Pennie’s First Birthday

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Pennies_birthday_card_3

I was married to my daughters mother for a year and a half. I got divorced at age eighteen or maybe I had turned nineteen. It happened so long ago, it seems like I am recalling someone elses life. At the time I was married, I was miserable. Both of us were not equipped for it. Neither of us were faithful. During our marriage, my wife started dating a new guy. I knew him, we had hung out on many occasions. I liked him, he was a cool guy.

One night I came home from work to find she had changed the locks to our house. A four bedroom house, I was somehow allowed to purchase at age eighteen. In the living room her and her boyfriend were laying on the couch, watching a movie. The front window shades were drawn open on purpose, so I would see them. The guy got nervous and ended up locking himself in my bathroom while I took my fists and feet to our brand new Ford Escort. I broke out the headlights, dented the front fenders, hood and broke a rearview mirror off. The funny thing about that is I was actually ecstatic about the thought of our relationship ending. It was tumultuous to say the very least. The night I proposed to her I was going there to break up with her. She had stopped taking birth control without telling me. When I got there, she told me she was pregnant. I immediately got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. Absurd, I know. That is how the end of eleventh grade went down.

A few weeks passed after my Ford Escort episode. I was now living back with my mother while the divorce was raging on. I had a moment of clarity and thoughtfulness. I called the guy she was dating and asked him to go out for a beer. I told him he should know what he was getting in to. He refused for fear of us just meeting up and me kicking his ass. I understood his concern. I should note in any other circumstances he could easily beat me in a fight. He was much bigger than me and he could fight. I had seen him fight on a couple of occasions. Little did I know at that time he had already knocked up my wife and had proposed to her. They had even set a date.

The divorce finally went through after many more wild nights and drag out fights, including my wife walking into a bar with her fiancé to find me (her husband) with another girl and coming over and punching me and trying to kick the girls ass. This happened on several occasions actually. We all hung out in the same places as there were not many bars to go to. Lots of fights, near fights, scenes being made.

A mere two weeks after we divorced, they got married and she was thoroughly pregnant with his baby. A few months after they got married I got a call from her new husband. I answered and the first thing he said was, “I should have gone and had that beer”. I laughed as I knew what hell he was in the middle of. They stayed married a good while though. After their divorce, he and I became friends and we would take our daughters on camping trips and sit up all night fishing and talking about how crazy all that shit was.

Today, twenty-six years later I am sitting at a coffee shop writing out envelopes to send invitations to my granddaughters first birthday. My daughter asked me to design and print them. It just made sense for me to mail them instead of mailing them to her to mail. I wrote out an envelope to my ex-wife and one to her ex-husband. I am telling you and I can not stress this enough. It feels like I am writing as someone that is not me.

At a time I was trying to graduate high school and figure what I was going to do with my life everyone was telling me I had ruined my future. Turns out I have an amazing daughter and two grandchildren. Not a bad place to be at all.

Hallway Closet

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Hallway Closet

When I was in eighth grade, the first night of spring break, I got a call. I was not an unpopular kid, but I was not in the click of the popular kids. The call was from Lisa Brodbeck, a girl I did not know very well. She asked me if I was interested in coming over for a party that night. Her parents were out of town and she was having a get together. I nervously, but eagerly accepted. I am not sure I had ever spoken a word to Lisa before this call.

I rode my bike over to her house. Probably a two to three mile ride. Normally I would be able to tell you what I played in my walkman on the ride over, but in this case I have no recollection of it. I am sure it was early rap, Nucleus or Fatboys or something of that nature.

When I arrived it was mostly boys and girls that I considered part of the popular crowd. I was happy to be invited into this scene.

Soon after arriving, it was revealed that the sole reason for this get together was to play spin the bottle. Any normal boy would have been ecstatic about this, but it freaked me the fuck out. I was slightly socially awkward, but more internally than externally. Inside I was a wreck, but I felt I kept my cool pretty well.

Through conversation leading up to spin the bottle it was revealed that I was kind of far down on the list of boys she called. Most boys had gone out of town for Spring Break with their families. It was not meant to hurt my feelings, but it did. It was clear who had crushes on whom and being pretty good at reading people, due to being a mostly silent observer all of my life, I knew no girl in that room had their eyes on me. This was going to be a disaster.

This was the first and only time I played spin the bottle. As I predicted it ended in disaster for me and another girl. I don’t recall many of the details, but I tried to capture it in a song on my new album, WOLF. The song is called Hallway Closet.

The song ends on a cliff hanger, but I did up in the closet with Lisa. As soon as the door closed, she told me she did not want to kiss me and for one solid minute, we stood in that closet in silence. I can literally still conjure up the sound of her breath from that minute in the closet. It sends chills down my spine to recall it.

