Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LEROY "SUGAR" BONNER: An Original "Player"

LEROY 
"SUGAR" 
BONNER:
An Original "Player"
 ________________________

The Ohio Players were 
my "Led Zeppelin." 
Their charismatic 
frontman / vocalist / 
guitarist Leroy Bonner 
was my "Jimi Henrix." 
And I was shocked
and saddened to hear
of his death this past 
weekend at age 69.
________________________

During the early and mid 1970s I had little clue about, and even less interest in, such iconic rock bands as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I gravitated more towards soul music and artists such as Rufus  and The O'Jays.  And while many of my junior high school peers were spending time in Study Hall, carving KISS logos into their desktops, I was busy drawing full-color, live performance pictures of The Ohio Players on sheets of notebook paper — with me as the "token" eighth member. In fact, I often fantasized of having an afro and donning a sequined jumpsuit with platform shoes and jamming with the dudes from Dayton.

The Ohio Players - circa '74 could have 
easily clobbered The Stones any day!
Led by frontman / vocalist / guitarist Leroy "Sugar" Bonner, The Ohio Players were far  more "street" than their commercial chart-topping hits "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster" would indicate. They were, after all, the group with all them nekked ladies on their album covers!

The Ohio Players were also much grittier than most of their R&B contemporaries such as Earth, Wind & Fire and The Commodores. In fact, with Bonner's blistering Jimmy Page-like riffs and drummer James "Diamond" Williams'  ferocious chops added to the group's overall loosely tight funkiness, The Ohio Players were in many ways more akin to Grand Funk Railroad than to The Bar-Kays. Just check out "What the Hell" from their 1974 Fire album or "Fopp" from 1975's Honey — then go back and listen (closely) to the first Van Halen record — hmm, a strong influence, indeed.

LEROY "SUGAR" BONNER - circa '74
But at the core, The Ohio Players were a world-class R&B group. And their (other) soulful signature classics including: "Skin Tight," "Funky Worm," "Sweet Sticky Thing" and "Who'd She Coo?" also have endured the test of time quite nicely.

Yes, their music remains as relevant today as ever. In fact, I was shopping at a used record store in Chattanooga last week with my teenage son, Jesse. In addition to scoring LP copies of Joe Jackson's Look Sharp and Elton John's Rock of the Westies, Jesse was particularly amped about discovering his third purchase — a used copy of The Ohio Players' Honey — ON VINYL, man! As they say, "like father, like son."

A true classic.
As a kid, I only knew of Bonner by his stage / nickname, Sugar — then later as Sugarfoot. He was my first bona fide rock star hero, and to say the least, I'm extremely bummed about his death this past weekend. (Insert frowny face here.) But his music remains as much a part of my life today at age 50 as it was back in 1975 when I was 12 — watching him shred on The Midnight Special.

In sum, Great music. Great memories. Well-done, Sugar! (Insert HUGE smiley face here.)

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)


The latest from author Christopher Long
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TOUR TALES (Pt. 4): The Grand Finale

(Photo: Ty Oglesby)
TOUR TALES 
(Pt. 4) 
The Grand Finale
________________________

What a week!
Brent and I logged 
nearly two thousand
miles over our five-day 
author tour. We visited 
amazing places, met 
fascinating people 
and heard some 
incredible stories.
________________________

From the beginning, I knew that the tour was about much more than simply selling and signing books. In fact, our excursion will prove to be one the most memorable experiences of my life.

I first became aware of author Brent Jensen when I discovered his book NO SLEEP 'TIL  SUDBURY while surfing the Internet late one night last summer. His personal coming-of-age memoir of growing up with a passion for heavy metal music in a small Canadian town during  the 1980s was a compelling read — a story that mirrored many of my own teenage experiences of hanging out in record stores, going to concerts, meeting chicks and celebrating all things that rocked, dude. Brent hooked me immediately with his conversational writing style and by the end of the book I was kinda sad, as I felt that a re-connection with a long lost friend had come to a conclusion. So, like any dedicated fan, I stalked Brent online. I soon discovered his email address and reached out to him personally and in no time, we were becoming BFFs. Soon, plans were being discussed for Brent to come visit me in Florida for a groovy surf, sand and sun getaway weekend. But before I knew it, that plan had morphed into something bigger and in short order, an entire Southeast adventure had been mapped out — the 2013 Rock and Roll Author Tour was on!

