was that?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Fifty two or three.

 

 

 

Dion: I would sing in the neighborhood, and I’d carry the guitar everywhere.

 

 

 

Blueswax: What was your first paying gig?

 

 

 

Dion: I wouldn’t say that it was like a check at the end of the week (light laughter). My uncles would take me to a night club in the Bronx, called Armondo’s, on a Saturday night, late, and I would sing these songs, and the people loved me. When the cops came around they would hide me in the kitchen and the Armondo Brothers who owned that night club, gave me twenty dollars. I mean I would get tips, but he would hand me a twenty dollar bill, and that was like more than half the rent that my mother was arguing with my father about every day. We were paying thirty-six dollars a month rent.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I remember reading about how you didn’t take the plane with Buddy Holly because you didn’t want to spend the thirty-five dollars.

 

 

 

Dion: Exactly. My mind didn’t stretch to accept things like that at the time. It seemed absurd. He was trying to recruit people, because we were going to charter the plane. I said, Buddy, that’s a month rent. Of course, the more people you got on the plane the less it would cost.

 

 

 

Blueswax: The extra weight is probably what did it in anyway.

 

 
Dion: No! You want to know what did it! The pilot flew the plane right into the ground. At night when it’s snowing, and you don’t know how to read the instruments, you could be on a slight slant towards the ground, where you think it’s level, and eventually you drive it right into the ground. It’s kind of like what JFK Jr. did. He didn’t understand how to read the instruments. You think you’re level, and sometimes you’re not, because up there you don’t know. You have to be level to keep that thing flying. If you think you’re level and you’re not, you go the wrong way you could put the plane in a spin, and you’re in the fog.

 

 

 

Blueswax: So the fatal Winter tour pilot was inexperience?

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah. He was a new pilot.

 

 

 

Blueswax: When the British invasion first happened and kind of put an end to the reign of American Rock & Roll, what did you think about that?

 

 

 

Dion: I was five years into a career that was kind of a whirlwind, and I was kind of woodshedding at the time, and listening to different stuff myself. I was hanging out in the Village with Richie Havens, and John Sebastion. Dylan was down there at the time. I was at Columbia records, and was the first rock & roller signed to Columbia Records. I knew something was changing, but I didn’t look at it so much like a business. It almost seemed more like I embraced it as like an artist. I know now that I did, but it was a little frustrating, because of the adulation and the high profile that you have with hit records and being a star, which I was at the top of my profession. So some frustrations come with that, but I was like really into the music. I would hang out in the Village. I got a place in the Village and I would hang out with Tim Hardin, and learned how to finger pick. When I learned that, I put out Abraham, Martin and Jonn, because that was the kind of folk/blues ground, that it came out of. A lot of people don’t know that. They just think you made a record. They don’t see the cause, or the deposits that you’ve been making in the bank when you buy the house.

 

 

 

Another thing that I wanted to know your views about is the period of the 1960’s, especially from a 21st century point of view. How do you see it today?

 

 

 

Dion: With all the drugs and the sex revolution, and all that kind of stuff? I don’t see that as freedom anymore, at all. It was so surface. In fact I was talking to my wife about it, because I’ve been married for forty-two years. I’ve known Susan for like fifty years. But I was saying, you know, I never learned this in the Bronx. I never learned what John Paul taught about the theology of the body, because Christ came in the flesh, and how sacred and the beauty of life, and how to see a woman, and what covenant is, self donation. It’s not a contract to be taken lightly. So the way I see it is that the music was fabulous. The expression. There were so many good things, but like I said, it was like an honest cry of desperation. I think deep down it was on the wrong premise. How do you see it?

 

 

 

Dion: Oh boy, but you had Timothy Leary leading them with Hugh Hefner. I think that it was very mixed, because some of the masks that people were wearing, maybe in the fifties…, or they were trying to rip those down. I think some good stuff came out of it, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that it was all negative, but on the most part, I wouldn’t want to go back there. Like they say, if you remember the sixties you really weren’t there.

 

 

 

Blueswax: When Abraham, Martin and John came out, I loved it, but at the same time, it was kind of like Ruby Baby. All of a sudden I go, what happened? How did this happen? Where did this come from? It was out of the Blue to me, because I was used to doing acoustic message oriented music. To me it was out of the blue, but it was right in step with the times.

