The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of

bigstarlightIn 1971, Alex Chilton and his friend Chris Bell formed a new band, Big Star. You geezers boomers will remember “The Letter,” inescapable on Top 40 radio in the late 60s. Chilton was the sixteen-year-old singer on that number-one record and the string of hits that followed for the Box Tops.

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Surreptitious Agriculture

MJfarmWay back when, a friend would occasionally stop by our apartment near the University of Oregon campus. He’d pull some marijuana out of his pocket, roll up a joint and share it with us. Everyone feeling relaxed, we’d make the purchase: twenty dollars for a baggie. It was all very friendly.

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A Hundred Years of Hot Dogs

I was not quite nineteen years old when I first visited New York City. I rode a bus from the Port Authority terminal to Staten Island, where my father’s WWII buddy lived. He put me up for the night before I met up with my friend who was to arrive the next day. My father’s friend and his teen-aged son took me on a brief tour of the city that evening. The highlight was Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island. He bought me a hot dog and a glass of beer. (The legal drinking age in New York at the time was eighteen.) I stood at an outside counter with my hot dog and beer. I felt pretty cool.

The story of Nathan Handwerker is pretty cool, too.


The End of the Strawberry As Some of Us Know It?

In my early teens I spent the early weeks of a few summers in the strawberry fields around Portland. I say early weeks because the berry’s season in Oregon is very short. In recent years the strawberry crop in Oregon has been shrinking, a victim of the flavor-intense ripe berry’s very short life and inability to travel far. Watsonville, California, meanwhile has been dramatically increasing its berry output. The California season is nearly year-round and the berries have a long shelf life. Oh yeah, not much flavor, either.

Gravenstein apples have suffered a similar fate in Sonoma County for similar reasons, with the additional pressure of vineyards taking over every patch of ground

Guitar That Changed the World

Scotty Moore died last week. He was 84 years old. He made history on July 5, 1954. On that date he recorded “That’s All Right” at Sam Phillips’s tiny Sun Studio in Memphis. Moore, accompanied by bass player Bill Black and singer/rhythm guitarist Elvis Presley, laid down the mind-shattering guitar licks on the recording that changed everything.

Keith Richards, who plays guitar in a popular band, once said, “When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was as plain as day. All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that. Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.”

Rolling Stone magazine’s Scotty Moore tribute.