Classic Book Review: On (And Off) The Bus With Country Legends

Front cover photo : Jarrett Gaza Photography. Cover by Left Coast Design, Portland, Oregon

I first read On the Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) on my Kindle a few years ago. I received the physical copy this past Christmas, along with his other writing An American Journey (the review can be found here in the archives), so I could have a copy to add to my other books of the Oaks.

This book is a more in depth commentary than An American Journey for fans that want to know what all goes on in the touring aspect of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. I do not want to use this review as a compare/contrast of the two books, but if anyone has read any of Bonsall’s writings, similar themes occur; a grateful man who give respect to his fellow members, his crew, and throws in many entertaining and humorous tales throughout the reading.

The writing is not a historical timeline, but filled with stories from the travels in the early days of the singing group in the gospel field to breaking into the country music genre, along with pop platform after the success of “Elvira.” Bonsall writes about how the band now views the business today, along with his take on new country acts , and how he feels about being considered the godfathers of country music (not in a godfather/mafia way).

Bonsall’s book tells about how he views his fellow singing partners Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban, along with the contributions each brings to the business side in running the band. The hands on approach that these four take in the group (from publicity to scheduling and beyond) makes the group even more impressive, as opposed to today’s acts who just show up , sing, and leave, while the managers handle everything else. The fact that The Oak Ridge Boys protect their product without compromising their American, wholesome, values is one reason why they are so endeared. I could possibly say the rock band KISS is the only other band that has such a direct path of how they want the band to be run, with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley at the helm.

The reason for the way The Oak Ridge Boys’ musical direction is so defined is covered in one of the chapters , which Bonsall calls the “ORB Doctrine,” of treating others right, including the venue management, and working with them from the first booking of the show to when the busses pulls out at the end of the night. The thankfulness and professionalism of the road crew, musicians, and the singers is nice to read in the writing, where many acts ignore that there are many people behind the scenes that make a concert happen, and Bonsall lists these people by name throughout the text; the past and present members who have worked with the Oaks’ organization.

As mentioned, there are many uplifting road tales as well, such as the time the Oaks were on a tour bus listening to George Jones sing a song he just finished writing before recording (which became a huge hit-no spoilers here), how their Christmas tours started, to how they met Paul Simon and other acts that the band sang backup for live or on albums. Bonsall also takes the reader through some of his favorite albums and concerts he has seen in his lifetime, the several U.S. Presidents they have met throughout the years , how the group picks out great songs and who sings lead on them , which is in a section that is mentioned as finding “three minutes of magic.”

One part I really enjoyed was when Bonsall writes about their love for baseball and how certain ballparks have been torn down, which reminds him of several memories of places they performed that are no longer there, including Salem, Ohio’s Ponderosa Park, which was not far from where I live (it was an smaller outdoor venue that most people never heard of). Bonsall describes having water gun fights with the crowd there. It’s cool to see a small venue near my hometown mentioned in a nationally released book. I never got to see them, or any show at Ponderosa; I had tickets for an Oaks show there when owners tried to revive the venue only to close it down before they could start shows. However the venue has historical memories for those in my area who attended shows there.

My respect and admiration for the Oak Ridge Boys have been well documented here, with many books , CDs, and concert reviews. They were one of the first musical acts I followed as a child in the early 1980s, and have learned much from studying their music, and their live show. Being a fan of many types of music, along with books (I have a B.A. in English), I suggest musicians to seek out this book to read, even if you are not a fan of the group. There are many tips and information that a future artist (or anyone in business) can take away from this writing. On top of it, you may even have a new respect for the group after reading this. I have read this book twice in the past three years or so, and still find it entertaining. Bonsall’s writing is down to earth, with short chapters, along with quotes from the other members and those that work with the group. Bonsall is a wonderful writer who is a proud American, who brings an honest, gratified approach to not only the success from the past , but a content attitude to where he is in the group, along with his role in life as an entertainer, family man, and follower of God.

Bonsall states at the end of the collection that his goal, along with the other members of the Oak Ridge Boys, is to leave the audience with “something meaningful you can apply to your life.” Not only on stage, but he achieves in his words on the pages.

 

            On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) ISBN: 978-0-7369-6419-7 (pub) 978-07369-6420-3 (eBook), can be found on amazon.com

For information on The Oak Ridge Boys, visit: http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

Other books by Harvest House can be found at: http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 252

Language: None

Geared Towards: Any age

For Fans Of: Music, biographies, country music, The Oak Ridge Boys

Marking Out on Richard: Ranking Some of My Favorites

Richard Marx has been on top of the music in charts in many ways; he’s been a performer, songwriter, producer, and has sung backing vocals for many acts. He has worked with music acts like N Sync, Keith Urban, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Chicago, and many others. He has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters, especially in the 1980-2000s. Here are a few of my favorite Richard Marx songs (in no particular order).

