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Medicare Changes for 2012

category_bug_journal2.gif A short, little post today to remind you that the Medicare Open Enrollment period begins and ends earlier this year than in the past. The dates are from 15 October 2011 through 7 December 2011.

So mark your calendars if you want to make changes to your coverage. If not, you need do nothing but it's a good time of year to check your health coverage and make sure all is in order.

Medicare2012 By now, anyone who uses Medicare has probably received the annual Medicare & You 2012 handbook that is packed with useful information. If you have not received it, there is an online version here [pdf]. If you are new to Medicare this year, the handbook has extensive information on how to make the necessary choices and sign up.

That said, Medicare is complicated and although I have some quibbles, the people at should be congratulated for making the handbook and their website as clear and understandable as possible given the regulations they have to work with.

It has been my experience, too, that the customer service people at the end of the 1.800.MEDICARE telephone number are usually knowledgeable and helpful – and I've rarely had to wait longer than a minute or two to speak with a representative.

You can also call your State Health Assistance Program (SHIP) with questions about Medicare, Medigap coverage, long-term care and more. You will find phone numbers for individual states here or, if you have received the new Medicare & You 2012 handbook, the telephone number for your state is on the back cover.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed by Congress in 2010, gives Medicare recipients several new benefits. Prescription drug prices are slightly lower and everyone gets a free, annual wellness visit with their physician together with a fairly long list of free preventive services such as annual flu shots, screenings for various cancers, HIV, diabetes and more. You can see the list here.

Even if you are happy with your supplemental, prescription drug and/or Medicare Advantage coverages, the open enrollment period is still a good time to make sure everything you need is in order.

Now, although all this is important for old folks to keep track of, it is pretty dry stuff so to lighten up a bit, here is funny and sorta true piece of wisdom from Connecticut physician's assistant, Sue Atkins, that seems applicable today:

“This is a deceptively simple philosophy,” says Sue, “that I have been working on and refining for most of my life. I am delighted to say that I believe I have refined it down to its essence sufficiently to share it with a select band of friends that may appreciate its elegance and simplicity.”

Deceptively Simple Philosophy

No new story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. More next week.

When Blog Friends Go Missing

Like much younger people who participate in blogging and other social media, we elders have online friends who are every bit as important to us as those we know in “real life.” A difference, however, is that we have a greater expectation at our age of disappearing from the web whether temporarily or permanently.

A few years ago, I wrote about my final blog post titled, If You're Reading This, I'm Dead, because it is a terrible thing for our blog friends and acquaintances to be left hanging with no explanation.

I suggested then, and do so again now, that you write that final post. You can place information about where it is stored with the papers your survivors will need right away. Along with that, you should leave precise instructions on how to post it with ID and passwords that are needed, detailed enough so that a non-blogger can work through posting it step by step.

It would be good, too, to leave a note about how important this is to do because it's my experience that people who do not blog or do not read blogs regularly enough to know the depth of friendships that grow also do not understand how much a part of our daily lives it is and might ignore or put off posting our last story.

Until now, I had thought about this only in the context of bloggers dying. Then, yesterday, an email arrived from a friend and regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz. Here is what, in part, she wrote:

”I have been thinking that there should be some sort of registry for bloggers and storytellers.

“Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all of a sudden YOU did not post anything and we had no idea what had happened to you. Or, if weeks went by and there were no comments from me or any new stories. Would you know who to contact to find out what had happened to me?

“We make very good friends with people on our computer and yet we do not have a way to contact a family member of theirs in case of emergency.”

Nancy is correct, of course. It's not just about dying. Now and then we might suddenly disappear from the web due to illness or accident and a hospital stay leaving everyone to wonder.

Plus, there are many friends among us who, like Nancy, do not keep their own blogs but do participate in sites like The Elder Storytelling Place either as contributors or regular commenters and at TimeGoesBy as commenters but it would be unlikely that spouses or friends would think to tell us what has happened.

Nancy is suggesting the registry for bloggers, storytellers and readers who comment regularly. It would not need to be elaborate, just a listing that would be something like:

”I sign my stories and/or comments [name you use]. Please contact my [husband, daughter, son, friend, etc.] at [email address]. He/she will know what is happening with me.”

This is an excellent idea. It doesn't work for the general World Wide Web but it is useful for individual blogs like The Elder Storytelling Place (ESP), Time Goes By or any other one.

Nancy has offered to be the keeper of the registry my two blogs but I wonder if or how people would know to contact her when someone's name hasn't been seen for a while. I could keep the list here, but it should not be a public page where scraper sites can be stealing email addresses and driving our relatives nuts with more spam.

So I'm calling on readers who have more security expertise than I do to help devise a way to keep such a registry. How would I do that on this blog and/or ESP?

Is there a place somewhere online where I could create a space for people to sign up for the registry on their own that is searchable by those who have their own listing?


Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Of Sharks and Rainbows and the iPad 2

Last Acts of Kindness

Here we are, you and I, hanging out on a blog that states right at the top that it is about “what it's really like to get old” and yet we don't talk about death and dying – or hardly at all.

Among the reasons is habit – it is not the habit of our culture and it is all but taboo to talk about the end of life and there is a great deal of pressure to deny that death, in time, comes to all of us.

LastActSmall2 One of my objections to the unending barrage of the commercial and social pressure to remain young forever at any cost is that it denies the dignity of age. Judith Redwing Keyssar, in her book, Last Acts of Kindness, takes that thought a step further:

”Commercials and advertisements flood us with images and information about how to stay young, look young, and avoid the aging process,” she writes, “insinuating that if we don't age, perhaps we won't have to die.”

I agree and I'm pretty sure the purveyors of wrinkle creams, Botox and plastic surgery would deny it, but at bottom, when all the layers are peeled away, all those expensive products and procedures are exactly what Ms. Keyssar says – the denial of the inevitable. In doing so, as she points out in her book, we are trading the experience of the great mystery of life for anxiety and fear. It doesn't need to be that way.

Ms. Keyssar is the director of the Palliative Care Program of Jewish Family and Children's Service of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a leader in the field of palliative care and, as she describes herself, “midwife to the dying.” I would add to the dying and their loved ones who are as much a part of this book as the dying.

In 27 true tales, Keyssar tells the personal stories of people she has worked with at the very end of their lives – in hospitals, in care facilities, at home, at ages ranging from youth to ancient, people ready to accept their deaths and others fighting until the last breath.

”For some,” writes Keyssar, “it is important to be holding a hand and for others it is important to leave this world alone. Every human is unique, and the stories of our deaths are as individual and poignant as the stories of our births and our lives.”

Last Acts of Kindness is an important book. The wide-ranging stories are compelling in themselves but Keyssar has a larger mission. She shows us the lessons the dying can teach us and she also answers the many questions we never want to ask or that others don't want to answers. And she urges us to plan.

