Goodbye Summer… Hello Autumn 🍁🍂

Remember boys and girls how, months ago, in a previous post about The Wonderful Tree Lady we told you that, if you were good, stayed safe and washed your hands, you might see more of The Wonderful Tree Lady’s adventures in future posts?

Well, it seems you’ve been good and, since we’ve just found out that The Wonderful Tree Lady has been at it again, we wanted you to share a few pictures with you of  some of the magic she sprinkled around to welcome Autumn in to our house.

The Autumn tree by day.

The Autumn tree by night.

 

It wouldn’t really be Autumn without a scarecrow now, would it?

A few goodies on the table.

The Wonderful Tree Lady has a good eye for design.

She likes pickup trucks, too!

Could some candy corn be hiding in that box?

Along with sharing these pictures with you, before she left, The Wonderful Tree Lady wanted to make sure we shared a warm Happy Autumn greeting from our house to yours.

Stay safe!

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B.B. King — The Thrill Ain’t Gone!

Riley “B.B.” King would have turned 95 on September 16th, 2020.

I’ve been thinking about him and, if you’ll indulge me, I thought I’d share a little of what’s been playing in my head.

In no particular order:

As a kid, I was aware of B.B. from the days when I lived on Chicago’s south side and, late at night, used to turn my radio to, sometimes distant, stations that played his music.  Now and then I would see a poster advertising a B.B. King appearance at Chicago’s legendary Regal Theater and would try to imagine what one of those shows would be like.  It wasn’t until 1965, when B.B.’s seminal “Live At The Regal” album was released, that I got to hear the reality and it was miles ahead of any fantasy I’d had.

B.B. King’s “Live At The Regal” album

To this day, every time I listen to that album, I just start smiling.  His interplay with Lucille and interaction with the audience is a defining “lightning in a bottle” moment that captures just how good B.B. was.

And, yes, he really was THAT good!

One year earlier, in 1964, the same year the Beatles took over the airwaves, it blew me away the first time I heard “Rock Me Baby” being played on WLS.  B.B. King being played on a really big deal Chicago radio station was, to my mind and ears, indeed, a big deal!

A decade later, I would be working at WLS and have the chance to meet and interview B.B. for our weekly artist profile show, “MusicPeople.”  My strongest memory of that interview is that B.B. couldn’t have been nicer. You know how sometimes you’re afraid to meet your idols because they won’t live up to your expectations? Well, B.B. far exceeded any expectations I had.  A large man with a large smile and warm personality quickly put me at ease and, even though I had a few notes in my pocket, helped make that interview seem much more like just a friendly conversation.  A copy of that interview is hiding somewhere in our audio archives and, one of these days, when it floats to the top of the pile, I’ll post the audio.

Thankfully, that first meeting turned into the first of many friendly conversations with B.B.

Years later, when I was at WIND and, years after that, when Johnnie and I segued to WGN radio, B.B. was nice enough to join us on several occasions.  It wasn’t unusual, even if he’d just finished a show or we’d been told by one of his P.R. people to keep it a short conversation, for B.B. to make it obvious that he was enjoying talking with us and was happy to stay longer.

Long time Chicagoans will remember the, now shuttered, Mill Run Theater, in Niles, IL.  This was a really nice “theater in the round” venue located in a near-north suburb of Chicago.  In 1972, when I heard the site had booked Ray Charles with B.B. King as his special guest, it became a “must see” event for me.

Mill Run stage bill for The Ray Charles show with B.B. King

Not surprisingly, it was a really memorable evening with the two blues legends.  B.B. opened the show and, with all due respect to Ray, who of course later in the show proved that he was the Genius, if B.B. had been the only act, the audience still would have felt they got more than their money’s worth.  Seeing, B.B. with Lucille and his incredibly tight band up close and personal brought back the smiles that accompanied my listening to “Live At The Regal” in the previous decade.  This was one of many nights when I’ve wondered, “Why do they call it the blues, when it makes you feel so good?”

Speaking of seeing B.B. live, one of my favorite videos that shows just how cool B.B. was is this one where he breaks a string on Lucille right in the middle of a song and just keeps singing while he changes the string.  Take a look.

Now, THAT’S cool!