 

 
Dion: The funny part about it. It’s really funny. I’m doing a showcase on this album in New York, so I was like, I got the guitar, and I was thinking about what strings to put on it, and how I’m going to do this, and I’m running over some songs. Now if you sat in the house with me, in my studio, and I sang Abraham, Martin and John, and I sang, I Let My Baby Do That, and then I sang Ruby Baby, it sounds like Dion music. It’s seamless, the blues, it seems seamless. It’s just the production and the window trimmings that sound very different. I did an album with Phil Spector, and I went from that album to doing an album with Michael Omartian, and Steve Barry, and it sounded like two different people, but if I sang songs off both those albums, it would just be like Dion music. It’s funny. I tried different stuff. When some producers wanted to produce me I said yeah, let’s go. So I sang over what some of them were doing. Some of them I had a hand in creating some of the stuff. Especially the early stuff. I did it all.

 

 

 

Blueswax: What connection do you see between Blues and Gospel?

 

 

 

Dion: A lot of Blues music seems like it’s moving away from God, or the center, and Gospel music is moving towards it. It’s embracing a higher reality. When you look a little closer, the way that I define it or explain it, is that the Blues is the naked cry of the human heart, apart from God. People are searching for union with God. They’re searching to be home. There’s something in people that seek this union with their creator. Why am I here? Where am I going? What’s it all about? Who am I? All this kind of stuff, but the Blues is a beautiful art form. It’s incredible that you could express such a wide range of feelings. You could use it to sell hamburgers or cars, or to cry out in sorrow, or joy. You could express yourself totally within the Blues. So there’s some kind of connection, but if you ask me exactly what it is, I think that it all comes out of the same place, so to speak. What do you think?

 

 

 

Blueswax: I have a friend who wrote a book about Gospel Music and it’s roots. His name is Robert Darden, and the book title is “People Get Ready – A New History Of Black Gospel Music”. In it he traces the music back to it’s African roots and presents verifiable evidence that demonstrates how the music evolved over a five hundred year period. It was always spiritual, even when it dealt with the mundane and ordinary aspects of life. The actual differentiation that we see today didn’t start come about until after the Civil War. Many Blues artists also play Gospel, and some songs even have interchangeable lyrics depending on the context. Sometimes Blues artists would begin the concert with a Gospel song, which was explained to me as giving one to the Lord. It was like the first fruits, or tithe, and through it the entire concert was dedicated to the Lord.

 

 

 

Dion: That’s the human experience. I was talking to my priest the other day, and I said, what do you think of this music? And he said, well you’d have to be comfortable singing it in front of the Lord. I said, I’m uncomfortable playing it for you, what do you mean singing in front of the Lord (laughter). I approach it like an art form to capture it, with integrity. To be authentic in it, and not approach it with any agenda. Because we all get the blues. You don’t have to be walking on the streets of Mississippi in the thirties to have the blues. Although that will help. We’ve all felt betrayed and abandoned. It’s all part of the human experience. I always say that it’s the naked cry of the human heart apart from God, because we lost that connection in the garden. People sometimes don’t know it, but they’re looking, and sometimes it comes out in sexual metaphors. I think that the higher reality of it is that everyone is looking to get there, get that connection. I love it. For some reason I guess when I first heard this kind of music, it did something to me. I wrote a song called, Born To Cry, when I was about sixteen. When I look back on that song, in fact the group called “The Hives” do it. They end their concert with it on a couple of videos. They’re a popular group now. What inspired me to write it was that I was in a synagogue, so I heard a guy cantoring. You know going, criiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie….. So I wrote this song called Born To Cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, doing like a cantor. The last verse goes, “I know someday, and maybe soon, the master will call, and I’ll tell you something, I won’t cry at all. Until it happens friends I’ll sail with the tide, and I know that I was born to cry.” It’s like I’m a sixteen year old kid, and I wasn’t writing about cars or girls, but I was talking about the world we’re living in. What I was seeing. When I look back on it I go, wow, where was I?

 

 

 

Blueswax: That is very heavy for a sixteen year old.

