Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two new EBooks Available from Peter Wurdock

Inspired by today’s constant stream of fake news and erroneous information found on social media, Michigan author Peter Wurdock has taken matters into his own hands with his new book I WROTE IT ON THE INTERNET SO I KNOW IT’S TRUE.

In his new book (his sixth) readers are treated to over a generous helping of what he labels “Essays and musings from an underemployed writer.” His subjects are whimsical, informative, interesting and serious.

“Whenever I had writer’s block I would find a photo and compose a short essay about it as a writing exercise. After I posted it on Facebook, I was amazed at how many people would join the conversation. An added bonus was that we were able to talk about something other than politics!”
His love for dogs (especially Greyhounds) is humorously detailed in vignettes about what life has been like after adopting two of them in 2012. 

I WROTE IT ON THE INTERNET SO I KNOW IT’S TRUE includes a healthy dose of music as he recalls his life as a record promoter in Nashville and some of the musicians worked while living there.

Love, loss, death and dying is illuminated as he writes about some special people who are no longer with him. The book also contains a healthy dose of his favorite subject; Michigan's Upper Peninsula and there is no shortage of nostalgic Detroit memories.

For review copies (EBook only) Contact:   

Also just released is “Where the Heart Remains,” selected fiction and nonfiction from his first five books written between 2007-2017.

Monday, January 9, 2017

20 years ago

Twenty years ago yesterday I packed up my car and headed to Nashville, TN with $800 in my pocket to try and break into a new level of the music business and find something meaningful.  It was the night of Elvis’s birthday when I arrived and I had already secured a place to live after meeting and getting to know a musician from my numerous business trips to Nashville the prior year.
We lived in a dump on 29th Avenue North. Actually, to call it a dump was an insult to the city dumps we know, but you get the idea and my roommate made our affordable place a home through his fine taste in d├ęcor including the decoupage toilet that I’ll never forget.  Upon my arrival he took me to one of the hot spots for songwriters where we had a few drinks before we went home to enjoy his Italian meatloaf.
I moved to Nashville after making trips there every month during 1996 as I met with industry leaders and up and comers. Nearly everyone told me it would take years to break into the industry so I armed myself with a “who’s who decision makers” directory and started making phone calls and writing letters.
After about two months of little success I landed a job with the top film production company that produced music videos for the stars. Though the job was only 4 days I made enough money to last another month and a half and kept writing letters. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, which was a stark contrast to dealing with industry people in New York and LA. . I knew I was getting closer to something when Garth Brook’s manager called me. It wasn’t to offer me a job but to compliment me for the letters I was writing. After receiving their form letter of rejection I wrote back to tell them I “wasn’t accepting rejection letters at this time.” I was lauded for my approach and told something would give for me soon.

I finally got a job as a bonafied record promoter, promoting music of the stars to country radio stations.  This brought me closer into the fold of record executives and recording artists. In Nashville it wasn’t uncommon to see the stars of the day and label executives at the diner or anyplace on Music Row. One time I was at a songwriter’s night at an intimate room sitting next to Tom Wopat, who along with his TV cousin John Schneider was an accomplished songwriter. We sipped longnecks and kibitzed about life between the performances until finally one of the songwriters spotted him and started making jokes at his expense about the Dukes of Hazzard.

Tom didn’t say anything and being several beers into the night I got a little miffed because I thought the writers were disrespecting him. He didn’t say a word and I could not decipher if the head shaking and grin on his face was him trying to shake it off or something else. Suddenly I envisioned that Dukes of Hazzard episode when the Duke Boys got into a barroom brawl. You know, the one where Boss Hog was up to something shady? Ok . . . I know . . . it happened in every episode.  I honestly thought for a minute that he would need my help because he was outnumbered three songwriters to one, so I leaned over to him and said something like “If this turns ugly I’ll take the one on the right and you take the one on the left.” I was ready for an old fashioned Duke Boy rumble.

But at that moment one of the songwriters said “We’ve got a special guest who’s going to join us and you know who he is because we’ve been making fun at his expense all night. Ladies and gentleman please welcome our good friend Tom Wopat!  He took the stage and I breathed a sigh of relief..

