At Tybee’s Beach Bum Parade

Tybee loves parades.  Especially, the Beach Bum Parade, the one that commemorates (in a commiserating sense for us locals) the start of the tourist season.  It’s held the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend.

It’s a water fight.  Plain and simple.

And you have to experience it to get it.

The crowds lines Butler Avenue (Highway 80 along the beach) with large buckets, in many cases trash dumpsters, full of water.  Most have water soakers and water cannons.  They await not so patiently the parade of floats, little more than pickups and flatbeds loaded down with buckets and dumpsters full of water and folks carrying water soakers and cannons.

Beach Bum Parade 2013

Soaking commences at 6:30, though some skirmishes breakout among the bystanders who can’t stand having a loaded water gun without drenching somebody.

It’s a free for all.  They soak you.  You soak them.  You soak each other.  Everyone gets wet.  Completely wet.

Two rules:  no ice water and no shooting the cops.

Crazy.  Fun.  Silly.


I was without weapon.  So I used the next best thing: my fingers as pistols.  I would shoot into the flatbeds, whose drenched occupants would look strangely at the unarmed man pointing his cocked fingers at them right before unloading on me.

julia's token at Huc-a-poos

julia’s token at Huc-a-poos

I returned “fire” with the exclamation:  “You’re dead.  I win,” which my daughter and her friend thought hilarious.  Which of course then became a mantra for the rest of the day of being silly.

That night, Julia and her friend Maria left the traditional dollar bill on Huc-a-poos bar with the inscription:  “You’re dead.  I win.”

Life on Tybee Island is living on the edge of America

Life on Tybee Island,  off the coast of Georgia, is literally living  on “the edge of America.”

Tybee Island: The Edge of America

Tybee Island

I first came across that description when Melissa and I were traveling with our friends David and Judy McNaughton.  We were island shopping, so to speak.

And we visited Folly Beach, a small island beach outside of Charleston, S.C.

The sign welcoming us to town described Folly Beach as “the edge of America.”  I was so taken with that description that I wrote a song by that title.  I refer to it as my noir song, as it captures the feeling of fleeing  to an island to escape from some pursuer or a tormented love affair.  Mysterious yet comforting.

The song is the title track to my new CD — “The Edge of America.”

I’m also appropriating the description as a blog category for my website:  “Letters from the Edge of America.”

Here, I can write about life on the island, or anything, really.  But I promise no politics.  Ever.  Or really anything remotely akin to issues of the public square.

We don’t have a public square on Tybee.  We do have a roundabout at the beach, near the pier.  But no public square.  And I’m good with that.


The guy who started me on the path to songwriting was Merle Haggard.

While others in my college dorm were intently listening the to Doors, the Stones and Led Zeppelin, I was hiding out in the laundry room listening to Merle’s 1970 Fighting Side of Me. Not because I was a reactionary redneck.  In fact, I was racing as fast as I could toward being a long-haired, dope-smoking hippie.

No, I was listening to that red, white and blue record because of one song:  “Today I Started Loving You Again.”

Merle Haggard (public domain

Merle Haggard (public domain

It was the first song I learned how to play on my Epiphone dreadnaught.

Not only did it adhere to the 3 chords and the truth formula of Harland Howard, but also its lyrics were simple:  a chorus and verse.  Period.

Today I started loving you again
I’m right back where I’ve really always been
I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend
Then today, I started loving you again

What a fool I was to think I could get by
With only these few millions tears I cry
I should have known the worst was yet to come
And that crying time for me had just begun

(Repeat Chorus)


Doesn’t get much shorter than that.

Perhaps that’s why it is so powerful.

And Merle’s concise rendering of the most powerful emotions can also be heard in “Silver Wings,” which is another chorus-verse song, or verse-bridge depending on your point of view:

Silver wings
Shining in the sunlight
Roaring engines
Headed somewhere in flight
They’re taking you away
And leaving me lonely
Silver wings
Slowly fading out of sight

Don’t leave me I cry
Don’t take that airplane ride
But you’ve locked me out of your mind
And left me standing here behind

As fate would have it:  The Fighting Side of Me album also contained some not-so-conventional top 40 country tunes that helped ground me in real country (that blending of country, folk and blues).  Songs like Bo Chatmon’s “Corrine, Corrina,” Jimmie Rodgers’ “T.B. Blues,” and Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.”

Writing simple songs ain’t easy

Simple songs are often the hardest to write. Or at least they are for this Georgia songwriter.  There is a line between trite and profound.  And never mistake profundity for the piling on of every description or thought imaginable.

I spent a few decades honing the craft of news writing, paying particular attention to the leads of stories, which should compel the reader to read on.  I eventually created a class, the Craft of Writing, which I taught to countless journalists around the country.  Its primary premise was that the key to powerful writing begins with clear, simple sentences.

I like to think you can hear in the first lines of my songs the lessons learned from writing and editing news leads intended to hook the reader with clear, simple sentences.  Here are a few from my new CD, “The Edge of America.”

 You got fleas in your bed, the roof’s got a leak, your car won’t start and it sure does seem like it’s all falling apart…   

 Old men, they say, don’t sleep well in strange beds, when closing your eyes is an act of faith.   

 She can tell you all the presidents and the first 100 digits of pi.  She can write haiku and even make it rhyme.


She poured coffee in my cup and said how do you like it hon. I said a little bit of cream and something sweet.


No more secrets. No place to hide.  Doesn’t really matter if you’re too old to cry.



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Music and musings

Welcome to my new website, devoted to my music and musings.

Here you will be able to listen and download my songs — old, new and songs in-the-works.  I’ll also let you know where you can hear them live when I’m playing out. I’ll also be discussing what went into the writing of the songs.

That’ll lead me naturally into writing about songwriting in general and individual songwriters specifically. And in that way I hope to turn you on to some singer/songwriters you may not be familiar with.

To change up every now and then, I’ll post “Letters from the Edge of America” about life on a little island off the coast of Georgia.  It’ll be about anything and everything, except state or national politics.  As with beer, I had to give that up.

Martin guitar used on The Edge of America shoot

Martin guitar used on The Edge of America shoot

I have finished recording a new CD!  My first in seven years.  Obviously, a lot changes in seven years, and for me it was indeed a lot: I quit my job, got married, moved from the city of my birth to a small island off the coast of Georgia, where I have made new friend and a place I call home.

And as you would expect, my songwriting reflects those changes.

I’m very excited about the 11 songs on “The Edge of America,” and can’t wait for everyone to heart them.

More about that as we get closer to the CD’s release – some time in late summer, early fall.