“The Great Beyond Near” — Songs of Will T. Massey

for Glynda Cox

Glynda Cox

“One of the greatest moms of the Austin arts scene has died,” her 2008 Austin Chronicle obituary said. With partner Peg Miller, she ran the Chicago House, a coffeehouse-performance space known for hosting up & rising Austin musicians such as David Rodriguez, Jimmy LaFave, Bobby Bridger, Tish Hinojosa, Slaid Cleaves — and Will T. Massey. When Glynda died, Will co-hosted her memorial celebration w fellow musician, Betty Elders, where many stories were shared. Someone told of first meeting her, as she flashed her glorious smile, saying, “Hi, I’m Glynda — like the Good Witch.” Leaning in with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, she added, “But I’m still a witch.”

Miss you, Glynda.

These are some blues.
I heard the news
That a friend of mine was gone.
Peaceful in the night,
Her soul took flight
For the Great Beyond.

And I struggled to find
Peace of mind
But I only found more woe.
She was one of the best,
Apart from the rest,
And young when she had to go.

And for her, somehow,
I’m holding back a tear —
As I see her now
In the Great Beyond near.

They say I’m insane
And dismiss my brain,
But it only makes me write.
So many songs,
They say so long
Even though they think they’re right.

She never thought
I was slightly off,
And she taught me how to survive
In a cruel world of
Fleeting love,
And a short time of being alive.

And for her, somehow,
I’m holding back a tear —
As I see her now
In the Great Beyond near.

Life goes by like a summer breeze.
Love comes down to memories.
She was kind, like a cup of joe,
Free to drifters at an amateur show.

She’d say, “Be strong,
Even though it’s wrong
That the good times have to end.”
Nothing can touch
My heart too much
In the place of my dear friend.

She’d say, “Toughen up,”
And fill my cup
With coffee to make the night.
Braced against the blues,
With more to to lose,
From her I sense a fight.

And for her, somehow,
I’m holding back a tear —
As I see her now
In the Great Beyond near.

And for her, somehow,
I’m holding back a tear —
As I see her now
In the Great Beyond near.

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Some Summer Songs

Happy Summer Solstice!

This longest day of the year kicks off the summer season — officially. In places like Texas, of course, it’s already been summer for months, of course (part of why we moved to Colorado). With all that extra daylight today, I thought you might like some songs of summer to get the season rolling along.

Warning: geezer music alert.
Yes, these are all songs from my youth, the 60s (one from 1970) Even the Gershwin classic, Summertime, thanks to Janis Joplin recording the song in the late 60s. These songs filled the radio waves in the summers of my youth, so they will forever be linked to the season in my mind.

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer — Nat King Cole (1963)

Thanks again, Dad, for playing Nat King Cole around the house when I was growing up. This one in particular will always remind me of you.

 

Summer in the City — Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)

This song came pouring out of not just radios but suburban garages around America as 60s garage bands (like my brother’s first band, the Synz) practiced this summertime anthem.

Summertime Blues — The Who (1967)

The Who brought Eddie Cochran’s early rock classic to newer audiences, infusing it with infectious energy and making it their own in their electrifying live performances.

Hot Fun in the Summertime — Sly & the Family Stone (1969)

This one was all over the radio when it came out. Watch for a young Michael Jackson in the audience watching master performer Sly Stone win the audience and the summer itself.

 

In the Summertime — Mungo Jerry (1970)

Summer of 1970, this tune played damned near constantly — or so it seemed, sometimes. Good thing it was just catchy enough to get away with it.

 

Summertime — from “Porgy & Bess” (1935)

Yeah, you knew it was coming — this will always be THE Song of the Summer, every summer that any artist records or performs it again. George Gershwin wrote the score for the 1935 opera, Porgy & Bess, with lyrics  by husband & wife team of DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin.

Of course, since its first performance on stage in 1935, this beautiful song has been recorded many times by many different artists. Here’s some links to just a handful of performances of this American classic.

Ella Fitzgerald (1968)

Janis Joplin (1969)

Norah Jones (2002)

Kat Edmonson (2009)

Willie Nelson (2015)

Happy Solstice and Happy Summer to all!