I had many laughs in Nashville and many experiences with famous country singers but in the end when I lost my job as a record promoter I didn’t know it at the time but it was the best thing that could have happened to me because in truth, with the exception of very few artists I was promoting records for (Vince Gill, newcomer Leann Rimes and a couple others) the rest of them were a term a friend of mine had coined earlier; NTB. . .which stood for “no talent bum.” I almost got a job at MCA Records and working for a publishing company but they didn’t pan out. I wonder now what course my life would have taken if I had remained there but when I returned to Michigan I partnered with my friend, who has gone on to have an incredible career as a writer, performer, and cancer activist. Even Bruce Springsteen became a fan and recorded with him a few years back.
But without a doubt the greatest thing that happened to me in Nashville was working with my friend Eddie Mugavero. Folks, I kid you not, Eddie is one of the greatest songwriters of this generation. Known largely for his success with western swing, his ability to craft songs is on par with George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart and another band from Liverpool who had a few hits. I’ve always wanted to write a musical with his tunes. It would be a modern day Grease and South Pacific rolled into one
While the other black hat tippin’, belt buckle wearin’ George Straight wannabes were writing more songs that rhymed the words “love” and “thinking of,” Eddie was and still is running circles around them with clever lyrics and melodies that demonstrate his mastering of the craft along with a unique musical acumen rarely found.  Hell, I think he once wrote a song where he rhymed the word “orange” with something. He takes the best part of a bygone era and crafts songs with a 21st century flair that is beautiful, funny, catchy flowing and eloquent. 

We’ve remained in tough through email and facebook and it’s hard to believe 20 years have passed. Eddie is an amazing dude and a pretty good table hockey player. We once had a tournament that lasted seven games and went into double overtime until he finally beat me with seconds remaining. He’s also a Yankee fan, but I don’t hold that against him. If you love music you should follow him on facebook and at very least check out his web page.

Anyway, that was my “20 years ago today” time capsule. Thanks for listening. Friendship is an amazing thing. Swing ya later Mugavero!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Harvest Home

 The room did not smell like a traditional Thanksgiving morning when we arrived. Even after we started bringing in freshly prepared, aromatic food it was depressing. Instead of pumpkin pie, turkey stuffing and green bean casserole, the house smelled like poverty and hopelessness.

But somehow this family of five was all smiles as we began the small talk and introducing ourselves We identified every dish we set on the card table that was to be their meal for the day. Their kitchen had no table or chairs and what substituted for an eating station was some sort of three by three foot platform that stood only a foot off the ground.

Styrofoam KFC containers and plastic cups from Dickies BBQ sat on the end table where the husband appeared to have taken up permanent residence because of his many ailments. We instantly knew the family either had limited access to bathing or had just become so accustomed to doing without that their appearance took a second to getting food and paying their rent and utilities.

We had to leave briefly to find an open store so we could get plastic utensils, plates and napkins for them to eat their food. When we returned, the small talk continued as I learned their story, but not before I noticed they had already opened the envelope we intended to leave with them that contained a Visa gift card along with a few bags of other food, personal care items, toiletries and things none of us probably ever run out of at home.

The little girl was talking enthusiastically about how her mom said they could use the gift card to get her some new clothes; not a toy, not a trip to the movies, not a Netflix upgrade…but new clothes.
The fifty-something diabetic husband also had COPD and required a breathing machine and hadn’t worked since his stroke eleven years ago. He flat lined on the operating table and said he was beckoned back by his unborn daughter to return to earth. She was born a few days later.

One of the boys had a graduation sweatshirt on from 2013 and his brother appeared to be close in age though I didn’t know the extent of their education or if they even graduated. My first impression was that they had not but it wasn’t because they were not old enough.

Whatever the case it was it was clear that they were not in college and there was a good change they were not interested in it. The truth is they probably had no time for it and my guess is they worked some menial job to help support their family in this three bedroom house on a slab that should have been knocked down a long time ago.

Though their pending eviction was not eminent, it was something the wife had discussed with me on the phone a few days earlier when I called offering to bring this family a Thanksgiving dinner. The owner of the house they rented was trying to sell it so it could be torn down and something new rebuilt in its place. There was no question it had to be demolished. Eventually something would be rebuilt on the lot and though the shadow of the wrecking ball had not yet appeared, I wondered what this family would be doing once they were forced out. Lives are not simply rebuilt like new construction.

The father told us about the last job he had; delivering the Free Press and the Detroit News in upscale Franklin Village and the surrounding area. He spoke enthusiastically of the job and recalls it with pride. Often his boys would help him in after school, especially in the summer. The generosity of one well known family let him know they were always welcome to enter their garage anytime to sit down and take breather and help themselves to cold drinks on the sweltering summer days. It was clear the community was generous as he shared with me that during his last Christmas before his stroke he received generous Christmas tips along his route. That money, combined with the wage he made delivering newspapers was the last time he recalled that the family had, in his words “not been poor.”

