November 29, 2005

Cathy Sees Da Meetas

With her permission, I'm posting this impression of the Meters NYC show last Friday sent by my friend (going back to college days in the fabled Sixties), Cathy, who came down from Massachusetts with her friend and friend's mother to attend, helping to make it a multi-generational throwdown.

The Meters just burned up the stage in NY on Saturday! From listening to these 60-70's recordings, I was not prepared for their staggering skill and the depth of their music. Leo said that they were all very grateful to still be around and able to play and have the dexterity to still play. That is putting it mildly. Wow. The audience was full of not just our age, but a lot of younger people, and a few older. Wendy's mother went with us - she is 73 and loved them. A gen X-er in line with me for alcohol told me he knew he had to see the Meters in person before he died and now he could get run over in the street and die happy. This was before they even went on stage! They had run out of T-shirts, only two sizes left and no CD's. Poor planning on their part..... [Just be thankful they appeared at all, darlin'! - DP] The theater had great acoustics, but a little odd arrangement. Theater seats a long way back from the stage and then dance floors up to the stage. We got there two hours early hoping to get close seats but the closest seats were too far back. Couldn't see them sweat, like I'd hoped....but could feel it.

I guess the expectation of seating at a funk show reveals somewhat of a generational divide. But, no harm, no foul, girlfriend. I'm just proud that only one trip to pre-flood New Orleans this summer turned you and Wendy (and now her mom, I guess) into raving funk fanatics, willing to drive for hours to see 'em sweat. "It's Shake 'N Bake. And I helped!" (If you recall that line, welcome to geezerhood). Wish I could have been there with you; but I did get to see Bonerama and the Gamble Brothers Band in Memphis that same night. Some consolation, to be sure.

NOTE: The Reaper was at this show, too. See his impressions at The Funk Files.

November 28, 2005

The Music Machine Does Its Thing

Black Water Gold
"Tropical" (Villery)
African Music Machine, Soul Power 111, 1972

For a few years in the early 1970’s, the African Music Machine recorded four singles at Sound City Studio in Shreveport for the Soul Power label, distributed by Stan Lewis’ Jewell Records, which included the in-house Jewell, Paula and Ronn imprints. The eight-piece AMM was headed by bassist Louis Villery, who played regularly on Sound City sessions backing local and outside artists, 

Jerry Strickland, who ran Sound City, started Soul Power with Lewis’ to issue records on artists being recorded at the studio. The  AMM singles released were: “Black Water Gold (Pearl)” b/w “Making Nassau Fruit Drink” (#109), “A Girl In France” b/w “Tropical”, “The Dapp” b/w “Never Name A Baby (Before It’s Born)” (#115), and “Camel Time” b/w “Mr. Brown” (#117). While the records made hardly a ripple at the time, over the years collectors have developed a liking for their funk and rarity. Around 2001, Soul Power/Jewel released the LP, Black Water Gold, (pictured), which conveniently and cheaply compiles all the singles.

For this feature, I’ve chosen one of the more syncopated band grooves, “Tropical”, from their second single. Drummer Louis “Abdul” Acorn and percussionist Osman make this track a standout for me; and, as in most all the band’s work, Louis Villery’s bass is prominent and jammin’. The horn charts are pretty tasty, too. Villery wrote or co-wrote all the songs, arranging and producing the records, as well. Hearing the sides on the LP collection, it strikes me that they don’t have the unique spark of originality. Instead, these are hip, well-played, yet derivative, grooves that don’t hide their influences: James Brown (of course, that’s “Mr. Brown”), the JB’s, Hugh Masekela, War, and even a little Santana. While there’s nothing truly memorable here, this is a band still worth hearing. My picks besides “Tropical” would be its’ flip, “A Girl In France”, along with “Black Water Gold” and “Never Name A Baby”.

The LP contains some minimal notes on the band by David Nathan, and the African nicknames of the band members, only a half of which are identified with their given names. The other main artists on Soul Power were George Perkins from Baton Rouge and the amazing Tommie Young. The label folded around 1974 (except for this LP compilation almost 30 years later); and I don’t know much about the group after that, other than Villery went on to play in B. B. King’s band for a time. I look forward to getting to some more of these sides at a later date.

