Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Test of Faith: Small Town Church Worship and Inevitable Changes: When the Charismatic Ceases to Lack Charisma, the Journey of Faith Continues

Can I Get an Amen?
That was the question from the latest senior pastor to his audience, err congregation, in an old-time church of grand tradition in my east Texas town. He was the guy who started the whole shebang with his seemingly innocuous comment, "Can I get an Amen?" The first Sunday he asked it, a few among the audience, er, group of worshipers, looked at each other, left and right, and sort of shrugged because they weren't sure quite what to do about the question. A few apologetic "Amen's" were offered in lilting sotto voce but nothing you'd call a groundswell of affirmation. But one man emerged from the crowd, destined to make a difference, to lead the way to showing the senior pastor that he was right there with him, he 'got it' and he was all about it. Every week. Every sermon. Every minute, in fact, "Amen."
Acculturation to a Leader in Need of Affirmation
It must be daunting to be a new pastor in a congregation when the prior leader reigned supreme for almost a decade. His predecessor had divided a once-family-like congregation into the veritable Hatfields and McCoys, so you put yourself into the shoes of the new guy in front of the church. You understand he's in search of those willing to follow his leadership. Slowly, the march of the sheep to the shepherd began, step by step, week by week.
Pastor Offers Personality Plus to Preach the Word
Each week his sermons changed, it seemed, beginning with the length. The first few out of the box were long, overflowing and worthy of admiration, but irritating to the seniors who kept being last in line for lunch at the retirement complexes, the best offerings having long been picked over by the Baptists, who'd released their people a good 45 minutes prior. It's hard to hold a heart full of love when you know you're doomed for scraps when you get to the buffet lines, except at Luby's where there's no waiting at all, because the food is so bland and cold there, no one is fighting to arrive.
Those close to the senior pastor had already informed him that worship should conclude at noon straight up, as in the fall, football games began on CBS and well, "is there something he could do?" they asked. He ignored them, for a long time. Then he began singing from the pulpit, and though a little unsettling to have your senior pastor singing, we were not surprised. After all, his predecessor was also unsettling, to say the least.
We only thought we'd seen it all until the new guy showed up. Visions of Chuckwagon Sunday, Bones on the Altar Sunday, the singing "setup" prior to each sermon, pastoral garb from the "Rick Warren Saddleback Church" couture collection and a propensity for "huntin' and fishin'" stories featuring himself as the hero (every single time), we were already numb. However, we became dumbstruck to hear the new guy a-singin' along, over the radio (if you were homebound and listening), and through the microphones, loudly. Sometimes he even sang (quoting Barney Fife) "acapulco." You have to give him credit-the new guy sounds one heck of a lot like George Beverly Shea, from the good old days of Billy Graham television broadcasts and Crusade appearances.
The delivery of his sermons grew louder, and the requests for affirmations more frequent. Easter about blew the roof off the place, as even those in neighboring downtown churches couldn't miss the message of the day. He'd shouted it three times in a row. Not sure about scaring the little cherubs nestled in their mothers' arms, but it sure scared the heck out of me. I jumped in my pew a little. My 98-year-old favorite churchgoing companion, the ranking senior member of the congregation, merely scowled and cocked her head ever so slightly with disgust. Holy, holey, wholly unacceptable. "Frustrated: party of two? Right this way."
Pleas for Affirmation, Please
If I'd had a nickel for every time I heard, "come on people, can I get an 'Amen'?" over a few months' time, I could buy a Lexus. Disgruntled and confused at what had happened to transform our sweet, little old-fashioned congregation into a shot at creating a quasi-charismatic operation (in my mind), I decided to be gone for a few months, and set about visiting other churches in town. Wondered what I'd find.
The Nomadic Wanderer in Search of Worship Alternatives
It seemed as though every church in town received visits from me, in search of a place to belong that resonated with the permanent DNA embedded in me from early more worshipful (than this) faith roots. The senior pastor of my childhood made it virtually impossible for any pastor to measure up, to be sure, but I'd moved away from the more worshipful to these other folks 30 years ago, with occasional changes to the other faith platforms. Still, I'd been lucky enough to have been part of churches with tremendous ministers, most all my life now. I missed their respective (and respectful) ministries to our church so much that I couldn't believe what was going on in "the church today."
Folks in town were confused for a while to see me popping up in their sanctuaries. They knew I belonged with my so-called "people." I knew a few congregants in the "other" churches, so everyone was welcoming and their doors were wide open, too. Those open doors were not a copyrighted trademark of our church's big kahuna after all. Who knew?
Even the Baptists only managed one "Amen" per worship service, if that. Maybe those were a few low weeks when I was going, but a faith well known for affirmation was so far behind the my downtown church's style that you'd have thought them "behind the curve." Finally, convinced that not everyone expected you to play the audience-participation game, I decided to return to my home church, the new guy still in reign, concluding his first year there.
Basso Profundo