As my wife and the boys retrieved food from our vehicle I asked the man if he was going to watch the Detroit Lions game and if he thought they’d win this year. As he replied no, I looked around the house and was embarrassed when I realized they didn’t have a TV set, clean clothes or any number of things 99% of the people I know had in their home.

I thumb wrestled with the little girl for a few minutes after watching her laugh as she did the same with her father. She laughed hysterically as we joked together and I wondered if that was the extent of her entertainment. One of the boys said he had completed all his Christmas shopping for the family already and only spent twenty dollars. The father told a story they’d all heard a hundred times about when he played Santa Claus at a school many years ago. I swear to you, hearing him tell it and watching the family react in laughter was like something out of an episode of the Waltons.

It became immediately clear to me all this family had was each other. Not once did they complain about slow internet speeds because they didn’t have a computer. The mother never complained about rush hour because they didn’t have a car. I honestly believe this is the only family I know who has never complained about anything. They were dirt poor in material things but appeared quite rich in spirit.

The conversation shifted to the coming winter and the kids all told us about the fun they had in the past, sliding down a small hill at the side of their house in the snow. The little girl didn’t complain but in a cheerful way said she said she looked forward to winter because the chain kept falling off the old bike she had and nobody could repair it. She loved school and though I don’t know how her grades were, it was obvious she liked being there. Maybe it was because she had friends at school or maybe being in a warm building with a free lunch was a welcome break from the tiny house she lived in with her two brothers who were named after people in the bible.

The friend of mine who led us to this family sent me a message today asking how things went. She told me someone at her church said they were the poorest family they had ever met. After being in their cold, dark house with the absence of any luxuries, I had no reason to doubt him

Time went on. . .it flew and when it came time to eat I asked them if we could pray together we all joined hands. I pray every day but this time I was filled with a reluctance. After hearing their story and seeing how they lived ,what did they have to give thanks for other than the warm meal we had just brought? I wanted to just say “It was nice meeting you, good luck and I hope things get better.”

This was a family who had their immediate needs met (food) but I knew they had a mountain of struggles waiting them at the bottom of the plastic bowl. Out of nowhere, I was reminded of a bible verse (can’t recall the book or verse but think it is in the book of James) and it says something like “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food and you tell them to depart in peace and hoped they’d be warmed and comforted but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, how does that help? Suddenly I was living the lesson of faith and good works first hand and I felt moved.

We all joined hands and I didn’t know what I going to pray for. How can a family facing hardships at every turn want to bow their heads and give thanks for the squalor and the seemingly dead end life ahead of them? This was making me uncomfortable. What I really wanted to do was leave. I wanted to go home and cry.

We joined hands and words began to flow. . .my lips--- Gods words and with each sentence whatever it was I was saying seemed to be full of wisdom and created a hope even I believed. They must have believed it too because when I was done, my wife and I were fighting back tears but the family seemed uplifted and happy.

As we walked out the door we all hugged. There was laughter and cheer.

The little girl, picked up a pie that took two hands to hold and flashed a big toothy grin at me. She put it down and hugged me again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I will never set foot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and why I will never set foot in it.

Last week there was another round of inductees of the Rand Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF.) Among the list were some artists who really deserved to be there. Also among the list (as with years past) there were some entertainers who made me shake my head by their inclusion---and not in a good way.
Mitch Ryder is not in the RRHOF.

Face it, the RRHOF is an organization run like an exclusive country club by some good ole boys of the industry. I don’t believe any of them were musicians in their career but they wrote extensively and in many cases wonderfully about rock music. Contrary to what most people think, being a rock critic is difficult and requires talent and creativity. Those guys did it well and that's where it should have stopped---at the by line. Because quickly it became obvious that the good ole boys were playing favorites. But it wasn’t so much that they were bringing all the crappy bands in; it’s that they were leaving too many great artists out.

A full disclosure: I hate rap and loathe hip hop with dance music a close third.

Kansas is not in the RRHOF.

Steve Miller’s tirade went viral last week as he described the terrible experience of his induction. Some people criticized him while I backed his sentiments 1000%. It wasn’t the people in the induction class he had a beef with, but rather, the entire process. The entertainers “the Black Keys” now regret inducting Miller into the RRHOF. Fuck You Black Keys. Come back when you grow up and write something relevant like Steve Miller has done for 40 years.

