The Wit and Rhyme of John Prine

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“He’s got muscles in his head he’s never even used.”  John Prine
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The Anchor’s Chain

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The morning dawns
lightning strikes
and black sky,
we’re leaving now
to catch the tide.
hoisted sails
and fishing poles,
black coffee
and jelly rolls,
like mallard wings
we shed the rain
and leave behind
the anchor’s chain. Continue reading

Heroes

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     When I was ten years old, my father decided to move the old RCA Victor radio upstairs into my bedroom.   I should say our bedroom, since there were six of us kids out of nine still living at home.  The radio however, was placed next to the head of my bed where I could reach out and turn the station dial with my left hand.  Though the tuning was finicky, it was a powerful receiver.  On clear nights, at two or three in the morning, I could tune in a station out of Nashville, Tennessee.  My memory fails me as to the station’s call sign, but it seemed miraculous  to me that we could get a signal from such a great distance.  We lived a hundred miles south of the Mackinac Straits in Northern Michigan and I could still here the voice of WolfMan Jack.

     On those nights I was transported into a universe of heartfelt music created by Johnny Cash and June Carter, Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline, but most of all I found the music of Bob Dylan reaching into my soul and expanding my perceptions far beyond the farmhouse and the little community in which we resided.  It became a ritual in the wee hours of the night to catch a song like Blowin’ in the wind, Like a Rolling Stone, Masters of War or A hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.  These songs were so extraordinary to my ten year old self they gave me chills.  I was able to look at the world through Bob Dylan’s eyes.  What I saw scared, moved and inspired me.

     There are few lyricists that have ever matched the wit and vision of Mr. Dylan in the early sixties.  I have carried his words and visions through a lifetime.  They are words that will never grow old or die.  The establishment of his day hasn’t changed very much, they have only grown more sophisticated and deceitful.

     I had few real childhood heroes, but Bob Dylan fits the bill.  I hope generations to come will take the time to listen to the directness and honesty of his songs.  It took a cocky courage to say what he had to say in those treacherous days.  He was and still is a true troubadour.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

The QuickTurtle® Band, The 3 String Wheezer

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`      Howie Burn from CCB’s Radio Show “Tune In, Not Out” was scheduled to pick up the band at the airport.  The QuickTurtles had just left the Philippines and Howie was to meet them when they touched down in Seoul.  They had an interview set up at the restaurant in the hotel.

Unfortunately TBone was in one of his more meditative moods when they debarked.  He commandeered Howie to drop QT and Robbie off at the hotel and then directed Howie to head for the ocean minus a camera man.  Howie really didn’t mind, if he could get a few questions answered on the drive.  He could then write his article in the air-conditioned rental car while TBone traipsed around in the heat.

“I heard your new song, The Blue Guitar.”  Howie remarked.

“Creepy,” TBone replied as he looked out the window at Seoul.

When nothing further was offered, Howie plowed ahead.  “Are you having Alcohol issues, TBone?”

“See that pagoda with the green roof?” TBone asked, “I think that is the place QT and I ate the last time we were in town.  They have great Korean Barbecue.”

“You hungry?”  Howie asked.

“Not now.  I want to get to the beach and look for materials for this instrument that is rattling around in my head.”

“That song, TBone, are you doing okay?”

“Howie, I’m doing great.  It was just a song.  It was at the end of our tour.  We were stuck at the Limbo airport with nothing to do.  I wasn’t drinking or standing at urinals all night except in my imagination.  That’s what song writing is about.  We make it up.  We create something that’s not there.”

“Art imitates life,” Howie said.

“No, life imitates art,” TBone replied and set out to build an instrument that mimicked the chirp of the yellow birds that had been hanging around the hotel courtyard while the band was in Manilla.

TBone built what he dubbed “The 3 String Wheezer”.   After several aborted attempts he was able to pick the bird’s notes almost perfectly on it’s strings.  Now those damn birds keep showing up in strange hotels in places like Norway or Iceland.  Makes you want to chuck a handful of sunflower seeds just to appease them.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

The QuickTurtle® Band, My Blue Guitar

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Beneath fluorescent lights

in crowded terminals

nothing to do but drink

and piss in urinals

too many times too remember.

All the hotel rooms

and tasteless airport food.

Nothing to do but joke

and buck up to the rude

vibe of  Security.

I strum my blue guitar

and fiddle with a verse

to vocalize my angst

and rawness of my nerves.

“My name is TBone Ditty

older and akimbo

pretending that I’m witty

with my blue blue guitar.

I’m feelin awful shitty

but I sing from the heart.

On the road here in Limbo

I’m lookin none too pretty

but I sing and I shout

it’s a pill of a city

where my fans hang out.

My name is TBone Ditty

and I’m down for the count.”

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

The QuickTurtle™ Band

IMG_0033           The QuickTurtle Electric Bass

Built by the famed instrument maker and Stand Up Bassist of The QuickTurtle Band, TBone Ditty.  This bass made it’s first appearance in the initial recording of The Diagnostic Symptoms Blues.  It is now a part of Robbie Slades arsenal of instruments.  TBone built the bass at the St. Andrews Estuary while picnicking with QT Magnolia the band’s lead singer.

QT in a recent interview with Howie Burn from CCB Radio talked about TBone and his music making prowess.

“That was truly a glorious weekend,” QT recalls, “we had just finished our European Tour and needed to get out from under our road weariness.  We were having a nice little picnic when TBone spotted the bass’s soundboard calling out to him from a pile of sea strewn debris.  After a little more searching he had his little pile of gems all laid out on our blanket.  Not only did TBone build the bass right there on the spot, he wrote the lyrics to The Diagnostic Symptoms Blues after hearing from one of our fans that there was an epidemic of ADHD drugging of young QuickTurtles at his alma mater WestBank Elementary School.”

“Right into create mode!”  Howie exclaimed.

“It was.  We arranged and wrote the music that same day.  It was recorded the very next weekend.”

“I understand TBone builds all of his instruments by hand?”

“Yes he’s a naturalist.  He has great hands and an abundance of patience.  He also has a fabulous ear.  It’s a good thing because he needs it when it comes to me.”

“Thank you, QT.  Anything new on the horizon?”

“I’d just say, hold on to your toupee there Howie!”