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah, even back then you feel that pull, that urging to either fight it, or embrace it. To move towards it, or move away from it, but it shows you that there’s a center. If you’re moving away from it, or moving towards it, at least you know that there’s a center. Both prove there is a God. So that’s what I see in it, and some of the Blues artists have a hard time singing this, so that sometimes they give it up and they start doing Gospel music. Which I did, I had about five Gospel albums out.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I remember when you did. It was another change.

 

 

 

Dion: Music tided me over, in a lot of cases, where was just like a prayer. It pulled me forward and upward. It soothed my soul.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’d like you to talk a little about the instruments that you used on “Bronx In Blue”. Why did you use an acoustic guitar on all the songs, and no electric?

 

 

 

Dion: I don’t know. I just brought a couple of guitars to the studio, and I ended up doing all the songs with those particular guitars. You know what it is about an acoustic instrument? When it’s sitting on your knee, or on your lap, it plays into your gut, and an electric guitar doesn’t, it comes out of a speaker. An acoustic guitar makes your whole body resonate. To do some of these songs, I think that the acoustic guitar works better for them. I play a telecaster when I do my shows.

 

 

 

Blueswax: When are you going to be doing some shows.

 

 
Dion: I’m doing a “House Of Blues” on December 17, up in Atlantic City. I’m going to be showcasing this album in New York, on January 9, at Joe’s Pub, and another place that eludes me right now.

 

 

 

Blueswax: We have the second largest Blues Festival in the country here in Portland, Oregon, on the West Coast. You should come play here next summer.

 

 

 

Dion: That’s beautiful country, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Yeah, that’s why I live here.

 

 

 

Dion: Where are you from?

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan, but I lived in Los Angeles for eleven years before I came up here in the 1980’s.

 

 

 

Dion: Do you know Jack Hayford?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Yeah. He was President of the Bible College I graduated from, and is the denomination’s President today.

 

 

 

Dion: There’s a beautiful guy. I love listening to him. There’s a guy who can bridge it for you. It’s guys like that who were my foundation too. Remember Ogilvie, Swindell, Chuck Smith and all those guys. I went to Israel with Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie back in the early 80’s.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I used to go to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, where Smith was Pastor, for their concerts, back in the 70’s, when Jesus Rock was just beginning there. The church that I was involved in from 1971 – 1980 was first pastored by one of Smith’s friends, and we’d bring speakers and musicians from Calvary Chapel for services.

 

 

 

Dion: Wow! You were there in seventy-one?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Yeah. I moved out to L.A. in June 1971.

 

 

 

Dion: When did you first embrace Christianity?

 

 

 

Blueswax: The week after I first moved to L.A..

 

 

 

Dion: So you know Greg Laurie.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I’ve heard him speak, but I’ve never met him.

 

 

 

Dion: He’s a good friend. Also Richie Furray, who became a Calvary Chapel Pastor, is a good friend of mine, up in Boulder, Colorado.

 

 
Blueswax: Yeah, he started putting out Jesus Rock albums, after leaving “Poco”, the group he helped form after “Buffalo Springfield”.

 

 

 

Dion: I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for Calvary Chapel. It was a real blessing the way that Chuck taught, and still does.

 

 

 

Blueswax: A lot of the musicians had a lot of influence as well. Did you know Chuck Girard, who had a group called “Love Song” back then?

 

 

 

Dion: I dont know him too well, but I’m going to mention some people that I know down there. There was Michelle Pollard, Kelly Willard, Bob Bennett, and many others.

 

 

 

Blueswax: I remember Kelly Willard. Did you know Tom Stipe? He used to lead the Saturday Night concerts at Calvary Chapel.

 

 

 

Dion: Yeah, but not well. You really stepped into it when you asked me what does it mean in my life. You can see how passionate I am about it. I just love the church, and I love the people in it. It’s changed my whole world view. I’m sure that you would agree with this that it gives you a sense of peace, in spite of everything. Life is tough sometimes. It throws you left’s and right’s, but at least somewhere down in you, you never have to doubt that you’re connected. Do you know what I’m talking about?

 

 

 

Blueswax: Hey! We’re supposed to be the one’s asking the questions. Let’s talk a little about the Blues again.

 

 

 

Dion: A lot of artists, they die, never coming to the knowledge of the truth, or they die never appropriating, or understanding their own message. They’re trying to preach truth and freedom, which rock & rollers pride themselves on. We’re all about, hey, I got the truth, and we’re all free. Turn up the amps.