On my first Sunday back, I was treated to hearing more than I'd bargained for, from one of the newer but brightest spots in the leadership of the church. I didn't actually speak to him; I just heard him, loudly, a lot, during the sermon. He'd emerged from the crowd and was distinctive by being known mostly by all if not by name, by the general descriptor, "The Amen Guy." Whenever you needed him to affirm what you said, he was there. The senior pastor, just like the pastor before him, asked the congregation "Can I get an Amen?" Before, the "old guy" would let you know when to chime in with the precedent, "And the people said, ____" and then you knew when to come in, "iffn' you wonted to" (accent implied).
The new guy was so pleased for affirmation that he'd often thank "The Amen Guy," by his given name, from the pulpit, each time he heard the solo basso profundo holding forth. I figured this was my test of faith for daring to question the right of individual spirituality to potentially be bottled up and not released in glorification of wisdom emanating forth in the sense of faith and respect. I was ashamed of myself every week, for daring to grumble, but I wasn't alone, not by a long shot. Others volunteered privately that it drove them nuts, it drove them out of the worship service, and it even drove them to go to early service, just to avoid having to hear that.
But then, "The Amen Guy" began to expand his repertoire, and he went from just an "Amen" response to "Right." Those "Rights" would come when you least expected them. Then he got braver. "Yesssss!" he'd affirm, even when the senior pastor hadn't asked for affirmation. One fine Sunday morning, he held forth with a "Hallelujah!" Took me all I had in me not to roll my eyes, outwardly. Inwardly, I was steaming. This was not a Benny Hinn revival and this guy was just one note short of reminding me of Rev. Hinn's long "Alleluia" songs on television (don't ask).
Was This What the Founding Fathers of Our Faith Had in Mind, Really? Really?
I thought each week it would be different, but my biggest problem was the proximity within which I sat to "The Amen Guy," and I was trapped by loyalty to my 98-year-old friend, who'd logged exactly 74 years in that church as a member and at least 60 or so in that very pew. If anyone in church knows her, they know which one is "her pew." Each week I'd drag myself to church, and often arrive five minutes late, because I was home listening to the message of First Baptist on television and being enthralled as they didn't have interruptions during the message! Woo hoo!
Counseling the Weary
I asked to visit with the senior pastor to discuss my concerns. He graciously granted me a meeting to discuss what was on my mind. I told him. I thought for sure he might cut back on asking for congregational 'Amens' when I shared that his predecessor, not beloved by at least half the church, had done exactly the same thing, but I was wrong, so wrong. If anything, he upped the ante and asked for more Amens the very next Sunday. And, call me paranoid but I was sure he was looking directly at me as he was calling for them. Uh huh. I got it. I knew that his needs for affirmation were greater than mine for solemnity and worshipfulness. By the time it was "Laity Sunday," guess who was the lay speaker on deck?
I Said, "Amen!"
That's right, the lay speaker was... "The Amen Guy."And, because the church's air conditioning system was being overhauled, Laity Sunday worship was held in the gymnasium of the Christian Life Center. The lay speaker prepared for the occasion. As the media tech watched for his cues, when he said to the audience (not congregation because it's all about the media these days), "Can I get an Amen?" the media tech hit the switch and then the biggest font of "AMEN" came up on the screen. People seemed all caught up in the effusiveness of the speaker, his sincerity, his true spirit, but I was a holdout, probably the only one, because I missed the old, old days so much...never moreso than that day.
Back in the sanctuary, each week for the last six months, I've been regular in my attendance and yet not faithful in worship. It's impossible to worship when you are continually being interrupted from paying attention to what the senior pastor is saying when "The Amen Guy" is all wound up and ready to roll out his best for the pastor's requests.
Doing the Math
A good nerd who finds comfort in statistics, I had long since given up paying attention to the senior pastor's message or even trying to remember it. There was no way that I, a seasoned multitasker, could recall a sole thought from a sermon that was long and interrupted all the livelong day. So, I put my church bulletin to good use. Grabbing a pen from my purse, I began charting the various flavors of commentary from the party of one in the nearby pew. At the end of worship, I'd divide the total number of interruptions--because that's what they were--by the length of sermon and get the final stat. The tally had been running typically as one basso elocution per each 1.4 minutes.
One of his fans shared a sweet thought, offered in "fair and balanced" counter to my one-person's opinion. This very morning a longtime and faithful church member acknowledged me as I prepared to enter the sanctuary. I said, "I'm late arriving to begin my tally of outbursts from 'The Amen Guy'." She smiled like an angel would smile and said, "Oh, I find that so endearing." "What?" I replied. "Are you serious?" "Yes," she said, "You never know when it's coming; you miss it if he doesn't do it. You sort of wait for it," and then she smiled as an angel would surely smile. I mumbled my admiration for her truly gifted spirit of faith and said, "Perhaps I should pray for more of your sweet spirit to be imbued in me so that I can emulate your unconditional affirmation." And I meant it. For about 14 minutes, until the new guy preacher began his sermon.
Steeled for the Long Haul