[Update: My friend Art Edmaiston, hot sax honker with the Gamble Brothers Band [now Mofro, as of 2014], left this message in the comments: Dan, Louis Villery is from Tunisia. He was on the road in the late 50's early 60's with blues legend Bobby "Blue" Bland playing upright bass. Louis rejoined the 'Boss of the Blues' in early 2000 and has been back on the bus ever since. - Hey, Art ought to know, he was on that bus touring with Bobby Bland for a while himself. Wow. Now the African motif makes sense. And that makes Villery the one not from Shreveport. Great tidbit, Art. I owe ya. By the way, readers, you can catch the GBB on the road soon in Colorado, opening for Frequinox.]

The African Music Machine was
Alias Rasheed (Louis Villery) - bass, vocals
Abdul (Louis Acorn) - drums
Yuseef (Tyrone Dotson) - tenor sax
Osman - percussion
Amal - trumpet
Ete-Ete - tenor sax and flute
Jumbo - guitar
Obitu - piano and organ

[Update #2: See Da Clinic's comments below for more on Villery.]

November 20, 2005

The Desitively Well-Qualified Dr. John

Looks like Monday, November 21st, marks birthday #65 for Malcolm John (“Mac”) Rebennack a/k/a Dr. John; and, if he isn’t there already, he will soon also mark 50 years in the music business, having been a guitarist, pianist, organist, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, hanger, hustler, and one man walking cultural phenomenon during the meandering course of his career. He has always proudly acknowledged, if not flaunted, his New Orleans roots. For a somewhat incomplete but fascinating overview of his life and times, I recommend his autobiography, Under A Hoodoo Moon. This man has probably forgotten more about New Orleans music than almost anyone else will ever know, and is extremely qualified to represent his hometown. As I will be taking the week off, I leave you with a great 1973 Dr. John album cut, plus, as short-term lagniappe (just ‘til I get back), a live recording of his band from the same era. Enjoy. And if you’re in the States, have a fine Thanksgiving holiday week, especially those of you lucky enough to be seeing the Meters in NYC. I expect a report.

"Qualified" (Jessie Hill & Mac Rebennack)
Dr. John, from In The Right Place, Atco, 1973

Hope you found it mos' scocious

Our feature cut, “Qualified”, comes from Dr. John’s LP, In The Right Place, that also contained his hits, “Right Place, Wrong Time” and “Such A Night”. The album was produced and arranged by Allen Toussaint, recorded mainly at Criteria Sound in Miami, and had the Meters as the core backing band. Toussaint’s touch allowed Rebennack to balance the heavy Crescent City blues, R&B, rock ‘n roll, and trippy folk-swamp atmospherics of earlier albums with the somewhat lighter pop feel of the hits, while his use of the Meters allowed their distinctive funk sensibilities to infuse the tracks and reinforce what the good doctor had going on. Co-written with Rebennack's long-time runnin’ partner, Jessie Hill, whose unique way with words is evident in the lyrics, “Qualified” is masterfully arranged and played. As Rebennack radiates his barrelhouse best on the 88’s, the rhythm section cooks. Take special note of Zigaboo Modeliste’s drumming here to see why he can’t be touched. That’s Gary Brown on sax, who did a lot of session and road work with Toussaint in the 1970’s, and played with Sam & The Soul Machine prior to that. On the congas is Allen Toussaint himself, according to the liner notes. See the full listing on the above LMF link to the CD re-issue.

The Night Tripper

"Quitters Never Win" (M. Rebennack)
Dr. John, live in Chicago, 1974

Time to quit this winner

In 1974, a second album, Desitively Bonnaroo, with essentially the same line-up and recording venue, was released on Atco and may have been a result of the same sessions as the previous album. But it was not as successful. Having recorded with the Meters, Dr. John toured with them and Professor Longhair for a short time, as a sort of New Orleans music revue. You can read about it his book; but one result he doesn’t mention is that they did a PBS Soundstage show with Earl King added into the mix in 1974. I actually saw it at the time; but my memory of it had faded until I found the show re-issued on video by Rhino in the early 1990’s. That’s where this audio excerpt comes from. The tape is hard to find these days (no DVD yet), but is worth the search. The Meters back up Fess and Earl on some signature songs, and do a medley of two of their own tunes, then Dr. John and his band do four of his numbers, including “Quitters Never Win" (from Desitively); and then Fess and Earl join them on “Big Chief” for the finale. The sound quality is not great; but I thought I’d let you hear what Dr. John’s road band at the time sounded like with Fred Staele on drums, Alvin “Shine” Robinson on guitar and backing vocals, and an uncredited bassist (maybe Jimmy Calhoun) and female backup duo. Sitting in are Fess’ conga player, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts, and Art Neville on organ.

