Hey, Remember The Time…

by SteveHulse on March 10, 2018 · 0 comments

So today, the news of the day and the quiet time following the recent
holidays have driven me back out on the sound on my trusty craft,
The Aimless. Haven’t been out here for several months now, so time
to enjoy a one or two-day cruise on the North Sound. It never fails to
clear my head and redirect me.

Is it cold? Hell yes. Is it uncomfortable out here? Sometimes. Is it worth
it? Always. On days like these, I try to get the tent really warm with the
stove, ( to warm up these old bones…) get some hot coffee and a sandwich
going, light a candle or two and see how close I can come to perfection on
the Sound. It’s never up to me to achieve that perfection… the weather
always decides.

Today, for instance, it’s quiet and calm on the water, reminding me how calm
my life is now, how easy it has finally become. Oh, I appreciate it, believe me…
like most of you, it hasn’t always been easy. A few quick memories is all it takes
to remind me how great my life is today.


Today, for some reason, I’m remembering crazy things I’ve done, crazy
places I’ve been… unlikely events in an otherwise fairly normal life that
stick out and ask to be revisited. As I remember some of this stuff, I
realize there’s an interesting story attached to nearly all these memories…
like the circumstances of how & where they took place, and what the
aftermath of these memorable events might have revealed.

Sitting here next to the little stove, I’m trying to figure out which of my
unusual experiences is the best, the most unlikely… one of those times
that you could tell your friends about and they wouldn’t believe it, or at
least be fairly amazed… not so much because what you did might have
been very unusual, but that you did it! Many of you have had some of those,
right? And I bet the stories around them are as fun as the events themselves.
Once my memory gets going here I can remember 3,4… hell, at least six
different times and places of things happening that, to my mind, at least,
are somewhat outrageous.

For example, I’m almost stuck in the very narrow and steep staircase of a
3-story walkup in Rovinj, Croatia. I’m dragging a heavy suitcase up this
crazy staircase to our room, and I’ve had to stop and rest on the 20th, of over
40 small stairs, holding onto the suitcase for dear life and trying to catch my
breath, wondering at the moment, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Not all that unusual, but when you isolate the beginning and the end, it gets
fairly amusing and somewhat bizarre. In this case, the answer is, “Because you
asked Karen Matarangas in an email, if her sister, Betty Ann, were still alive.
She reluctantly said yes, gave you Betty Ann’s email address, and now, six
years later, you’ve been living with Betty Ann and traveling the world with her.

And to take that idea even further to the longer view, we start with a little kid
growing up in a small town in Montana, who is now, at 74, stuck in this insanely
steep and narrow staircase somewhere in Croatia… pretty funny!

Here’s another quick one. It’s 1994, about midnight, and I’m in a small
camp on the backwaters of the Amazon, 30 miles from Equitos, Peru, sitting
on the floor behind the little bar in the dining area, with a Peruvian guy who
can’t speak a word of English, singing and playing Peruvian songs for me
while we drink warm beers. We’re sitting on the floor because the bartender
has told me he’s not supposed to play his guitar or sing while on duty,
let alone feed free warm beers to a gringo! He doesn’t want the camp
manager to see us, so we’re hiding down there, singing and drinking,
having a great time! I love this memory, it’s a warm and fuzzy for sure…
and anyway, I’ve always loved Peru!

Now that i think about it, several evenings later I found myself in that same
camp, in a small bamboo hut with a half-naked American lady, trying to dry
out my $800 microphone with her hair dryer. What in hell was I doing there,
doing that?? Well, I’d been out on the river in a dugout canoe earlier in the
evening, recording some nature sounds for the job I was working on there,
when a big, dark bird dive-bombed me, grazing my cap. I ducked at the
contact, dipping my mike and boom into the water.

Now water is terrible for a microphone, and I still had a week to go in Peru,
so I paddled back to camp, trying to figure out how to dry the mic, and its
diaphragm off without doing any damage to it. I go into the bar to get a
bar towel, and the woman sitting there finds out what I’m up to and suggests
I try her hair dryer. I listen, and hear the camp generator still running, so I
know we have electricity for now. So we go over to her room and I sit on
the bed, drying out my mic while she “gets comfortable.” Well, it is hot
on the Amazon… oh, by the way, the hair dryer worked, and the mic
still records beautifully to this day!