In previous weeks, I'd celebrated quietly if "The Amen Guy" was sitting up in the balcony. Oh, you'd still hear him all right, but it was not a sonic boom-it was a sonic styling, but still I'd make another mark on my tally sheet. Every time you thought you'd gone a minute or two without an interjection, you'd wind up paying for it by hearing two, one right after the other, in rapidfire succession. "Right, amen" or "Yes, hallelujah"...but then one day he threw me a curve. "Come on" he interjected, as the senior pastor begged again for affirmation. "Come on, indeed," I thought to myself, but with an entirely different emphasis.
Traboccare il Vaso-The Final Straw
This morning I had steeled myself away for the inevitable. We'd been running around one interruption of affirmation every 1.27 minutes, and a total of 19, 20 and 21 total interjections of approval in the past three weeks. But today, we hit a trifecta. It was a Communion Sunday and that usually means a (slightly) shorter sermon, but it was part of a multiweek sermon series about doors. Not The Doors, with the late Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison. But the kind you open to allow faith to come in. The perfect sermon series that would undoubtedly please any church's big kahuna, even the overly obtuse grand leader of our flock, the one with a penchant for doors, whose trials at assigning pastors to our church likely featured a dart board and darts, accompanied by cackles of glee and delight. "I'll get you my little pretties" might be the theme song of what is done "for our church," at least in one person's opinion.
He started it. The new guy senior pastor started it. Calling for affirmations, "Can I get an Amen,"; "You're going to hear a lot of opportunities to say 'Amen' in this sermon, so get ready"; and, "Come on people, you can do better than that!" when enough were not chiming in with the solo voce basso profundo leading the way. A few folks had had enough Kool-Aid and were beginning to chime in. I kept staring at the stained glass window and measuring the potential sinfulness of humming the REM song, "Losing My Religion" to myself to keep from screaming.
Instead, I bothered to check my silenced cell phone, just like the teenager down the pew who spends the entire sermon doing that every week. Smart kid, if not irreverent. I'd received a text message from my Baptist buddy who'd already been long gone from worship, free at last, and all. I replied, "I'm tracking "The Amen Guy"-really setting a new record today." The reply came back, "You only still go there to sit next to your (98-year-old friend), right?" "Yes, that's right."
I replied, "In 8 minutes, so far, 8 'Amens,' 6 'Rights'." "Oops, there's another one, 9 'Amens'," I texted. The reply came back and sent me into virtual giggle fits, "You just jump up and scream 'Hallelujah'. That ought to do it." I didn't consider it seriously but I determined to keep close tally because I couldn't pay attention to the sermon. Peter, Rhoda, didn't open door, I forget. The sermon was overloaded with PUSH: "Pray until something happens." I have been praying, pushing if you will, for understanding and peace with the situation at large, at hand, and in my ears. No resolution, but the answer is in the numbers.
At the end of the sermon, I clocked it, 24 minutes in length, exactly 10 minutes too long to ever get out on a Communion Sunday with sufficient time to let the seniors enjoy anything but what used to be today's lunch buffet. And the grand total was: 28 'Amens', 11 'Right's', 2 'Yes's', 5 'Come On's' and 1 'PUSH!' for the 24-minute sermon. A total of 47 interruptions in 24 minutes, or one every 30 seconds.
I dare anyone in that sanctuary this morning to share what they took away from the sermon entitled, and I'm not kidding, "I Hear You Knocking, But You Can't Come In." Perhaps that is what St. Peter will tell me one day upon attempting to enter Heaven. And he'd be fully within his purview to deny me safe sanctuary as retribution for my sinful impatience and lack of understanding about the need others have for affirmation and a flock full of people who are as characteristically patient and eager to please as the day is long.
It's been quite the journey, this test of faith. It's all gone multimedia anyway. For every beautifully proffered formal choir anthem, there's an obligatory praise "na-na-na" tune to balance it out. We've got videos, two motorized screens suspended from the ceiling, so you can watch the same guy on TV who's standing right in front of you in the pulpit. Oh, and he makes sure all his main themes are displayed in bullet points on slates on the video screen because he's sure you're not going to listen to him, so you need some infotainment as a take-away. Someone ought to find the person who designed those background slates with the puffy white clouds against a weird blue sky as the "theme du jour." It's been "du jour" for about two years now and frankly it's getting old. And Mitch Miller's bouncing (often misspelled) lyrics in slates on the screens just in case you don't want to use a hymnal. We're making all kinds of ch-ch-changes to bring you in and make you feel right at home.
If I had to pick a theme song for this morning, it wouldn't be Fats Domino's "I Hear You Knocking (But You Can't Come In)" nor would it be anything by The Doors, though I was tempted by "Riders on the Storm." Instead, it would be a little something by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, "Welcome to the Show." It's from their "Brain Salad Surgery" album. But of course.
Although the preceding was written for Yahoo Voices and published on July 11, 2013, many things have changed in "the little church on the way" in the year plus 2 weeks to the day. For one thing, Yahoo voices is discontinued as of July 31, 2014, and all rights to the publication revert back to me and I'm reposting it here on my own blog. 
Now, "the little church on the way" is not really's one of the biggest churches in downtown but I love that old hymn about the church in the Wildwood and, well, you know how it goes.  But something so spectacular happened this past weekend that this article demanded a revisiting of the topic and sharing of what had changed. 