“...making plans for your end of life care could be the greatest gift you can give your family and friends.”

I agree, but the stories are what propel the book along with Keyssar's interruptions to explain how disease develops or how the hospital procedures and medical technology function or the goals of medical personnel and some of the wisdom she has gained from more than 25 years of specializing in the needs of the dying.

Sometimes the stories are funny. Sue was a 42-year-old free spirit diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones with pain that required increased amounts of morphine.

”Sue's room was always full of family,” writes Keyssar, “...and friends who circled her bed and changed, sang, prayed and meditated...

“Later that night after everyone had gone home, I sat at Sue's bedside, holding her hand. Her breathing was labored and irregular. Suddenly she took a big, deep breath, and I thought this was the end. I, too, took a long deep breath, when suddenly Sue gulped more air, opened her eyes, looked straight at me and said, 'I'm not dead yet?'”

Keyssar laughed, assuring Sue she was still in this world. Now some writers might end the story there and I can understand the urge to do that. But Keyssar doesn't let us off that easy.

”'I never imagined it would be this hard to die,' [Sue] said, a few stray tears rolling down her cheeks.

“'What is so hard about it?' I asked.

“Sue thought for a minute and then said, 'There is so much love in the room. Why would I want to leave that?'”

As Keyssar explains, additional morphine helped control the pain enough for Sue to say “meaningful goodbyes to all her friends and family” and within a day or so she died with just two people with her.

Many fine things are written in this book, as much a guide to living as to dying. It is also an impassioned call for changes to our health care system to better and more compassionately serve the dying and their families.

You can find out more about the book at Judith Redwing Keyssar's website and it is available at the usual online retail sources. I highly recommend it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Candy Store

Two Books for Your Heart

You may have noticed that I don't do book reviews. The main reason is that there are so many bad ones related to aging and I don't see the point of writing about a book I threw across the room (metaphorically or for real).

But it doesn't seem fair that I rarely get around to mentioning books I like so this week I'm going to tell you about a few. Today, one for your heart and one for your heart – that is, for love and for health.

I don't know how I've missed Ilene Beckerman who has a string of books behind her including Love, Loss and What I Wore which Nora and Delia Ephron turned into a successful Off-Broadway play.

TheSmartestWomansmall Beckerman's latest book, The Smartest Woman I Know, is a funny, charming and heartwarming memoir of her Jewish grandmother, Ettie Goldberg, and since Ms. Beckerman is 75, she's going back a long way to give us this portrait.

Ettie is a lot like most Jewish grandmothers of her immigrant, early 20th century era – and Italian ones and French ones and German ones too – dispensing wisdom in short, practical bursts filled with humor both intentional and otherwise. “Even Rita Hayworth doesn't look so good in the morning,” she tells “Gingy” - Beckerman's nickname as a child.

This is a slight, little book, just 85 pages including a lot of cute illustrations that expand on the text. It made me laugh and almost cry too. Mostly, it's about uncomplicated, loving truth. You can find out more at Ilene Beckerman's website.

When the doctor told Ettie's husband that he needed to trim down a bit, Ettie said to Mr. Goldberg: “I'll give you some free advice on how to lose weight. Don't eat so much.”

Onebowlcoverfrontonlysmall Absolutely true, Ettie, but hard to do anyway as we've been discussing here at TGB lately. That brings me to another book – a cookbook by Stephanie Bostic titled One Bowl: Simple, Healthy Recipes for One. "Simple” and “healthy” they are, and the ones I've tried are also delicious.

One reason is that Stephanie, who holds a masters degree in nutrition and has worked in nutrition research at both Tufts University and Harvard School of Public Health, lives alone and cooks most every night for herself – which is how she developed One Bowl. As she says in the introduction:

”I may occasionally still rely on takeout, but the following recipes make it easy to throw together a meal faster than a pizza would arrive.”

I was happy to find lots of soup recipes and there are others I've always thought to be too elaborate to try for just me – such as a duck breast with plum or apricot preserves and sliced almonds that took less than 20 minutes to prepare. Excellent.

One of the hard facts of getting old is that even after a marriage of decades, we can wind up alone, a widow or widower, with no experience at cooking for one. Stephanie's book includes a lot of instruction and help for easy, healthy and delicious eating in smaller sizes.

You can find out more at her One Bowl website and at her blog, Sustainable Cooking for One.

Both books are available from the usual online retailers.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Living a Dream

Food and Weight (Again)

category_bug_journal2.gif Over the weekend, as I caught up with reading email and blog comments I had missed while I was down with the flu last week, I was surprised at how many requests there are for more information about my weight loss.

I thought I had covered it pretty well here and here, but questions arrive and maybe there is a bit more to say especially because, at age 70, I don't want to ever again need to lose this much extra poundage and over the past months, I've put a LOT of thought into how to do that.

What I want is food in its proper place, enjoy it within the confines of maintaining a healthy weight and get on with the rest of living. The following is what I have so far developed toward that end.

I am not interested in becoming a vegetarian, a vegan or whatever else people who don't eat meat and/or dairy declare themselves to be. That has always sounded too much like religion for me. I have no moral or political objection to meat eating, but even small amounts are so high in calories and fat (not to mention antibiotics) that it doesn't fit in my daily diet.

Sure, I'll roast a leg a lamb for company once or twice a year. Yum. There is nothing like beef stew to warm you up on a cold winter's day. Chicken is a terrific vehicle for all sorts of interesting flavors and small chunks help bulk up salads when they need more heft. Just not regularly for me now nor often.

My main animal protein is fish or seafood two or three, maybe four meals a week. Sometimes, but no more than once a week, I can have pasta – there is a delicious mushroom variety of ravioli in the stores lately that I like with a home-made fresh mushroom/red wine sauce.

Almost all dairy should be no-fat – yogurt (plain), milk, sour cream, etc. It's not dairy but lite mayonnaise falls into this category too. I'll tell you that no-fat sour cream and lite mayo are awful tasting. But I use them and/or no-fat yogurt entirely for their textures as a base for some salad dressings and sauces and when combined with strong flavors, you can't tell how terrible they are.

The dairy exception is cheese - full fat, triple cream, runny, gooey or whatever kind I feel like, fabulous cheese - one small wedge with fruit no more than twice a month as a substitute for one meal in a day.

(By the way, the speed at which time flies at our age is helpful; it doesn't feel nearly as long between cheese meals as it would have when I was younger and time passed more slowly.)

At first, I called these “rules” but that's too rigid. These are guidelines that should be followed most of the time but can be ignored on rare special occasions like holidays and dinner at friends' homes or bent a little for variety.

• When vegetables are not the entire meal, the amount of them on my plate must be at least twice the volume of the main dish, preferably three times the volume.