I’ve mentioned Lucille and, on the off chance that any of you reading this don’t know who she is, I’ll explain that Lucille is the name B.B. gave to all of his guitars.  The name came about after B.B. ran back into a club that was on fire to retrieve his guitar.  He later found out that the fire was started during a fight over a girl named Lucille.  While Lucille took on various shapes early on, for most of his career, she was a Gibson ES-355.  I was more than a little pleased when I found out that was B.B.’s weapon of choice because that’s the same choice I made back in 1959 and she’s still my main guitar today.  In later years, B.B. played and endorsed a signature custom model that Gibson and Epiphone made specially for him.  One of the recent additions to my guitar family is the Epiphone version of Lucille and, while my 59 will always be my #1 guitar, I can easily see why B.B. loved her.

Doing a little “porch pickin'” with Lucille

Now, playing as well as B.B.?  Well … I can dream.

But, speaking of real players, my long-time friend and former guitar partner back in the late 50s and early 60s, Kal David, who also carved out quite a legendary career, including being recognized as one of the world’s best blues guitarist himself, credits B.B. as having been his first idol.  Kal and the wonderful Miss Lauri Bono were scheduled to open for him when B.B. fell ill during a performance at the House of Blues, in Chicago and had to cancel the final shows of, what turned out to be, B.B.’s final tour.

At the beginning of this missive, I said that’ I’d been thinking about B.B. and just wanted to share a little of what’s been playing in my head.  Well, I have and that’s it … for now.  But, I can assure you that lots of B.B. will continue playing in my head and lots of other locations throughout the universe for a long, long time.

The song may say “The Thrill Is Gone,” but the soul of this man and his music lives on.

Steve

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2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport Road Test!

Our Video Road Test, of the 2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport is now posted on Consumer Guide Automotive’s Daily Drive website.

2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport

So, what did we think of this compact premium SUV?

Just click on this link to take a ride with us and see for yourself.

And don’t forget, if you want to check some of our previous road tests and some of the other goodies we’ve been pouring into the Daily Drive tank, just point your browser right here.

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77!

Sunday, July 26, 2020, I (Steve) observed the completion of 77 turns around the sun.

In no particular order, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about that milestone.

This was the first time I’ve marked a birthday in the middle of a pandemic.  I won’t complain if it’s the last.

Johnnie makes the best birthday cake!

Johnnie’s gluten-free chocolate fudge layer cake with vanilla frosting!

Actually, anything Johnnie makes is the best!

2020’s pandemic party curtailed any in-person birthday party events and substituted video screen connecting.  I’m not one for big parties anyway, but I do look forward to the small gathering of family and friends that usually populates our patio.  One of the things getting together via video underscored was that while loved ones may not have been physically present, love was.

During a birthday video chat with a relative, who shall remain nameless, Johnnie and I learned that, if you’re holding your cell phone low enough and close enough to your nose, you can look just like Mr. Potato Head.

Now that I’ve put 77 turns around the sun behind me, I’m probably a bit more aware of the prevalence of ageism and it’s one of the many “isms” I won’t put up with.  But then, I felt the same way when I was 17.  I’m not sure if that means that I haven’t grown up or if it means more people need to.

One of the oft-repeated birthday questions is, “What would you tell your younger self?”  Other than a suggestion to avoid gluten, I don’t really know.  But, I am reasonably sure we’d have a good conversation.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is one thing I’d tell my younger self, “Believe it or not, you’re the guy who gets THE girl!”

I share a birth date and year with Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.  I suppose it’s possible he’s played in front of a few more people than I have but, I know, there is no way he loves making music more.

A little birthday weekend pickin’ on the patio.

Speaking of music, like many of you, COVID-19 and the resulting lifestyle change to “safer at home” along with some family health issues hit the pause button on several things I had planned for my 76th year.  One of them was finally finishing and releasing an album that I’d planned on calling “Spirit Of 76.’  Well, it’s still on the burner for year 77 (the album, not the title) but, if it doesn’t get finished in the next 12 months, the following year, I may have to go really old school … and release it as a 78.

As Johnnie said, “It’s not like any birthday we ever imagined, but we are together and healthy…the best gifts ever.”

And, in 2020, those gifts mean more than ever.

Stay safe.

Steve

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Throwback Thursday: WIND Radio

In a previous post, 1975, we mentioned that we’re going through our photo archives for our second book, tentatively titled “Life After Dark.”  Well, the archeological photo digs continue and we’ve unearthed a few from our days at WIND radio, in Chicago, so we thought we’d share them with the class.