There are more tracks from the album in the sidebar to the right. If you are interested in the entire album, it can be found at http://robertsteel.bandcamp.com/album/wolf-4

There will be an official release in June. Thanks for reading.

Music Memories – Motley Crue

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I will never forget the first time I heard Motley Crue. My sister had the same boyfriend through all of her junior high years and through most of high school. Towards the end of her high school years, she was growing apart from her long time boyfriend, Ron Fralix.
Ron was the biggest athlete in a very small pond in junior high. He was the star quarterback, the star pitcher, the star at all track meets. However, that was junior high. In high school he found himself to be more in the middle of the pack.
My sister was planning her move to college. Ron had no college plans and his plans of being an athlete had fizzled to the point where he was no longer even on any high school teams. I was two years younger than my sister. Ron was always real nice to me and spent a great deal of time playing sports with me and teaching me anything I wanted to know about any sport. I was real fond of the guy and he felt like part of the family. He went on all trips with us. It was hard for me to watch him and my sister grow apart.

Ron Fralix and my dad from a camping trip

Ron Fralix and my dad from a camping trip

One day Ron was parked outside of our house, talking with my sister. At this point my sister had broken up with him and he was coming around trying to find anyway to stop that train. He was looking for any reason at all to stop by. He wanted her to hear this new band, Motley Crue.  He turned it up with his window down, while she stood outside of his car door and pretended to listen. The intro came on loud and sounded like a howling train and then a voice comes in and delivers a Vincent price type of intro, “In the beginning…”. If you know the album, you know the intro well. If not, here’s a link:

In the beginning
Good always overpowered the evils of all man’s sins…
But in time
The nations grew weak
And our cities fell to slums
While evil stood strong
In the dusts of hell
Lurked the blackest of hates
For he whom they feared awaits you…
Now many, many lifetimes later
Lay destroyed, beaten down
Only the corpses of rebels
Ashes of dreams
And blood stained streets
It has been written “Those who have the youth have the future”
So come now, children of the beast
Be strong
And Shout at the Devil

I was outside playing basketball, mainly to eaves drop. This intro sent chills down my spine and when the first song came blasting out of his car, I was absolutely hooked. I walked over and asked him who it was and it changed the course of my music landscape forever, which had primarily been real early rap, i.e. Fatboys, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Nucleus, etc.
I fell head first into Motley Crue and covered my room with Metal posters. Between Shout at the Devil and Motley Crues next album the lead singer, Vince Neil killed his friend that was in the passenger seat of his car while he drove drunk and recklessly. I grabbed every Metal magazine I could get my hands on in hopes to find out new things about the trial and the new Crue album.
Vince got off with a slap on the wrist and then released a new album called, Theater of Pain. I could not wait to get my hands on it and got it on the first day of release. At this time my dads sister had decided to take the family on a trip to Colorado. She invited me and my sister to come to Colorado with her family.
I got the new Crue album right before this trip and I was disappointed in it. I was hoping for more rawness, but it was more glam and polished. I remember purposely taking only a handful of cassettes with me on that trip and decided I would spend my time in the back seat of the car listening to Theather of Pain and trying to find a way to love it.
We drove from Lawton, Oklahoma to Creed, Colorado. The entire trip there I listened to Theather of Pain over and over and over and over. I listened to nothing else. I remember taking off my head phones and exclaiming, “I give up on this album. I don’t like it”. My sister, whom did not like metal at all asked to listen to it and put on my head phones. After a while she took them off and said, “I like it” and I said, “and that’s exactly why I don’t”.
That was 1985. I have not listened to Theather of Pain since that trip until a few days ago. I lit a cigar, put gas in my tank and set out on I-35. I was excited and nervous. I could not even recall the track listings. I did not even know what song started off the album. I got on the highway with a lit cigar and hit play. It is a fairly long album with thirteen songs on it. As I listened to it, I pictured being back in the back seat of my aunt’s car. I conjured up any memories I could find. I remembered I had a red Koss walkman at the time. The Motley Crue cassette was the very first clear cassette I had seen. My headphones had tape holding one side together. My Uncle was a Doctor and I remember on this trip my cousin taped him on the shoulder while he was driving and he said, “Not so hard, you’re going to give me a chronic inflammation of the left clavicle”. I remembered the small tan box that held my cassettes. I remembered going out to fish at six in the morning and encountering a doe and her baby no more than ten feet away, drinking from the stream with no fear of me. I sat behind the passenger seat the entire trip, crammed up against the door. A few nights ago I took a trip back in time to when I was fifteen and full of angst. I listened to Motley Crue’s, Theather of Pain very intently… and it still sucks.