If Mac Rebennack had only done the The Night Tripper, Mardi Gras conjure man stage act he developed in the late 1960’s and rode into the 1970’s, Dr. John would probably only be worth remembering as an idiosyncratic pop music footnote. But, from the outset in the mid-1950’s, he’s been a musicians’ musician with staying power and chops to spare, able to remain true to himself, play what he feels, and become an amazing repository and disseminator of New Orleans music history. Happy birthday, Mac. Keep on keepin’ on.

November 17, 2005

Rockin' With the Night Hawks

"Rockin' Hawk" (Joe Darden)
The Night Hawks, Alon 9001, 1962

“Rockin’ Hawk” b/w “Your Somethin’ Else” was just the second single issued on Alon, which Joe Banashak, owner of Minit, Instant and others, started for Allen Toussaint to run. Neither of the record’s instrumental sides fits well with tracks by Willie Harper and Eldridge Holmes (to name a notable few) that Toussaint was producing for the label at the time, which helps make this recording an anomaly.

While “Rockin’ Hawk” is not my usual HOTG fare, I’ve grown attached to it since I found it this summer. There are not many mainly guitar instrumentals on record from New Orleans from the 1950’s to the late 1960’s, when the Meters let loose. So, it’s an oddity for that reason, too. The tune just sort of put-puts along; but I dig the guitar’s trebly vibrato with a rockabilly edge to it. And what is that cheesy organ effect that starts and runs though the song, even getting a solo? Low in the mix is some rolling New Orleans piano work that just may be Toussaint - or not. Hard to tell. The Night Hawks were a local group put together by guitarist/bassist Earl Stanley, who was in some groups with Ma Rebennack prior to this. Later, Stanley re-formatted the band and renamed them the Stereos, using the group for his work as an independent producer, backing various vocalists and cutting a few instrumentals as well. Most notably, they did the two-part "Pass The Hatchet", on which they called themselves Roger & the Gypsies. It was released on Banashak's Seven-B label a few years later.

There were some great guitarists the city in 1962: Ernest McLean, Edgar Blanchard, Justin Adams, Roy Montrell, Walter “Papoose” Nelson. But I don’t recall any of them playing quite like this. That further helps narrow this single down to an early Stanley project. If you have different information or anything further to add, please shoot me a email or leave a comment.

November 16, 2005

Better Late Than Never Department

Red over at The B Side has been on a fantasic New Orleans tangent for the last month or so. And I just found out about it! Where have I been? If you haven't checked it out, you can still catch some of the posts. And I encourage you to - its' such good stuff. Red has the goods and has done his homework - so you don't have to.

And, I want to thank Phil, out in the HOTG audience, for reminding me about this link. It's an archived playlist and program from September on WFMU (long may it make waves) with guest Aaron Fuchs of Tuff City, who brought along a lot of great sides (many of which his label has re-issued) and dispenses commentary long the way. I still haven't gotten though it all. But it's great radio and gives you a glimpse into what the label and it's owner are all about. Check out the stations's blog while you're there and listen online. WFMU, especially factotum Ken Freedman, deserves praise for helping WWOZ maintain its webcast after Katrina.

November 14, 2005

Tommie Testifies

"Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul" (Jerry Strickland & Bobby Patterson)
Tommie Young, Soul Power, 1972

Check out that CD

Just in case you hadn’t guessed, there’s a lot I still don’t know about the music of this region; so, much of the process here at HOTG involves learning as I go, adding to what I already know, or realizing what I thought I knew is wrong, and so on. I am new to the vocal delights of Shreveport's Tommie Young and know precious little about her. So, let’s hear one of her sides and see what we can find out. If you have anything to add, feel free to share your comments.

