Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Belfry Music Theatre Gem Near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Holds History, Magic for Concerts

It’s only one hour north of Chicago to discover a hidden gem concert venue near the popular resort area of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Specifically nestled in beautiful Williams Bay, Wisconsin, is an intimate concert venue that has combined the beauty of an historic setting, and made it into a thriving scene of music entertainment. On Sept. 15 and 16, it will be home to capacity crowds who come to see The Buckinghams in concert.

It’s easy to get to. From their web site,, it is located 6 miles West of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin just south of Highway 50 on the corner of Highway 67 and Bailey Road. To assist you in planning your visit, visit their web site to show you exactly how to get there from Milwaukee, Chicago, and other locales. They’ve already done the heavy lifting for you with suggested lodging, lunch and dining options, and free parking to boot. This is a vacation destination!

On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16, though, the music of The Buckinghams will ring through the theatre, bringing the best of their 1960s hits and 1970s classic rock favorites in a setting where every seat is a “best seat in the house.” That’s the beauty of intimate venues.

As of this writing, the Saturday, Sept. 16 show is 100% sold out and some tickets remain for the Friday, Sept. 15th show but act NOW. Don’t wait. You don’t want to miss this very special weekend of The Buckinghams at Lake Geneva! Tickets range from $42 to $57 and can be purchased at

It’s the perfect way to wrap up the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love as fall ushers in a changing of the seasons. And be sure and sign up for their mailing list. You never know who’s coming, but it’s guaranteed there will be tremendous music ahead for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Powerful Healing of Words of Love

As this day marks another time of disbelief and anguish in life as it unfolds, and tumultuous times escalate, even in Bryan-College Station, words, words, and more words are flying back and forth. It’s easy to get lost in incessant outrage, and when every sentence you think begins with “Are you serious?” it looks bleak. Yet, something unique happened today, entirely unexpected, and I’d like to share it, hopefully as inspiration.

Early, early Sunday morning, I posted this remark on Facebook:

Facebook wanted me to share how my day went. 😂 😂 😂 Well let me just say this...there are times in your life when you are so grateful you have good friends that love you, and today was a shining example of that. No big story of woe to share here, no reason for worry or sympathy is needed. Just sharing joy this late night hour in having loving friends like family as I feel incredibly lucky. Thanks for asking Facebook and you have a good night, as well. Let us all find a reason to be thankful and share joy, plus the bonus is that we can all find something to be joyful over!

At that point, I wasn’t interested in taking my Facebook friends through my recent “surprise” that had happened just five hours earlier. Let’s just say that you don’t want to climb steep steps in a movie theatre wearing flip-flops. Enough said. But just a few words more about that.

No one cherishes a face-plant, but when one happens that looks worse than it feels, that’s a good thing, for starters. But that thought didn’t bring any comfort to dear friend #1, because I couldn’t tell what my face looked like because her face seemed very calm.

Her encouragement of me to let her take me to urgent care, though, wasn’t heeded because I didn’t need it. I knew I was fine. And first thing, a dear movie patron comes down from the row behind us (as I’d made my way to my seat, sort of), and tells me she’s first-aid certified and was reassuring that I should go get it checked out. Someone had managed to find three theatre employees and they were there like magic, with a bag of ice, paper towels, and one had a clipboard to get my information and see how else they could be of help.

Dear friend #1 followed me home, to assure that I made it home, and I was fine as I drove the easy distance home. On the way I called dear friend #2 and she said, “I was just thinking of you!!! What’s going on?” and I said, “Well, um, it’s a long story but…” and she said, “I’ll be at your front door in 20 seconds….I was waving at her, smiling, as I drove to the garage.

She was ever as calm as she always is and reassured dear friend #1 that she would make me go to urgent care and override me, if I didn’t have a change in what was going on at the time. Two hours later, I decided that it was “almost” better, and I had no pain at all, nothing was broken, everything was fine, but my face said otherwise. Long story short, things improved and she confirmed same, and I knew it was going to be great.

Before I went to sleep, I just felt so thankful on so many levels. Nothing hurt, nothing was broken, and kindness had abounded everywhere around me. Angels all, seen and unseen. I did the standard concussion protocol and woke up every two hours. Each time, I smiled that I knew full well my name, my address, and that I'd been surrounded by angels the entire time.