A wallet

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a wallet

This was my dads wallet. He died when I was fifteen. Before the estate auction I was able to go through his house and get small things. I took his wallet, a few Texaco shirts, a pair of shorts and a few other things. His wallet had business cards, his current fishing license, some receipts for gas and a receipt for an old traffic violation. No cash as he carried a money clip for that.

From age fifteen to twenty-two I used this wallet as my own. It is morbid to think about now, but at the time it was sentimental that I left everything of his in the wallet.

From the time I stopped using it, it has resided in the top drawer of my dresser. The dresser was passed down to my father from his father and then to me.

I do not see or think about this wallet often, but it stood out to me today and I thought long and hard about my dad. Little things can really ruin/make a day for me. I can be going along fine and something small will throw a stick into the spokes of my mind. Often the rest of the day I’ll silently stew in heavy thought or if I can turn it into something productive, I will do what I am doing now and write.

In March of next year, I will have had this wallet for thirty years.

While using the wallet, I pulled it out to pay for something one day. I was with my grandmother and she mentioned that the wallet had seen better days and that she was going to get me a new one for Christmas. She did not know this was my fathers wallet. I do not think anyone knew. I think I kept that to myself.

Come Christmas that year, I opened a gift to see a new black wallet. Pressed into one side of the leather, on one side of the fold was a man fishing. I figured that was as good of time as any to move on. I took his expired fishing license and my current one out of our wallet, placed it in my new one; Threw away the rest of the stuff in it, except some of my receipts. Thinking about that now, it might have been my first tiny step towards accepting his departure from this world.

Phil Samson

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In my hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma, there was only one real music instrument store, Frontier Music. For me it was clear across town, which was about four or five miles away from my house. At age fifteen, after school I would ride my bike to there and play any guitar I wanted to. It was a shop that encouraged you to plug in to an amp and let loose.

The owner was Phil Samson. He wrote a country song in the early 80s that T.G. Sheppard made a hit. The song, “I loved ‘em everyone”. Phil was about as nice of a gentleman as you could meet. He was a real big fan of putting instruments in the hands of anyone with the urge to play. He loved music and it really showed.

For a while, every day I would walk in and pick up a purple/blue pearl B.C. Rich electric guitar and play Cinderellas, “Nobody’s Fool.” At the time, learning this song seemed to be a good avenue to getting laid.

One day Phil walked in to the guitar room and said, “you really like that guitar don’t you? I see you pick that one up more than the rest”. I said, “Yes, I like it a lot”. He said, “Well take it”. I said, “I don’t have any money”. He said, “I don’t care. You like that guitar and I want you to have it. Pay me when you can, what you can over any amount of time it takes. Let’s also set you up with cables, an amp, guitar strap and anything else you need”. That day I walked out of Frontier with my dream guitar. I had just turned sixteen and was now sharing a car with my sister and step brother.

I was not working much at the time, but I would stop in with some allowance money every now and then, five or ten bucks a month. He never gave me a hard time about payment and did not even seem to care if I paid him anything.

I took a job at a lure company for a few hours a week after school and increased my monthly payments to maybe twenty dollars a month.

Then I got my girlfriend pregnant. I had to find more stable work as I was now moving out of my mom’s house and gearing up for a family. I took a job at a flooring factory. It was full-time job, but seeing as I had promised my mother I would finish school, I had to take a night shift from four in the afternoon to one in the morning. Between school, work, a wedding to plan and a daughter on the way, it left little time to play.

My soon to be wife and I sat down to figure out our budget. After we budgeted everything, I said there is one other thing we have to pay for, my guitar. She was adamant that I return the guitar, but I refused. After a long fight, she agreed that we would continue with twenty dollars a month if we could afford to. We stopped in every month and handed Phil twenty dollars or less. He still did not seem to care.

My marriage lasted about a year and a half. I still owed Phil on this guitar and I was now eighteen. I made my final payment before moving to Texas at age nineteen. It took me close to 4 years, but I paid it off. I loved this guitar and stiffing Phil was never an option. That was at the end of nineteen eighty-eight.

Flash forward nine years. I still owned the guitar and I was in a band in Dallas. We had a rehearsal space at a rehearsal studio. By this time I owned several guitars. I did not pick up the B.C. Rich very often, but it was in the rehearsal room. My friend was in the band and would often bring his nephew to come watch us, Justin. Justin was a shy kid, but very polite. I was really fond of him. He was probably in his early teens. Often when we would take a break from practicing, we would come back in the room to see Justin noodling around on the B.C. Rich. I asked him, “Do you like that guitar?” He said, “Yes”. I said, “Then it’s yours”. I figured that guitar belonged to anyone with the urge to play it. Just like that, the guitar that had been such a huge part of my life and got me through many really bad days was now in the hands of someone new. I never for a second have second guessed that decision.