In 1980 Steve interviewed The Village People and Producer Jacques Morali, who were in Chicago promoting the movie “Can’t Stop The Music.”

Steve with Producer, Jacques Morali, & The Village People

As you can see, there was a bit of a stir in the halls when Steve took Leatherman around to say hi.

Steve taking Leatherman (Glenn Hughes) around WIND.

In 1982, WIND did a special Saturday morning remote of Steve’s show and invited listeners to come down, see the broadcast and watch the sunrise at The Adler Planetarium. He invited the new kid, Johnnie, to come down, join the broadcast, and meet the listeners.

HimNHer getting to know each other.

Also joining the broadcast was another WIND personality, our “Night Crawler” friend, Ted Lauterbach.

Ted Lauterbach and Johnnie

It was a memorable morning that gave us a chance to hang out with a few hundred listeners who got up early and joined us for coffee, doughnuts and a great view.

Steve hoping he didn’t get the dreaded “headphone hair.”

All of these photos were taken before we even started dating and it’s kind of fun to look back on “the way we were.”  We hope you enjoy the occasional look into the wayback machine, too.

At this point, we’re probably, at least, a year away from finishing our second book, so don’t be surprised if, as we unearth more “treasures,” we share a few more of our discoveries with you.

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When life gives you lemons …

… make lemon cakes! (Better than Starbucks)

2 Lemon Loaves

Preheat oven to 350

Spray pans with Pam or grease one 9×5 loaf -bake 50-55 minutes

OR

2 med loaf -bake 35-45 min OR

4 small loaf pans-bake 30-35 min (muffin tins work too just adjust the baking time)

Mix all ingredients by hand. No mixer needed!

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 eggs at room temp

1 c sour cream or Greek yogurt

1/2 c vegetable or canola oil

2 TB lemon zest(about 1 lg lemon. Save the lemon to juice for the glaze)

2 TB lemon extract

1 1/2 cups flour (I use King Arthur’s Gluten Free or Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

And then …

Add the lemon zest to the cup of sugar. With a rubber spatula muddle

the zest flavoring into the sugar or use your fingers & rub the zest into the sugar turning it yellow

Add sour cream or yogurt. Mix well.

Add oil and extract. Mix well.

Add eggs. Mix well but, don’t overwork the batter.

Flour, baking powder and salt can be mixed together and slowly incorporate dry into wet ingredients.

Mix well

Bake according to pan sizes (Test center of loaf with toothpick for doneness).

Let cool

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

Add juice of the lemon that was zested. For extra zing you can add a tsp of lemon extract. Mix sugar and juice until it is pourable but, not too thin.  Add more sugar to thicken

When blended taste.

Too tart?  Add more sugar. Not zingy enough add more juice or extract(careful extract is strong).

Remove loaves from pan and pour the glaze over.

Enjoy!

Johnnie

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R.I.P Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels has been a part of the soundtrack of our lives for a long time.  In the days of our solo radio careers, Charlie’s records were regularly a part of our respective radio lives.

In fact, before radio was even thought to be a career option, one of the highlights of Johnnie’s college days was when she was on the stage crew for Charlie’s first performance at UT Martin.  Charlie’s performance of his song “The South’s Gonna Do It” brought down the house and remains one of Johnnie’s favorite live concert experiences ever!

Charlie Daniels’s career is the stuff of legends.  From having one of his first songs, “It Hurts Me,” recorded by Elvis Presley and recording 3 albums with Bob Dylan to his own recording success with hits such as “Uneasy Rider,” “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and many others, this Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum Grammy, CMA and ACM winning “Long Haired Country Boy” member of the Grand Ole Opry charted his own highly-celebrated path in music history.

We’re not sure exactly when we talked with Charlie for the first time.  We do know we were at WGN radio and it was a phone interview coinciding with the release of one of his albums.  Unlike some “first times” with well known artists, this first interview with Charlie felt very relaxed.  It was as if we had reconnected with an old friend.  Happily, that first interview turned into a genuine friendship that found Charlie joining us on the air anytime a new album, appearance or anything else gave us an excuse.