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Twofer Tuesday — Death & Life a la Alan Watts

Alan Watts — philosopher, Zen Buddhist, Episcopalian priest, noted writer and speaker. His thoughts and insights permeated much of the consciousness of the 60’s counter-culture, popularizing Eastern philosophies in Western culture with his book, The Way of Zen, and radio programming dating back to the 50s on Berkeley’s KPFA, Pacifica radio,.

Here are 2 short videos adding visuals to some thoughts he recorded.

Life Is Not a Journey

One doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition…Same way, dancing — you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room, that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.

Acceptance of Death

It is not, therefore, natural for us to wish to prolong life indefinitely.
But we live in a culture where it has been rubbed into us, in every conceivable way, that to die is terrible thing — and that is a tremendous disease which our culture in particular suffers.

Alan Watts: "The meaning of life is just tobe alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet everyone rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.Thank you, Alan Watts, for sharing so many wonderful insights.

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Aging Ever Onward

Old manOnce upon a birthday, Granny sent me an oversized card that read on the front:

“It’s your birthday, so you’re a little older!”

Inside, it added:

“SO WHAT! So is everybody else!”

Thanks, Granny.

Welcome to the real world where we all age daily, but somehow “aging” issues impact mostly the, well, old. Here’s a few articles taking a closer look at aging and related issue.

This article offers a “blueprint” for courageous aging:

In other cultures, turning 60 is one of the most exciting times in life. We can bring together our experience and wisdom, our freedom from a need for approval or age-old insecurities that have held us back and inhibited our happiness.

Consider these 3 decisions to make about aging:

Sometimes, growing older feels like one loss after another. No longer being able to drive or stay in our own home is difficult to accept. If we feel we are forced into those decisions, it can be harder still.
Yet when we put off making the decisions ourselves, others are pressed to step in.

How some of our habits age us:

But rather than lament early crow’s feet or thinning hair, we decided to ask doctors what aging really is—what causes declining health over time—in the hopes of learning how we can slow down the unpleasant bits of growing older while enjoying the wisdom and greater clarity that often show up around the same time as your first gray hairs.
What we found out suggests that our lifestyles need to seriously change if we plan to keep a youthful look well into our golden years.

Seeking a cure for senior loneliness:

I wish the Surgeon General would issue this warning: “Caution: Loneliness and Social Isolation May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”
Yes, just like smoking, loneliness and social isolation are deadly.

50 influencers on aging issues:

These 50 advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older.

Meet Bill Thomas, the man willing to break the law to make a better nursing home:

(Washington Post) Thomas believes that Americans have bought so willingly into the idea of aging as something to be feared that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to isolation, loneliness and lack of autonomy.

Innovative senior housing ideas from Bill Thomas, Minka and MAGIC:

Senior living and care has evolved from the days when institutional nursing homes were the norm, thanks in part to Thomas’ work on the Eden Alternative and Green House models. But he believes that far more creativity is needed if the industry is going to meet consumer expectations and thrive as the baby boom generation ages

Aging in place” is the stated preference from most senior Americans — easy to speak of, not so easy to do.

Though we idealize independence, the reality is that family, neighborhoods, community, services and networks are the foundation underlying individual success at every age — including healthier, dignified and economical aging.
Community supports are necessary resources for self-reliance.

More advice on aging in place

It’s a very strange place to be longing to live long enough so that coping is a positive outcome. Everyone of us is still, somewhere, 16 and even through the thickest lens, the rest of the world looks and sounds just like it did 50 years ago.

But we are changing, 24/7/365. All of us.

Here’s to getting older — not everyone is so lucky.

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Gun at the Schoolhouse in 1901 Rural East Texas

G.M.C. "Cade" Massey

G.M.C. “Cade” Massey

Our guest blogger, my grandfather G.M.C. Massey, wrote 2 versions of many events. Here’s 2 renditions of a story concerning his younger brother defending himself against a school rival’s knife attack.