• Without fail, eat three meals a day; never go so long between meals to become hungry. (This isn't about health as much as keeping myself feeling full enough to not start thinking about cookies or ice cream.)

• Always buy fresh vegetables and fruits. When they are not available, check the frozen foods which are often fresher because they are flash frozen within a day of picking and haven't spent a week or more on a truck. Be sure to check that there are no added ingredients – no butter, salt, sugar, etc.

• In general, always substitute olive oil for butter.

• Spend whatever money necessary on the best flavorings and condiments available; they keep meals interesting.

• Don't forget whole grains with meals. I've never liked brown rice much, but I do like wild rice – which is really a grain. These can be mixed in with vegetable salads and stir fries.

• If you want soup, make it yourself.

The reason is that all prepared soups, even the supposedly healthy ones are sky high in sodium. I've never used salt in my cooking; other flavorings are more interesting and just as effective. But I was shocked when, a few years ago, I discovered that single servings of commercial soup can have nearly a full day's limit of sodium in them.

• Always have healthy food around that can be prepared quickly for hunger attacks.

I eat so many vegetables now and they are so filling that I hardly ever feel hungry. But it happens. I've always disliked the diet “expert” admonition to keep cut up carrots and celery handy. That just screeches diet and feels like deprivation. Therefore, mostly this guideline means food that can be eaten straight from the refrigerator or heated quickly in the microwave. So...

It's hard to cook for one without having a lot of leftovers going green and fuzzy in the back of the fridge. In the past six months of this weight loss period, I've developed a system to feed myself with little hassle and few leftovers that isn't time consuming when I'm tired.

Here is my refrigerator after Saturday's early morning shopping trip to the farmers' market.


This is enough food for the week. In that drawer on the left is a three-quarter pound piece of chinook salmon caught on Friday. I poached it in wine and herbs and it will provide part of three meals this week.

There are jars and containers of several kinds of fresh berries for breakfast smoothies or to add to hot oatmeal (it's already getting a little chilly here some mornings).

The rest of the containers hold steamed veggies: broccoli, romanesco, cauliflower, beans, asparagus, beets, parsnips, etc. along with some roasted red peppers, some cooked wild rice and there are other vegetables in the crisper that can be added raw to salads and stir fries or heated briefly with other veggies in, for example, an olive oil and balsamic sauce.

All this cutting up and steaming has become my Saturday morning ritual after the shopping. It pays off in that it's so easy to prepare a meal, there is no temptation for pizza if I don't feel like cooking. I have no excuses not to eat well.

I play around with the vegetables. Sometimes I'll prepare a salad by color – all green, for example, with just a touch of red – roasted peppers or sun-dried tomatoes. Or, I might combine them by texture and once I did it by name – only veggies with three or more syllables. Silly.

A big treat this week is that fig season has begun and I bought a dozen or so black mission figs I'm having for dessert this week with some tiny, tasty melons – about the size of grapefruit – that are still available at the farmer's market.

Here's a new trick I learned: if you want to lose a lot of weight quickly, like six or seven pounds in a week, get the flu. KIDDING, just kidding. Not a good idea. Still, I dropped a lot of weight last week while I was sick.

It's great to have so much new energy and I've mentioned that I can bend over again to tie my shoes and feed the cat. (For those of you who have asked, here's a recent photo of Ollie when I was still fat and he was eating on the counter.)

Ollie on Counter

Just a week ago, I discovered I can cross my legs. It's been so long since I've been able to do that I'd forgotten its usefulness. Most of my pants now make me look like I'm wearing a clown suit and some are altogether unwearable now – they fall off. All this is good, but there is a weird part.

Although my hips and thighs have slimmed way down, although my abdomen in nearly flat again, although the bulkiness is gone from my upper back and shoulders, although I can feel, if not see, my ribs, my waist sticks out farther than my hips or chest wall by an inch or two on either side so that the middle of my body - ew! - looks sort of like this:

Bulging Waist

(Well, that's the general idea although my drawing is a bit exaggerated proportionately. I'm not much of an artist).

Good god. I don't expect to regain the 21-inch waist I once had but geez, this doesn't seem right. Either weight does not come off the body evenly or I'm about to give birth to an alien – maybe two.

I'll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming months.

NOTE: All of the above is what works for me. In no way is any of it meant to be understood as recommendations for anyone else.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Moore: My Lead Foot and My Precious Father


PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

What happened in 1964?

  • Well, I was hanging around Melbourne University wondering whether to major in physics or maths
  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married (for the first time)
  • The Beatles held the top several spots on American charts a year after the same thing happened in Britain, Australia and pretty much everywhere else
  • Tokyo staged the Olympics Games
  • Pete Townsend destroyed a guitar on stage for the first time
  • The film of My Fair Lady was released
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
  • Cole Porter died

Florence Ballard was from Detroit and a good friend of Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks who were then in a singing group called The Primes. This group later became The Temptations.

The manager of The Primes decided to create a female equivalent and call it The Primettes. Florence recruited her best friend, Mary Wilson, who brought along a school friend, Diane Ross.

After winning a local contest they were signed to Motown and made a few records that flopped. This was not a good thing in the company that prided itself on being Hitsville USA. However, they persisted. Diane changed her name to Diana and the group changed its name to THE SUPREMES.

The Supremes

Later, Florence became somewhat erratic, not turning up to recordings and gigs or appearing, well, “tired and emotional” in the fine Australian phrase that describes her condition. She was replaced by Cindy Birdsong.

As would be well known to most readers, they had many hits in the Sixties, rivaling The Beatles in the number they sold. They also paved the way for black artists to enter the mainstream of the music business in a big way. This is one of their hits from this year, Where Did Our Love Go.

♫ The Supremes - Where Did Our Love Go

THE ZOMBIES were a little different from the other English groups at the time. There was a definite jazz influence in their playing and they used minor keys quite a bit.


They formed in St Albans, England, and played around the local traps. They won a contest that got them to London to record a song. That song is She's Not There. This was the first of a few hits, but by the time their first album was released they had split up and never really realized the potential they had.

Most of the original group have reformed in recent times and they are touring again.

♫ The Zombies - She's Not There

THE DIXIE CUPS were from New Orleans and they were Barbara Hawkins, her sister Rosa and their cousin, Joan Johnson.

Dixie Cups

They originally called themselves Little Miss and the Muffets and it’s a good thing they dropped that name. They were discovered by Joe Jones who caught their act in a talent contest and he took them to New York.

Joe had a couple of hits himself around that time, the best-known would be You Talk Too Much. The Dixie Cups recorded a song that both the Crystals and the Ronettes had had a go at, The Chapel of Love.

They continue to perform to this day. The Hawkins sisters are still there but with Athelgra Neville, sister of the Neville Brothers, replacing Joan who wandered over to Texas.