Electric Light Orchestra is not in the RRHOF.

After Miller’s complaints became widespread, the responses from the RRHOL representatives were arrogant and offensive, downplaying Miller’s beefs rather than responding by saying “Sorry you had a bad time Steve, we agree with you that this process that we’ve been running has some major flaws and we know it really sucks, but we’ve only been doing it 30+ years., so give us a break. . .oh, a new Green Day record is coming out? Excuse us while we start a circle jerk.

The Moody Blue and Yes are not in the RRHOF. Getting mad yet?

There are still many of us too naive to know what a fucked up, dysfunctional place the music industry is and believe bands should be inducted upon merit. If that were to be true, then what merit are we talking about? Record sales? Records made? Pffft. The group Chicago has created arguably what is one of the most versatile and compelling catalogues of music by anyone. They’ve melded jazz, fusion, big band, pop and rock and roll all into a well-traveled and well received revue. But up until last year when they were inducted, their career was ignored --- and you can thank the good ole boys for that.

The Doobie Brothers, Bad Company, the Guess Who and Journey are not in the RRHOF.

On the other hand bands like Green Day and. . .well, let’s just use them as an example for now, as they are probably the biggest offender of terrible music there known to exist on the planet. Chicago already had 18 albums under their belt by the time Green Day was formed and rode some novelty act wave of success while delivering such memorable tunes as---wait, there aren’t any. Like the world really needed a punk rock opera. Green Day is and was nothing more than an exploited brand of God awful noise who somehow rose to success shouting incoherent drivel, you guessed it, thanks in part to some of the good ole boys.

America, Jethro Tull and Dire Straits are not in the RRHOF.

In the meantime, Chicago’s early work driven by Terry Kath went unnoticed (they've been eligible for almost 30 years.) Don’t believe me? Go to youtube and watch Chicago, live at Tanglewood from 1970 and come back once you’ve been schooled in rock and roll. The omission of Chicago and so many other bands is a crying shame and injustice of magnitude proportions. Meanwhile. . .Joan Jet? NWA? Guns and Roses? Who’s next Bjork? The Dixie Chicks? Miley Cirus or will it be the Gogos for that amazing body of work (3 albums) that totaled just over 94 minutes of music?

King Crimson, Roxy Music and ELP are not in the RRHOF.

Ever hear of Bert Berns before last Sunday? Didn’t think so. As if Van Morrison and Neil Diamond wouldn’t have been discovered by someone else. But at least I was glad to his his work acknowledged.
Yes, I understand they have different categories in the RRHOF to broaden the spectrum of what acts are inducted. This year the pissing wars were between Gene Simmons and NWA. Simmons didn’t think the “music” that rappers and hip hoppers make would be around in ten years. God, I hope he is right.

The inimitable and scarcely elegant Ice Cube said this in response to Gene Simmons, citing how Simmons predicted (or hoped) the novelty or rap and how it will be gone and how music is cyclical.

“The question is, 'Are we rock 'n' roll?' And I say — you goddamn right we rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll is not an instrument. It's not even a style of music. It's a spirit that's been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop.”

Thank you Mr. Cube. It that’s the criteria, by that logic shouldn’t Pavarotti, Domingo and Maria Callas in the RRHOF too?

Gram Parsons, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell and Glen Campbell are not in the RRHOF. Neither is Ted Nugent, the MC5, Todd Rundgren, Warren Zevon, The Spinners, Boston, Three Dog Night, The Guess Who, J Geils band, Joe Cocker and Peter Frampton.

I am not alone in thinking NWA (and other entertainers of that wretched ilk) should not be included in the RRHOF. While I am not a huge fan of Simmons I agree with him 1000% about what he hopes will be the death of rap and hip hop. Hip Hop and Rap “artists” and I use that term lightly should not be in the RRHOF anymore than Madonna or the Beastie Boys. I know at least one friend who will call me a racist, close minded old white guy for saying that, but my response is let Hip Hoppers and Rappers start their own Hall of Fame hopefully in a place as far away from me as possible, like Florida. It can be funded by the gangs, thugs and drug pushers and pimps it is made up of.

I am still hoping the next big trend in the music industry is talent. I’m glad a few of the 2016 inductees are finally there. At least the good ole boys club gets it right once in a while.