“Running Just As Fast As We Can”

“Holding onto one another hands.” – Tiffany

I can’t run as fast I used to be able to. I turned 50 a few weeks ago. I don’t really feel any different than I did when I was 49, but yet I can’t seem to shake that number. It seems big. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s just perspective. I think I’ll just go with perspective. After all, forty didn’t seem too big. Thirty was barely a blip. I don’t even really remember 20. The only thing 50 really reminds me of immediately is that my general physician said I’ll need to have a colonoscopy this year. Shit.

For some reference: In 1971, movie tickets were $1.50, and a gallon of gas averaged 40 cents. The average cost of a new house was $25,250. Disney World in Florida opened while the voting age was officially lowered to 18. Federal Express and Tupac Shakur were born in 1971, and on the music scene Led Zeppelin IV was released while Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison died of a drug overdose in Paris at the age of 27. The Billboard Song of the Year was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, and also in 1971 The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards turned 73 (unverified). You keep going Keith!

“Rat, when it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.”

I’m also reminded how time is ticking ever so quickly especially when I watch a movie or a video or old concert footage where the star is no longer with us. I watched an old documentary on Amazon Prime the other day about The Eagles and their “Hell Freezes Over” album and concert from 1994. I bought that cd a day or two after it was released. I love The Eagles, but it’s hard to imagine that was about 27 years ago. It makes me sad to hear the sweet sounds of Glen Frey and realize he’s been gone for over five years now. But I do imagine Glen is somewhere taking it easy.

This blog hasn’t even been around five years yet, but it’s getting close. I think I like writing on here because the words are out there. They seem permanent, and they may even be out there long after I’m gone. I told my wife to make sure she pays my annual website domain fee should anything happen to me, because all of these words may disappear like they were never written, like they never existed should my payment lapse for too long. She just shook her head at me. I’ve heard of digital and social media executors so maybe I should look into that. I don’t know. Maybe my wife and/or daughter will ultimately fill that role. I have a lot of other things with higher priority right now, so I’ll worry about social media executors and the such tomorrow, and hope that tomorrow comes.

But whatever does come along during my 51st year in this earthly body, I want to do my best to be present and fully immersed in the moment. Ultimately, that’s really all I have control over. And, I’ll keep running just as fast as I can… except when it’s time for the anesthesia for my colonoscopy.

“Look at the way we gotta hide what we’re doin’ ‘Cause what would they say if they ever knew.”

You know who else turns 50 this year? You got it. Tiffany Darwish turns 50 this September. I wasn’t exactly into Tiffany when she debuted in 1987, and had her ensuing “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87.” I liked shopping malls, but I wasn’t going to a concert at one. I wanted to buy fresh kicks and cassettes and books at the mall, not watch a peer sing pop covers of Tommy James and the Shondells. But that’s exactly what Tiffany’s management team did – they scheduled a 10 city tour that included three twenty minute performances at various shopping malls starting in Peramus, New Jersey.

At the age of 16 years, Tiffany became the youngest female artist to achieve a No. 1 album (quadruple platinum) and also the youngest to have two consecutive No. 1 singles. I hadn’t watched this whole video probably since since 1987, and I have to say I wasn’t totally turned off by it. The fact that some of the scenes are in soon-to-be-relics known as shopping malls makes this video somewhat nostalgic. A Motley Crue video this is not, but a solid 80’s representation this video most assuredly is.

There are two parts of this video I really like: at the 1:10 mark you get to see “security” holding back the raucous shopping-mall crowd, and then the dance sequence that begins around the 2:23 mark and includes the old man with the crazy hair dancing on stage with Tiffany. In a few more years I may be the old man with the bad hair dancing at a concert with a teenage superstar. Life is full of possibilities. Possibilities that include being a worldwide superstar singer at the age of 16.

So, here is then 16-year-old Tiffany with one of those two consecutive number one singles – a remake of a #1 hit from 1967 by Tommy James and the Shondells – “I Think We’re Alone Now”…

A happy early birthday to Tiffany, and, as always, thanks for checking in and reading. I appreciate you all… even you – random internet reader whom I’ll probably never meet.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“And When the Night is Cold and Dark”

“You can see, you can see light.” – Corey Hart

I’ve found myself pondering on Matthew 5:45 more than normal the past 12 months.

For those of you who haven’t memorized The Bible yet, it’s the scripture that (paraphrasing) says how God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and that He sends rain on both the righteous and unrighteous.

Basically, just because you’re a “good person” or call yourself a “Christian,” doesn’t mean you’ll be without your share of hardships or times of tribulation whether they be physical, mental, financially, emotionally, etc.

That’s logical right? You’re living on Fantasy Island (shout-out Ricardo Montalbon) if you think you’ll be able to avoid pain and suffering during our time on this rock. But let’s be honest, that verse, that thought, is much easier to quote when it doesn’t really affect you.

There’s still something in the deep recesses of the human psyche that says do good things and good things will be done to you, good karma begets good karma. But good deeds and good karma also end in cancer and divorce and mental illness and bankruptcy, and in global pandemics.

“With a little perseverance, you can get things done.”

There are numerous difficult times in our lives where we just need an encouraging word, a helping hand, a warm embrace. Even a nice email or text can make a difference. Heck, even a comment from a stranger on a random blog post can be a lift for those of us that pose as part-time writers like myself.

I think those people that say “I don’t care what people think of me,” are covering for some sort of insecurity. We need someone to notice us, or just give us some assurance that we are being seen or heard, or that we make a difference, and that this too shall pass. The difficult times and circumstances are different for everyone as we all struggle with grief, illness, self-doubt, and self-worth. They are often referred to as valleys, and those valleys can seem dark and endless. The thing about valleys though is that they give you an appreciation for the peaks.

My wife and I recently hiked a popular trail here in Arkansas called Whitaker Point Trail. It’s about three miles in and out, and not too strenuous. It leads you to a great photo op and a fantastic view within the Ozark Mountains called “Hawksbill Crag.” The Crag is a rock formation that juts out from the side of a bluff about 1,900 feet off of the ground.

Appreciation comes at the top – high above the valley below. And thank you random college girl for taking our photo and not running off with my iphone.

Obviously people have died there, and there are warning signs before you even begin the hike, though we were out there with many people who had children and pets (on leashes) along the trail. So the fact that you could plummet to your untimely death can definitely be in the back of your mind, particularly as you wind your way along the side of a bluff for some of the hike to this particular point.

There’s a path to this point. The path takes you from the parking area down through the trees and near some water and then winds you up and to the top. You look out and enjoy the view for a bit. You sit and think about the vastness of nature, and the greater power that created it, and how small we all really are. Small, but not insignificant.

Along the path you realize you’re not alone. There are others on the same path that know where they’re going. And there are others wandering and meandering in different directions for different views and just enjoying the trip. Time is just a minor inconvenience. And still there are others who are in a hurry with sands in the hourglass seemingly dictating their pace as they hurry from point A to point B, and then onto the next adventure, the next path.

Whatever path you’re currently on or whatever road you’re travelling, let this be a little reminder that there are those that have been there before you and those that will be following your path soon. Whatever you do, whether through rain or in sun, whether you’re at a peak or in a valley, just keep going.

“And if your path won’t lead you home, you can never surrender.”

When people think of Corey Hart, I would say “Sunglasses at Night” comes to mind for most simply because it was so popular and MTV played the wayfarers out of that video in 1984. Even though it was not his highest charting single in the U.S. (peaking only at #7), I think many casual listeners equate that as his most popular single. I saw Corey in Norman, Oklahoma when he opened for Rick Springfield on Rick’s “Hard to Hold Tour” in 1984, and of course “Sunglasses” was his only recognizable hit at that time for most of us there.

Truth is, in August of 1985, this single – “Never Surrender” peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Both weeks it was kept from moving up as Tears For Fears (“Shout”) and Huey Lewis and the News (“Power of Love”) took turns at #1 and #2 keeping Corey’s survival ballad out of the top two spots. In his native Canada though, this single spent four weeks at #1 and won the Juno Award as the single of the year. Props to you, Canada, because I think Corey was cheated out of a deserving #1 spot in the U.S.

His first single (and most successful) from his second studio album, “Boy in the Box,” here is Corey Hart and “Never Surrender”

As a bonus, Corey put together an updated, stripped-down 2020 version of the song, which I had hoped would end with him wearing a black leather jacket at the end of the video. Appreciate you Corey, but if you’re going to ditch the suit, the least you could do is don your circa mid-80’s black leather jacket. Regardless, it’s a nice sentiment in a tough time for many…

Thanks for reading, and thanks Corey for your gift of this song.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“It’s Early Morning, the Sun Comes Out”

“Last night was shaking, and pretty loud.” – Scorpions

“Hey Uncle Kyle, do you know the song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by The Beatles?”