I have been trying to collect and learn more on Shreveport labels. This and the Ted Taylor cut I featured last month are direct results of the effort. When I found “Everybody’s Got A Little Devil In Their Soul” b/w “Do You Feel The Same Way” among the thousands of 45s I came into this summer, I pulled it out because of the label alone. What a treat it was to find an artist new to me with such a voice. It’s hard not to invoke Aretha when hearing Tommie Young, as they have similar vocal qualities in tone, strength, flexibility, and evident gospel roots. This song is probably not the best for a study of her voice, as it doesn’t demand much of her; but it’s mid-level funk factor made me pick it. The deep soul flip side certainly makes more clear the high quality and expressiveness of her voice. Having now heard her, I’ll be seeking out more, although she had a scant six singles released on Soul Power, most, if not all, of which were on her one LP for the label, I believe. These have been
comped on CD by Westside. The few shreds of information I’ve picked up on Young confirm that she began in gospel music and went back to it after her brief 1970’s fling with secular soul, including being featured on the l978 MCA soundtrack album, A Woman Called Moses.

Produced and co-written by Bobby Patterson, originally from Dallas, TX, who did a lot of work for the Jewel stable of labels in the 1970s, “Everybody’s Got A Little Devil…” has a simple structure and melody, but the funky rhythm section and great horns keep the tune afloat. Since my Ted Taylor piece, I’ve learned that the backing band on many of the Shreveport Jewel sessions during that period was the
African Music Machine, led by bassist Louis Villery, which also had several instrumental singles issued on Soul Power. They are likely playing here.

While Tommie’s testimony on the little devil in everybody’s soul is all too common knowledge, this record still had good things to tell me. Hope you got something out of it, too.

Update 11/16/2005: I just got the Tommie Young CD on Westside linked above (great service from Dusty Groove) and learned from the notes that Tommie was a Dallas based singer who Patterson discovered there singing in a club. He signed her to Soul Power and brought her back to Shreveport to record. She is still singing and recording gospel music in Dallas. What a voice this woman has! If you like this track, I highly recommend the CD to hear her on both deep soul and more uptempo material.

November 10, 2005

Nervous Energy

Robert Parker in a more relaxed moment

"The Secret Service" (Robert Parker)
Robert Parker, Nola, 1966

Hushed up

I got inspired to dig up this track by reading the latest post on Funky 16 Corners, where Larry discusses certain British Invasion bands “borrowing” music outright from American records. That made me think of “The Secret Service” by Robert Parker. But, rather than having been copied, this catchy little song has several borrowing issues of its own going on, one of which involves taking from the British.

It’s hard to listen to the opening of “The Secret Service” and not start singing “Cool Jerk” before Parker’s lyrics kick in. Since the Capitols’ hit was also from 1966, I have to assume that use of that up-tempo riff by Parker and producer Wardell Quezergue was no coincidence. When I first got this single, it took several listens before I picked up that it quotes lyrics from two Beatles hits (one is obvious, one is a little less so – can you name them?). It may have been a sly ploy to try to hook back an audience whose tastes had shifted toward the Brit bands and their American counterparts, taking a toll on the popularity of New Orleans records; but Parker does it lightly and with humor. To me, this kind of quoting is hip and adds more quirky charm to his funny tale of a guy who is trying to make time with his girl away from the not-so-secret prying of her parents.

If you listen to enough music, you come to realize how much inadvertent and intentional replication has gone on over the years. Examples abound. Just for one in New Orleans music,
there’s the tale I shared of Little Richard combining Eddie Bo’s “I’m Wise” and Al Collins’ “I Got the Blues For You” to make his hit “Slippin’ and Slidin’”. The respective writers (whose borrowed songs weren’t hits, by the way) called him on that one (legally, I'm sure) and eventually got included in the credits. The use and re-use of other people's material probably goes back to the first jungle drummer by an ancient campfire hearing somebody in the distance copying his beats. Although flattered, he soon got pissed that he had lost his claim to uniqueness. Unfortunately, he had little recourse, as attorneys had yet to evolve from snakes. . . . (apologies to all songwriters, drummers, attorneys, and snakes for any offense). Just ignore me and enjoy the cut.

November 07, 2005

Hangin' With Night People

"Night People" (Allen Toussaint)
Lee Dorsey, from Night People, ABC, 1978

Night, night

Just shy of a year ago (November 8, 2004), I did my first Lee Dorsey post, featuring a cut from his Night People album. Not realizing it had been that long, I had the title track running through my mind the other day and knew it was time to post it. So, at the risk of being too symmetrical with all this retrospective stuff, here goes.