Dear friend number #3 brought breakfast over the next morning so I wouldn't have to go out. Then, lunch later that day with dear friends, #4 and #5, then life went on as usual. Text messages from all of the above checking on me in person and online continued. The joy of cover-up sunglasses will hide a multitude of facial imperfections. In fact, I rather liked how I looked in those sunglasses, and again, miraculously, nothing hurt. Nothing was broken. Blah, blah, blah.

Moving forward, on Monday, I drove to the theatre to talk to the manager to thank him for training his staff (he wasn’t there that night) to respond so kindly, professionally, and showing true caring. I know he was nervous at first seeing me, as anyone might be when walking in before he’d had a chance to call me. He said that I was on his call list for that day as he was back in the office and had just read the report. I said, “Relax, I’m here to share compliments, with you.”

We had a lovely chat and I asked him if there was something I could do to commend those staffers to him and he said he’d look up who was there and make sure they know. I left with guest passes and concession refunds and nothing but feeling fortunate for everything. Again--nothing broken, no pain. No reason to say "awww" or feel badly for me. Please don't. I am 100% fine!

I went home and found the theater’s web site and sent an e-mail to corporate management to thank the local folks for their actions. When you feel so fortunate, gratitude fills your heart and mind. The e-mail they returned to me was equally personal, thoughtful, and I look forward to returning there for the next movie. The only ironic, hilarious thing is that we were headed to see “Wonder Woman.” Well, I already own the cape, the glasses and the silver bracelets, but I’m not, and never was a Teen Titan, but I did grow up to be an avenger, of sorts, ha.

Life went on, work went on, and five days later, I look much better although I describe myself as “I know I look like a six-year-old helped me with my makeup,” as it usually brings a smile. And, it actually does look like a six-year-old helped me.

So when I went into College Station's Jason’s Deli tonight for a to-go order, I saw a very sweet young lady behind the to-go counter. She took my order and I figured I still looked pretty scary and she wasn’t even flinching, so I said, “Don’t worry, dear, I’m fine; one of those things, I’m very lucky.” And we had a lovely chat and I didn’t think I’d said anything unusual to set myself apart as any other to-go customer.

When I arrived home and started unpacking my healthy sandwich and sides, I was stunned when I saw the napkin, pictured in the photograph above, which reads: “You are a gorgeous person, inside & out. Thank you for being you!”

I don’t think anything has stunned me in a long time the way this message of kindness, included to be found later. I'd done absolutely nothing that I could think of that would have precipitated such kindness. Could not imagine what the trigger would have been, and yet, I gave up questioning the "why" and focused on my reaction. The smile on my face has lasted for two hours now. I’m still smiling.

As the news of the day from many sources around me, national news coverage over things I never thought I’d live to see, other news of hurtful actions against people I regard, who did nothing to deserve it except work hard and being kind, gracious professionals, in a day and time when everywhere you turn, people who are afraid to stand up and speak out remain frozen in their tracks…this small miracle happened.

As I’ve given it considerable thought, one message remained in my mind over and over. The power of words can heal a broken heart; the power of random acts of kindness can change a life and a person’s outlook long beyond the day’s end; and the power of one person to make a difference is endless. It begins with one voice, one action, one kind thought, one exceptional deed, one hug, one kiss, one heart reaching out for another, and from there, the possibilities are endless.

It’s like a domino effect, holding on to hope, to believing in the basic goodness in all people, and searching hard within them to bolster those who need lifting up, to being there for friends who are being treated poorly and unkindly, and offering faith and comfort when people are about ready to give up on the basic principle of “do the right thing, no matter what.” Together, kindness can conquer evil. Together, words of love can bring healing rather than division. Together, people taking the first step to move forward embolden others to reach out for another’s hand can and will make a difference.

Writer Thomas Bähler reminds, “Anything is possible.” Phillippians 4:13 reminds “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” And my mother said, “Never give up having faith, never.” Wise words all.

Smile, shine, work, believe, hope, pray, meditate, act positively with kindness, always. There’s more of “us” than there are of “them.” Every single day.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell passes away, leaving Baby Boomers inherently sad

Sitting at my computer reading the words surrounding Glen Campbell’s passing being shared across social media today leaves me feeling like we’ve all been robbed of part of our youth.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we tuned in to “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on television, and watched as a pure-D country boy from Delight, Arkansas, charmed his way into our homes and our hearts? That was 1969.