“Satisfied” (1989). This song was released on his second album, Repeat Offender, and hit #1 on the U.S. Charts. It was the first single off of the album, and on a video discussion about the song (which he called “vlogs,” which stood for video blogs), Marx says it “reeks of ‘80s.” Marx actually stopped playing the song live for a while, but brought it back to his shows after a while when fans started demanding the song. The video featured boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who was from Youngstown, Ohio, which is not far from me.

My Own Best Enemy 2004

“The Other Side” (2004). One of my favorite albums that Marx released is 2004’s My Own Best Enemy, which featured this song. The album is darker from his first several albums, but the songwriting is just as great. The song was written by Marx, and even though the album barely made the Top 200 Albums Chart, it did produce a single from the album. I like everything about this song, from the intro to the lyrics, which states “I really wanna know was it worth the ride/ and will you be waiting on the other side.” The song is about moving on, but struggling to do it.

“Angelina” (1989). This is one, if not my favorite, song Marx ever wrote. The song hit #4 on the U.S. Charts and #2 on the AC Charts. The song has a big sound to it for a mid tempo song about a girl. The name came from a girl who was an airline worker on a plane Marx was on, and he loved the name. Marx tells a story on his vlog that he was listening to Def Leppard’s Hysteria album at the time and tried to capture that feel to his work. He says that later on Phil Collen of Def Leppard said that the band loved this song so much that they tried to copy the sound for their next album. I love the lines “ Tried to be what you wanted/I gave you all I had/Girl, you left me with nothing/nothing but a photograph.”

“Endless Summer Nights” (1987). This song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts and was kept out of the Number One spot by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” As often as this song was played, I was shocked it didn’t hit the top of the charts. This song was from his debut album, and was the third single from it. The song was an early written song for Marx, written when he was 21, before he got a record deal. Marx says that every record company turned down the song, which was a two song demo with “Summer” and “Should’ve Known Better” on it. The song isn’t actually about summer, but a guy looking back at a summer romance during the winter, but it became a standard during the summertime throughout the years. The saxophone solo intro by Dave Baruff is one of the memorable intros from the 1980s. This is probably my second favorite song by Marx in all of his collection.

“Lonely Heart” (1987). This song is rarer known off the debut album, but was originally going to be the fifth single from the album, but it was decided that Marx would just wait for the Repeat Offender album to release another song, which was already done. In his vlog, Marx stated that the song was written with Peter Cetera in mind, but Cetera passed on it. It was written by Marx, and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Marx calls the song “dated,” but it is one of my favorites from the great first album.

1997 Flesh and Bone album

 

“Until I Find You Again” (1997). This song was one of Marx’s strongest ballads, and hit #3 on the AC Charts. The song was from the out of print Flesh and Bone album, which was not one of my favorite albums, however, the song shows Marx’s great songwriting ability, with lines like “Will time be a fair weathered friend,” and “Should I call out to angels/or drink myself sober again?” This song, for me, moved Marx’s career into more ballads and the adult contemporary genre, getting away from the pop and rock music from his early songs.

 

“Someone Special” (2004). This song was featured on My Own Best Enemy album, but was originally released in 2000 off of the Days in Avalon release. Although I was not a huge fan of the Days album, I remember liking the song, and it fits well on the Enemy album. This is a positive song, which is full of hope, about someone believing in themselves when others do not see it. The song is perfect for junior high or high school students that are not a part of the in-crowd, with dating and being in the popular group, although I’m not sure Marx geared it for that. This song was kind of passed over, and I’m surprised it was not played often when it came out on either record. I love the line “Guess the joke hasn’t hit me yet/cause I’m still waiting on my Juilet/She must be held up somewhere”, and with the chorus stating “I still believe there’s someone special/waiting out there for me.”

 

There are so many great song that Richard Marx has written or sang on, from “Everybody,” which was a hit for Keith Urban (which I think Marx’s version is better), to “Don’t Mean Nothing” and “Hazard.” With all of his accomplishments, it’s a wonder why Marx is not in the Songwriters Hall of Fame yet. He is still putting out music and writing for other acts, as well as hosting a podcast. If you haven’t listened to Richard Marx past the second album, you should go and check out his other work; he has some stuff that is just as great as when he was on top of the charts.