As I said in that first piece, Dorsey is truly one of my favorite New Orleans performers. I was knocked out by his radio hits back in the 1960’s when I was a teenager, especially “Working In The Coal Mine” – couldn’t get enough of June Gardner’s drum groove, the cool guitar lick, and Lee’s raspy, cheerful vocal (even on a song about being overworked). I wore that record out. In 1980, I finally got to see Lee perform live at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Backed by a combo, he had to sing sitting down the entire set, because both his legs had been broken in a motorcycle accident, but was still fantastic. I discovered this album in a cut-out bin shortly thereafter. As with most of Dorsey’s earlier work, Allen Toussaint produced, arranged, and wrote all the material. The songs may not all be classics, but have that good Toussaint touch; and the playing is top rate with a high funk quotient. Lee’s vocals still display his good humored spunk, but aren’t quite up to his earlier days, probably due to the emphysema that would finally take him in 1986. Sadly, Night People turned out to be his final album; but he left it and a lot of other good records behind, many of which have been
re-issued on CD.

You’ve go to love the groove on “Night People” and the effective way Toussaint’s arrangement gets every instrument involved in the sliced and diced syncopation. The core band for the entire album is Chocolate Milk, augmented by some other fine players (see the whole list below). I’m not sure whether it’s CM’s Dwight Richards or Herman Ernest on the trap set here, so I’m hoping Dwight will clear that up some time, when he checks in. And, man, David Barard ‘s poppin’ bass line is just a force of nature here.

Several versions of this tune appeared around the same time: Toussaint’s own on his 1978 Motion album, Etta James’ on the Toussaint-produced 1980 Changes LP, and Robert Palmer’s, also from 1978; but it’s Lee Dorsey’s that I find definitive with its addictive musical backing. The Night People album appears with Dorsey’s 1970 Yes We Can on a recent
UK CD. And the original LP is still around, too, and usually reasonable in price. Whatever way you come across it, you ought to get this one, if you don’t have it. Then hang out, slap it on, and wait no more for something to happen.

The players on Night People were
Allen Toussaint, piano
James Booker, organ
David Barard, bass
Robert Dabon, keyboards
Marcel Richardson, Fender Rhodes 88
Kenneth Williams and Kim Joseph, percussion
Dwight Richards and Herman Ernest, drums
Joe Smith, trumpet
Amadee Castenell, tenor sax
Darryl Johnson, Steve Hughes, and Eugene Synegal, guitars

November 06, 2005

Not a pretty sight. . .

Scenic New Orleans, Post-Katrina

This is a FEMA photo of Tommy Malone's home. As you may know, he is a founding member of the great roots band, the Subdudes. A fan spotted this photo on the FEMA site and forwarded it to the band; and they had it on their website for a while. If you look closely, you can see the instrument road cases among the debris piled in front of the Mid-City home. Ouch. Fortunately, not all of his equipment was ruined; but his house had over four feet of water in it for weeks.

A friend forwarded this to me; and it's making the rounds. Of course, it is just one graphic depiction of the widespread disruption to lives and livelihoods, and loss of musicians' gear and homes across the city. I've heard that many vintage jazz instruments were lost in the flood, and know for a fact that great record collections went under, as well. No way will things ever be the same; but you make do (and music) with what you've got left, I guess, unless you ain't got doodley squat.

November 04, 2005

Gentleman June

L-R, Clinton Scott, June Gardner, Alvin "Red" Tyler

"Mustard Greens" (A. Gardner)
June Gardner, Hot Line, 1965

New Orleans drummer Albert “June” Gardner recorded “99 Plus One” b/w “Mustard Greens” soon after his gig in Sam Cooke’s band ended with the singer’s untimely, tragic death in 1964. Gardner was hired by Cooke around 1960, replacing another New Orleans drummer, Leo Morris (a/k/a Idris Muhammad), and played on some sessions but mostly on the road with the singer. He can be heard on Cooke’s At The Copa and Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 albums. After this first single for Hot Line, Gardner did many more instrumental sessions as a leader over the next few years; but only one other single was issued, as far as I know, “Hot Seat” (with an unknown flip).