Uh, you mean Scorpions?

“(Laughing) Oh, yeah, Scorpions.” – Keller P. (age 5)

Paul, John, George, and Ringo they are not.

Well before the aforementioned “morning sun” peaks over the horizon at his country home in Wisconsin, my cool little nephew Keller is up and ready for the day. His dad (my brother-in-law) Nick gets up very early most mornings to go into work so Keller follows suit and is usually up and awake and at full throttle by 5 a.m. getting some quality time with dad before he’s out the door.

My sister came to visit my wife and I here in Arkansas, and brought Keller and his little sister Sylvie with her. We haven’t seen them since just before the pandemic shut down the country last year. They’ve been isolated much of the time back at their home outside of Madison. Keller is five but as tall as a seven year old, and with his wavy blonde locks he looks like he belongs on a west coast beach carrying a surf board.

I’d put his musical acumen up against any five year old in the country. The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Grateful Dead, Imagine Dragons, Beastie Boys, and The Rolling Stones (though he can’t name a song when pressed for one) are just some of the artists he’ll name for you, but the list of musical artists he can name and identify doesn’t stop there.

Keller can talk, and by that, I mean he has no shortage of words. Depending upon the study, men speak somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000 words per day. I think Keller is cruising into 15k by about 9 or 9:30… a.m. At times keeping up with him can be totally exhausting (as my sister and brother-in-law can surely attest), but most of the time he’s funny, and strange, and outrageous and intelligent and sometimes just full of five-year-old absurdities. I tell people that if he starts a podcast it should be called “And Guess What?” because he loves to say “and guess what?” He barely waits for you to respond with “what?” before launching into some topic or story.

The future “And Guess What?” podcast

He introduced me to the Australian animated Disney show “Bluey.” He tells me that back in Wisconsin they have a neighbor who talks like they do on “Bluey” and calls he and his sister “mates” (he’s apparently from New Zealand). Keller is going to be a dino rancher one day (another Disney show). He loves Super Mario and is a self-described expert when it comes to winning at any Super Mario game ever on any platform anywhere.

Speaking of video games, he downloads games onto his iPad so frequently taking up all of the memory storage that his mom has to constantly delete games so that he’ll have space to download more games in the future. At first he thought my phone was pretty lame since the only game on it is the Wheel of Fortune of app. Shout out Pat Sajak and Vanna White! But after I helped him win some fake money and solve a few puzzles, he really started liking it, and who can blame him? #futurewheelwatcher

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bluey-2.jpg

His memory is fascinating. With no prompting, he remembered a spot where we watched fireworks from on the 4th of July in 2019 when he was barely four. He likes Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (obviously), but also cheers for the Everton FC and can sing their unofficial (official?) club song, “It’s a Grand Old Team.” And it’s made even cuter when little sister Sylvie joins in and sings along. Heck, I didn’t even know Everton existed until recently. Now I know it’s a soccer, excuse me, football team in England and… “We only know that there’s going to be a show when the Everton boys are there!”

He has a girlfriend at school, and her name is apparently Julie Kim (unverified), but she’s 12 and he doesn’t really know her that well. These Gen Alpha romances. The next day he told me he had 10,000 girlfriends and they all lived right next door so take the girlfriend comment with a grain of salt.

He digs “hug tag,” which is a game my wife created combining the basics of tag with giving hugs. He’s a fan of David Bowie’s “Magic Dance” from the movie “Labyrinth,” and he also likes Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” We played “Eye of the Tiger” during our boxing matches over the course of two days which totally wore me out. He loves chicken nuggets, french fries, and fruit punch from “Chic-filets.”

“The night is calling, I have to go. The wolf is hungry, he runs the show.”

He thinks A LOT about anacondas and tarantulas and werewolves. We played werewolf sounds on the Alexa one night (at his request), but it scared him so we had to tell Alexa to stop. He told me on numerous occasions that he saw an anaconda in our backyard even though he knows they’re mostly found in rain forests. I’ll be extra cautious though when venturing out into my suburban back yard from now on.

He thinks my knock-knock jokes are hilarious: “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Who. Who-who? What, are you an owl?!” Hysterical laughing follows every time.

He accidentally dropped a “dammit!” but he used it appropriately when he couldn’t get his pajama shirt on right so I didn’t feel the need for correction at that point. Pajama tops have caused me to say dammit before too. He can drop quotes from “Lego Batman,” and can spin half-hour tales from the bathtub if you let him all the while spilling bathwater all over the floor. He loves Avengers. He says red and black are his favorite colors because they’re the colors of Deadpool even though he’s never seen one minute of Deadpool.

Keller can be a handful. He will test boundaries and your patience. He might resemble a miniature hurricane at times, but he’s sweet and will give hugs and kisses and lay on your chest and fall asleep. He will tell you he loves you, and at the end of a long day, that makes it all worth it.

“Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.”

The Scorpions have been around in some incarnation since 1965 making them some of the elder statesmen of the heavy metal world. Formed by song-writer and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, they enjoyed their most success from the late 70’s through the early 90’s.

Truth be told, Keller actually prefers this song as covered from the “Trolls World Tour” sung by actress Rachel Bloom. Sorry Scorpions. Uh, I never said he was perfect ok? I’m blaming it on the Gen Alpha thing again. He also said he got stung by a scorpion once. It didn’t hurt though. Guess those Wisconsin scorpions don’t have quite the same sting as their southwestern relatives.

This group has some sting though and one of my favorite 80’s guitar solos belongs to Matthias Jabs in this iconic 80’s song. It was their lead single from their ninth (yes, ninth!) studio album in 1984 called “Love At First Sting.” I was 13 and this was really the first time I recall being introduced to the Scorpions. I sure wasn’t five. This video lacks anacondas or werewolves, but still may be a little too scary for Keller at this time. But when the time is right my little man, crank up the volume, and immerse yourself in Germany’s greatest hard rock band with their sexy vixens and their shaking cage and what has ultimately become their signature song – “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” And if this version properly rocks your face off, well, I’m sure Rachel Bloom will understand.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“You Belong Among the Wildflowers”


“You belong in a boat out at sea” – Tom Petty

(Photo by Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

My daughter moved most of her stuff out of the house last night. She’s 20 and working two jobs and well, it’s time I guess. That didn’t make it any easier to watch her go though. It was tough. My wife and I had a glass of wine. That didn’t really help. We made busy with household chores to distract ourselves, and then we had a second glass, and that did help… a little. She’s only moving across town about 10 minutes away, but it mine as well be Australia. The sting is still real.

At times it seems like your children will be with you forever, and you want them to be with you, and you get used to that familiar feeling of family and the highs and lows that go along with that on a daily basis. And then there are times where you’re ready to throw all of their crap on the front lawn and demand they leave. And then all of sudden, one day they do. They go. Those firsts – first steps, first words, first lost tooth, first bike ride, first girlfriend/boyfriend, first heartbreak, and first drive have suddenly turned into first apartment and first bills.

The house becomes quieter. The mood a little more somber at times. The mind becomes a playground for doubt and fear. Prayers are called out to combat the vicious lies… but are they? Did we really teach her enough? Did we fail her? What happens if her car breaks down? She has no savings! Were we very good parents? Will she get enough nutritious food to eat? Is her new place safe? Is she hanging out with the “right kind” of people? Oh man, I never got around to making that homemade shiv with her, and showing her how to use it!

Will she make it on her own? If she doesn’t, and ends up back at home in three weeks or three months or three years from now, what does that even mean?

I thought back to August of 1989 when I moved out of the house and into the dorms for my first semester of college. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I remember that I cried a little bit that day too as I made the 45 minute trip to St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee. I don’t remember my dad being home when I left. I’m sure he was on the road recruiting for the University of Oklahoma at the time, but my mom was definitely there. She was there as I backed out of my parents’ driveway in the ’84 Camaro they had bought me.

I wonder if she cried after I was gone. Probably. At least she still had my sister at home, but I was still the first and I was leaving. I wasn’t really gone totally. I was immediately back home that Friday afternoon after classes ended that day, and did so a lot that first semester away from home. Leaving and letting go of home is not easy on the child either.

“Go away somewhere all bright and new. I have seen no other who compares with you.”