♫ The Dixie Cups - Chapel Of Love

THE ANIMALS were probably the most interesting of the British groups around this time, mostly due to Eric Burdon’s gritty vocals and Alan Price’s swirling organ playing.

The Animals

Originally from Newcastle, the group moved to London and were initially called the Alan Price Combo. Their wild stage performance got them dubbed animals and the name stuck and became the official name for the band (at least until Eric took over and put his moniker in front the group’s name).

They combined covers of blues tunes by the likes of John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed and traditional songs along with their own music. The original group soon split due to “musical differences” and they have reformed a couple of times over the years.

This is their best known song, House of the Rising Sun.

♫ The Animals - The House Of The Rising Sun

MARY WELLS was born on the really poor side of Detroit.

Mary Wells

To make things even worse for her, at the age of two she contracted spinal meningitis which produced partial blindness, deafness and some paralysis. She overcame these setbacks and at 17 was writing songs.

She approached Berry Gordy, honcho of Motown, with some of them. He was a bit tired and asked her to sing one. She was hired on the spot. There must be a film here, surely.

She had several reasonably selling records and hit it big with one of Smokey Robinson’s tunes, My Guy. Mary was a favorite of The Beatles and she was asked to open for them on one of their tours. She had a falling out with Gordy and left Motown claiming she was owed quite a lot in royalties. Mary died of cancer in 1992.

♫ Mary Wells - My Guy

SAM COOKE deserves a column of his own, so it’s lucky that I’ve done just that. You can find it here.

Sam Cooke

This isn’t one of Sam’s songs that changed music or changed society like A Change is Gonna Come. No, this is one of his frivolous songs, but it doesn’t matter as any song Sam recorded is worth listening to. It probably sold more than his serious ones. This is Cousin of Mine.

♫ Sam Cooke - Cousin of Mine

The next tune I chose because it’s so silly, but what a groove, especially if you don’t listen to the words. The singer is SHIRLEY ELLIS. She was from The Bronx and her folks were from the West Indies. They knew her as Shirley Elliston.

Shirley Ellis

Shirley did rather get pigeonholed as a novelty act because of this song as well as The Clapping Song, The Nitty Gritty and others. These sold well, so it may not have been too much of a problem.

She was a decent songwriter as well, writing several songs that were hits for The Chords (but not their biggie, Sh-Boom). This is The Name Game.

♫ Shirley Ellis - The Name Game

Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard were recruited (separately) by a local (Detroit) manager to be part of a group called The Del-Phis. Gloria Williams was the lead singer of the group that numbered six at the time. Members came and went and it eventually stabilized to four of them.

When the fourth left, the manager recruited Martha Reeves, who was from Alabama, as a replacement. They were quite successful around the clubs and Martha left to become a solo singer.

She got the date wrong when she went to audition for Motown, but was hired as a secretary instead. Meanwhile, the Del-Phis were hired by the same company as backup singers. One day, Mary Wells failed to show for a recording session so Martha stepped in to take her place. The Del-Phis were already on board to provide backup.

The new group was signed immediately, although Gloria dropped out as she wasn’t impressed with this show biz lark and MARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS were born.

Martha and the Vandellas

They were one of the most successful groups that Motown had, rivaled only by the Supremes. Their most famous song came out this year and it will get you up jiving around the room. It’s been covered by several artists over the years but this is still the definitive version of Dancing in the Street.

♫ Martha and the Vandellas - Dancing in the Street

JOE TEX was born in, surprise surprise, Texas. He was known then as Joseph Arrington Jnr. I guess his dad thought he was on to a good thing when it came to names.

Joe Tex

Joe’s life would also make an extraordinary film. In the Fifties, he’d perform country music in whites-only clubs in the south. I don’t know if chicken wire was involved. Later he’d open for James Brown and mock his collapsing, cape over himself, routine.

One day James, not noted for his sense of humor, got out his shotgun and blasted away in Joe’s general direction. He missed him but several customers were hit.

It’s believed that Joe was first to do the cape bit and James pinched the idea. Indeed, Little Richard once said that James Brown picked up a good deal of his act from watching Joe.

There’s a lot more for this proposed film, but I won’t go into it all now.

This song came at the end of a grueling recording session where nothing was going right. It was suggested he try something else. Hold on to What You’ve Got was the result. The hours of singing left him with just the right degree of weariness and hoarseness to make the tune memorable.

♫ Joe Tex - Hold On To What You've Got

BETTY EVERETT started playing the piano at the age of nine and she also sang gospel in church in her native Greenwood, Mississippi.

Betty Everett

She moved to Chicago and sang around the traps there where she was discovered and had her music produced by such big-time producers as Ike Turner and Curtis Mayfield.

She was signed to a record company and her first song was a flop. That song was You’re No Good with which Linda Ronstadt later sold a squillion copies and had a number 1 hit. Betty's next song was a biggie for her, and it’s the one we have today, The Shoop Shoop Song.

♫ Betty Everett - Shoop Shoop Song

INTERESTING STUFF: 24 September 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff I'm just back from a flu-fogged week during which there was hardly any media in my life. Hence, a shorter Interesting Stuff today with a bit of an editorial toward the end.

A couple of weeks ago, 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer (ret.) was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. When White House staff contacted Meyer about the upcoming event, the Marine asked if he could have a beer with President Obama. Why, of course, was the answer and it happened the day before the award ceremony:


What intrigued me about this little side story, however, is that the White House has been making its own home brew – White House Honey Ale - from the garden beehives.

This wasn't really a secret; I'd just never run across the beer story before. Apparently, home brew in the White House has never been done before the Obamas. You can read more about it all at the Daily Mail.

Take a look at this well-preserved 1950s bungalow.

Michael Paul Smith House

A lot of houses look like that one in Portland, Oregon. I remember playing on porches just like this one when I was a kid. Now take a look at this same house from another angle:

Michael Paul Smith House with hand

Ha! Don't you love being fooled that way? Michael Paul Smith has been building and photographing the 1950s in miniature for the past 25 years or so. He creates the buildings from scratch and photographs them sometimes indoors, but sometimes he carts the scene outside and uses the real world as a backdrop.

“What started out as an exercise in model building and photography, ended up as a dream-like reconstruction of the town I grew up in," says Smith. "It's not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

Smith's work is magical and we can thank Darlene Costner for bringing it to my attention. There are many photos and a good interview here. More photos, especially of works in progress that show the construction process on Flickr. And more here.

Plus a book of Smith's work titled, Elgin Park: An Ideal American Town was published earlier this year.

At The Thursday Republican debate, when an openly gay soldier serving in Iraq asked the candidates, via YouTube video, how they would treat the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell if they became president, some people in the audience booed the soldier.

Then, as candidate Rick Santorum, in his response, spoke against gays in the military or for a return to DADT (hard to tell from his convoluted answer) cheers of agreement from the audience grew in number and in volume.