S&J with Charlie Daniels

One of our more memorable in-studio interviews with Charlie happened after one of his appearances in the Chicago area.  Charlie finished up his show and came right over to the Tribune Tower to join us on WGN.  During the interview we surprised him with a phone call from one of his idols.

A few years later, when he heard we were working on our book, “A Little More Les,” Charlie’s fingers quickly hit the computer to write about what happened that night.

Here’s what Charlie wrote:

Doing Steve and Johnnie’s radio show more closely resembled dropping by for a visit with friends than an interview stop.

The atmosphere was totally laid back, the conversation free flowing and unscripted and Johnnie was apt to have brought along some of her fabulous home made goodies to snack on and all in all it was a very enjoyable experience.

I didn’t realize until my second visit that Steve was a guitar player which opened up a whole new topic of conversation for the two of us, and as guitar players will we started discussing our favorite guitars and being the dyed in the wool Les Paul man I am, the conversation drifted around to the man himself and the amazing accomplishments he had made in music and electronics.

Right about then Steve pulled one on me that I would never forget and always remember as one of my favorite moments in radio. We took some phone calls and much to my amazement, I was speaking to Les Paul.

I must have come off as somewhat flabbergasted, but you have to realize that for me speaking to the great Les Paul was tantamount to an airplane pilot being able to speak to one of the Wright Brothers, this man had designed and developed the best electric guitar in the world, the one that I have played since I got to the point of affording one and here I was actually having a conversation with him.

And it didn’t end there, Les invited me to come by the Iridium Club in New York the next time I was in town and sit in with him.

You have to understand that there are thousands of guitar players around the world that would trade parts of their anatomy to stand on the same stage with the legendary Les Paul and I took him up on the invitation and spent a whole set jamming with him, an experience that goes into the top drawer of my musical memories.

Charlie Daniels & Les Paul (Photo courtesy of Christopher Lentz)

To say Steve and Johnnie are nice people is a total understatement and their making it possible for me to meet and jam with Les Paul will always be very special to me.

I love you folks,

 

 

As you can see in the photo, the looks on Charlie and Les’s faces are pure joy.  We were really happy to have played a part in bringing them together.

For many years, Charlie was a fixture on our New Year’s Eve shows.  It became part of his New Year’s celebration tradition and ours to start the new year with a call in from wherever he was performing.

Speaking of the holidays, we’ll never forget the year Charlie sent us a country ham for Christmas.  He sent it to us at WGN and when our morning man, Bob Collins, saw the ham we almost had to fight him for it.  Another favorite Charlie Daniels Christmas memory is the year that, in between his, already full, recording and touring schedules, Charlie somehow carved out enough time to do a special recording for us of a Christmas story that became one of our annual features on WGN radio.

We were stunned when we heard the news of Charlie’s passing.  But, as we write this, we’re comforted with the thought that Charlie is getting ready to rosin up his bow or grab his Les Paul guitar and take his place in one heck of a country-rock band.

We love you too, Charlie!

R.I.P.

Posted in Les Paul, Music, Partly Personal, R.I.P., Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cornbread Anyone?

Our family loves cornbread!  We like it with sauerkraut & wieners plus a side of fried taters!  Or, you might like chili or vegetable soup with the cornbread.  My Dad likes leftover cornbread crumbled with milk over it.  However you like it, here’s how it gets made in my kitchen.

Preheat oven to 400.
Oil/Pam a cast iron skillet, 8″ or 9″ cake pan or 12 muffin tins

-1 1/4 cup (Quaker)Yellow cornmeal
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour ( I use gluten free)
-2 to 4 TB sugar (Before I add eggs I taste the batter with 2 TB sugar & add more to sweeten)
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup milk (skim, 1%,2% or whole)
-2 lg eggs (beaten)
-1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix til blended & pour in pan.

Bake at 400–20 to 25 mins.

Cornbread Muffins

BTW, my favorite way to make this cornbread doesn’t require heating up the kitchen.

Add a splash more milk to thin the batter. Heat 1/2″ cooking oil in a skillet and pour out round corn cake fritters.

Let them sizzle til the edges look brown and like pancakes you see bubbles on top.

Flip, fry then remove to a plate with paper towels to sink up oil.

THE yummiest form of cornbread!

Johnnie

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Before & After

It’s been a while since we talked about … this.

How are you doing?