Our daughter is one that has always forged her own path. As parents, my wife and I envisioned a different move that probably aligned more with our vision than hers. We thought maybe it would be into a college dorm (college just isn’t her jam yet), or maybe into a cute little apartment with her best friend. The move out wasn’t contentious, but it wasn’t exactly like what we thought her moving out would look like. My wife envisioned being able to help her pick out a place and help her move into it and decorate it. That did not happen. I thought she would live with us until she actually had some savings and some sort of plan for her future. That really didn’t happen either. One day it was “hey, I’m moving in with Ally” and over the course of about 30 days she’s made it happen. At the time, she had no job and 200 bucks in a savings account. Since then she’s worked three different jobs and is somehow making it work so far. That alone demands some sort of respect and admiration however painful it still may be right now.

It’s a new chapter for her. It’s a new chapter for us. Adjustments will be made and life will go on, but it’ll just be different now. She still has a world of possibilities before her. But one day and God-willing, she’ll be the parent releasing the child and thinking about how fast it all went, and maybe she’ll wonder if mom and dad cried after she had left this house those many years ago. We did.

“You belong somewhere you feel free. You belong somewhere you feel free.”

It’s not an 80’s song today, but close. Instead, it’s one of the great artists of the 80’s, Tom Petty with his 1994 song from the album of the same name, “Wildflowers.” The video below was a home recorded demo version of the song with video that was released posthumously in 2020. My daughter has a little bit of this song to her, so I found it fitting for today’s post. It makes me a little sad to watch Tom in this video and I do miss that he’s no longer with us. And I miss my daughter.

Thanks for the reading. Go hug your child, and if you don’t have any, go hug a random child. No, wait, don’t do that. Just go hug your mom.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Shortly after my daughter’s birth in Dec. 2000
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“There’s No Stopping Us (No Stopping)”

“No one does it better (No one does it better).” – Ollie & Jerry

And no one did it better in 1984 for the poppers and the lockers than this duo that teamed up for the title track to the 1984 movie “Breakin’.” I had never seen this entire movie until a recent podcast I listen to (shoutout “Stuck in the 80’s“) covered this movie and its’ relevance coming on the heels of the COVID-related death of Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones (aka Orlando “Ozone” in “Breakin'”) in December.

So I pulled the movie up on Youtube and watched it in the nine parts it’s broken into. The movie also features Christopher McDonald (who? you’ll recognize him when you see him), Ice-T, and even a cameo of Jean-Claude van Damme in his first role though it was so small it was uncredited. Saying the acting is poor is not even relevant for this movie, because if you’re watching it for the acting then you know nothing about “Breakin’.” The dancing is where it’s at and no one did it better in 1984 than Quinones and his co-star Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers. I’m just hypothetically speaking though because I of course have no idea if anyone could do it better, but let’s just say these were two of the best.

By 1984, even kids in the sticks (like me in Seminole, Oklahoma) knew what poppin’ and lockin’ was, and we had all also seen Michael Jackson perform the mesmerizing moonwalk by this time. We (myself included) had all tried really hard to imitate it, but the results were poor at best. Interestingly, it was Chambers (after learning the move from his older brother) who had helped Michael Jackson perfect the moonwalk and taught him his style of popping as well.

Shortly after “Breakin'” exposed kids everywhere to the popular dance form, I bought this album below. Now, this is not to be confused with the 1984 album “Breakin'” from the movie I’ve been writing about so far. No, this was a different album with breakdance music that came with a “how-to” poster so you too could be the next “Ozone” or “Turbo.”

I actually think I owned the cassette, but whether it was the cassette or the album, I definitely had this poster. The album was produced by K-tel, a company that was popular particularly in the 60’s and 70’s for compilation albums. Think of it as the precursor to Spotify or Apple or Amazon Music playlists. People would purchase K-tel albums with hits from various artists. My first K-tel album was an album I think I got for Christmas in 1979 or possibly my birthday early in 1980, and it was called “Wings of Sound.”

The album definitely had some songs I played over and over in my room. The ones I enjoyed were the two Michael Jackson hits (“Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough), “the Pina Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes, K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go,” and “Lonesome Loser” by The Little River Band. Occasionally “This is It” by Kenny Loggins and “Ladies Night” by Kool and the Gang were allowed to play as well as Blondie’s “Dreaming.” The other songs by Journey, Nick Lowe, John Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sniff n’ the Tears, ABBA, and France Joli were all relegated to being skipped on the turntable if I was close by.

“Out in the street
You don’t survive by being weak
This is our time
Walls were made for us to climb”

So, back to my K-tel “Breakdance” album and poster… I worked diligently in my bedroom for what had to have been literally days, maybe even weeks (gasp!) trying my best to become the greatest break dancer in Seminole. I could actually moonwalk a little bit in my penny loafers. I could do a small amount of body poppin’. I could not top-rock, nor could I headspin. Pretty sure I hurt my neck at one point trying to headspin. So, utterly frustrated by my lack of mastery after at least two weeks, I did what any spoiled, lazy 13 year-old would do – I gave up.

I have no idea what happened to this poster or this album. I’m sure it was given away or sold in some garage sale or possibly just thrown out at some point. I have to imagine that the tracks on this album were hastily compiled without a thought or a care to longevity, but instead with a nod to the almighty dollar. No, this album wasn’t exactly put together to challenge The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” or Prince’s “Purple Rain” for greatness.

“Don’t you try to lock us out
Cause were breaking down the doors
And ohhhh…we just came to fight.”

And dance fighting they did in this movie! Ollie and Jerry (Ollie Brown & Jerry Knight) joined forces in 1984 for the movie soundtrack to “Breakin’,” and put together this masterpiece which peaked at #5 in the UK and #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The duo never did much after this. They tried to duplicate their success with the song “Electric Boogaloo” from the sequel “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The song barely charted in the UK, and failed to chart in the U.S. Shortly thereafter, there was no more Ollie & Jerry. It’s ok though, because for three minutes and thirty seconds they gave dancing kids and dancing wannabes all over the world a classic in which to break, pop, lock, and spin.

Relive your youth and enjoy the dance craze that was sweeping the nation in 1984 with Ollie & Jerry and “Breakin’: There’s No Stopping Us.” Oh, and watch for Jean Claude in his black wrestling singlet dancing in the background around the 2:30-2:45 minute mark!

Thanks for reading, and now that there’s no stopping you, go show off your poppin’ and lockin’ skills.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Straight outta church: Your poppin’ and lockin’ author circa 1983 with trusty Duke the poodle in one arm and a vintage turntable and television in the background.
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“It’s Like Having a Dream”

“Where nobody has a heart.” – Benny Mardones

Dick Clark and Benny Mardones

I attended my first sporting event this week since the pandemic started in March of 2020. I live about 15 minutes from Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the Arkansas Razorbacks were hosting the Ole Miss Rebels. One of my dad’s former players, Win Case, is an assistant coach at Ole Miss and he hooked my wife and I up with tickets for the game. If you’ve read any of the Seminole Junior College posts that I recently posted on here then you are well aware of Win Case and the importance he played during our four year run at Seminole from 1980-84.

College basketball sure looks different in 2021. Our first mistake was my wife showing up at the front door with her purse. Too large. It had to go back to the car. On the plus side, we were able to park closer than normal just due to the restriction on the number of people allowed inside.

Our tickets were right behind the Ole Miss bench. Normally that would have been the very first row. In the COVID world that meant about the 6th row. Row F became Row A if that makes sense. They were still great seats as you can see from the pictures, but now the universities are selling advertising to companies in those first six or seven rows behind the team benches. Big banners cover those seating areas as you can see from this picture that was an advertisement for Saracen Resort, which is a casino resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Now I’m just providing some free advertising for them for the hundreds of thousands of readers! You’re welcome Saracen Resort. You’re welcome.

“It’s like having it all. And watching it fall apart.”

The mascots were relegated to the corner of the arena next to the student section. They were never prancing around the court. The cheerleaders and pom-pom squads never left their respective positions. And what my wife and I laughed at was the fact that the customary live halftime dance routine by the pom squad was a video recording that they showed on the big scoreboard instead.

The positives are the ease of parking and the short lines to get in and at the concession stands and bathrooms. Also, we were the only people in our row so you can spread out, put your coats on a different seat; you get the picture. It’s all still very surreal though. Hand sanitizing stations everywhere. Masks must be worn the whole time with the exception of eating or drinking something.

Now, why the coaches and players pretend to wear their masks though makes no sense. They take them down all the time to yell out instructions during the game and during timeouts. Some of the players wear them on the bench, some of them don’t. I think they should just let the players and coaches not wear them if they want. I don’t see what good it’s doing anyone for them to wear them part of the time. Sometimes the masks are all the way on and sometimes they’re pulled down under their nose and sometimes they’re being worn around chins. Masks are important but the inconsistency of use on the benches not only in basketball, but in all sports, seems pointless to me.