And all the candidates stood mute, not one of them rebuking the audience.

All three Republican debates have been marred by crude audience reactions such as cheers when Ron Paul was asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if uninsured patients should be left to die. No one denounced that outbreak nor the cheers when Rick Perry mentioned in another debate that he had overseen 234 executions in Texas. (Make that 235 as of this week.)

All my life I've believed – and it appeared evident to me - that except for fringe elements, most Americans of all political leanings were generally in favor of treating each other with respect and supported what is usually called the general welfare. That seems to be gone at the most basic levels of humanity and democracy.

On the state level, Republican governors and local legislators are hell bent on depriving students, the poor, people of color and elders of their right to vote by requiring a government ID they make as difficult to get as possible. One governor wants to drug test people as a requirement for receiving unemployment benefits.

And just yesterday, after three executions around the country this week, the state of Texas scrapped the age-old tradition of allowing condemned prisoners to request a last meal of their choice. A small matter in the larger scheme of things? I don't think so when taken together with all the other hateful things Republicans stand for.

Hatefulness appears to grow stronger every day and yes – mostly from the Republican right. Ben White, writing at Politico Friday morning has noticed this too as he reported on the Thursday debate:

“There were more very depressing moments including the crowd booing for educating the children of illegal immigrants (Booing kids? Really? Even if you disagree with the policy?) and cat calls for an openly gay solider who asked a question on Youtube.

“The GOP would do well to just start holding these debates without an audience because at some point the crowds are going to start killing puppies or something.”

White isn't far off the mark except that the audiences at these events will “start killing puppies or something” as long as their leaders continue to support such policies as death for lack of health coverage and express glee at killing 235 people.

Well, okay, it's the spring equinox for Peter Tibbles and his countrymen in Australia. Nevertheless, in the northern hemisphere, yesterday was the official start of autumn and nothing represents the season quite like pumpkins.

Here, at the Bronx Zoo, are some huge bears with pumpkins.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Alzheimer's on Television

As Ann Shaw (who blogs here) remarked on one of my flu fogged posts earlier this week:

“There's nothing like enforced rest in bed to get you thinking.”

She is right, you know. All sorts of odd and (occasionally) interesting things bubble up in between naps. I tell myself to make notes, but it's too much effort to reach for the pen on the bedside table and I drift off again; who knows where the thought goes.

Except for one. I've forgotten which evening this week I sort of watched the premier of a new TV show titled, Unforgettable. It's another police procedural, this one starring Poppy Montgomery, late of Without a Trace, as Carrie, who has a condition which gives her a freakishly detailed memory of every event of every day of her life.

I was too fuzzy-headed to know if the show is any good, but one scene stands out.

Carrie is visiting with an old woman in a residential care home. The viewer is led to believe from other interactions that perhaps Carrie volunteers there and from a short exchange, we know the old woman is an Alzheimer's patient. She says to Carrie: “You look just like my younger daughter.”

As I said, I was too fuzzy to catch the exact sequence but you know, of course, it is revealed that Carrie is her younger daughter who the woman no longer recognizes. Mother's Alzheimer's/daughter's hyper-memory – yeah, yeah, I wasn't too cotton-headed to miss the heavy-handed irony.

Nevertheless, I like this subplot. Whatever the future of the show (the networks quickly kill off new ones that are not immediate hits), it is a good thing to acknowledge as a normal part of life the afflictions people (our families, friends and neighbors) face along with the pain, sadness and difficulties they cause.

Movies, television shows, videos, magazine and news stories of all stripes, online and off, help define our culture, play it back to us and show us how people cope in such circumstances.

Documentaries – of which there are dozens about Alzheimer's - are excellent educational tools, but when the same issues are addressed within entertainment storylines, we get some small sense of the day-to-day reality which I think is particularly important for the majority who have no personal experience (yet) with it – be it Alzheimer's as in this show or other health and cultural issues - we face in our communities.

So, good for Unforgettable and let us hope there is more portrayal of real life blended into entertainment dramas.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: A Tough Old Bird

Listening to Our Bodies

category_bug_journal2.gif We don't give our bodies enough credit for what they do. Think about it. Cut your hand? Clean it up, put a Band-aid on it and in a few days it's fine. Bang your knee and raise a purple bruise? Okay, it hurts for awhile, but with no effort from us, it heals itself.

And so it is with this flu or whatever bug I've had since Sunday. For the first time since then, today (Wednesday), I felt well enough to shower in the morning. I'm not recovered yet; my head is fuzzy still, aches and pains stab at me from odd places and I'm tired, very tired. But the fever is down and I am discernibly on the mend.

Isn't that amazing? I haven't done anything for the past several days except sleep and even that was at my body's, not my, insistence; when I tried to read or watch television, after a few minutes I fell asleep again. Our bodies know.

When I was thinking, in my flu fog, how wise my body is if I will just pay attention, I realized that our culture disagrees. Every magazine, website, television channel is filled with advertising for little pills. If the pill doesn't cure the problem, it covers the symptoms so we can work, work, work and forget that left to its own devices, the body takes care of many of our ailments.

But our culture thwarts that natural remedy; the only reason I can let my body do its job is that I'm am retired. When I was still working, we were expected to show up no matter how sick we were. This demonstrated our dedication to the company and also how tough we were. (You gotta be tough to be competitive and other tales from the corporate workplace.)

Of course, this also meant that we were all sick all the time. At least half the employees at my company were 30-somethings with infants and toddlers. To my dismay, they were encouraged to bring these children to work (that's a topic Crabby Old Lady could take on, but not today), these children with their runny noses, coughs and sneezes passing their little kid germs throughout our offices.

And when it wasn't the kiddies, it was their parents who came to work with the hacks, coughs and sneezes their kids had passed on to them. I had some kind of low-level infection for the entire three years I worked there. It was no surprise that it cleared up for good within a month of leaving that job.

Perhaps my mild surprise this time at how well my body is doing its job relates to all those years going to work through illnesses either because there was no paid sick leave or that to stay home was to be suspected of slacking off, of weakness.

That macho, tough-it-out requirement has been around for a long time. Back in the 1970s, the host of a morning TV show where I worked was widely praised for showing up to do the live program when she had an intestinal flu and (What a trouper! The show must go on! Etc. Etc.) kept a bucket just off-camera to puke in during commercial breaks.

From then on, it was pretty difficult for the rest of us to call in sick.

Well, you can tell I'm not recovered yet. Obviously, I've gotten off track from the short, little “aren't our bodies wonderful” point I started with. My head's still fuzzy and my body is telling me to go back to bed. Now that I can, I'm listening.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: China – Why Return?

Age and Aspiration

Okay, before I get into this post, please recall that I am spending most of my time in bed with chills, aches, pains and general low-level feverishness so I have no sense of how well I'm thinking. You'll have to tell me.