Back in the School-Year of 1901 & 1902, that was the first year after I had married and I was teaching at the GILBREATH school, That my brother next to me in age was still going to School at the Pleasant Grove “Ivanhoe high School”, and he was having some difficulty with another boy in the School; And was warned the day before that he had better come prepared for it the next day for it was coming to a head; So my brother just buckled an old pistol on himself (bulldog type or make) that he had traded for and had fixed it up so that he could operate it very well; knowing that the other fellow was larger than he was and he just wanted to be sure that he would have an equal chance; And at the dinner hour as they were upstairs, and the other boy beat him to the stairway, And preceded him down the stairs; And as my brother came down; the other Boy waylaid him at the turn of the stairs; and when my brother came to him, He had his knife out and grabbed the Brother to stab him, and my brother grabbed his right arm and held the Knife off till he could get his Gun; and he shot the other Boy before the boy could get his knife hand free enough to cut my brother at all; And then he knew that mother, and Father was gone to her Brother’s home over in Raines Co. to visit them, and he wanted to follow them up; And he wanted to see just what my parents wanted him to do; And the teachers wanted him to stay there at the School till the officers came and see just what they wanted him to do; But my brother told them that His parents were not at home; and he had to see them before he was going to turn himself over to anybody; But they insisted that they were going to see to it that he stayed there; But the Boy told them that he was not going to submit himself to any one till he had conferred with his father; And that if anyone tried to stop him, That he would resist him to the point of using the rest of the bullets that was in his gun; And they let him go; And he went home; and got a horse and saddle; and followed them up; And when he got to my school, he told me the whole story; and I just dismissed my school early, and went with him to see the Father; and we overtook them just before they got to Lake-Fork Creek, And when Father heard the story through; He said that he could handle the trouble; and that I could go on back home, so that It wouldn’t be necessary for me to lose anytime for the school; And father was a good friend to the Sheriff; as well as to the deputy-Sheriff which was the brother to the Sheriff. So that night when the Deputy Sheriff came asking about the Boy; My Father had him stowed away over at my cousin’s place; and would not let the deputy have him till he promised him that he would not allow the Boy to be put in a cell till he (my father) had a chance to get down to Quitman; and arrange BOND for him, So that the boy would not have to be put in JAIL; And the Deputy kept the boy out with him and even slept with him till My father returned home and went down to Quitman and made Bail for him, and took him home, and sent him back to school; And when the Grand-Jury met; they failed to bill the boy on the accusation; And that was the end of the matter for all time.

But to show you how men may differ about a thing when they are both eye-witnesses to the same overt act; At the end of the week I was at Quitman; to cash a voucher for my month’s pay and ran across two of the eye-witnesses, one at a time, And one told me that it was a very serious charge; and that My brother would be apt to have to spend some time for the Offense; And another told me that it would amount to nothing, And that he expected, “No bill.”

**

Second version from Massey memoirs:

Another thing that happened there, But 2 years after I had graduated, And I was teaching School Near Yantis. My next Brother, Four years my junior, Was attacked by one of the pupils that he had been having trouble with, and with a knife, and in his desperation he used a pistol that he had put on; expecting that if the trouble did come to a head that he would not be altogether at his mercy. The boy survived, and the grand Jury no-billed my brother; But to show you how two people who knew all about the matter, and was eye witnesses to the shooting see so different. I’ll tell you how one witness told me that it was going to go mighty hard with my brother and he would not be surprised if my brother did not have to do some time, for it before he got out of it; And on the same day I talked with another eye witness that said that I need not lose any sleep over the matter as he did not tthink that the Grand Jury would bill my brother under the circumstances, And if they did; That there was not a jury in the county that would convict him when the Evidence was in.

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Inspirational, Insufferable — and, yet, Logical

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be, in silence.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, you may even heard a heavenly choir rising behind those spoken words in your memory. If you were alive in America in 1971, you would have been hard-pressed to avoid the cultural phenomenon of Desiderata.

Written in 1927 by Max Ehrman, the prose-poem remained largely unknown during his lifetime — used in an Episcopal collection of devotional materials and distributed to soldiers during World War II. It remained obscure until rights changed hands in 1967, when it began to spark notice for its inspirational message.

In late 1970, Les Crane released this recording, complete with choir.