“If I could fly. I’d pick you up.”

The whole event just felt so very unnatural and for a lack of a better word – bizarre. What’s the connection of today’s post about college basketball in 2021 and Benny Mardones’ 1980 hit? Well I guess if I must stretch a bit, it’s just that both events are bizarre. This video, which predated MTV by one year, is one of the most awesomely horrible videos ever. A once-in-a-lifetime horribleness, much like I hope these sporting events are for the next few months.

I don’t ever really recall seeing this video until just now basically. This song can make the claim of being one of the few songs (ten of them if you believe Wiki) that actually charted in the top 20 twice. This one actually did it in the same decade as well peaking at #11 for two weeks in 1980 after its’ initial release, and then again when it peaked at #20 in July of 1989. Apparently a L.A. DJ started putting the song in his playlist after hearing a “Where Are They Now?” segment, which in turn spurred renewed interest in Mardones’ only hit.

“She’s just 16 years old. Leave her alone, they say.”

Mardones was already 33 or 34 when this song was released which makes this line one of the creepier lines of the 80’s. Uh, yes Benny, you need to leave her alone is right. You and Kip Winger (“she’s only 17…”) should go very far away, please.

Despite the creepy lyrics (which wasn’t totally without peer in the 80’s), I think Mardones has a pretty decent voice so I’m surprised he was never able to muster up another hit. His voice seems like it could have served a hair metal band very well, or maybe a Journey or Whitesnake cover band, because he reminds me a little bit if Steve Perry and David Coverdale had a love child together.

When you pull him up on Spotify, his top five songs are all some version of “Into the Night.” Maybe his age worked against him by the time he garnered his lone hit, or maybe he just didn’t catch the right breaks at the right time. Whatever it was, Mardones will always have this hit (twice), and this incredibly awesomely bad video to go along with it. R.I.P. Benny (he died in 2020 after years of battling Parkinson’s Disease).

Everyone, get out that magic carpet you have rolled up somewhere and get ready to fly with Benny “Into the Night.”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Bonus material:

Cool interview with he and the late, great Dick Clark as they intro his 1980 song dedicated to Dick Clark and his show called “American Bandstand.”

You can check out the actual song here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/6KMW34IK4H4Yc0SOp4eQFP

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“So You Think I Got a Funny Face”

“I ain’t got no worries.” – Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot – Metal Health (1983) | Heavy Metal Addiction
Cavazo, DuBrow, Sarzo, and Banali

Last night I watched an entertaining documentary on Netflix called “Hired Gun” directed by Fran Strine. It was a 2016 doc focusing on studio musicians that are hired by artists to perform on their albums and occasionally to go on the road to tour. You may have never heard of these talented musicians unless you are really into music or a particular instrument that you play, but rest assured the artists in the music world know who they are, because they are considered the best of the best. In the documentary, these hired guns tell the stories of their times with the likes of Billy Joel, Pink, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Ozzy, Mandy Moore, Ray Parker Jr., KISS, and many more. My favorites during the 98 minute production were Liberty Devitto (great name), who played drums for Billy Joel during his peak, and bassist legend Rudy Sarzo.

Rudy Sarzo really stood out to me as a unique character in a cast of unique characters. Sarzo has had the occasion to play bass for Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake among many others. The footage with Quiet Riot reminded me how big and bright that group shone for such a short time.

“So you think I got an evil mind
I’ll tell you honey.”

An amazing accomplishment by a relatively unknown band, but their “Metal Health” album was the first heavy metal album to reach #1 on the Billboard Album charts. Quiet Riot supplanted The Police’s “Synchronicity” that week at the top spot. The Police fell to #4, one spot ahead of Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man” album. At numbers two and three on the album chart that week? Just a couple of little records called “Can’t Slow Down” by Lionel Richie (#2) and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Lionel would take over the top spot the next week, but for one glorious week in late November the metal world rejoiced at the success of singer Kevin DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, drummer Frankie Banali, and bassist Sarzo.

Quiet Riot - Metal Health (1983, Cassette) | Discogs

I’m not 100% certain, but I believe the “Metal Health” cassette was my first heavy metal cassette in my collection. I recall it being in heavy rotation on my cassette player in my bedroom and in my Walkman along with “Synchronicity,” “Thriller,” Styx’ “Kilroy Was Here,” and Men At Work’s “Business As Usual.”

The album peaks with the first two songs – the title track, “Metal Health,” and “Cum on Feel the Noize,” but there are still a few other nice tracks on this album if you’re into hair metal bands. This album was most likely my first album with a curse word in the title of a song as well. I’m sure if my parents knew that their 12 year old son was bobbing his head and singing along to the catchy “Love’s a Bitch,” they would have been none too happy.

Back to Rudy Sarzo for just a minute. I was really impressed to find out of his faith in God and how that has been the driving force for what he has done. At 70 years of age now, he says that as long as his fingers allow, he’ll continue to play and entertain. The fact that he is strong in his belief is so interesting and seemingly flies in the face of some of the bands he played with, particularly with Ozzy and Ronnie Dio. To Sarzo’s credit and a reminder for all of us, he saw these performers as characters acting out a part, and realized that God had placed him in these arenas for a purpose. He was quoted in a 2007 article saying “What I think they (Ozzy and Ronnie Dio) actually do is bring awareness that there is a God and that he does exist.” He goes on to say how kind Ozzy treated him and that Ronnie Dio was one of the most amazing human beings he had ever met. A seemingly gracious, grounded, fascinatingly talented bassist. Consider me a Rudy Sarzo fan.

“So you think my singing’s out of time
It makes me money”

Quiet Riot was originally formed in 1973 by bassist Kelly Garni and the late, legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads whose story is also covered in the “Hired Gun” documentary. Sidenote: the final song on the “Metal Health” album is a ballad called “Thunderbird,” and is a tribute to Rhoads. The band of course is now really just a shell of itself as both DuBrow and Banali have also passed away – DuBrow in 2007 and Banali in 2020. But Cavazo and Sarzo live on to tell the stories, and what great stories they are.

Today’s song was cover of a 1973 hit overseas by the band Slade. One of the iconic videos of 1983, and a top five Billboard hit, relive hired gun Rudy Sarzo and the video greatness of Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noize”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“And the Band, They Played One More Song”

“One for the mockingbird.” – Cutting Crew

Cutting Crew peak to No.1 in 1987 on the US Hot 100 with the power ballad  "(I Just) Died in Your Arms" | Pop Expresso

A happy belated new year to you all! Hindsight is indeed now 2020. Hey-oh!

One thing 2020 brought more of to me personally was bird-watching in my backyard. I hung up more bird feeders. I read books and internet articles about birds and birding and how to identify birds and what kinds of food to provide. I even started watching bird cams on YouTube. Bird. Nerd.

Sometimes while I’m watching the birds in my backyard now, I’ll just watch the mockingbird now and think to myself how exhausting it must be to be a mockingbird. While the mockingbird undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful songs, one of his peculiar lots in life is to be so territorial that he must consistently chase birds away from “his” feeding station like a drug dealer defending his corner to sling dope. Everyday he swoops, he chases, he harasses all of the other birds flitting about at the feeding stations. Friendship and sharing be damned! This is survival, so he presumes.

The problem for the mockingbird in my backyard though is that I have about 7 or 8 different feeders hanging from two different trees. This makes the influx of birds constant which means the mockingbird swoops and chases birds continuously throughout the day. The feeder that he tends to relentlessly chase birds from has a mix that includes about 10% dried cranberries, and the mocks love their fruit.

It makes me tired watching him, but he never gives up. Sure, there are lulls in the action where he’s decided to perch on top of our roof or watches from a nearby branch while he gathers up the energy needed for a few more fly-bys. Oh, and besides that one feeder, don’t even think about invading his holly trees with those red berries lest you be on a mission to lose a few feathers.

“I have learnt, time will tell, years will pass, tears will fall,
Don’t be fooled, fed by words, their sweet songs, Mocking-birds!”

The mockingbird is the state bird for many states including my state of Arkansas. One of these days soon I’ll create a separate mockingbird feeder just for him so he’ll leave the rest of the birds alone (so I hope). I don’t mind him chasing the teenagers out of the yard though. And by “teenagers,” I mean the European Starlings that come in like a gang of teenagers at a mall food court loudly squawking at each other, fighting, and pretty much making life a nuisance for everyone else there trying to eat in peace. (Note: keep the suet to a minimum – the starlings love that stuff like teens and a Chick-fil-A nugget tray.)