Really!  We’d like to know so, after you finish reading this post, please feel free to leave a comment.  This moment didn’t come with anything resembling a clear, readable, road map and we’d love to hear/read any navigation tips you have that may have helped make this journey a little easier for you.

As for us, while we try to go for an occasional walk around our neighborhood (with masks) we’re still, for the most part, staying “safer at home.”  Of course, we’re aware that some areas and businesses are easing restrictions and rush hour traffic is starting to become a thing again.  Not surprisingly, there are no shortage of opinions on how good or how bad an idea all of that is or how fast or how slow it should happen … if at all, at this point.

Loud though they may be from all corners, the only thing all of the opinions have made clear to us is that, for this country, at this time, this is not a “one size fits all” moment.

Obviously, we’re not doctors and we’re certainly not experts on this (Who is?!?!) and we’re just doing what we feel is right for us, right now.

For what it’s worth, we thought we’d share just a few random thoughts on things we miss from before and questions about what happens afterthis.  Your mileage may vary but, from our vantage point, here are some memorable objects still visible in our rear view mirror and some hazy, unclear, images on the horizon.

From Before, we miss …

Hugs!

Shaking hands!

Going for a walk without masks.

While walking, being able to stop and talk up close with neighbors.

Our dear neighbors of over 25 years who, sadly, died from the virus.

Getting caught up in the “in-person” adrenaline between artist and audience that creates a magical live performance at City Winery, in Chicago or Space, in Evanston, two of our favorite music venues in the Chicago area.

Experiencing the anticipation of an opening week movie as we critique all the trailers leading up to it in a darkened theater with Steve’s brother, Lee.

Getting a serious case of G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) and actually touching some of those magical things made of wood & steel while hanging out with Terry Straker and his talented staff at Guitar Works, in Evanston, Il.

Steve in his happy place with Steve Siculan & Terry Straker at Guitar Works

Regardless of how the game is going, marveling at the chemistry between Jason Benetti and Steve Stone as they broadcast Chicago White Sox games.

Enjoying the conversation and camaraderie while sitting at the bar of our favorite Outback restaurant.  It’s the closest thing to a “Cheers” bar we’ve ever seen.  Or, the instant warmth and hugs we get from Rosa and Luciano, owners of our favorite Italian restaurant, Da Luciano’s, in River Grove.

Having our, long-time, friends Gary & Sue over for an evening of … whatever.

Grocery shopping without “suiting up” with gloves, wipes and a list to make it a quick in and out of the store.

Sitting on our porch at our home in Panama City Beach.

Her & Him porchin’ in PCB

& After …

Will our new “normal” mean the loss of many of our favorite “mom & pop” small business?

Will our new “normal” include more of us permanently working from home?

Will we still be hesitant to get together?

Will we still be hesitant to get close?

Will we still be hesitant to hug?

Will we still … be hesitant?

Will we still BE together? (The collective “we,” not the two of us.  Trust us, we’re the one thing we’re sure of!)

So …

Well, there you have it, just a few of the things from our before and after lists.  We’d love to see what’s on yours.

Like you, we have many more questions and, depending on how long this continues, we may add to these random thoughts in future posts.

But, like you, we hope the after gets here sooner rather than later and that we’re all around and healthy as those hazy images clear up and give us some answers.

For now, feel some virtual, safe-distanced, elbow bumps from us.

Stay safe … and don’t forget to wash your hands!

HimNHer

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Hello Summer!

One of the good things about our “safer at home” staycation is having a lovely yard to spend time in.  Thanks to the already summer-like weather, the flowers in our yard are especially beautiful this year.

To celebrate the first day of Summer, we thought we’d invite you to take a stroll around our yard.  These are just a few of the flowers that are showing off.

Stargazer Lilly

The Stargazers are in bloom.

Knockout Rosebush

The Knockout Rosebush is … a Knockout!

Painted Petunias

These Petunia blossoms are the size of a quarter.

Climbing Rosebush

We call this the “Grandma” Rosebush because Steve’s Grandmother grew these.

Clematis

The Clematis will continue climbing through the Summer.

Sweet Daisies

These Sweet Daisies come back every year with no coaxing.

Bee snacking at the White Rose

Oh, and let us tell you ’bout the birds and the bees …

The sun peeks through our big Pine tree’s branches

… and the flowers and the trees.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll through our back yard.

Welcome Summer!

Johnnie

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