 

 

 

Blueswax: That’s like U2 singing about three chords and the truth.

 

 

 

Dion: He’s pretty cool, Bono. He’s got a good foundation. He’s a believer.

 

 

 

Blueswax: He does a lot of good with helping to relieve the third world’s debt load to the industrialized West. Another thing that I wanted to know your views about is the period of the 1960’s, especially from a 21st century point of view. How do you see it today?

 

 

 

Dion: With all the drugs and the sex revolution, and all that kind of stuff? I don’t see that as freedom anymore, at all. It was so surface. In fact I was talking to my wife about it, because I’ve been married for forty-two years. I’ve known Susan for like fifty years. But I was saying, you know, I never learned this in the Bronx. I never learned what John Paul taught about the theology of the body, because Christ came in the flesh, and how sacred and the beauty of life, and how to see a woman, and what covenant is, self donation. It’s not a contract to be taken lightly. So the way I see it is that the music was fabulous. The expression. There were so many good things, but like I said, it was like an honest cry of desperation. I think deep down it was on the wrong premise. How do you see it?

 

 

 

Blueswax: I think that all the drugs, ideas, art, music and politics finally culminated in a tremendous interest in religion that the Jesus movement was part of. It was a religious revolution that swept us both up.

 

 
Dion: We were all hungry, but you and I really came into the banquet. We didn’t walk away with a pretzel and a soda.

 

 

 

Blueswax: When I look back on that time period I see searching and hunger, but I also see a lot of attempts to fill the void. Take Woodstock as an example. It was thoroughly documented, and the film is a record of the peak of all that energy. I like to watch the movie every so many years, because each time I see it, I look at it differently. I see something brand new, especially when I watch it with my kids. I begin to see how this transition period, where we become adults includes our searching for spiritual answers. So we have a record of this search, for the baby boomer generation, with all these people in the film searching. They were looking for answers.

 

 

 

Dion: I have kind of a like a very joyous feeling down inside me, that I could participate in passing on, or pointing to the guys who blessed my life so much. Like Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Hank Williams, and Jimmy Reed, who were the cause for me getting into this business, and loving music, and moving me and stirring me, and learning about life just listening to them. Just listening to their songs, like Hank Williams. As a ten year old listening to Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw, or The Funeral, or The Pictures From Life’s Other Side. I feel very joyful that I could be part of passing that on in some small way in the chain, and saying these guys were great artists, and gifted, without judging, because I didn’t know them. I never met a lot of them, I just listened to their records, you know? They were the masters, and the foundation for a lot of the music that we listened to, and they grabbed it right out of the air. I feel like I’m paying tribute in a way.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu2EBYyPns0

 

Blueswax: The thing that I found very interesting when I was reading Robert Dardens book on the History of Black Gospel Music, in relation to your comment about grabbing it out of the air, was really brought to home for me, when I was watching Martin Scorsesee’s Blues series on PBS. In them both, the roots of Black music are traced back to their source in Africa. Many of the riffs that we associate with Blues or Gospel are in actuality ancient folk melodies. The lyrics and song structures have evolved, but they are still identifiable in the villages that they originated from. So the slaves were playing their music, and it evolved over five-hundred years into today’s Blues, Gospel, jazz and even rock & roll.

 

 

 

Dion: Something very strange happened to me, just this week. I gave a girl all the lyrics that I sang, because I hand wrote them to remember, and I said could you print these up for me. When she faxed them back to me, she said, Dion, what you’re singing isn’t on these sheets. She said, like look at Crossroads. What are you singing? Some of them I just blew up the lyrics on a copier, like from the Robert Johnson album. She said, you’re not singing anything on here. I sang a couple of verses, but I didn’t realize that I’m so used to improvising over the years that I was writing verses and putting stuff in it. Especially with Crossroads. In fact if you go on the “Bronx In Blue” website, there is a painting I did of Robert Johnson, it’s life size. It’s sitting in my den. It’s on there. I explored the spiritual aspect of that song, because he does say that I’m going to the crossroads and I fall down on my knees, and I ask the Lord above have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please. So I said, there’s this whole myth about him selling his soul to the devil, but the crossroads is kind of a mystery.