As much as I hated to admit it, my reason for attending my home church had changed--my little 98-year-old friend had encountered health issues and had to move from her own independent living apartment (yes, seriously, she didn't need much, if any, help) to an assisted living facility and beyond that to a nursing care facility and was no longer able to attend so I found it so much easier not to attend worship in the church that has my name on the roster. The nomadic journey continued.
Several weeks with the Episcopalians reminded me that the order of worship, the litany of prayers and the liturgy brought comfort with familiarity but it wasn't enough to want to erase my name from one role and add it (back) onto another. The Baptists gave me two weeks of sermons with my very favorite (and theirs) interim visiting pastor, so those were two super-D-duper Sundays, but then he went back home and I was back on the road again. I had even grown so complacent in my lack of interest in my own home church that I vowed that any time the Senior Pastor wasn't preaching, I'd go. And then a miracle happened.
The senior pastor decided to take a sabbatical, sooner than you'd expect him to take one, and presumably to reflect and perhaps even write a book, which left the pulpit open for a month. Yippee! Lightning bolts are already en route to find me, with their express disappointment at my glee. One Sunday it was this guest, another Sunday it was that guest, but last Sunday was the guest to end all guests: the new District Superintendent or Regional Director to governance who spoke on a topic of greatly needed content.
I went to the early service (to avoid having to hear the Amen guy at the late service) and was thoroughly enthralled by her message. She even suggested it would be appropriate and acceptable to "Amen" at such points of the sermon where one felt moved. I didn't mind entertaining that concept at all, when she suggested it and a few minutes later I almost did say "Amen" and I stopped myself short with just a vigorous nod of the head.  What was nice to hear was a respectful chorus of "Amens" coming in unified voice, from somewhere in the back of the church, by many different people, but they were gentle and welcoming. I noted that in my memory bank as "when" I felt it was a good thing to chime in. I still kept silent on the subject but without a scowl on my face or resentment in my heart. The speaker deserved the affirmation, earned it through her message, and she had us all going along in the same direction, in my "just one person's opinion."
The speaker's message was so inspired, delivery so uplifting and her entire demeanor was that of a person who is truly spirit filled that I just kept listening in amazement and appreciation. Tears streamed down my face to hear a 'real' sermon from a 'real' pastor, who believed what she was saying. At the end of worship, though I thought I'd been surreptitious in wiping away the tears flowing down my cheeks, I was wrong. People came up to me and grasped my hands, offering condolences on my apparent pain and shared how much they agreed that it was the best sermon they'd heard in, well, years. I wasn't in pain. 
Just the opposite, I was so grateful to have been treated to one of the most wonderful messages, to not lose heart, that was perfect for that day. They, too, understood my tears as they'd so long awaited the return of "their church" to real worship, real sermons and truly faithful preachers who believed what they said. The contrast of watching the regular pastor sitting, every Sunday,  in an air sickness bag stance, hunched over his knees, in visible pain, brow furrowed, praying for relief of burdensome problems, every single week, was anything but uplifting nor confidence-in-God's love inspirational. He needed to check his issues at the parking lot and come in and try to believe the verses he was preaching from. It seemed to me that "that guy" just didn't get it, which made it disconcerting to sit there.
Then, the  "Amen" guy was the other reason to stay away from the home church. I don't even have a good reason for why I stayed on the rolls except I still held out hope that this latest guy would be transferred when an opening came up or perhaps he'd realize that he had a great future anywhere but here, likely not in church service but somewhere he could make an important contribution. Neither had happened yet. But I held out hope.
The second service of Sunday morning arrived and after a cup of coffee and a glance at the morning's headlines, I returned to hear her sermon again. It was as magical as before, but not a carbon copy of what she'd said the first time, yet 98% the same feeling of uplifting of just the hours before. The presence of "the Amen guy" in the second service was less painful as he must have been sitting in the balcony ("Yeah!) and his mumbling interruptions seemed muffled and less frequent. So I was able to sit and enjoy the worship service without basso profundo offensivo destroying it.
The coming Sunday marks the return of the pastor who has lost hope and faith and thus I will put gas in the tank and be traveling in search of a worshipful service in which to say my prayers of thanks and share my gratitude until our church gets a new senior pastor who I would feel comfortable presiding over my funeral when that day should come. Were I to go too early for my expectations, my friends and relatives know to bury me out of the funeral home rather than my "home church." But for one morning, for two hours, I knew a great sermon when I heard it, and I appreciated it. And I won't give up looking for a church where that's a weekly event rather than an annual fortuitous happenstance, because it was real. And I am grateful. Amen, and amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Great Songwriter of 60s and 70s Classics, P. F. Sloan Appearance Sold Out in Berkeley, California