Mostly I sleep, but when I wake up occasionally and Ollie the cat isn't pestering me for food, I turn on television for awhile. Yesterday, this commercial turned up several times. Listen for the aspirations:

Wow. Watching all that aspiring exhausted me. I realize Samsung doesn't give a hoot about selling their smartphones to 70-year-old elders like me, but I also think they unintentionally touched on something about old people that's useful to know – at least for me:

I don't want to be number one. At anything. I don't want to do whatever's necessary to stand out in a crowd and I have no need to make a dramatic entrance. I'd like my joke not to fall flat, but it's okay if it does. I wouldn't mind being “just” the tambourine player in a really great rock'n'roll band - but for one night only as a lark, not a job.

Aspiration, I'm pretty sure, is mostly for young people. The kid in the Batman outfit and young adults aiming to make their place in the world - the world is a better place for all that trying and I was one of them once upon a time.

But somewhere, when I wasn't looking, I lost interest in making the effort it takes to be number one, the effort to keep ahead of the competition. I've also come to see the amazing differences for the good that the number twos and threes and fours, etc. in the world make.

It's not that I don't try for my best – writing a blog post, cooking dinner for friends, learning something new, etc. I've just let go of the competitive aspect and with it the aspirational one too, at least in the sense that the Samsung commercial intends. It wasn't a conscious decision; I'm guessing it comes with age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: Hurricane Iniki – 9/11/91

Bear with Me Through This Bug

category_bug_journal2.gif Just as I'm all revved up for a leap back into blogging, wham! Some kind of bug hit me Monday morning bringing along aches, pains, a cotton head and general flu-ishness.

Maybe if I'd taken the flu shot last week as I had intended and blew off for something else, this wouldn't have happened.

One of the things about getting old is that we've had these generic flus enough times that we know what to do. So for me, back to bed, liquids and sleep – I should be fine in two or three days.

Meanwhile. In a phone chat with a friend on Sunday, he (in his early 70s and healthy) said that any kind of event – especially travel - and that's it for him for the day. Even just two hour trip to his country house? No, he will not be going out to dinner that evening.

Now that he mentions it, I've noticed the same phenomenon with me in recent times. Lunch with someone? I want to be quietly at home with myself afterward. Having friends in for dinner? I want to be home alone the next day. Get on an airplane? Nothing else is going to happen after I arrive except sleep at the hotel.

What about you? Can you/do you still handle five or six or more appointments a day?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Appreciation

Re-Entry to Elderblogging

category_bug_journal2.gif Well, hi there. It's nice to be back among you.

On 7 September, I announced a 10-day withdrawal from blogging. I had no plans to travel, no urgent or time-consuming needs or desires, no house guests. Nothing, in fact, except a general sense of malaise and disinterest. Also, that I had become stale, repeating myself and struggling to find something to write each day.

Imagine! From the girl whose mother regularly said, “Ronni, let your little brother talk” - which hasn't changed much over the decades since then.

When I've taken time off in the past, I made arrangements for fresh material while I was gone – carefully chosen “reruns,” guest posts I solicited weeks in advance or new stories I wrote and saved to publish during my absence.

This time, however, it was on the spur of the moment. I just didn't want to write (or think or research) that day, nor did I want to do so the next day and the next. Some people call this burnout. Maybe so.

And how did I spend those ten days? Well, the house is cleaner than it has been since the day I moved in 15 months ago. I even crawled under the desk to dust all those computer cables and power strips.

I read a couple of books that had nothing to do with aging or politics (if you don't count a third, Michael Moore's latest which I'm halfway through). I watched a lot of old film noir from the 1930s and 1940s – a project I've been diddling with for a couple of years. (Many of them hold up remarkably well.)

(The next book on my agenda is Ron Suskind's Confidence Man. You can read a good overview of it here.)

Also, I put a good deal of effort into analyzing why this new way of eating I wrote about in my last post before the hiatus is working so well compared to recent past attempts to get my weight under control.

It's tempting, but I won't bore you with my conclusions.

What I will tell you, however, is that even though it will probably be another three or four months (total time equaling the better part of a year) until I reach an equilibrium, I feel fantastic. Lots more physical energy which now gets me up and moving without having to prod myself into it. There is almost a need to move and I can't sit as long without feeling restless.

Sometime in the past when we've discussed age-related waning of energy and stamina, I said that I needed to spread vacuuming over two days – the front of the house one day, the back the next. Now I'm doing it all in one go with ease which – another improvement - relieves that nagging in the back of one's mind: you really ought to (fill in the blank).

So if you have some extra poundage on you, I highly recommend getting rid of it. I know it's hard – though not so much now that I've been at it since April - I haven't felt this good in a long time.

During these past ten days, the economic and political news has been universally awful. I'll write about some of it in the coming days or weeks but today, let's stick to the single piece of good news.

It was announced last week that President Barack Obama has backed down from his support for changing the measure of inflation to the chained-CPI which would reduce cost-of-living increases to Social Security. When, today, he announces his suggestions to the super committee for reaching the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction, it will include no changes to Social Security. Hurray for an intelligent change in position.

I have asked you so many times to write the president and your representatives about this, you must be numb to it by now. But, apparently, those contacts have worked. Most commentators ascribe the change to response to Obama's base and to advocacy groups for elders. So congratulate yourselves.

Today, I'm asking you to contact the president again. Mostly we complain. So this time, let's thank him for this move. You can do that here.

My time off was energizing and now it's great to be back.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek: When I Helped Count Fish in the Atlantic Ocean


PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

I’d like to say hello to all the folks out there named Jones. It occurred to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me that there are quite a number of songs with Jones in their title or that reference the name. We were listening to Bob at the time and this inspired us to see if there were enough songs for a column. There certainly were.

Starting with the song that prompted this column, BOB DYLAN with Ballad of a Thin Man.

Bob Dylan

This was recorded at the time when Bob was blazing across the landscape, burning everything in his wake and taking no prisoners. It was the time when, wherever he went, he was inundated by inane questions from interviewers.

He was also subject to fans who professed to understand the hidden meaning of his songs and wanted to explain it all to him. This song was written for both these groups. There’s also a rumor that it was also for a certain Time magazine reporter.

♫ Bob Dylan - Ballad Of A Thin Man

JOHNNY BURNETTE began his musical career as a member of a group called either or both The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio and or the Johnny Burnette Trio. The group consisted of Johnny, his brother Dorsey and their friend Paul Burlison.

The trio recorded some of the very best of early rock & roll and rockabilly music in a similar vein to that which Elvis created over at Sun Records.

Johnny Burnette

They knew Elvis and he’d come around and jam with them. Johnny said that he could sing “but only knew two or three chords on the guitar”. I guess that didn’t hold him back.