Delight, Arkansas, proudly claims their native son. It's 34 miles from Delight to Hope, Arkansas, the city best known as a birthplace of a U.S. President. It's also the birthplace of a good friend here in Bryan, Texas, and in my many travels there over past decades, the people there today are as gracious and kind as they were back when Glen was growing up there. Small towns always have charm, good stories, great vegetables to prepare, local color, and rich history worth sharing for the next generations. Most of all, they as a community are proud when one of their own "makes good." They claim you, and that says "everything" about you right there. You belong.

By the time of the "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour," though, Glen was already a television veteran, having appeared on 21 episodes of “Shindig” from 1964–1965 He was a self-taught “guitar picker” of the first order in Arkansas terms. In Los Angeles music circles, he was a first-call studio musician. Years of practice made him one of the most accomplished raw talents ever to find acclaim without having been mentored or shepherded into the field by someone else. He found his own way to Hollywood. Therein began the problem, I think.

The characterization of country music singers as down-to-earth was never more deserving as when Glen Campbell wore the title. Every photo you see of him as a member of the fearless Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” shows a clean-cut boy ready to go to work each day. He wore a white dress shirt and even a preppy sweater at times in the studio.

Left: Glen Campbell, Wrecking Crew member, in the studio. Photo credit: CNN.

Right (below): Leon Russell, Wrecking Crew member, in the studio. Photo credit: The Gretsch Pages

That was even back in the day when Leon Russell wore a Duck tail type haircut lathered in Brylcreem, before his “top hat” and Duck Dynasty beard. Every musician had a “look” in the 1960s, even in the times of the Wrecking Crew. Hal Blaine always had cool aviator glasses, Tommy Tedesco had a neatly-trimmed moustache, Carol Kaye had her cat-style eyeglasses and Glen Campbell always looked like the boy next door. Later he’d find turtleneck shirts and snappy country-western suits as his choice of attire. He always took the time to present a neat image.

True, they were for decades unknown celebrities, but today thanks to Denny Tedesco and social media, they're recognized for their genius and role in creating the music we all love and still own. No, anonymity didn't guarantee a happy life, but it preserved a stable existence. Clearly, not all celebrities lived excessive lifestyles, but the boy from Delight was transfixed by what he thought was his playground to enjoy and he chose not to miss a moment of it, the grand, the great, and the tragic. Eventually, he crashed and burned, badly. When it came time for Glen to record his own songs, naturally the Wrecking Crew would be his choice. Quick, hear the opening of “Wichita Lineman” in your head? Opening bass line that sets the whole song for you? Carol Kaye. And so it was that Glen Campbell, playing his guitar on hit after hit, including and especially the Beach Boys’ sound, helped establish and undergird the elements of every pop, rock, and easy listening song on virtually every label coming out of Los Angeles.

Yes, Glen was part of the Beach Boys for a time, but really, he was the first and only one of the Wrecking Crew to really ever break out of the pack on his own and achieve a level of stardom that eclipsed many of the people whose records he was on as a session player.

Someone brilliantly put together a YouTube video of Glen’s best guitar solos, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Glen lost himself inside the world that he'd longed to live in and belong to. In becoming a true member of "the scene," he left behind the safety and stability of the Wrecking Crew, whose lifestyles didn't include drugs and alcohol because they worked unglamorous hours and raised their kids on the money they made in the studios each day. Glen had belonged there, too, and stayed as long as he could, until his desire to stretch and grow overran his good common sense. He crossed the line of safety. While others partied hard, the Wrecking Crew (save for a choice few) have lived full, healthy lives because they knew better than to try and risk stability for drugs.

While he was sprinkled in stardust and lit by spotlights, hit after hit belonged to Glen Campbell, thanks in large measure to the songwriting talents of Jimmy Webb. As a Texan, probably my favorite of Glen’s songs was “Galveston,” penned by Webb.

Again, what's poignant in this video is that Glen allows Steve Wariner plenty of time to share the spotlight, and then he shows on his own solo the virtuoso that he was always will remain in the hearts and minds of those who love him.

Another Webb-Campbell hit was the angst-filled song that became ‘known’ was “Where’s the Playground, Susie,” which Glen poured his soul into as he sang. “Wichita Lineman” was probably the biggest hit of the Webb-Campbell combination, although I’m not relying on chart history, just strong subjective opinion.