 

 
Blueswax: As I was listening to “Bronx In Blue” the first time, and your version of Crossroads came on, I didn’t recognize it. Then I realized what it was, and as I asked myself why it sounded different, I realized that it was because it was a different version than what I’m used to hearing. The song is usually sung as a cry of pain. Your version was sung more like a Gospel song than Blues, but that’s just my opinion, and others may disagree. It wasn’t just the lyrics, but the way that you played it.

 

 

 

Dion: That’s interesting that you said that, because I need to hear that from you, because I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. It’s interesting to hear feedback from the ears that it falls on.

 

 

 

Blueswax: To me it sounds different than the other versions of Crossroads that I’ve heard over the years. It doesn’t express the same kind of pain that the other ones do. If I listen to “Creams” crossroads as an example I can see a pact being made with the devil, but when I listen to yours I hear a prayer being lifted up to the Lord. The same emotion is expressed, but the direction is changed. It would make a good song to play during an alter call, where people are coming forward to give their lives to God. To me it’s a different version of the song, not only in the lyric changes, but in the actual strumming of the guitar.

 

 

 

Dion: That’s interesting that you see it that way. I just thought of myself playing crossroads. I never thought anything more of it. Maybe it comes out a certain way, because of who we are. Just like the way that things come out when you write. It’s like there’s an unwritten verse, and that’s you. It’s like the person doing it. It’s like the invisible verse.

 

 

 

Blueswax: You made the song yours. It was natural to do what you did. You didn’t have to force anything. It just flowed out of your spirit.

 

 

 

Dion: But it’s funny, you sit in a room with a guitar and you know the song chorus and you start playing it. You’re not listening to anybody to do it, you’re just doing it. So you go into a studio and you do it. I don’t remember the “Creams” version actually, I really don’t, and I don’t remember Robert Johnson’s. I met a guy from Acoustic magazine and he said, “you don’t do that thing that Robert Johnson does. He does that – ‘dhown, dhown’, on the guitar”, and I said, I guess not. But I don’t remember it. But it’s a great song, and a great song is a great song. Everyday we’re at the crossroads making decisions.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Are there any of the new artists that you listen to that are part of the new music out there?

 

 
Dion: I do listen to Sheryl Crow. I’ve gotten to the point now that I’m buying a lot of old albums. Like I’m going back. I used to stay up with the young groups. All the two guitars, bass and drum groups. Like “Little Steven and the Underground Garage” but I’ve stopped, in a sense. Maybe that’s why this album is part of where I’m at. Like revisiting, and taking a trip through my life, and seeing all the music that influenced me. I always very much a Bob Dylan fan. I thought that he was a great writer. Some of the people that love Blues like I love Blues, like John Hammond and Rory Block, I’m friends with them. I like listening to Buddy Guy, and I went up to see Delbert McClinton the other night, and Springsteen a couple of weeks ago. Little Steven used to play in my band, we go way back.

 

 

 

Blueswax: What time period was that?

 

 

 

Dion: In the seventies he was with me.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Was it just before the Gospel albums?

 

 

 

Dion: Actually just before that, and after that, and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve been friends since the early seventies, I’d say. But I kind of went back to my roots and pulled out all my Blues CD’s and bought some new one’s. So I’ve been listening to that. I’ve been listening to all the stuff that I grew up on, and it’s kind of like, hey I remember this. It’s kind of nice to revisit, you know. So I’ve been doing that lately.

 

 

 

Blueswax: Do you like any rap music?

 

 

 

Dion: I listen a guy like M&M and I know he’s talented, and I hear what they’re talking about, maybe I don’t get it, but I know something is going on there. It’s not fake. You know what I mean? I can appreciate it, but I don’t have to know how to do it. Like a lot of Jazz artists that I listen to. Basically I’ve always loved Blues, Rock & Roll and Country, and everything in that area. I’ve always loved music that I knew there was a person behind the lyric. Somebody that was expressing something. It could be all kinds of people and all different approaches, but there was a person behind the music. Like Merle Haggard and Joan Baez, even though they were so different, I knew somebody was saying something there. Maybe singer songwriters, because of the sixties. I’ve always appreciated Jackson Brown and Bob Seeger. I mean, even though they were like grandchildren to me.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj6EndhnGKM

 

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12 May

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The Convoluted Path Part Twenty-Four