I finally got to hang out in record stores with Brent
while we were on tour. BTW, Chad's Records in
Chattanooga had an awesome vinyl metal section!
Macon, GA.

After a week living on the road, traveling in a rented van, staying at hotels and making appearances, I'm proud to call Brent Jensen a true friend. And the relationships that I now have with both Brent and his sidekick Steve will last a lifetime. I'm blessed, indeed.

I've always enjoyed the Meet-and-Greet aspect of book promotions. Personally, I'm simply not content with Internet social networking alone. I need to also be on the road, connecting personally with readers one-on-one — shaking hands, "kissing babies" and sharing stories. And from police officers to business owners to aspiring writers to the typical man on the street, we met some fascinating people and heard many incredible stories as we traveled throughout the South this week.

Shop owner Dale Kellerman and my
son Jesse, following our appesrance at 
Young, Loud and Snotty in Jacksonville, FL.
The greatest earthly gift that I've ever received is my son. Looking back, I've blown it in so many areas of my life over the years. However, I was pretty spot-on with the parenting thing. Jesse and I always have and a rock solid relationship and I've written extensively over the last year or so regarding my coming to grips with him growing up — turning 18, graduating from high school and becoming his own man. And therein lies, for me, the real value of the tour. Perfectly timed between his last term at local community college and leaving home to attend a state university in the fall, my boy and I were  able to experience one final father / son cross-country adventure.                                           
Melbourne, FL
From Orlando to Chattanooga to Macon to Jacksonville, we had such a blast that I didn't even mind the sub-freezing temperatures that we faced along the way. But it was our appearance in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida on Thursday that provided the sweet icing on the cake. Brent and I were honored to be invited as guests on Todd Kennedy's popular afternoon Sound Waves radio program on Melbourne's WFIT 89.5 FM. We had a great time on the air, discussing our current books and sharing some of our many rock and roll stories. And the all-new Open Mike's lounge located inside Florida Discount Music in Melbourne proved to be the ideal venue for our signing that night. The crowd was quite enthusiastic and made for an awesome tour grand finale!

Chattanooga

In sum, the tour proved to be everything that I hoped it would be. And I want to thank Brent, Steve and Jesse for making it one of the best experiences of my life. Much gratitude also goes to the various venue owners who believed in us and showed us such downhome southern hospitality — welcoming Brent and I into their businesses and hosting our events. I want to also thank everyone who came out to our signings. Whether you bought books or simply came to hangout and say, "hi," we truly appreciated your support. For those who didn't make it, you were missed, and we look forward to seeing you — next time.

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)


Check out these other
tour-related blog posts:




The latest from author Christopher Long
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TOUR TALES 2013 (Pt. 3)

TOUR TALES 2013
(Pt. 3)
___________________________

Day three of the
author tour brought us
to The Hummingbird
in Macon, Georgia.
We had a great time
meeting, greeting and
sharing stories.
And as Brent posted
on Facebook
"When in Rome..."
___________________________

Brent and I outside The Hummingbird
in downtown Macon, Georgia.
We spent most of Tuesday morning digging out from our igloos in Chattanooga. We ultimately got on the road — heading for our evening appearance in Georgia — blasting the authentic sounds of vintage Black Crowes music on the rental car hi-fi system as we traveled through the Old South. "When in Rome," indeed.

By 1PM we had arrived at the legendary Hummingbird and spent some time hanging out and having lunch in old downtown Macon. Soon we were off in pursuit of a hotel and after a little r&r we made our way back to The Hummingbird for our book signing.

Brent and I enjoyed connecting with our new friends in Macon, and as in Chattanooga, we were captivated by the stories that they had to share with us. Good times, to be sure.


A few of our new friends in Macon!


After our signing wrapped up, the club's weekly Tuesday night Open Mic festivities ensued. And being from Canada, both Brent and his sidekick Steve were excited to lock in at The Hummingbird for the night and take in some live local music. Although I still had some work to do online back at the hotel, I reasoned, "When in Rome," and I stuck around for a while.

Author Brent Jensen performing at
The Hummingbird in Macon, GA.
I knew that Brent was a solid guitarist, but I didn't realize that he's also a powerhouse vocalist. And when he took the stage to sit in with local players for a jam, I was blown away. Nailing classic tunes from an array of artists including Johnny Cash, Bob Seger, and Guns N' Roses, Brent definitely held his own with the hometown cats and was one of the best players of the night.