That was nineteen ninety-seven. Right after I gave the guitar to Justin, I went back for the weekend to my hometown. My mother told me Phil was getting a lifetime achievement award that weekend, so I went to the ceremony. Phil got up and played a set of his songs and finished the set with his “hit” song. Afterwards I got a chance to talk to him. I told him who I was, he already knew. He knew which guitar he gave me and remembered it all very well. I told him I had recently given the guitar away, but that I owned many others and still played. He was happy to hear it. I asked him if he had given others away like that and if anyone had stiffed him. He said, “Well I never really cared one way or the other, I just wanted to get instruments in kids hands. I suppose I let hundreds of instruments walk out the door without payment and of all of those, only one person did not finish paying me. I figure that’s a pretty good track record”.

When Phil’s song became a hit, he was offered a lot of money to move to Nashville to write, but he liked what he was doing and did not want to move his family, so he passed on the offers. Phil still owns a music store in my hometown.

Phil also had a song that was on a Grammy Award winning album in the nineties. He still plays in bands in my hometown and still writes lots of songs and releases records.

A few days ago, photos showed up of the guitar on Justin’s facebook page with the words, “One of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received”. Me too, Justin. Me too.

B.C. Rich

Visit Phil’s Facebook page and music store site. Buy his music. He is the stuff heroes are made of.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilsMusic
His newest CD: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/philsampson
His store: https://www.facebook.com/PhilsGuitars

The Blue Door

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I played The Blue Door in Oklahoma City a while back. Doug and Telisha from Wild Ponies were gracious enough to have me open their show. It’s a venue I hold in high regards; a place I have always dreamed of earning the right to play. That stage has graced so many of my musical heroes, including Doug and Telisha.
My sister, a few of her friends and my step dad came to the show. My step dad had never seen me play other than on youtube. I was nervous to play in front of him. He doesn’t really get what I do, but he was there in support and shot this footage. He gave me a thumb drive with the files on it and I forgot about them, because I thought it was a bad set and didn’t want to see the video. I just found them while looking for something else.
Shortly after this night he died. I’m putting them online because I’ll probably lose them if I don’t and I kind of would like to hold on to them because it was the last time I saw him.
Enjoy.

Cigar package #3

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Last Thursday I fulfilled another cigar package before releasing WOLF. For those of you that are not aware of the cigar package, prior to releasing my new album people could buy two different levels of cigar packages. I would bring the cigars over and we’d smoke a cigar while listening to my new record together before it came out.

I got together with my good friend Phil at his absolutely amazing house over-looking Austin. We settled into two fine leather chairs with Cuban cigars, 18 year old scotch and a bottle of wine from his cellar. I laughed out loud when I walked into his wine cellar. He looked over his collection of a couple of hundred bottles and picked one out. There’s a spiral stair case from his cellar to his cigar room. His cigar room has its own AC system that pulls air from outside. “Tomorrow” he said, “You will not even know we smoked cigars in this room”. I said, “I bet, there was not a hint of odor when I walked in tonight”.

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His sound system is amazing and it’s the first time I really got to actually hear WOLF. It was the first time to sit and listen to it in its entirety on a real nice sound system. When making an album, especially working on one as long as I have worked on this one, you can sometimes lose sight of the beauty of music, working too close to the fine details. I finally took a step back and got to listen from a listeners standpoint.

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We recorded piano for one of the tracks at his house. He has an amazing piano that John Elliott graciously played on the album.

phil's house piano

Phil is one of the biggest fans of music I know. I did not know to what extent until this night. I came across something I’ve never seen in anyone but me. Phil is moved to tears often by music. I noticed all my standard moves out of the corner of my eye. The subtle moves to wipe away tears. I am moved to tears every single day by music. It’s such a beautiful and inspiring thing in my life. I have never come across another person that literally sheds tears often from the beauty of music. It was refreshing to see.

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After finishing WOLF, we talked about artists we love. We played songs for each other. He has an amazing collection of vinyl. He turned me on to some amazing things. We watched youtube videos of Richard Buckner, Amy Speace, John Fullbright, Danny Schmidt. We watched his personal videos that are not online of AJ Roach, Anthony Da Costa and Nels Andrews.

He stumped me a little with a question, “Who are artists you believe to be above everyone else? Who really, really moves you?” Up until now and with most anyone else this would be an easy question to answer. With Phil however, I wanted to come up with people that maybe he didn’t know, which is very tough. The only person I could come up with that he hadn’t listened to was Richard Buckner. We did however talk of Dayna Kurtz, Danny Schmidt, Raina Rose, Carrie Elkin, Rose Cousins, Sean Rowe and many others that have the ability to move us deeper than others.

This was one of the most enjoyable nights I have had in recent memory. Truly a night of inspiration. Thanks for buying the package and taking the ride Phil.