Again, you see songwriter John Hartford on banjo on Glen's show. He was always surrounded by the best musicians, and in the studio, he was as well.

Then, perhaps others' favorite Webb-Campbell combo is on "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." In this version, Glen is definitely "young Glen" with his newly minted country-style suit, and his guitar with his name on the fretboard, the way many Grand Ol' Opry stars had on their custom guitars. It's charming, really, and it's country.

Glen Campbell’s life and loves and trauma-drama of his middle years were typical tabloid fodder. I recall being extremely angry reading his actions because he had made so many poor choices. It’s funny to read that sentence back, knowing he didn’t give a flying fig about what I, or anyone else, thought of him, and yet, whenever I collect music and follow the careers of singers I enjoy, musicians I admire, I’d like to think that I make smart choices. When they do something dumb, I dismiss them from my mind and say, “Well, that was great music for its time…moving on, now.”

But something happened in the middle of my disdain for Glen and his distracted craziness as he played victim to “living life large,” and that was basically so many of his fans also gave up on him, stopped caring, and he went to being a caricature of himself, it seemed. It wouldn’t have been inappropriate to ask him, “Didn’t you used to be Glen Campbell?”

He had a wicked funny sense of humor. He was popular on television talk shows and kept the hosts in stitches as his natural responses to their questions revealed country-boy charm mixed with big-city wisdom and America sort of fell in love with him again. All was forgiven, sort of, kind of. He was, after all, a maniacally good guitarist who was a savant at how to deliver a song.

In 1993, I had the great fortune of traveling with a dear friend as we took her mother to the mecca trip of all mecca trips: Branson, Missouri. It had been a bucket list item for her and as we made the trek, we saw six shows in three days. The major league brilliant college-age showband backing consummate showman Andy Williams at his Moon River Theatre, to Tony Orlando giving his all at the newly christened Yellow Ribbon Theatre, to Wayne Newton (of course!) being Wayne Newton, Shoji Tabuchi at the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre (ask anyone about that theatre and one word comes to mind—bathrooms!—elegant!), and then Glen Campbell and the Smothers Brothers on the same bill, just like the old days on television.

I remember that Glen’s oldest daughter, Debby, performed with him, and it seemed as though the onstage duo was mending hearts as well as blending songs as they reunited to make music. Glen’s musicality was never in question. He played about every instrument someone tossed at him, and made it all look easy. It felt good to watch a calmer, gentler Glen take on the music and connect with the audience “the way he used to do.”

Glen Campbell and his daughter Debby, in concert. Photo credit: Daily Mail.

Fast forward to years later and the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Never mind the middle of his life, forget the trauma-drama that surrounded much of his conduct and waste of time and talents…America opened their hearts with sympathy to the then current plight and admission that years of living as he lived remained forgotten. The origin of Alzheimer’s in a person’s body is still not very quantifiable but no matter the origin, there it was alive and thriving in Glen Campbell’s brain, robbing him of his own best (and worst) memories. Perhaps that wasn’t so bad.

Either way, at the end of his life, Glen was fortunate enough to marry a woman who provided great loving care for him, and gave his life dignity and meaning at the very end, when it was most important to him.

One of his best friends in the final years of his life was rocker Alice Cooper. Although the two seem an unlikely combination, as this recent video interview shows, the two men were like brothers. It's heartening to hear Alice's words as they bring comfort and consolation to know that all the best circumstances surrounded Glen as his condition began to increase.

I’m not sure what the last things were that Glen Campbell actually thought about as he approached his end of days, confronting his mortality, and being relieved that a long struggle was about to end, but whether or not he realized it, he brought hours and years of joy to so many lives with his music. His talents remain unforgotten among those who respect session players; his sense of humor will always define him, and at the heart of soul of the troubled Glen Campbell, deep down inside, that kid from Delight, Arkansas, really showed up proud in the big city, where he made his fame and fortune on talent, guts, and determination.

Sharing a special video of a favorite song, with both Glen and John Hartford, who wrote the song, performing and showing Glen’s gift of harmony and humility as he allows the songwriter to have a showcase of his own. That’s the true strength of starpower, when you can give the credit where it is due. The singer makes the beautiful song a major hit, but it’s even more beautiful when the singer thanks the songwriter for the hit that brought the magic.

Rest in peace, Glen Travis Campbell. You’ll always be gentle on my mind.

Photo credit: TWC Central.