Later, both Johnny and Dorsey had solo careers but both had tragically short lives, Johnny dying in a boating accident and Dorsey of a heart attack.

This song is from Johnny’s solo career when his music was more that of a teen idol than a pioneering rock & roller, it’s Big Big World.

♫ Johnny Burnette - Big Big World

TOM PAXTON was a leading light in the folk movement around Greenwich Village in New York in the early Sixties.

Tom Paxton

Although Bob is usually given the credit for first writing and singing his own songs, Tom beat him by several years. Many of his songs have been played and recorded by a host of others, almost as many as have done Bob’s. Indeed, there are several of his songs that are often considered to be “trad” or “anon” they are so ubiquitous.

This isn’t one of them, however; it’s Clarissa Jones from his underrated “Morning Again” album.

♫ Tom Paxton - Clarissa Jones

THE MILLS BROTHERS were around for a hell of a long time.

The Mills Brothers

They started in the Twenties and celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 1976. At this stage, John had died. They kept on going as a trio until Harry’s death in 1982. The next two kept going until Herbert died in 1989.

Donald kept on trucking with his son until he (Donald) died in 1999. The son has kept the name afloat with some help from an ex-Platter. This is a song I recall from when I was a whippersnapper, The Jones Boy.

♫ The Mills Brothers - The Jones Boy

In 1970, the Grateful Dead recorded a fine album called “Workingman’s Dead”. They followed it with the even better “American Beauty” but it’s the former album we’re interested in today.

On that album there was a song called Casey Jones. This tale played fast and loose with the facts about the real Casey, but it’s a good song for all that.

I’ve already featured the Dead’s version in a column on trains so it’s WARREN ZEVON and DAVID LINDLEY instead. They were part of an album called “Deadicated” that featured different artists interpreting the Dead’s songs. Warren and David’s version is nearly as good as the original.

Warren Zevon and David Lindley

♫ Warren Zevon, David Lindley - Casey Jones

Continuing the theme, there have been many songs about Casey Jones. TOM RUSH claims that his version is as close to the facts about him as is possible these days.

Tom Rush

It was a tossup between Tom’s version and that of Furry Lewis. What swung the vote is that Furry doesn’t actually mention Jones anywhere in his version, he’s always very familiar, calling him Casey (actually Kassie, as that’s the way he spells the title). So, Tom it is.

♫ Tom Rush - Casey Jones

JOHN D. LOUDERMILK is known mostly as a songwriter, but in the Fifties he had some hits singing his own songs.

John D. Loudermilk

John was born in Durham, North Carolina, and is a cousin to Ira and Charlie Loudermilk who performed professionally as the Louvin Brothers. He learned to play guitar as a young boy and started writing songs about the same time.

Many country and other musicians have recorded his music. It seems that John wrote the song about a girl he met on a ballroom dancing course. He used her real name and said that he never did find out what she thought of it. Here it is, Angela Jones.

♫ John D Loudermilk - Angela Jones

In the late Fifties and early Sixties THE COASTERS were really the only competition The Drifters had in their field. Whereas The Drifters played fine, and sometimes sublime, music, The Coasters didn’t take themselves at all seriously.

The Coasters

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote most of their hits, as they did for many artists at the time. The songs they made popular have been covered by many artists, notably Elvis, the Grateful Dead, Ray Stevens, The Beatles, The Monkees and many others. Here is the first and original, Along Came Jones, pretty much a send-up of television at the time.

♫ The Coasters - Along Came Jones

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD started her musical life as part of The Springfields, a group she started with her brother Dion and Tim Feild. Those were not their real names as she was Mary O’Brien and Dion used the moniker Tom Springfield in the group. Later Dusty went on to some solo success in the wake of The Beatles.

Dusty Springfield

In 1968, she signed with Atlantic Records, possibly because Aretha Franklin was with that label, and went to Memphis to record an album. That album is “Dusty in Memphis” and is a classic. From it, a song written by Tony Joe White called Willie & Laura Mae Jones is taken.

♫ Dusty Springfield - Willie & Laura Mae Jones

INTERESTING STUFF: 17 September 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff Well, if you had television on any of the news channels last weekend, there certainly was an orgy of 9/11 remembrances. What is it about zero-ending anniversaries that we love so much? I'm just as guilty as everyone when they roll around.

We should have had enough until 2021, I would think, but there are some items I want to include today making this Interesting Stuff 9/11 heavy – by about a third of it.

Once again, The Daily Show makes real something I hadn't or couldn't articulate that had been bothering me and last Monday he nailed it perfectly.

Claude Covo-Farchi of Photoblogging in Paris photographed this message of solidarity with the U.S. on 9/11. Nice of them to translate for dummies like me who are ignorant of the French language.

French 9/11 Tribute

Darlene Costner sent along this video. Damned clever dogs can be.

The London Science Museum surveyed 3,000 adults about what they could not live without. Facebook came in number 5, four points above the flush toilet at number 9.

There is a serious side to this poll. For that and the full list of 50, click here.

At the farmer's market last weekend among the broccoli and cauliflower, I came across this visually stunning vegetable. It's beautiful but also reminds me a little of something that could have been included in The Little Shop of Horrors.


It's called Romanesco and I bought one. It tastes sort of like broccoli and sort of like cauliflower only milder and it almost broke my heart to break it apart to cook. You can find out more about its biology and mathematical properties here.

Not just Google – other search engines too. You and I can search the same word or phrase and get entirely different returns depending on what the search engine knows about us from our past searches and other information.

Eli Pariser, former executive director and now board president of MoveOn, calls this the Filter Bubble. He's written a book with that title and he recently gave this short talk on the subject at a TED conference.

You can find out more at the Filter Bubble website and read the 10 Ways to Pop your filter bubble. (Hat tip to Marion Dent)

Both Margaret Dunning and the Packard roadster are running just fine. Take a look at this terrific video Darlene Costner found for us.

It's a good thing this worm is magnified 525 times and lives near hydrothermal vents nearly a mile below the surface of the ocean.


Back in July, this horrific creature was all over the web but maybe you missed it. The Huffington Post story is here.

The worm was photographed by Philippe Crassous with an FEI electron microscope. The FEI company keeps a Flickr photostream of all kinds of nano objects. I lost about two fascinating hours clicking through the images – even if I don't understand what most of them are.


Moxie - Rescue Dog

That's Moxie, now age 13, who worked as a rescue dog at Ground Zero for eight days searching for survivors. She's one of nearly 100 who traveled from all over North America to help after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Now, just 12 of those hard-working dogs survive. Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas traveled the U.S. to capture their images and tell their stories in a book titled, Retrieved. You can see many more photos here.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

1963 was the year of The Beatles, at least here in Australia and in Britain of course. America was a bit slower to catch on. I’m going to ignore them just as I ignored Elvis in the Fifties because, hey, you know all about them anyway.