But we soon had to call it a night as we had a long day ahead, traveling to Jacksonville, Florida for our Wednesday night appearance at Young, Loud and Snotty. TO BE CONTINUED...

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)


The latest from author Christopher Long
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TOUR TALES 2013 (Pt 2): Hello Chattanooga!

TOUR TALES 2013 
(Pt 2) 
Hello Chattanooga!
 _________________________

Brent and I are having a 
blast on the tour. But it's
FREAKING FREEZING!
Day two brought us to Chad's 
Records in Chattanooga, TN.
_________________________

Steve and Brent taking in the sights.
With temperatures in the low 30s, we hit the streets in downtown Chattanooga early on Monday morning. Our in-store appearance at Chad's Records wasn't scheduled until 7PM so Brent, Jesse, Steve and I wanted to take advantage of having a full day in which to simply chill (literally) and to take in the sights of a city that is rich in culture and history. Here are just a few hightlights...


Originally built in 1908,
The Thompson House
is one of several
refurbished sites located
in Chattanooga's 

Incredible works of art are displayed
prominently throughout Chattanooga's
Art District.

  

Jesse's college-age cronies having
been boasting for years about
Chattanooga's infamous pizza
joint, The Mellow Mushroom.
  
Today, he got to finally
experience it for himself!

  

Simply put, Cupcake Kitchen
is the sweetest place on earth.
Run by Helene Grzybowski, 
it's a thriving, family-owned
operation. The original
Hixson, TN location opened
in 2011 and the new shop in
Chattanooga opened just last week.



FYI, the Strawberry Shortcake
cupcake at Chattanooga's Cupcake 
Kitchen is a delicious gift from God.

As late afternoon approached, we headed back to our hotel to prep for the book signing at Chad's. Brent and I both spent considerable time during our teenage years hanging out at  our local record shops — back when they were truly record shops. I've visited countless used record shops around the country over the years, and per square foot, there is more treasure under Chad's roof than any place I've been. Brent and I were like little kids in a candy store at Chad's and we both had an amazing time meeting, greeting, sharing stories, making new friends and of course, shopping.            

Brent with Chad's Records 
owner, Chad Bledsoe.
There was NOTHING about
Chad's that I didn't love!
We had an absolutely fabulous time in Chattanooga, and personally, I can't wait to come back. But for now, it's off to our next tour stop — Tuesday night at The Hummingbird in Macon, GA. It ought to be fun. STAY TUNED!

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)

My latest book C'MON! is
available now on Amazon.

Get Brent's latest book
also on Amazon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

TOUR TALES 2013 (Pt. 1)

TOUR TALES 2013 
(Pt. 1)
_________________________
  
And we're off!
My 2013 author tour
with Canadian writer
Brent Jensen kicked
off officially Sunday
morning (1/20) as our 
entourage convened 
at the Orlando 
International Airport.
_________________________

My alarm rang precisely at 7:30 Sunday morning. I DJ'd at a club the night before and with minimal sleep I had to spring immediately into action, as I still had to deal with last minute packing. By 10AM I'd picked up my son and tour sidekick Jesse from his mother's house. We soon were en route to Orlando to pick up my tourmate Brent Jensen and his sidekick Steve from the airport. Their flight from Toronto was right on time — luggage was claimed quickly and the car rental process was a snap. By late afternoon we were well into Georgia — halfway to our Monday night kickoff book signing destination at Chad's Records in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When we left the airport in Orlando the weather was mild and sunny — 73°. By the time we checked in at our hotel in Chattanooga at 11PM it was cold and dark — 38°. Oh crap! The drive from Florida seemed to blow by as Van Halen and Alice Cooper provided the musical soundtrack to our lively conversations. And except for briefly getting a bit turned around in "the hood" just outside of Atlanta (I think that I saw Lil' John outside the All American Package Store), day one was smooth sailing.

Get Brent's debut
on Amazon.
Get my latest on Amazon.

2013 Rock and Roll 
Author Tour:

Monday / January 21st / 7PM
(Chattanooga, TN)

Tuesday / January 22nd / 7PM
(Macon, GA)

Wednesday / January 23rd / 6PM
(Atlantic Beach / Jacksonville, FL)

Thursday / January 24th / 7PM
(Melbourne, FL)

Stay tuned for daily blog tour 
updates throughout the week.