If you've been, as the Jimmy Webb song says, Seeking P.F. Sloan, you only had to look in California to find this great man of music. On Saturday, Jul. 19, Phil appeared at Harold Adler's Art House Gallery & Culture Center.

Sloan's friend Mike Somavilla, who often books concerts at the Art House Gallery, reached out to Phil when his new biography, "What;s Exactly the Matter With Me?" and the rest of the story follows these photographs.

TOP LEFT: Phil Sloan on the piano. TOP RIGHT: Phil's coauthor S.E. Feinberg. BOTTOM: Art House Gallery owner, Harold Adler. All photos courtesy of Joaquin Montalvan, used with permisison.

As you read the story you can also enjoy more "you-are-there" photos of Joaquin Montalvan as well.

Berkeley music lovers learn ‘Whatever happened to P. F. Sloan?’

Suppose you threw a party and everyone you invited actually came? That’s what happened at Harold Adler’s Art House Gallery & Cultural Center. It’s because Mike Somavilla, concert promoter and record producer, in his role as the walking Wikipedia of anyone and everyone who is important in music, has many, many friends. One of those friends, Phil, had just completed a new book and had not been making many public appearances in the United States in a long time.

That is, until Mike called Phil and said, “Just read your book; you have to come to Berkeley and meet a few people. And please bring your guitar.” And, that was all it took for Mike Somavilla to get Phil Sloan and his co-author Steve Feinberg to come see Mike, and a sold-out crowd at Berkeley’s favorite in-spot for music you can enjoy, in a peaceful atmosphere free from distractions.

The occasion was the revelation of the stories behind the music of Phil Sloan, most of the time credited on records as “P. F. Sloan,” and his new book with S.E. Feinberg, “What’s Exactly the Matter With Me?”

It was such a popular evening that Adler ran out of chairs and quickly found cushions for people to sit on the floor. They were just happy to be there to learn some of the most poignant stories in the long career of Phil Sloan. Phil was treated like anything but music royalty by some who are, because they have great press agents, revered as “geniuses” in the business. The masks were stripped away by the truth, but understand—not with anger were the revelations offered, but with grace. That’s the best part of the story.

It’s so easy to mistake the happy, up tempo songs that are his works, and which are surely part of the oft-used “soundtrack of your life” as being written by someone who rows a boat on “Lake Happy,” and while there is “introspective and insightful” sufficiently to the point where he can also compose deep tracks of message and meaning.

That’s not how it happened, not by a long shot, and in fact, the young prodigy was on a gifted path, boosted by thoughtful kindness of stars along the way, only to run into the wall of jealousy by industry movers and shakers, who can only be described as “below basic” humans.

Those who mangled the truth said that Sloan co-wrote songs that he wrote outright, something that happened all the time to everyone back in the day. But, he was treated like garbage by some “stars,” who were protected by, and say, profited from, decisions, actions, and inactions of industry leaders, some in turtlenecks and berets. Others in shiny suits and plastic smiles. And, it would take 45 years before others who would beat him down would be shown for their true characters in tell-all books written by their own relatives. One such example is John Phillips, whose reputation went from genius to jerk in 23 seconds, but not by Sloan’s doing.

Phil Sloan had his life threatened, he was been beaten up, robbed, cursed, lied to, manipulated, and humiliated and yet, in what can only be described as “through the grace of God and a handful of angels along the way," Phil Sloan has chosen his friends and colleagues today wisely, and selectively. And, he’s being reunited around the country with people who have loved him all his life, many of whom he’s known for decades and has not seen in as long.

Others never knew him personally beyond his name on record singles and albums in collections held by others like “gold” for years because of the meaning of the songs to their own worlds. Upon the occasion of the Art House Gallery evening, “Sloan was greeted by longtime friends Buzzy Linhart, Keith Dion and Peter Kraemer, and it was a great reunion,” said Mike Somavilla. “The music was fantastic, and Phil was very engaging and thoroughly entertained the audience with his stories and music.”

Steve Feinberg, Sloan’s coauthor of the biography, was pleased to see the response, saying “The hip beat and Berkeley cool of Harold Adler’s Art House Gallery and Cultural Center was perfect for P.F. Sloan, who was there amongst friends.” He shared:

Buzzy Linhart was there--a friend of Phil's from Greenwich Village and Cafe au Go Go--the great session vibraphonist for Hendrix and Richie Havens and Carly Simon, among others. Buzzy knew all about Phil being left for dead one night in his apartment--all of his guitars stolen by a guy who jumped off the roof of a building a week later. The whole Village thought Phil was dead. He wasn't.