 

 

Classic Book Review: Louisville Wrestling History Covered in a Slugger of a Book

I first was introduced to professional wrestling around 1984, when my father one day was watching television on a Saturday afternoon, and called me downstairs to show me something on the screen. It was a bald headed man with a hairy torso throwing things at the television screen and yelling. He also had a green tongue. I was mesmerized by this person, who I later found out was called “The Animal” George Steele. Since wrestling wasn’t on every week in my area of Columbiana, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown, it took a few more years (1986 actually) until I had access to wrestling on a constant basis. Once we got cable TV, I had even more access, seeing the WWF, AWA, World Class Championship Wrestling, NWA, and even Memphis wrestling between our living room television that had cable, and my parent’s upstairs one where I could catch the Memphis shows via the old “rabbit ears.”

Even though I was a big fan of the baby faces (good guys in wrestling lingo), like Hulk Hogan, The British Bulldogs, and The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, there were a few bad guys I cheered for, even at my young age of 13. Two of the personalities , who even my parents were entertained by, were managers Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jim Cornette. Both had a wit about them, and even though their men fought my favorites at times, I couldn’t help but cheer for them.

Cornette has become a regular at wrestling and comic book conventions throughout the years, including hosting his two weekly podcasts shows. He also runs a successful website where fans can get books, DVDs, and shirts, among other items that he has added to his online business. One of his books, written along with wrestling writer Mark James, called Tuesday Night At The Gardens, details the history of wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky from the years of 1970-1975.

The Preface at the beginning of the book walks the reader through some of the wrestling lingo and terms, along with a brief description of the territories and how some wrestlers became stars by “getting over” with the fans and promoters.

The book then starts into the history of Louisville wrestling, along with the different venues that held the events, from the Armory to the Convention Center, and finally The Gardens. Each page is filled with several black and white photographs of the advertisements for the cards, and if there are any, results of the cards next to the photographs in a text graphic. There are also newspaper articles detailing several of the results the following day, along with s few entertaining stories about interactions by the fans of wrestlers with the local law enforcement officers.

The scrapbook layout makes this an easy reading, which is similar at times to the old wrestling magazine results page that I used to collect as a teen, such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and others owned by the Stanley Weston publishing. Besides the results, Cornette adds stories about the wrestlers who made their way through the territory throughout the years, such as Lou Thesz, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Jim Mitchell, and more well known stars like Andre The Giant, Dory Funk Jr., and The Brisco Brothers.

Since the territory started out being owned and run by Roy Welch and Nick Gulas, and a few years later Jerry Jarrett, there are many of the names that were big in Memphis who also were big in the Louisville area. Match results and stories are told about Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, Jimmy Valiant, and the Fullers. Later on in the book, the writers add some TV Guide clippings as well, along with results of some of the television tapings to add an extra flair to the collection. The end of the album shows some of the photographs that Cornette took when attending the cards in 1975, which helped him get his foot in the door in the wrestling business (he started out as a photographer).

Entertaining tales of when Jerry Lawler was not the hot star during a time, fans attacking wrestlers inside and outside the ring, and some more odd information about some of the stars are humorous and sometimes just plain odd, including the story where a wrestler named “Roughhouse” Fargo would only make a few appearances a year -a wild and crazy character in the ring (who sometimes would go into the crowd when he wanted to eat food or take over the television camera), stating that he only “swept floors” at the mental asylum and was not a “patient”, gives the reader how creative the characters were, as opposed to today’s current stars. There are a few brief stories about how a “outlaw” territory tried to run cards in the area as well (a territory that was not under the NWA banner, and tried to run its own shows). This part mentions a young “Macho Man” Randy Savage, along with his father, who later on ran his own outlaw shows.

At first I was skeptical in getting this book , due to the fact that it is self published (where sometimes self published books are filled with typos, misspelled words, and bad grammar), but this was not only a great history lesson, but an experience in reading. The reader will end up staring at all the photographs before even reading the text at the side of the page. There are a few minor grammar parts (a few sentences that ended up all run together without spacing) but it is so minor you will forget about it, and will just marvel at the stories, along with being entertained at some of the gimmick matches that were created back then.

This book should have a warning sticker on it, and since I promise honest reviews, I will put the warning here:

 

This book may frustrate you at times, because you will want to seek out many of these matches or find the stars in action, where many of the footage may not be found online. Also, after reading about these legendary stars, you may not be able to watch the current product of wrestling the same way as before. This historical package will want you begging for the days of good old action with characters and gimmicks that are no longer attractive to today’s current wrestling fans. However, if you are a fan of classic wrestling, and the history of stars in a territory that was similar in the Memphis area, this is a book to have.

 

If you order the book (along with other Jim Cornette merchandise), you can have it personalized. Cornette also adds a bonus DVD of some of these great matches if you get it from his site.