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAUL STANLEY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY 
PAUL STANLEY!
___________________________

He's a true rock superstar.
And in honor of his 61st
birthday, I'm sending a big
shout-out to the "Starchild!"
___________________________ 

In my world, there is no rock and roll without KISS co-founder Paul Stanley. My passion for music was ignited initially at age eight by David Cassidy in the early 70s. However, I was inspired to dive head first into my pursuit of the rock and roll dream because of Paul Stanley. It was the guitar-driven sound of KISS' 1975 anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite" that first lured me in. But it was  the "gods of thunder" factor of their iconic 1976 Bi-Centennial poster that delivered the decisive knock-out punch.

KISS - 1976:
The image that forever 
changed my life.
Simply put, Paul Stanley was (and still is) cool. He was THE ultimate rock star that every aspiring male rocker wanted to be and every teenage rocker chick wanted to be with. He's written the songs that make the whole (rock) world sing — "Shout it Out Loud," "Hard Luck Woman," "Love Gun," "I Was Made for Loving You" — the list goes on. His 1978 solo album undeniably is the greatest in the history of rock, and after 40 years, he remains "The King of the Night Time World."

Paul Stanley onstage with KISS in 2012.
(Photo: Rhonda McMahen)
I've enjoyed the ultimate fan experience of meeting Paul Stanley a few times over the years. And despite my consistent overzealous Bieber-like giddiness, he's never punched me — yet.

His music has provided me with a lifetime of enjoyment and the KISS concerts that I've attended over the years have left me with countless incredible memories. In fact, I saw the current half-scab KISS line up on their recent concert tour last summer and my boy was still wiggling, prancing and belting 'em out like it was 1977.

Thanks, Paul. Here's to 61 more!

-Christopher Long

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

THE CINNAMON CHALLENGE

THE CINNAMON 
CHALLENGE
 ___________________________

 It's a global phenomenon.
The Internet has become
flooded with reports, and 
YouTube clips currently are
generating views in the
millions. And as my nasal
passages continue to burn
this morning, I'm reminded
of the saying, "If I only knew 
then what I know now."
___________________________ 

Oh sure, "The Cinnamon Challenge" sounds innocent enough. Heck, I've frequently enjoyed more than generous amounts of cinnamon on delicious buttery slices of toast countless times over the last 50 years. Hence, the "challenge" of simply consuming a teeny tiny tablespoon of the delightful spice seemed like no challenge at all.  But in hindsight, I wish that I had read the recent telling feature in The Wall Street Journal, warning of the game's reality ahead of time.

As a church youth leader, I occasionally can experience difficulty generating teens' enthusiasm for  the weekly icebreaker game at the opening of Wednesday night service. So I should have been tipped off immediately when I announced that last night's game was something called "The Cinnamon Challenge" and instantly throngs of young people roared as they rushed the stage with iPhones in-hand, eager to archive the event. But at that moment, I was un-phased. Although I spend much of my day working online, I'd not yet become familiar with accounts of this craze currently sweeping the Internet — I merely was going through the bi-weekly motions of hosting what I thought was just another fun-filled game.

Teenagers leaped from their seats and soon the stage was filled with volunteers. Spoons were handed to each contestant and I quickly filled each with heaping portions of the brown powder. One by one, each teen attempted the challenge — ingesting just a bit before quickly coughing it up and making their way back to their seat. However, one savvy young gal knew exactly how to play the game. Like a skilled sword swallower, she tilted her head back and began to methodically allow the powder to run slowly down the back of her throat as her peers cheered her on. It took several minutes to accomplish, but she ultimately succeeded in the challenge.

As I observed these proceedings, I couldn't help but think, what's the big deal? It's just cinnamon! So as I became totally caught up in the hoo-ha of the moment, I poured myself a handful of cinnamon and attempted to choke it down — "choke" being the operative word. In short order I was forced to make a beeline to the sanctuary's adjacent kitchen to seek water to clear my throat and a sink in which to puke as I continued choking.

Here I am, puking and gasping desperately
for my final breath as result of taking on
the moronic Cinnamon Challenge.
(Photo: Bryan Moore)
I wish that I was exaggerating the experience, but it's the absolute truth. I literally was choking to death on a flaming, fun-size ball of powder! Even my nasal passages were filled with burning residue. I couldn't breath, swallow or speak. Given my reputation as a rather wacky guy, people aren't always certain when I'm really in trouble or when I'm just goofing around. What a predicament.