Feinberg also said

Phil Sloan shows are rare. And what is interesting to me is that people hang out after the show. They don't leave the venue. They talk about their own lives to each other--share memories about music and life and how things were and how things are and sometimes, how things ought to be. P. F. Sloan draws people out that way.

Indeed he does. But he’s not crossing the country making a lot of personal appearances. He’s visiting friends and taking his guitar and a few books when he chooses to appear.

The only other chance to see Sloan for the next few weeks will be Sun., Jul. 27, 3 p.m., at Diesel Bookstore in Malibu. Phil’s friend and former Grass Roots recording artist and band member, Creed Bratton, will join him for some music and memories. Three words: “Get there early!”

Diesel, A Bookstore, 3 p.m., Jul. 27 23410 Civic Center Way Malibu, CA (310) 456-9961

Next up at the Art House Gallery & Cultural Center will be the great Sopwith Camel. Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 7:30 p.m., Aug. 2 2905 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705 (510) 472-3170

It’s the summer of great music, California-style. Don’t miss a minute of it, and get your copy of “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?” for a story with revelations that will truly open your eyes to what you only thought you knew about the music industry. Check out the slide show of Joaquin Montalvan’s exquisite photos from “An Evening with P. F. Sloan,” which he generously shared with readers.

If you’ve ever heard Jimmy Webb’s song, “P. F. Sloan,” perhaps you, too, had been seeking Sloan. In the pictures, see for yourself that P. F. Sloan is alive, well, playing his music and he and Steve Feinberg have shared a beautiful story of how to find good interspersed in people caught up in the web of the bad ol’ days of rock and roll. The gracious gentle man, and his music, play on.

The original story published on was at this link but is no longer available onlineHERE.

and earned

P. F. Sloan and S. E. Feinberg will be joined by Grass Roots band member Creed Bratton at the Diesel, a Bookstore, Malibu location. Don't miss that but you'd better get there very, very, very early..

Saturday, July 19, 2014

‘Begin Again’ Rewards a Search for Entertainment Amidst Lackluster Alternatives

It's a film that may or may not still be at "a theatre near you," but if your local cinema, cineplex, or cinerama is still showing "Begin Again," you'll want to run and see it before the week is out.
Begin Again” is a cast of Hollywood and television favorites joined together to play nobodies, and somebodies, who have experienced gradations of fame, fortune, falling down, and sinking further down, in the music business, without violence or overly gratuitous displays of “stupid.” 
Keira Knightly sings. 

John Carney has used his spirit from "Once" to make another feel-good movie. CeeLo Green is fun to see and doesn't overdo it, spot on. Adam Levine is having fun in his first feature film. My guess is that he dreamed as a kid of being in a movie and now, he is.
Click HERE for the full movie review. 

James Garner, Beloved Film and Television Actor, Dies at Age 86

James Garner's face and voice are among two of the most recognizable and well-liked attributes of an easygoing guy from Oklahoma, whose talents in Hollywood provided countless hours of true entertainment over the past five decades. He was Bret Maverick, he was Jim Rockford, he was Cash McCall...whatever role Jim had, he made that personality on paper come to life, every writer's dream.

Here's an in-depth review of some of his work. Click HERE. To say "he will be missed" is one of the least powerful statements in the world, but he will be. Plain and simple, just the way he was. A Hollywood legend. He is survived by his wife Lois, and their daughters Gigi and Kim, and their families, and a legion of movie and TV actors who most enjoyed working with him.

Classic Rocker Paul Revere Puts Himself on Temporary Hiatus But Sends His Raiders on the Road with His Love and Blessings

It's about as easy for Paul Revere for sit at home while his very own beloved Raiders, they of the Paul Revere & the Raiders fame, go out and entertain the legion of fans who want to see him in concert, together. The Raider fans are a special and distinct group of people. Yes, some of them have the tricorner hats, some of them won in contests, others of them acquired as gifts, but when someone is a Paul Revere & the Raiders fan, they know all the songs, all the words to the songs, and chances are good they're seeing a Raiders concert for the 3rd or 4th time in the past 10 years. It's just a Raider thing.

What's fine about this hiatus is that it gives Paul Revere a chance to truly rest. He's done a fantastic job of managing to perform and receive medical treatment for some health challenges in the past year, but his spirit and will to be there for the fans is a fine offset to the "kick-you into your recliner" feeling you get when you have to take medicines and are told "sit down, rest, and heal." For more than a few months, as Paul's doctors would chime in with this chorus, he'd come back with "la, la, la, la, I can't hear you." Or something close to that. Today, he's listening.