 

Tuesday Night At The Gardens by Jim Cornette and Mark James can be found at http://www.amazon.com or at www. jimcornette.com

For information about the authors, go to : http://www.jimcornette.com and Mark James’ site at : http://www.memphiswrestlinghistory.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 284

Language: Mild

Geared For: Ages 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Classic Professional Wrestling, Wrestling History, Sports History

Classic Book Review: Trekkies Will Enjoy Journeys

One great thing about going to local library book sales (besides the great prices) is that you can sometimes find books that may have been a part of your childhood. I remember spending many days at my local library as a child (although I wasn’t always considered a wonderful reader), seeing movies (it was where I first saw The Creature From The Black Lagoon), to getting records, and, of course , books. It was at my local library where I read every Little House On The Prairie, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew series. I have vivid memories of walking from my library on a summer day (which was only a few blocks from my house), with Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits record tucked underneath my arm, anticipating listening to “Shadow Dancing” for the hundredth time that month (I would return the album and wait until it was checked in again, and check it back out five minutes later). Although my local libraries have now turned into teen hangouts, where they don’t even look at books, but hang out in their designated sections texting, and making more noise than at a concert, I still enjoy going to get blu rays and other videos and books.

Another series that I constantly read as a child were the Star Trek books. I was big Star Wars fan at the time, where I had the comic book subscriptions which I got via my schools Read -A-Thon prize, along with the Star Wars toys. My brother and I were always playing with our figures, along with my best friend combining them with our G.I. Joe figures to create our own universe. I wasn’t a big Star Trek fan until I saw the second movie, and the original TV Show wasn’t on much in my area at the time. However, the books fascinated me for some reason, where I read all of the ones my library held several times.

Last fall I found a bunch of the Star Trek books at a library book sale, so I decided to grab them to see if they were as good as I remember them, now knowing more about the show and seeing all the original movies. These books were adapted from the TV shows into easy to read short stories by James Blish. Each book was a little under 150 pages (similar to the Agatha Christie books), and just titled by the number of the book.

Star Trek 2 starts off with “Arena” where James Kirk battles a Gorn on a planet where the loser will be killed. This was an great short story with a swerve type ending, by Gene L. Coon. This was a wonderfully written piece, and made me enjoy the first story of the first book I got from the book sale. I was craving more after reading this.

Another great story from this collection is the next tale, called “A Taste of Armageddon” by Robert Hammer and Coon. This adventure takes the crew to the planet Eminiar VII, where they are at war with a nearby planet. The story deals with people being assumed “killed” via computer assimilation, where those killed have to enter a disintegration chamber. This story reminded me of something that would have been created on Dr. Who (another favorite show of mine growing up) . With two great stories in a row, I was really enjoying the book.

Star Trek 2 has eight stories that are overall enjoyable. Besides the two mentioned above, “Court Martial ” where Kirk is on trail for the death of a friend’s father, has a mystery feel to it, and “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” deals with a captain from 1970s space program who encounters the crew via a time warp.

 

Star Trek 4 ‘s best story is “A Piece of the Action,” written by Coon and David P. Harmon, where Spock, Kirk , and Dr. McCoy visit a planet that is similar to the 1920s gangster era. Kirk gets put in a middle of a gang war, and attempts to make peace with the ranging gangs.

“The Menagerie” is a story that involves Captain Pike (the captain before James Kirk, for those that are not too familiar with the characters). This was an interesting story, because Blish states at the end that the story constituted the original pilot film, and the characters ended up being changed into the more famous crew.

“Journey to Babel” by D.C. Fontana, involves Spock and his parents, who board the Enterprise before a major planetary vote of diplomats at a conference. Before the ship can escort the members to their destination, a murder occurs which Spock’s father ends up being a prime suspect. This episode is a favorite of mine from the television show, so reading it here was just as enjoyable, which gives more depth to the character of Spock.

These two books mainly deal with Captain Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy, although there are some stories that have Scotty and Uhura. Once again, each story is about twenty pages long, and easy to get through. I forgot that these books were short stories, with me only remembering reading them due my remembering the covers of the book. Star Trek fans will enjoy these classic collections, and even if you are not well versed on the characters from the show (especially if you are just hearing about the characters being mentioned on The Big Bang Theory), the books are easy to read and follow. Science Fiction fans, along with fans of short stories will both get enjoyment out of these collections.

 

Star Trek 2 and Star Trek 4 , Adapted by James Blish were released by Bantam Books. Star Trek is based on the series created by Gene Roddenberry.

 

The Overall:

Pages: (Star Trek 2) 122, (Star Trek 4) 134

Language: Mild

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans of: Science Fiction, Star Trek, Short Stories.