 

Desiderata poster

Common 1970s dorm poster

This spoken word version gained widespread airplay across multiple radio formats, soaring to #8 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Ehrman’s inspirational poem started showing up in sermons, graduation speeches, and wedding vows across the land.

Posters went up everywhere, especially in university dorm rooms. Other performers released their own versions.

The song even went international, including popular versions in Spanish and German.

Inspirational as it is upon initial listening, like so many overplayed. radio hits, it suffered from massive overexposure, the sort that naturally provokes parody.

Enter the National Lampoon and the Detiorata.

 

Written by Tony Hendra and released on the National Lampoon Radio Dinner album, this got plenty of play at our college house, Thistle.

Detiorata posterWe were already huge National Lampoon fans, but this song captured the early 70s so perfectly, we played it again and again and again — especially if we had visitors who had not heard it. It practically became the Thistle theme song. We even put up one of the posters in our living room!

Hits come and hits go and parodies wear thin when the target loses popularity, so both versions — the “original” version and the “perversion” — had faded from my mind by the time we all left Thistle. National Lampoon moved on to produce the brilliant Woodstock-parody, Lemmings, on the way to making their major motion picture debut, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

Meanwhile, a couple from our second wave of Thistle roommates, Ace and his girlfriend, Cheryl, decided to get married. Ace asked Mac to be his Best Man, and since he couldn’t have two Best Men, we joked about me being Second Best Man (officially just another groomsman). Truthfully, both Mac & I felt this marriage was a seriously bad idea on Ace’s part, and considered refusing his request. Finally, after the two of us talked it over, though, we decided if our friend really was making a big mistake, all the more reason to stand by him.

At the altar, Ace was suitably nervous, nearly dropping the ring, and Mac and I were suitably serious, if not quite somber. We’re sneaking glances at each other, hoping for the best,  and we’re doing just fine right up to the point the minister starts the selected reading, saying, “Go placidly…”

We both nearly lost it right there.


I don’t remember what brought these two songs to mind last week, luring me down the rabbit-hole of the internet. I verified the background of the poem & recordings, found videos of both, and researched both songs. That’s when I discovered that the poem had actually made a couple of rather public appearances before Les Crane’s version. For one, the legendary Joan Crawford recited it after a TV interview with David Frost in January 1970. Even more intriguing though, was discovering a version titled, “Spock Thoughts.”

That’s right, Leonard Nimoy included this on his 1968 album, Two Sides of Spock.

 

One interesting note: this version, as well as some others, changes the start of the second-to-last line from “Be cheerful…” to “Be careful…”, both admirable admonitions. I suppose a Star Fleet officer should advise caution, but I suspect they just figured Spock saying “Be cheerful” might sound odd.

Whether you choose to channel Spock’s thoughts, Les Crane’s mega-hit or Hendra’s parody, rest assured that they all recommend that we:

“Go placidly…”

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“Cost of Living” — Lyrics of Will T. Massey

Another in a series of posts featuring the music and lyrics of Will T. Massey

Songwriters talk about writing a “rent-payer” when they pen a song popular enough to earn them royalties for years to come. This early song of Will’s impressed one listener of means to become a modern-day patron, supporting Will through all of his efforts and struggles — like in the song.

My papa slipped a twenty into my hand,
He told me, “There’s one thing ya gotta understand:
You live by the rules, you’ll find help at home —
You act like a fool, boy, you’re on your own.”
It’s a high price I pay,
The cost of living my own way.

Well, I’m a guitar picker and it’s hard to tell
If I’m bound for Heaven or I’m headed for Hell.
Believing in luck and dedication,
I gave up a college education.
It’s a high price I pay,
The cost of living my own way.

Now, I play the clubs from town to town,
I just make enough to get me around.
I’m living the life that I choose,
But I’m going broke paying my dues.

Well, the Devil came knocking, his intent
Was to trade my soul for last month’s rent
‘Cuz he knew I had nothing left to pawn.
I said, “Throw in dinner and buddy, you’re on.”
It’s a high price I pay,
The cost of living my own way.

Yeah, it’s a high price I pay,
The cost of living my own way.

Young Will T. Massey in a live performance at the ACTV studio, 1989
Directed by Sue Sende Cole, produced by David Cole

 

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