Even though the mock has this annoying tendency to scare away all of the other pretty birds, I do admire its’ consistency and persistence. There’s definitely something to be said for those two traits, and whatever that may be, it is in the eyes of the beholder. But frankly, I think we can learn from the mockingbird. Snow, rain, heat, it doesn’t matter to the mock. Whatever condition his surroundings hold, it doesn’t keep him for his hyper-focused drive to protect what he deems to be his. He keeps consistently and persistently swooping and chasing and defending, and it’s admirable if not ultimately futile.

What are you hiding from?
Why do you lock the door?
Open up the door!

So I plan to take more of those two traits with me into 2021 and hope you do as well. 2020 already did a fine job of testing our persistence and mental stability, and chances are 2021 will continue to do the same. But I think as long as we can stay consistent in whatever we’re doing and persistent in the tasks before us, that 2021 will be a year worthy of a comeback.

And during those times that you may be frustrated by your personal mockingbird, keep in mind persistence and consistency, and if it helps feel free to revert back to your high school days and the wise words of Miss Maudie – “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

“I have learnt through all my past mistakes
Not to let the hurdles sap my energy
Time will tell and time is all it takes
You won’t see the bastards knock the running out of me”

Disappointingly, there are no actual mockingbirds in today’s featured video though lead singer Nick Van Eede does belt out a few screeches at the end of the song. I’ve never heard the mockingbird make those noises before, but doesn’t mean they can’t. This band that formed in London in 1985 got its name from the definition of a band that doesn’t play concerts, but instead stays in the studio recording or “cutting” new songs.

A minor hit only reaching #38 in the U.S. in 1987, this song is also (IMO) about persistence. No matter the set backs or put downs, stay persistent and don’t pay attention to those who want to hold you back or tell you that you can’t do something. That type of person is referred to in this song as a mocking-bird. So here is Cutting Crew with one of their more underrated songs, and a song that can be found on my Spotify “I’m Watching Birds” playlist – “One for the Mockingbird”…

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“She Cheers Me Up When I Feel Alone”


“And that’s why baby I’ve got to let you know” – Kool and the Gang

Joanna / Place for Us by Kool & The Gang (Single, Pop Soul): Reviews,  Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music

In the final installment of this five-part series, I honor my dad and the players that made magic happen on a “God-awful blue court” in a gym located on the campus of Seminole Junior College in Seminole, Oklahoma.  My dad and those players were more than just a coach and his ballplayers.  They were my heroes, and this series of posts is a dedication to that time, those men, and some unbelievable basketball.  And, oh yeah, you know I’m going to bring some sweet sounds from that era as well!  Previous: Part 4 “Hutch”

Part 5: The Final Run

1983-84…

Dad and I and my Elk Hoop Shoot trophies in 1983-84 (Kentucky t-shirt provided by Coach Joe B. Hall on one of his recruiting visits to Seminole)

In the summer of 1983, while I was busy with summer basketball camps and winning trophies, Anthony Bowie and William Childs were holding down summer jobs in Seminole. Bowie remembers his days under the hot Oklahoma sun well:

“They might not ever have me working for the city (Seminole) ever again.  It was hot as all get out!  I was working for the city but it was with an oil company.  Some of the things they had me doing man.  I used to have to run out into a field with high grass, and it’s hot as Hell and I would have to paint a post bright yellow.  I had my long jeans on and my boots and was watching out for snakes.  It was crazy.  I was telling myself I need to just be staying in the gym and working out, but (this job) gave me the opportunity to see some things and it taught me that I was either going to start working a little harder at what I need to be doing or end up with a job like that.  I thought if there’s an opportunity where I can make a living playing ball then I’m staying inside with the A/C!  Being out in that Oklahoma heat with grass up to my waist – I thought this definitely isn’t for me.  (But) everything we did as young men built character, made us stronger, and made us think about what we really wanted to do with life.  For me it did.” 

Gone was our dynamic backcourt duo of Win Case and Adam Frank, but like Win Case before them, Bowie and Chilli hit the recruiting trail, which ironically led right back to Tulsa and another Division I prospect finishing his career at Tulsa Edison High School. His name was Archie Marshall.

“(Oklahoma signee) “Choo” Kennedy was OKC player of the year.  We played together in the summer and I used to ride the bus to OKC and we played together with the OKC Rams.  I was Tulsa player of the year, but I was also Oklahoma player of the year.  To this day, Choo refuses to accept it though!” laughed Marshall. 

“People asked me why did you go to Seminole?  There were some stories out there regarding my eligibility as far as academics were concerned.  I had to push hard to be eligible to play.  I had to go to summer school after my senior year in high school to finish up a class.  OU was the school I wanted to go to out of high school.  Tubbs pretty much iced me and said publicly that they weren’t recruiting me because I wasn’t going to be eligible.  That hurt me because I wanted to go to OU. I wasn’t ineligible.  I visited TU, San Diego State, and Kansas State.  Rolando Blackmon was there (K-State), but there was something about that program that just didn’t fit.  Then here come William and Bowie.  Those guys recruited me to Seminole. I even think your mom tutored me a little bit at Seminole.  I think she helped me with one of my classes.  I was at your house getting tutored because I wasn’t focused academically coming out of high school.”

Archie Marshall

“The ABC Gang” was back and the three had also moved on from the legendary “White House” to a trailer on campus the three of them shared.

“The damn trailer had holes in the bottom of it and we opossums coming up through the floor!  Other than that, everything else was pretty good about it,” remembered Bowie.

Well, maybe the gang had marsupials popping up into their living quarters from time to time, but on the basketball court, our ABC Gang had added Archie Marshall to an already potent offensive attack.  Early in the 1983-84 campaign, a photo shoot would have the four of them donning surgical masks and doctor scrubs and posing on top of ladders with basketballs right next to the rim. They were given the tag “Surgeons of Slam.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sjcsurgeons-e1604886744908.jpg
The “Surgeons of Slam”

I vividly remember using some paint in my garage on a long roll of butcher paper where I wrote “Surgeons of Slam.” After it dried, I rolled it up, took it to the game, put it under my seat at the end of the bench, and waited for the perfect moment.

That perfect moment came later that night when Anthony Bowie came up with a steal and raced down the left side of the blue floor with one defender sprinting to get in front of him before he reached the basket. At the last moment, Bowie glanced over his right shoulder, saw his wingman Chilli trailing, and bounced the ball between his legs perfectly to Childs who then proceeded to hammer home a thunderous left-handed dunk right over the poor defender attempting to take a charge. The gym erupted and an ensuing timeout by the opposing team occurred. That moment enabled the ballboy All-Americans to unroll the sign and hold it up before an approving crowd.

Of course that was just one of many dunks that season by the “Surgeons of Slam.”

Archie Marshall recalled: “We competed for shoes, man.  There was really nothing else to do… no other incentives.  It was rebounds and the hustle stuff.  It was almost like a jailbreak I remember the games we played together.  How we competed and competed for dunks.  I wasn’t a great ball handler, but i knew if I got the rebound and I got the ball to Anthony and ran the floor I was going to get rewarded.  You talk about incentives.  We fought to run the floor, because if Bowie or Chilli got it they were going to go with it.  People fighting to get to their lanes to get a dunk.  We were fighting each other for rebounds.  Coach Kerwin was a smart dude.  He was a player’s coach and knew how to motivate us.  I remember the most that he let us play as long as we played hard and played with effort.”

Chilli also remembered the “SJC incentive plan:” “You get so many rebounds you get a pair of tennis shoes.  You get over 10 rebounds you get some new Nikes.  Coach had to raise it up to 15 rebounds because I was getting some shoes!  After about 3 or 4 pairs, coach had to raise that standard!”    

The 1983-84 Seminole Trojans. Back row (L-R) Manager Eddie “Sarge” Sergent, Cummings Jacob, Anthony Bowie, Arthur Latus, Aaron Combs, David Meese, Archie Marshall, William Childs, Ray Alford, Coach Jim Kerwin. Front row (L-R): Manual Carolina, Darrell Moore, Greg Willie, Donnell Parrish, Franklin Williams, Marcus Lee, Steve Alexander, Roshon Patton.

The 1983-84 team was more dominant in some ways than the national runner-up team from a year before. With the addition of Archie, the emergence of Marcus Lee as a knock-down shooter, and freshman Roshon Patton to add depth at the guard position, these Trojans were a legitimate national title contender again.