12 May

Tony Jaimes stomping David Smith R r

In the summer of 1977 when I was working as a youth minister at HPNC when summer camp came around a few of the high school students from the church went and I was their chaperone and counselor. When we arrived at camp Cedar Crest in the mountains, we were assigned to a cabin that already had over a dozen teenagers we didn’t know from South /Central Los Angeles that were rowdy and wild. I was the cabin counselor that was in charge and responsible for everyone. My group was well behaved and followed the rules, but the South Central teens violated every rule in some way or another, so I was exasperated. That night after lights out I fell asleep and being a sound sleeper didn’t wake up when the rowdy group left the cabin to pull pranks on the other cabins. The next morning the head counselor came to our cabin and told me what had happened, but what could I do other than verbally reprimanding them or suggesting that they could be expelled from the camp?

 

 
After I lectured them about obedience and the importance of following rules and quoted Bible passages for a few minutes, we all went to breakfast together. When we arrived at the mess hall every eye turned to look at us as we walked in. I felt the critical eyes of all the other counselors on me, until one of the counselors made a comment about the late arrival of the night prowlers because they were sleeping in. I felt embarrassed and ate my pancakes in silence, with all my charges sitting at the same table with me. What shocked me was the fact that the teens from South Central weren’t embarrassed but joked about it.

 

 
During breakfast the schedule for the day was announced and the big event for the afternoon was a cross country three mile long foot race. Since I regularly ran three to five miles at the time and had my running shoes with me, I decided to sign up. Only four guys signed up, including me and two of them had run in many 10K races and the other was a high school track athlete. At around 2:00 PM the race began and all four of us took off. I normally ran a seven minute mile, but the excitement of the competition made my adrenaline kick in and I was trying to keep up with everyone, when we hit the one mile mark and the time was called it was under six minutes. I realized that I had to slow down if I wanted to finish, so I cut back, but then one of the 10K runners dropped out because he tore open a blister on the sole of his foot. By the second mile I was down to nearly eight minutes and was huffing and puffing. I didn’t take into account the elevation and we were at over six-thousand feet above the L.A. basin.

 

 
About a minute into the third mile I passed the high school track athlete, who said that he was quitting because he was hyperventilating, so now there were only two of us. The path that we ran wasn’t completely level and when I hit an upgrade I wanted to quit, but forced myself to hobble up, as I was breathlessly panting with sweat pouring down my face and blinding me. Then some people who were watching from the sidelines began to tell me to quit because the other runner already finished and it didn’t matter, but I was determined to go the distance. By the time I was in sight of the finish line my muscles were cramping and I was having a hard time breathing as I struggled to continue. By standers were starting to cheer me on and all the guys from my cabin were screaming “you can do it,” as I staggered across the finish line over five minutes after the winner. I didn’t care that I didn’t come in first because I never intended to win. I only did it to get my daily exercise in and get my mind off my juvenile delinquent cabin.

 

 
As the day progressed I noticed a change in the attitude and demeanor of my South Central contingent. They no longer cracked jokes and tried to act cool, but were acting serious and when dinner time came around they all followed after me into the mess hall, where we all sat at the same table together. After dinner they had an awards presentation for the cross country race and I was presented with a ribbon for second place. To me it was no big deal, but to the kids in my cabin it made me their hero and they became model campers for the remainder of the week. At the chapel service on the final night at camp everyone who wanted to was given an opportunity to share what spiritual lessons they learned over the course of the week. The ringleader of the South Central kids stood up and began to pour his heart out about how he was sorry for the way that they behaved when they first arrived and all the other boys said amen. Then he explained that he learned that it takes more courage to be a good man than it does to be a bad one.

 

 
After the meeting was over, it was after 10:00 pm and everyone went to their cabin’s to go to bed for the night. When we got back to our barracks we all got ready for bed and turned out the lights. Then for the next two hours we talked about what Jesus did for us and what we wanted to do for God.

 

 
When classes resumed at LIFE in August I was a senior and after having Greek I with Gary Matsdorf my sophomore year and Hebrew in my junior year with Sam Middlebrook I now had Greek II with Dr. Walkem. I mentioned earlier that Dr. Walkum was retired and only taught this one class. He was genius and the saying “he forgot more than you’ll ever know” applied to him. However he was frail and had a pacemaker and sometimes to save energy would play a tape of himself giving a lecture in the past on whatever the information was from parsing a verb to declining a noun.