Considering all of the things that should have killed me throughout my rather chequered past, I was pissed that this was what finally was gonna do me in. Had I in fact "bitten the big one," I certainly would have gone to a better place. But when I do go, I want to go out in a blaze of gunfire, battling for Jesus in the jungle of some faraway land — not lying on the kitchen floor at church, covered in puke with a wad of cinnamon stuck in my craw.

But it apparently was not my time. And after 15 minutes of choking, puking, gasping, gagging and taking in water to clear my passages, I finally regained a state of (semi) normalcy and returned to service. A VERY close call to be sure.

In sum, as the saying goes, "Kids, don't try this at home," at church or anywhere else for that matter.

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)

The latest from author Christopher Long
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

AUTHOR TOUR 2013: The State of Independence

AUTHOR TOUR 2013:
The State of Independence
_________________________

The last time I was on tour it was
2010. From Florida to Pennsylvania
to Missouri to Oklahoma to Texas
to sunny Southern California, I was
on the road promoting my first book.
I was signed to a traditional
publishing house. As a result, my
personal in-store appearances all 
took place at national chain store
locations. However, my latest
release, C'MON! was released last
year through an indie publisher.
 And in 2013 I'm honored to have
teamed up with Canadian author
Brent Jensen (NO SLEEP 'TIL
SUDBURYfor a U.S. tour that
will take us to some great cities
and some great independent 
venues.
_________________________

"Independent" certainly is the buzzword for this tour — two independent writers with independent books — meeting, greeting and sharing stories with readers at independent shops and clubs throughout America. The first leg of the tour kicks off on January 21st. Here's where we're headed:

Brent and I will be kicking off our
2013 author tour at Chad's Records 
in Chattanooga on January 21st.

JANUARY 21st (7PM)
CHAD'S RECORDS / Chattanooga, TN
Owner Chad Bledsoe is my kinda guy — a dedicated independent businessman with a passion for rock and roll. Chad first opened his used record shop in 1988 — just prior to the death knell announcing the official demise of the vinyl record format. However, despite the ultimate industry domination of the Compact Disc format in the '90s and the more recent iRevolution, Chad's Records  has not only survived, but it continues to thrive. I worked in several Florida-based record shops during my teens and 20s. In the mid-'90s I even (briefly) owned my own shop. Brent Jensen recently commented to me that Chad's reminds him of a shop in Canada where he frequently hung out as a teen. We're both excited about visiting Chad's!

JANUARY 22nd (7PM)
THE HUMMINGBIRD / Macon, GA
The Hummingbird has been THE nighttime hot spot in Middle Georgia for nearly a decade. A premier live entertainment venue, this club houses a great stage and provides state-of-the-art audio and it reminds me of some of the cool Southeast venues at which I used to play back in my band days. I've heard that there is quite a buzz around town about this event and I'm looking forward to perhaps also getting in on the "Open Mic" experience that immediately follows our appearance.


JANUARY 23rd (6PM)
YOUNG, LOUD AND SNOTTY / Atlantic Beach, FL
By its very name, Young, Loud and Snotty is a place where I simply MUST go! Part old school record shop, part skate shop, part rock and roll Mecca, owner Dale Kellerman has combined all of the elements necessary to successfully create a groovy joint — the kinda place where I would likely have bought import LPs back in the day. I spent a lot of time in the Jacksonville area during my rock and roll past — attending concerts and playing gigs and I'm really excited to return. I just hope that Dale hasn't sold that awesome Rocket to Russia poster yet!

JANUARY 24th (7PM)
FLORIDA DISCOUNT MUSIC / Melbourne, FL
I'm delighted to be wrapping up the first leg of our tour in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida. As an aspiring teenage rocker dude, my band purchased our first PA system from Florida Discount Music way back in 1978. Current owners Mike and Lisa Della Cioppa recently remodeled the store and it now features a coffee shop / martini bar-type backroom club called Open Mike's. It's a sweet venue for solo acts, duos, small bands and in this case, an author appearance.

Brent and I are psyched to be kicking off the new year, making amazing new friends on the road. I'll be chronicling our entire adventure in a weeklong blog series entitled Tour Tales. It will debut here on January 20th.

-Christopher Long
 (January 2013)


The latest from author Christopher Long
SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.