“Marcus Lee was probably one of the best… a pure shooter, said Marshall.  “The guys from Jacksonville.  “Buster” (Cummings Jacobs) would rebound.  Darnell could jump out of the gym. We’d be at the white house talking noise.  One time we were all there and it was cold, snow on the ground, probably 15 degrees outside.  We ended up taking our conversation to an outdoor park somewhere and it was either 2 on 2 or 3 on 3, but it was me and Chilli for sure and somebody against those dudes from Jacksonville, Florida – Marcus Lee and Buster Rhymes (Cummings Jacob) and we just killed those dudes.  We would do stuff like that.  That’s how much we loved the game and that’s how competitive we were,” said Marshall.    

Early in the season though the Trojans were dealt a set-back when my dad had to dismiss two players that were going to play a lot for this Seminole team – Aaron Combs and Greg Willie.

Chilli recalled the incident: “Aaron Combs came in and he was from California and he was like 6’9 and would have really helped us out.  And then we had a guy from Bradley (University) – Greg Willie.  So we were starting Bowie and Greg Willie at the guards and then Archie and Ray and I and Aaron Combs was coming off the bench and we were really talented.  But at our first tournament in Hobbs, NM coach had to send Greg and Aaron home.  I don’t know what those guys did, but I think they didn’t pay for a meal and coach got their ass up out of there!  Your dad didn’t play that stuff.”

That dismissal did occur after Combs and Willie skipped out without paying for a meal in New Mexico, and it came on the heels of three straight wins in the New Mexico Tournament to begin the season 3-0.

Connors State College handed the Trojans our first loss of the year 63-60 in the first game back in Oklahoma. After that though, the Trojans won 21 of their next 22 games with only a two point loss to Westark ruining what would have been a 22 game win streak. Two of those wins included double-digit wins over Independence, Kansas.

After a loss to honorable mention All-American Greg Epps and Eastern Oklahoma 87-83, the Trojans, behind our first team All-American Anthony Bowie, won their final three regular season games that season heading into the state tournament, which had been moved from OKC to the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.

A first round win over Northern 86-67 set up a semi-final matchup with NEO. Anthony Bowie made his first seven shots that game and our nationally 14th ranked Trojan team was never in trouble routing NEO 77-49.

“They are playing very well,” said NEO coach Larry Gipson after the game. “We had hoped for a nip and tuck game, but we just got a good whipping. We had them shooting 63 percent (from the field).”

Bowie finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, but Chilli was the dominant performer in the NEO win with 24 points and 12 boards setting up a championship game rubber match against Eastern.

Eastern had defeated St. Gregory’s in the other semi-final in a close one. We had beaten Eastern early in the year by two and then had lost by four just a few weeks before the state tournament. The Trojans surged to an early 17-6 lead and held a nine point lead at the half. The Mountaineers closed to within 66-59 late in the game before we scored eight straight points to put the game out of reach on our way to our fourth straight state championship. Bowie and Chilli both scored over 20 while Ray added 17 and Archie added 13.

“We’ve got a heck of a ball club,” my dad said after the game. “I told these kids even though we’d won the last three straight state championships, this is the best team I have coached.”

Four years. Four state juco championships.

Our Region II opponent was Southern Arkansas Tech University from Camden, AR. In game one, we trailed by two points at halftime before rallying for a 74-54 win.

Game two back at Seminole was nearly identical. A slim halftime lead this time turned into a 74-57 win after a 14-2 spurt to start the first six minutes of the second half. Archie Marshall had a game high 23 points while Alford had 17. Bowie and Roshon Patton both scored in double figures as well.

“I told the players at halftime, if we lose this game, I’m not going to Conway (Arkansas for game three),” said my dad.

The win gave the Trojans nine straight, and put us into the NJCAA playoffs for the second straight season. But in an odd year, the Region II winner had to defeat the Region VI winner (Kansas) to earn the trip to Hutch.

After a 12 day layoff, on March 16, we hosted Independence, Kansas in a one-game battle with a spot in Hutchinson on the line. The Pirates were led in the interior by Ron Roberts (would sign with OU), guard Carliss Jeter (Tennessee-Chattanooga), and a 6’3″ sophomore guard from McPherson, Kansas, named Brad Underwood.

The Trojans started off slowly and we trailed 20-10 just nine minutes into the game. Early in the second half trailing 34-25, we rallied scoring 22 of the next 29 points to take a 47-41 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining. We had just given Independence a solid combination that had the Pirates on the ropes. But Ron Roberts hit two straight buckets for Independence to cut the lead to two and steady the Pirates. There were five ties before a Roberts’ tip-in gave Independence a one point lead with six minutes remaining. A pair of Underwood free throws and another Pirates bucket had Independence up 61-56. Chilli scored and we were within 61-58 when the Pirates went into their stall game burning over two minutes off the clock and ending with a Carliss Jeter layup putting them back up five. The Pirates continued to play the stall game and Underwood continued to make free throws. Underwood, who would go on to play for Jack Hartman at Kansas State University and is now the current head coach at The University of Illinois, was averaging 17 points per game and poured in a game high 22 points that night as Independence advanced to Hutch with a 70-64 win.

“We made the game with Seminole such a big game,” said Underwood. “We had a tough road to make it to the NJCAA national tourney that year.  We had to go win at Barton County then had to go to Seminole and play on that God-awful blue court.”

After having lost twice during the regular season, everything fell into place for Independence the third time around and the Pirates ended our season and our 26 game home winning streak.

Chilli: “We had just blasted Independence twice during the season (Seminole won 84-68 and 81-70 in the previous two meetings).  I don’t know how we lost that game.  They just got hot really though.  Underwood and Jeter.  Basically, it was a first round NJCAA tournament game that we played at home, but we thought why are we playing this anyway?”

My dad had a similar feeling and was quoted after the game:

“We were just so flat the first half. We shot 34 percent and had 11 turnovers in the first half. Maybe it was because we had such a long layoff. We couldn’t get into the rhythm of the game. You hate to lose. Maybe if we played again, we’d win next time. It’s just one of those things.”

Independence took our spot in the NJCAA National Tournament and proceeded to march all the way to the finals where they too fell to San Jacinto in the title game 86-82 giving San Jac and (NYC playground legend and St. John’s signee) Walter Berry back-to-back championships.

“We beat Seminole and then had to win 2 straight games in the same scenario where we had to go full court to win the game (in the NJCAA tourney).  A Ron Roberts tip-in won the first game against Vincennes at the buzzer, and the second game (against Nate McMillon and Chowan College in Murfreesboro, NC), we made the shot at the end and won it (Carliss Jeter’s shot).  Walter Berry was one of the greatest players I ever played against in the finals that season.” 

Brad Underwood (responsible for the “God-awful blue court” quote) a year or two after his Independence team upset the Seminole Trojans.

For the Trojans that final season, four of them averaged at least 15 points per game including our sensational freshman Archie Marshall, who scored at a 16.7 clip.

“The thing I remember is it was just fun to play with those guys,” said Marshall.  “Everyone challenged each other to get better and Coach Kerwin was easy to play for.  He would get on your ass and yell and scream with his scraggly voice, but I wasn’t thinking about wins and losses.  Our practices were fun.  The food was terrible.  I think it was Wednesday Salisbury steak day.  Nobody had any money but playing with Chilli and those guys was just good memories.”

“The ABC Gang” was as good as advertised that final season with Ray Alford and William Childs both averaging 15 points per game, but it was Anthony Bowie who led our last Seminole team in scoring with an 18.5 average, and who was also responsible for many Division I coaches visiting the SJC campus and the Kerwin house.

Athletic Director Thurman Edwards recalled one particular meeting with my dad, Bowie, and an assistant coach at a prominent Division I program:

“(This coach) came into my office after a basketball game that season, and he had a wad of money in his hand for Bowie. But your dad, said ‘Anthony, don’t you do it,’ and he didn’t.”

Anthony Bowie ended up signing with the University of Oklahoma and played the next two seasons under Coach Billy Tubbs. After his career at OU, Bowie was drafted in the 3rd round of the NBA by the Houston Rockets. He would go on to play for 16 seasons combined in the CBA, NBA, and in Europe. Bowie currently resides in the Orlando area.

“I enjoyed with what I was doing and I had good guys I was playing with and we were really enjoying it.  We were like one big family.  When we were at Seminole, the staff, people like Miss Bonnie (Ritchie) taking care of us.  And just the people in the town of Seminole like your mom and dad and their friends like the Sims and Lacks and Moddelmogs.  We could not do what we did without the help of those people you know what I’m saying.  Those people took care of us and made sure we were eating and making sure we were doing alright.  We don’t do what we do without all the people involved and the support of the people in Seminole.  All we had to do was go and play,” said Bowie. 

  

“Sugar” Ray Alford signed with Paul Hansen and Oklahoma State University where he teamed up once again with Win Case. Alford graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and spent over 20 years in the aviation industry. Now retired, Alford lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area.