Okay, those with keen ears and a good memory will know I’m lying because Elvis did appear once, but it’s the principle of the thing. It was also the year that Bob Dylan impinged on my consciousness. He’s missing from these too.

What happened in 1963?

  • Julia Child made her debut on TV
  • JFK declared that he was a doughnut in West Berlin
  • The smiley face symbol was invented. Time to scrap it
  • “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released; nothing will be the same again
  • Kurt Vonnegut released Cat’s Cradle
  • The phrase “grassy knoll” entered the vernacular
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • Dick Powell died.

RANDY AND THE RAINBOWS had a minor hit this year with a song covered a lot more successfully later by Blondie.

Randy & the Rainbows

That song is Denise. The group was yet another one from Queens. It consisted of Dominick "Randy" Safuto, his brother Frank, Sal Zero, his brother Mike and Ken Arcipowski.

All of them had been in various previous groups, but there were quite a number of them so I won’t bother mentioning them. Alas for the group, this was their one and only hit. Here it is.

♫ Randy & The Rainbows - Denise

The silly Fifties type songs were still around in 1963. This one is by JOHNNY CYMBAL.

Johnny Cymbal

Johnny was born in Scotland and he was originally named John Blair. At a very young age he was adopted by his mother’s second husband, Nick Cymbal, so his was not a stage name as is often thought.

The family moved to Canada when Johnny was eight and later to Cleveland. He was taken by rock & roll, taught himself guitar and started writing songs. He turned into a prolific songwriter and many artists have covered his songs through the years.

Today, however, we’re interested (well, sort of) in one he recorded himself called Mr Bassman. The bass part is sung by Ronnie Bright of The Valentines.

♫ Johnny Cymbal - Mr Bassman

THE CASCADES were a vocal group most of whose members met on a ship in the U.S. Navy.

The Cascades

They were John Gummoe, Eddie Snyder, David Szabo, Dave Stevens and Dave Wilson. Although several members played instruments, when they were recorded by Phil Spector he used his usual crew to lay down the music and just had the lads sing. One of the songs they recorded, and their best known, is The Rhythm of the Rain.

♫ The Cascades - The Rhythm of the Rain

THE CRYSTALS started out as a quintet but by the time the next song was recorded, one had left leaving four of them.

The Crystals

Those four were Barbara Alston, Dee Dee Kenniebrew, Myrna Girard and Patsy Wright. Myrna was later replaced by Lala Brooks.

It’s almost certain that not all of them sang on this track. Indeed, originally none of them did. Their producer, the notorious Phil Spector, was a bit fast and loose assigning group names to his various songs. He recorded this one with Darlene Love singing lead and with The Blossoms and Cher singing backup.

However, he had a falling out with Darlene so he stripped her vocals and had Lala rerecord the lead, so there’s one Crystal on the track. That track is Da Doo Ron Ron.

♫ The Crystals - Da Doo Ron Ron

GENE PITNEY was an early singer/songwriter, who also sang songs of other composers.

Gene Pitney

He also wrote songs for others as that’s how he started in the music business – Rubber Ball, He’s a Rebel, Hello Mary Lou are just three of many of his compositions.

He seemed to like singing about films – Town Without Pity, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance are just a couple that spring to mind. He had many hits throughout the sixties and his popularity in Britain, Europe and Australia didn’t wane with the British invasion.

This is one of his hits from this year, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, 24 Hours From Tulsa.

♫ Gene Pitney - 24 Hours From Tulsa

THE RONETTES were a trio from New York and consisted of sisters Ronnie and Estelle Bennett (and I’ve used the obvious joke before) and their cousin Nedra Talley.

The Ronettes

They started singing at a very young age when the families would gather at granny’s on a Saturday night and everyone would sing and entertain each other.

Ronnie formed a group with the three mentioned and two other female cousins, Diane and Elaine, and a male cousin, Ira, as well. They performed around the traps with Ira singing lead.

One day on amateur night at the Apollo, the band played the wrong song, one Ira didn’t know, and Ronnie stepped forward and sang lead. In the way of show biz legends, she was a great success.

Eventually, the other three left, leaving the group we know. They were signed to Phil Spector’s record label and he oversaw all their hits. This is one of them, Be My Baby.

♫ The Ronettes - Be My Baby

THE ESSEX had their genesis in Okinawa when a couple of marines who were stationed there started performing together. Upon returning to a base in North Carolina, they recruited several more marines and a group was born. One of those left and they became a quartet.

The Essex

The remaining members were Walter Vickers, Rodney Taylor, Billy Hill and Anita Humes. It’s claimed that the song was inspired by the sound of multiple teletype machines (remember them?) in the communications room on the base.

They had a couple more singles, but as they were all still marines, they couldn’t go out on tour to support these records. This is that first song, Easier Said Than Done.

♫ The Essex - Easier Said then Done

Surf music had now been around for a little while, but by 1963 it was in full swing. There are many tunes I could have used, those from the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Surfaris and on and on. I’ve gone for one from my own country, where, naturally this sort of music caught on, particularly in Sydney.

We folks down in Melbourne are a bit more cerebral so it wasn’t as popular here. Anyway, the song I’ve chosen is by THE DELLTONES.

The Delltones

The Dellies (as we call them here) started in 1958 and are still performing. Indeed, some say they are the group who have performed continuously for the longest with an original member still with the group – that’s Peewee Wilson, on the right in the photo.

They started as a purely vocal group but have evolved into a complete rock band. The song today is from their vocal days, Hangin’ Five.

♫ Delltones - Hangin' Five

After The Beatles had a few hits, the DAVE CLARK FIVE followed in their wake and were not only going to be the next big thing, they were going to eclipse the fab four as well. Well, that turned out as expected.

The Dave Clark Five

Dave Clark started a group way back in 1957, The Dave Clark Quartet. After a bunch of comings and goings it ended up as five of them. Unlike other groups, and as he was the leader, Dave put himself and his drum-kit front and centre with the others on each side.

He was also a canny businessman and had control over all their recordings and he owned the master tapes. Pretty unusual for the time. This is the group’s biggest hit, or at least the one I remember, Glad All Over.

♫ The Dave Clark Five - Glad All Over

Little PEGGY MARCH, or Margaret Battavio to her folks, was from Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Peggy March

She was discovered by a record producer when she was 13 while singing at her cousin’s wedding. The record company changed her name and added the “Little” as she was only 145 cm tall (that’s 4 feet 9 in American money) – well, she was only 13.

The following year, she had her big hit that topped the charts all around the world (at least, those countries that had charts). Although that’s the song we remember, she had several others that wandered on to the charts over the years, none that I can recall though.

She’s still recording and singing. This is the big one, I Will Follow Him.

♫ Little Peggy March - I Will Follow Him

1964 will appear in two weeks' time.