Read the full story. Click HERE

And go see those Raiders in concert because you'll love every minute of the music of your childhood.
In the story you'll find links to send messages to Paul because--although he can't be on the road right now--he can be on the computer reading Facebook posts and e-mails. Tell him why you love his music. That will keep him in smiles. He's resting up for the 2015 "Where the Action Is" cruise from Concerts at Sea! Want to know more about that? Visit and Harmon Travel and happy sailing!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams and Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears Help Bring 60s Weekend to Wrigleyville

On the weekend of Jul. 11-13, 2014, the beloved Chicago Cubs baseball team had the opportunity to host 60s weekend as one of the many exciting fan-favorite celebrations of 100 years of Wrigley Field. Who would have known that two southpaws would be teamed up on the same day to throw out ceremonial first pitches, but both Carl Giammarese and Gale Sayers are left-handers. The crowd also enjoyed Gale Sayers' lead of the 7th Inning Stretch, for the day's activities.

The Chicago Cubs tweeted this picture of Giammarese before he headed toward the mound.

To see the video from Susan Rakis of Carl's and Gale's pitches click on the story link here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Iconic P.F. Sloan to share new rock memoir and music memories in Berkeley, CA

At the invitation of his friend and Bay area concert promoter, Mike Somavilla, legendary singer/songwriter and music producer P.F. Sloan will be making a one-night-only Northern California appearance at the Berkeley Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, this Saturday, July 19, starting at 7:30 pm. On Monday, July 15, Somavilla said "Tickets are only $15 and you’ll have a chance to hear the music and excerpts from the book as well as participate in a Q&A session with Sloan," whose last public appearance was in the UK.

P.F. Sloan sings his "Where Were You When I Needed You" cowritten with Steve Barri from back in the day. Sloan will appear July 19, 2014 at Berkeley Art House Gallery & Cultural Center.

Any classic rock music lover and faithful vinyl album liner note consumer knows the name P. F. Sloan as the brilliant songwriter who, in many cases along with writing colleague Steve Barri, is not much short of a genius. Somavilla shared that "Sloan is, in a major or minor way, responsible for the successful careers of musicians including The Rip Chords, Jan & Dean, Barry McGuire, The Turtles, The Searchers, Johnny Rivers, Herman’s Hermits, The Fifth Dimension, and oh yes, the Grass Roots." As the co-author (together with S.E. Feinberg) of the just-released memoir, “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?” Sloan is about to make music history one more time.

P.F. Sloan has long been described as elusive, not given to public appearances in general. He is described as “one of the influential geniuses to emerge from the golden age of the 1960s.” Reality is that fame, fortune, stardom and pedestals have come to many amongst the giants in the music business, because fans live through every note and melody of a song they claim as “theirs” for one reason or another.

In actual fact, songwriters chronicle the pain, the joy, the fears and the successes of the “average person,” as brought to life by performers whose gifts elevate those songs to “hits,” played by radio stations that make them “monster hits,” and when purchased en masse by the greater audience, elevate them again to “music that has stood the test of time.” If you disagree, it’s time to reconsider.

What songs on the radio today do you think anyone will really give a flying fig about? I might personally select “Let it Go,” and “Happy” as potentially bringing a smile to the newest members of the AARP group in the year 2064. But you can’t, for a minute, think that there will be a reunion tour the likes of the Happy Together Tour in 2064 featuring the music of Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Drake, or Robin Thicke. And yet, there’s P.F. Sloan, whose songs have relevance and importance almost 50 years after he wrote them.

Today across the country, legendary performers with careers that have endured still play his songs to audiences that keep demanding they be heard. Ask Mark Dawson, the current lead singer and bass player for the Grass Roots since 2008, how much Sloan's work matters. On any given night when the Grass Roots perform across the country, you’ll potentially hear: “Things I Should Have Said,” “Wake Up, Wake Up,” by Sloan or “Only When You’re Lonely,” “Where Were You When I Needed You” or “Tip of My Tongue” by Sloan/Barri, who co-produced as many Grass Roots songs on the Dunhill Label as they wrote. When asked on Monday, Mark Dawson said, "anyone who is anywhere near Berkeley and loves Grass Roots song needs to be at that Art House concert!"

Even though Herman’s Hermits also recorded “Where Were You When I Needed You” and are equally identifiable with that hit, the names of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri are well known to classic rock devotees but remain among “the best kept secrets in show business” on a more global scale. Sloan was, undoubtedly, a starmaker with so many of his own songs. He did record his own albums, such as "Twelve More Times, "Songs of Our Times," and "Measure of Pleasure," but most of his acclaim came via the public faces, and voices of others. Somavilla said, "Sloan was an incredibly important part of the success of The Mamas and the Papas during his work at Dunhill Records."