William Childs went on to become a starting forward at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, and averaged double figures the next two seasons before playing overseas in France a few years. Childs then joined and toured with the Marques Haynes Harlem Magicians. He now resides in Tulsa and still keeps in frequent contact with Case, Bowie, and Alford.

Chilli

Archie Marshall returned to Seminole Junior College under new head coach Riley Wallace for his sophomore season before leaving at semester break and enrolling at the University of Kansas. Often sidelined by knee problems, Archie Marshall earned a national championship ring as part of “Danny and the Miracles” in 1988. Marshall was also the final draft pick of the 1989 draft by San Antonio and his former coach, Larry Brown.

“That was the year Bowie was signed by the Spurs and I got to spend the summer with him.  I was actually with Bowie when they offered him the contract.  We were eating at the mall one of those all you can eat joints and he ended up buying everybody lunch after he found out.” 

Archie now lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area.

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Archie Marshall (right) with Danny Manning (left) and Chris Piper (center) celebrate a Kansas Jayhawks win.

“Here’s what’s crazy,” said Marshall. “John Calipari was a part-time assistant at Kansas and the only reason he saw me play was because he was recruiting Bowie and probably Chilli at Seminole.  Cal started recruiting me to go to Kansas.  Halfway through my sophomore year, I called Coach (Larry) Brown and I said ‘I’m ready to leave, do you have a spot for me?’  I called my mom.  I was staying in the trailers and I grabbed my stuff out of the trailer and I was gone.  So they’re (Bowie and Chilli) the reason I probably got the opportunity to go to KU.”  

“People need to be reminded of the good things they did like your family.  The sacrifices, the commitments.  He wasn’t just a coach.  He was like a father.  I know he spent a lot of money off the record feeding us and it takes a huge commitment as a coach and as a coach’s wife to be committed and to support that.  I’m sure it got easier at the Division I level, but that was still fun to go back and reflect on it.” 

Under Coach Riley Wallace, the Trojans would go on to win their fifth straight state championship without Archie in 1985.

In his four seasons at Seminole, my dad led the Trojans to a 122-24 record (an 84% winning percentage). In six seasons as junior college coach (two at Northern and four at Seminole), my dad sent 16 players to NCAA Division I schools and 15 others to smaller four-year colleges.

My dad was hired by Billy Tubbs after that 1984 season and joined the Oklahoma Sooner staff for an initial salary of $34,000. The next six seasons my dad would help recruit Sooner greats like Stacey King, Mookie Blaylock, Ricky Grace, and Harvey Grant.

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After the 1989-90 season, my dad joined up as an assistant coach for Dana Altman, who was then the head coach at Kansas State University.

After two seasons in Manhattan, my dad was hired as the head basketball coach at Western Illinois University, where he spent 11 seasons as the head man of the WIU Leathernecks. Ten of those seasons his top assistant coach was Brad Underwood.

All roads lead back to Seminole.

In the February 1985 Seminole Producer newspaper, my dad was asked if he missed Seminole to which he replied:

“You do a lot of moving in the coaching profession. We made a lot of good friends in Seminole which we will always have no matter where we go.”

We did make a lot of good friends during those four years and created some great moments on the basketball floor and off of it. I was 13 when we moved from Seminole to Norman, and I would get to witness some great basketball in the days ahead watching Sooner greats like Wayman and Mookie and Stacey. But it was those Seminole guys – “Deac,” Bruce, “Boo,” Win, “Chilli,” Ray, Archie, and others that will always be my first heroes, my forever guys you could say. 

They were the ones I would pretend to be playing on the nerf hoop hanging on my bedroom door. They were the ones I would imitate across the street on the chain-netted basketball goals at Northwood Elementary in Seminole. They were larger-than-life heroes that could do no wrong.  They seemingly made every crucial basket, got every rebound, chased down every loose ball, and threw home the best dunks I’d ever seen.  And they were led for four glorious seasons by my dad, who was the greatest coach in the world to me.  

Times change.  The game evolves and marches forward. Heroes age. They become mortal. The specifics of times long ago fade somewhere into the recesses of the mind. The memories become fragments and pieces. Trophies and plaques gather dust while newspaper clippings and pictures sit in boxes in storage units and attics. But the stories… oh how the stories will live on. And the feelings born out of that time, of excitement and nervousness and joy and sadness, will always resonate deep down within all of us that lived those four years. And most of all, the deep bond that developed within the players, the coaches, the staff, the All-American ballboys, and the people of Seminole – those will be the things regardless of distance or time that we’ll always have.

“She’s the one, the one for me. She’s the kind of girl makes you feel nice, so”

I started this series with a Kool and the Gang classic and I feel it’s only right to end it with another one. I distinctly remember being in one of the old SJC station wagons that we used to travel to the games with, and hearing this song on the radio on one of those post-game late night trips back to Seminole. It hit #1 on the R&B charts in January of 1984 and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 a short time later just as the team was cruising to its’ fourth straight state championship. It’s the mid-tempo dedication to “Joanna”…

Finally, this series would not have been possible without the cooperation of the many people that contributed to these pieces. So, my thanks to the following people:

The players and my phone interviewees:

William “Chilli” Childs – Chilli was the first interview and also has a lot of pictures on his Facebook account which helped out too! It’s two “L’s” Thanks Chilli!

Anthony Bowie

Archie Marshall

Dr. Henry “Deac” Wright, Jr.

Winfred Case

Joseph Boutte (via Twitter)

Rodney “Slim” Jones (via text)

Former SJC staff:

Bonnie Ritchie (via FB Messenger)

Thurman Edwards

The coaches:

Coach Brad Underwood

Coach Don Sumner

Coach Dana Altman

My dad, Jim Kerwin

And thanks to my co-All-American ballboy Brandon Buss

Thanks for reading and thanks for spending some time with me back in 1980 through 1984 in the town of Seminole, Oklahoma and on the campus of SJC.

sincerely,

the 80’s

January 1984. Just a few months before our 4th straight state juco championshiop
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“Well, My Friends, the Time Has Come”

“To raise the roof and have some fun.” – Lionel Richie

Ranking The 25 Best '80s Hits From Corniest To Greatest – Page 2 – New Arena

In this five-part series, I honor my dad and the players that made magic happen on a “God-awful blue court” in a gym located on the campus of Seminole Junior College in Seminole, Oklahoma.  My dad and those players were more than just a coach and his ballplayers.  They were my heroes, and this series of posts is a dedication to that time, those men, and some unbelievable basketball.  And, oh yeah, you know I’m going to bring some sweet sounds from that era as well!  Previous: Part 3: The ABC Gang

Part 4: Hutch

In 1983 there would be no rematch with our heated rival Westark. Instead, Phillips County located in Helena, AR had upset the Lions and would be our opponent for the best-of-three Region II championship.

In game one, the Trojans managed a 35-30 halftime lead, and then fueled by Anthony Bowie’s 17 points in the second half held on for a 71-66 win. Bowie finished with 25 points while Adam Frank scored 16, Chilli had 12 and Alford finished with 11 points.

Game two wasn’t as close as Bowie finished with 17, Frank had 16 again, and Chilli added 14 points to seal the elusive Region II championship 65-55. And after a seven-year absence, Oklahoma had a representative headed to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the National Junior College Basketball Tournament.

My dad after the Region II championship win over Phillips, AR being hoisted by Chuckie Givens and Win Case

Our Trojans were on a 20-game winning streak, sitting with a record of 32-4, and entered the national tournament with a well-balanced offensive attack. Our two sophomore guards – Winfred Case and Adam Frank were averaging 10.1 and 13.8 points a game. Our all-freshman front line had “Boo” at 17.8 ppg, Chilli at 16.2 ppg, and “Sugar” Ray averaging 12.4 ppg.

Our first round opponent was Mesa, Arizona who entered the tournament at 24-8.

Said Chilli: “The thing that helped us a lot, during the NJCAA was the NCAA tournament was going on probably the first or second round and we were in the hotel watching those games.  We were looking at that and we starting talking about ‘we can do that!’ so we went out there and did it.   

I remember being in Hutch for the first two rounds including this first game against Mesa. Mesa played at an agonizingly slow pace making every possession critical. Tight defense and patient offensives resulted in the lowest scoring game in the national tournament in 23 years!

Trailing by two with just over two minutes remaining, Ray Alford got a crucial steal and dunk to tie things up at 42. After forcing a five second call with 45 seconds left, Win Case was fouled and made one free throw giving the Trojans a 43-42 lead. The Thunderbirds held the ball for the last shot and a Bobby Jenkins 12 footer rimmed in and out as the Trojans escaped with a first round win.