Gentleman June, as he was sometimes called, could play straight or make it funky, as the situation required. His groove versatility I am sure is why Cooke kept him in his band. I’ve chosen his composition, “Mustard Greens”, for the unusual, proto-funk stick and foot work Gardner demonstrates. On top, the song has a quasi-Latin big band arrangement by producer Wardell Quezergue. For this and most of his 60’s NOLA sessions with Quezergue, the players were George Davis on guitar, Walter Payton on bass, James Booker on piano or organ, and some or all of the producer’s impressive 10-piece Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section

“99 Plus One”/”Mustard Greens” first came out on Hot Line, one of the NOLA family of labels, but was licensed to Blue Rock when distribution problems arose. When I first discovered this recording long ago, it was a beat up Blue Rock copy, with the artist name shown as J. Gardner. Unfamiliar with the record, I took a chance that it was June Gardner and bought it cheap (fortunately), not realizing until I got home that it was cracked through. It took me a few more years before I found a copy at
Jim Russell’s Rare Records in New Orleans, this time the Hot Line version, and finally got to hear the tunes. Of course, I got immediately hooked on “Greens”. “99 Plus One” has a straighter, more languid groove, featuring Davis’ guitar throughout with horn accents.

The single sides as well as all of June Gardner’s NOLA instrumental sessions, plus two funky tunes done for Senator Jones in 1970, are available on the Tuff City/Night Train CD compilation,
99 Plus One. I highly recommend it. “Mustard Greens” is the funkiest thing of the 11 NOLA sides; but the tunes done for Jones have some real get down syncopation. I may try to do a Tuff City Side feature on one of those at a later date, if somebody doesn’t beat me to it. Also worth getting the CD for is Booker’s organ workout on “Last Night”. Short, but oh so sweet.

Before hooking up with Cooke, Gardner was an early member of guitarist Edgar Blanchard’s seminal 1950’s New Orleans band, the Gondoliers, and did some recording session work as well, notably on some of saxman Red Tyler’s singles. One of Gardner’s most recognizable sessions from the 1960’s was the Lee Dorsey hit, “Working In The Coal Mine”. He also played in Lou Rawls’ road band at some point. This gentleman is another great HOTG drummer deserving wider recognition. Hope you dig the track; and, now that your booty is loose, got out and get that weekend started.

November 01, 2005

New Orleans Update: Retail Music and Audio

The Factory, during JazzFest, before the Flood (from their website)

Yesterday, I went to the Quarter to support the re-opening of the Louisiana Music Factory. The store had a water leak upstairs, but nothing major. Barry Smith, the owner, who I've know since the store first opened in a nearby location long ago, told me that he has just a couple of employees now and a lot of catching up to do. He's a great guy with an award winiing store; and I hope he can hang in there until more locals return and tourists reappear. There were some other shoppers in there, too; and I was gald to see them in those first few hours of operation post-Katrina. I got a bagful o' goodies and will be back for more. I encourage y'all to shop online, if you can't get there physically. Again, support any reputable New Orleans business you can.

From Barry, I learned that another one of the long-time CD and record stores in the Quarter, the Magic Bus, will not re-open. The owner has moved lock and stock to Austin, TX and probably will just sell on-line from there. This is a blow for record browsing and buying in New Orleans for sure. I didn't have time to check to see if the other independent outlets were back open; but I did note that the big stores, Virgin and Tower, remain closed.

There are still not many people on the streets. After I visted friends who have a hand-made rug shop on Chartres, Louisiana Loom Works, that is back open as well, I walked to my car through the lower Quarter, seeing almost no one for blocks. That was eerie. On my way out of town, I stopped in Metairie, in the parish just West of Orleans, at an audio store to see about getting a back-up cartridge for one of my turntables; but, it was boarded up. Looks like they took on water after Katrina, being up near the lake. The Jefferson Parish officals evacuated their pump operators before the storm, then could not get them back in time when the water rose. It's not enough to have a plan. It must also be a good one. . . .

WWOZ was back on the air for a while in the afternoon, broadcasting from a remote studio in Baton Rouge over the airwaves on a limited basis, and 24-7 on-line. They need rebuilding and sustaining support, too. It will take time, patience, luck, and a flood of money to put this dumped on region back together. I am grateful to those still willing to give it a try.