 

 
As I said earlier I struggled to get a “B” in my previous Greek class and halfway through the quarter of this one I was frustrated because it seemed that even though I was averaging a “B” I wasn’t understanding the information and Dr. Walkum, bless his heart” wasn’t helping. One day when he began class he pulled out a tape and turned on the recorder and we told him that it was the same tape he played the last class. He told us that we needed to hear it again anyway and I decided that I had enough. Because I was going to school full time, with a job at the church and two small children and a wife it gave me little time to do other things.

 

 
I decided that if I dropped Greek it would free up fifteen hours of study time a week which would eliminate a lot of pressure. So I went to go talk to Sam Middlebrook about it because as I said earlier he became an important advisor to me and he never tried to tell me what to do. He would simply ask questions to determine exactly why I was making that decision and then weigh the pros and cons.

 

 
Since I already had my language requirement fulfilled and would have more than enough credits to graduate I didn’t need the class. However, since someone just dropped the class last week, there were only three of us left which would upset Dr. Walkum. So I was torn between dropping the class to gain fifteen hours of free time and hurting Dr. Walkum’s feelings. Sam refused to indicate his feelings about the decision but he said that I needed to do what was best for my family.

 

 
When I told Dr. Walkum my decision to drop the class he was visibly upset and asked why, since I had a B average so far. I told him that it was to free up time so I could spend it with my wife and two children and he seemed to understand but was still upset. After that it felt like a load had been taken off my back and now I could run full blast. With the free time I now had I was able to spend more time doing things with Kathy and the kids. We always went to the L.A. County Fair which was as big as the Michigan State Fair along with Huntington Beach which was our favorite one.

 

 
Part of our graduation requirements were involvement of some kind with an outreach ministry at your home church. At HPNC it has always been the multi-media ministry for me and even Cindy Kelso when she was a student and George Shearer until he graduated in 1977. It was last Fall that we were showing our newest multi-media presentation. It was half an hour long and had three slide projectors along with a movie projector and taped soundtrack with narration. It used both current secular top 40 radio hits along with Jesus rock and concluded with a call to follow Christ.

 

 
One Sunday afternoon George Shearer who was doing our booking at the time scheduled a showing at the “Boys Optimist Home” over on Figueroa Street. We arrived around 2:00 PM and were supposed to do our presentation at around 3:00 PM. The Optimist Home is a halfway house for boys that got out of juvenile confinement and are awaiting full release. After we reported to the security office George and I began to look around the grounds to invite the audience while the other members set up the equipment in the auditorium.

 

 
Most of the boys left for the weekend but many of the ones left were in the gym either lifting weights or playing basketball. When we walked into the gym there were about fifteen boys playing basketball, lifting weights and standing around. One of the boys who appeared to have some influence finished doing a bench press with 150 lb. on the barbell. I asked him if that was his max and he proudly said that it was and wanted to know what we wanted.

 

 
I told him that we were going to be showing a multi-media slide show about the possibilities of a spiritual life. He scoffed and said that he and his friends weren’t interested in religion. Rather than arguing with him or trying to convince him I asked him if he minded if I did some reps on the bench. He grinned and said be my guest as I lay down under the bar and carefully placed my hands evenly apart before I lifted the bar with 150 lb. off the stands and proceeded to do nearly twenty reps with it before I placed it back on the stands. After that I asked my dumbfounded audience if they were going to come see the slide show and everyone said yes and followed us over to the auditorium. I didn’t tell them that I’ve lifted weights for the past ten years and have benched 270 lb. and normally warm up with 145 lbs.

 

 
Over the years different people lived in the apartments on the west side of the church but it was always someone that attended HPNC. Throughout the 1970’s the apartments were occupied by Charlie Simons, Gary Herron, Dave Massarotti, Frank Ferante and Diana Hirter the church secretary. Diana lived by herself and the guys shared two apartments that looked like a disaster area with dirty and clean clothes strewn everywhere and dirty dishes piled in the sink along with empty bottles, cans and food containers piled on tables and counters. Eventually Tony and Greg Jaimes were living in one of the apartments and everyone would help out with multi-media projects by acting as models and actors for the slide shows that we were producing.