Our second round opponent was the #1 ranked juco team in the country – Jamestown, NY, who had lost just once that season and was led by Carl Jeter who was averaging 18 points and 7 boards a game.

Behind six forced turnovers early, Jamestown jumped out to a 20-8 lead to start the game and led 45-32 at halftime. The Trojans had committed 11 first half turnovers and had been out-rebounded 24 to15. In my twelve year old mind, it seemed at the time like we were down by 50. Still, 13 points to the number one team in the nation made for an uphill battle in the second half.

“At halftime I remember how calm Coach was,” said Case, “And that we couldn’t play any worse and that they couldn’t play any better. We just piggybacked off of that.  He said to just continue to follow the game plan and we’ll come back.”  

It took a consistent turnover-free run to get Seminole back into it. With just under five minutes remaining, we took our first lead since 2-0 when Bowie knocked down an 18-footer after a steal and assist from Case. The Trojans led 63-62 and eventually stretched that lead to 68-63 with three minutes remaining, but Jamestown wasn’t done yet. The Jayhawks rallied and briefly gained the lead again at 69-68 when Jeter knocked down an 18-footer with two minutes remaining.

With 1 1/2 minutes remaining Ray Alford hit a leaning jumper to give SJC the lead back at 70-69. Following a free throw by the Jayhawks, the score was tied at 70 when Chilli was fouled with 25 seconds remaining. Childs, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, made one of two for a 71-70 lead. Following a Jamestown timeout with nine seconds remaining, Jamestown’s guard Mark Scott attempted a pass near the top of the key that Bowie jumped up into the air and intercepted. He dribbled the length of the floor and slammed home a reverse two handed dunk just after the final horn sounded. It didn’t count, but it didn’t matter. The Trojans had won.

I remember our team sprinting onto the floor and celebrating at mid-court mobbing Bowie, who had finished with 19 points and six boards. I ran right up and jumped around and celebrated as well. In my mind, it was the greatest comeback ever!

“It was a great win over the number one team in the country,” said my dad after the game.

The Hutchinson Sports Arena organist serenaded us with the song “Oklahoma!” after the win. It was on to the semi-finals where our opponent was Southeast Community College of Fairbury, Nebraska, coached by a young 24 year-old first-year coach named Dana Altman.

In his first year of coaching his alma mater, Altman had led Fairbury to the Region IX championship and a 28-5 record at this point. His team led by 6’7″ post player Neil Wake had survived back to back overtime games to reach the semi-finals defeating 4th ranked Mercer, NJ in a first round matchup 71-64, and then by one point again over Clinton, Iowa in the second round.

Over 6,200 fans packed into the Hutchinson Sports Arena to see Seminole take a narrow one point lead into the locker room at the half. The Trojans remained in control most of the second half and had extended the lead to six with 6:20 remaining in the game. But with under two minutes remaining, the Bombers completed a rally that put them ahead 71-70 behind a dunk from Neil Wake. An Adam Frank jumper and free throw put us back up two with just under a minute remaining. Following two free throws by the Bombers’ Joel Clark, Seminole held the ball for the final shot. Win Case penetrated and found reserve forward – Jacksonville’s Kenneth Bullard for the lay in.

A last second shot by Leo McGainey (who finished with 20 points) was short and our Seminole Trojans (now 35-4) had just made the NJCAA finals. Altman, now the head coach at Oregon University, recalls a hard fought game that ended with his team on the short end of a 75-73 score. There was some controversy as to whether Bullard had travelled prior to laying in the winning bucket with just four seconds remaining.

Dana Altman 1983
Coach Dana Altman circa 1983!

“Charlie Spoonhour and Moe Iba (former coaching greats) were sitting on the baseline that night, and they told me that we got beat on a bad no-call.  He (Bullard) travelled so bad,” recalled Altman.  

Chilli had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Trojans into the finals. Bowie had 16 point and nine rebounds while Adam Frank (who had been feeling ill much of the tournament so far) chipped in with 13.

“I met your dad for the first time that year,” said Altman. “They (Seminole) won, and they played San Jac better than we could have in the finals.  They matched up better with San Jac and they guarded the hell out of them. We easily won the 3rd place game.” (Fairbury defeated Walker College of Jasper, Ala 103-84).   

The championship game was a matchup of two contrasting styles. The San Jacinto (Texas) Ravens (34-2) were coached by Ronnie Arrow, had won 20 in a row, brought power and size inside, and started five players who would go onto Division one schools – 6’7″ Carey Holland (Auburn), 6’9″ Andre Ross (San Diego State), 6’2″ guard Nolan Gibson (Bradley), 6’1″ guard Ron Singleton (Arizona State), and 6’6″ swingman Frank “Spoon” James (UNLV).

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Frank “Spoon” James

Bowie remembers hearing about “Spoon,” and getting a glimpse of their opponents in pre-game warmups:

“I heard Spoon James this and Spoon James that.  I don’t know who he is, but he’s going to find out who I am (laughs)!”

“Just getting there (the NJCAA), I thought we had a chance.  Getting to the finals.  When I saw those boys that San Jacinto had, I was like ‘oh, my God.’  I wasn’t worried about my position.  I was more worried about Chill’s and Ray’s position.  There’s going to be a helping out down low!  But actually Chill and Ray did a hell of a job on those big boys.” 

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Chilli and Ray working hard inside against a big San Jacinto frontline.

Our Seminole squad (only the third Oklahoma team to make the finals joining Murray State and Cameron), on a 23 game winning streak of our own, jumped out to a quick lead 15-6 thanks to 11 points combined from Case and Bowie. San Jac slowly chipped away behind tournament MVP Spoon James and took the lead 34-33 behind a steal and layup by James. The Trojans regained the lead when Bowie took a pass from Case in the corner and knocked down a jumper just seconds before halftime. The underdog Trojans led the sixth-ranked San Jacinto Ravens by one point at halftime 35-34.

A couple of ties and lead changes ended when San Jac went on an 11-0 run to go from one down to 10 up at 56-46 with 10 minutes remaining. The Trojans could never get closer than five and fell to the Ravens 73-68.

Three players fouled out in the game – two for Seminole (Case & Frank) and Spoon James for San Jac.

Chilli: “San Jac was so big.  They kind of wore us down.  They were like 6’9, 6’10 two-forty something and we hung in there as long as we could.  If we could have got up I think coach may have slowed it down, but they just kept pounding it inside (against us).  We only lost by 6 or 8 so it was close.”

Said Bowie: What really stands out to me is that Win Case just went off on us and started fussing and cussing at us – that we need to step up and play.  We just needed another break or one more player off the bench that was a threat.  We just didn’t have it.  I think if we would have had an Archie Marshall when we were freshman I think we would have taken them easily that freshman year.  It was still a good game.”

Bowie and Chilli were named to the all-tournament team that day. Adam Frank, who finished his SJC career with six points and five fouls that day would go on to play his remaining two seasons at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA. Ironically, his playing career would come to an end in Dallas, Texas in the 1985 NCAA Elite Eight at the hands of Anthony Bowie and my dad and the Oklahoma Sooners led that season by junior All-American, Wayman Tisdale. The Sooners beat Frank and his famous teammate – Karl “The Mailman” Malone 86-84 in overtime that day.

Case, who averaged 14 points and eight assists per game at Seminole in 1982-83 was given the Bud Obee “Outstanding Little Man” award at the 1983 NJCAA tournament following in the footsteps of the 1982 winner Anthony “Spud” Webb.

“The second year how close we were.  How much of a machine we were.  That year was really special because no one really cared who got the credit.  It was all about winning.  Coach Kerwin created that culture of winning. Your dad could really recruit.  He, in my opinion, put Seminole on the map.  I love your dad.  Words can’t describe it,” said Case, who would go on to sign with Coach Paul Hansen and Oklahoma State University.

“Everyone’s dancing their troubles away. Come join our party, See how we play!”

It was a party for our Seminole Trojans in 1983. A non-stop party that only ended because a big, talented team from Texas said it was time. Nonetheless, the season was a towering success, and yes, we were losing our backcourt, but we had “The ABC Gang” returning for their sophomore season. It was just a matter of filling in the gaps and reloading for another shot.

In August of 1983, Lionel Richie released this single from his “Can’t Slow Down” grammy-award winning album that beat out the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The former Commodores frontman went all the way to #1 with this party track, “All Night Long.”

“Yeah, once you get started you can’t sit down. Come join the fun, it’s a merry-go-round.”

As always, thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Your studly author wearing a sweet SJC Basketball Camp t-shirt in the summer of ’82

Coming Next: Part 5: The Final Run

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