Every time the engaging and charming Peter Noone has audiences within his hands, and sings, “A Must to Avoid,” that’s P.F. Sloan’s song. Whenever Howard Kaylan is on the uber-successful Happy Together Tour with Mark Volman, causing chaos and conundrums of frivolity, hitting every perfect note backed by Godfrey Townsend, John Montagna, Steve Murphy and Manny Focarrazzo, on “You Baby,” or “Let Me Be” or “Can I Get To Know You Better,” that’s P.F. Sloan. When Johnny Rivers starts out that easily identifiable screaming guitar hook on “Secret Agent Man,” that’s P. F. Sloan.

When the father of all protest songs, “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire is loaded up in the cart machine in some terrestrial radio oldies station or if it's simply soaring through the airwaves of Sirius/XM Radio, via their 60s on 6 channel, that’s P.F. Sloan who wrote that #1 Billboard chart hit. When The Rip Chords make a festival appearance for fans in Anywhere, USA, and do “One Piece Topless Bathing Suit,” that’s P.F. Sloan. When Jan & Dean would do “(Here They Come) From All Over the World” or “I Found a Girl,” you guessed it, Sloan again. “Another Day, Another Heartache” took the Fifth Dimension to the Top 50 of the Billboard Charts. You've heard countless DJs say it before, "And the hits just keep on coming!"

There’s plenty of stories behind each song, and you only have one night to hear them. Only because music producer and concert-gathering guru Mike Somavilla was asking, did Sloan say “yes” to the San Francisco Bay Area, so don’t look for a list of big U.S. tour dates. There’s not one. It’s a one-night-only chance of a lifetime to meet the artist and hear him play his own songs and learn what happened to him to make him title his own memoirs, “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?”

Sloan was always the person who shunned the spotlight such that he was long considered as simply “elusive.” Many writers have sought to learn more about the man behind the music, but he chose a less public life of preferred privacy until recently.

Multiplatinum-selling songwriter, Jimmy Webb even wrote his own tribute, aptly titled, “P.F. Sloan.” The video accompanying this story is Sloan singing and playing his own composition made most famous by the Grass Roots, “Where Were You When I Needed You.” His version of “Secret Agent Man” (also on YouTube) is equally charismatic.You can hear this song, and many more, from the man who wrote, or co-wrote them, this weekend, if you act fast.

This Saturday night, July 19, 2014, get there early to Berkeley’s Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, located at. 2905 Shattuck Avenue, between Ashby Ave. and Russell St. in South Berkeley. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call Harold Adler at (510) 472-3170 for details and advance tickets ($15) to make sure you won’t be out in the parking lot wishing you’d have arrived hours sooner. Somavilla said, "There are no do-overs or make-up dates. Saturday night is the night."

If you must miss the concert, be sure to check out Sloan’s new book. The Kindle version is online now, but you can get an autographed copy that night, as Jawbone Press has made some early print books available. It’s another must-read rock music book by the guy who was there at the beginning and who, by virtue of his talents, made careers and lives for so many other grateful, working musicians.

P.F. Sloan deserves a standing ovation before he ever says a word or plays a note. Make plans now to be a part of the crowd who was there. Thanks to Mike Somavilla and Crest of the Waves Productions for the interview and heads-up on his latest great show produced in the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center.

Originally published July 15, 2014 at: where it earned

P.F. Sloan in Concert and Sharing Stories at Berkeley's Art House Gallery & Cultural Center

Anyone who claims to love rock music of the 60s and 70s knows music trivia. You might know what label a song is on, the title of the album its from, or even who the studio drummer on your favorite tunes are. If you do then chances are really good you know who Phil Sloan, and his writing/singing persona, P.F. Sloan, are in your world of classic rock.

Sloan was a young genius whose childhood was as unpleasant as they come, and yet, he rose above it to find inspiration and opportunities to make his mark on the music world. His autobiography, coauthored with S.E. Feinberg, is a must-read. I'll review the book in depth very soon as it is an outstanding work.

Berkeley's Art House & Cultural Gallery is hosting some of the best of the best musicians in the venue now becoming truly well known as the Bay Area's best music source. Owner Harold Adler is working with concert promoter and walking Wikipedia of classic rock, Mike Somavilla, to keep the music coming, and the quality of the entertainment is phenomenal.

Click for the story See also on this website, a copy of the July 15, 2014 story "Iconic P.F. Sloan to Share New Rock Memoir and Music Memories in Berkeley, CA" (originally published online at

here to read the full story about what you'll hear at the Art House on Jul. 19, 2014.

P. F. Sloan was so influential in the successful careers of so many that amazing songwriter, Jimmy Webb, even wrote a song about Phil.  There's a tremendous singer, Rumer, whose voice is special to Sloan and Webb and together, and the YouTube has a story in Webb's own words and music that is both memorable and charming. Check it out. Then you might have a hint why the Berkeley Art House & Cultural Gallery will be filled to the gills on Saturday. If you have a song written about you, you've more than made your mark on music.