The longer view of this memory goes back to meeting a very good friend
in Atlanta back in ’73… Sandy Fuller. A photographer, cinematographer,
adventurer, he once worked for National Geographic, and has climbed
Mount McKinley, now known as Denali. He helped me get my first job in
Atlanta back then, with Viscount Productions, a small corporate film group.
Sandy set me up in his basement which would become my very first recording
studio. He taught me the basics of being a location sound recorder and got
me on many of the jobs he took, this Peruvian gig being one of them. To this
day he calls me “E flat.” And to this day I’m most grateful for all he did for me.

I know I didn’t have to get out here on the Sound to start having those
crazy memories… could’ve probably done just as well from the comfort of
my big chair back home on the cove. But whatever… it sure is fun
to remember some of the wild and unusual stuff we do during our lifetimes.
It’s a nice reminder that we’ve truly lived, and enjoyed to the fullest, this
wacky adventure called life!

Steve Hulse


Remembering Billy

by SteveHulse on February 11, 2018 · 2 comments

This is for a dear friend of mine in Atlanta who we just lost. My Atlanta pals will
understand this very well.

Billy Degnats was a great drummer… world class. And some of us knew he was
an even better person than he was a drummer. His wife, Suzanne, has beautifully
given us an insight into Billy’s personal life and a few of his habits and sayings.
I love knowing all that about Billy… so much so that I want to tell about the
humorous side of Billy that I came to know pretty well during our times of
playing gigs together. This is not an attempt to replace our pain with humor,
but to add to the many quality dimensions we already know about our friend
and inspiration, Billy The Drummer, and Billy The Man.

Billy and I played a gig down at the Tropicana Hotel, on W. Peachtree, back in
’75 – ’76. It was an “end of the year” party for a bowling league. There were
women and men, black and white. The band was Billy and me… I don’t remember
who the horn player or bass player was. Some cheap-looking ’50’s white woman
who was obviously drumk came up and asked us for a tune. We didn’t know it, and it
pissed her off. She started yelling at us. I remember telling her to back off, that none
of us had ever heard of her song. Evidently my response failed to please her for she
tossed her drink on me. it went all over me and my Wurlitzer. Then a black guy
jumped up and grabbed her from behind. A couple of white guys pushed him
away from her and she fell into Billy’s drums, knocking him and half his set over.
I remember us laughing about it later… seems like the whole room cleared in less than
a minute… and there we were, looking at each other, not believing what had just
happened, me all wet and Billy’s drums lying in a heap on the floor. I don’t remember
what he said at the time, other than we were laughing about it as we packed up. He
could have said, “Well, I guess our work here is done.” I know he didn’t forget that
strange evening, because at the next gig we played together, we got all set up, then he
looked at me, grinned and said, “Think I oughta just throw myself into my set and
get it over with early?”

Then there was the John Magaldi gig we played in the ballroom of that big hotel
(now a TBS building) on Spring St. It was a formal, afternoon affair, and we were at
the end of the room, up on a stage. Magaldi was a mediocre sax player, a better
booking agent. He was usually the front man, called the tunes, booked many of our
gigs and paid us fairly. Anyway, some time in the second set this older matronly
woman came up, waved her arms, and said,”Play Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog!”
(Which is, of course, “Joy To The World.” Back then, if someone would have asked
us to play “Joy To The World,” we would’ve been stumped for a minute. It was usually,
“Hey, play that Jeremiah song!”)

John looked down at her and said, “Lady, we just finished playing that song for the
last 10 minutes!”
She goes, “Well, I didn’t hear it, so play it again!” Rude, rude, rude.
Magaldi looked at at her for a few moments, then started barking at her.
“Arf!   Arf!   Arf arf arf arf arf arf!”

She got this horrified look on her face, turned around and disappeared into the crowd.
We never saw her again. For the rest of the gig we were laughing about it until a
wimpy-looking assistant manager came up to us and said, “That lady over there says
you barked at her… that you barked like a dog! We want you guys to stop barking!”

Billy never forgot that day, and for the next year or so, whenever we were playing a
a Magaldi gig, at some point Billy would say, “Hey John… bark like a dog!”

We had so many laughs together during those years, god, I wish I could remember
more of them.

For the last year or so I was in Atlanta, we had a fairly regular trio gig at the
Intercontinental Hotel in Beautiful Uptown Buckhead, with Paul Miller on bass and
Billy on drums. The only slightly negative word we ever had between each other
happened one evening at the Intercontinental. We were between songs, and I called
for the old big band tune, “Cute.” The tune was designed to feature the drummer, and
I thought Billy could shine on it. But he looked over at me and said, “Hey man, can
we not play that tune? Anything else, great… I just can’t stand that tune!”
So we didn’t play it and I haven’t played it since. And won’t.

Another memorable occasion at the Intercontinental came one evening in the form
of the largest tip I ever got in over 40 years of playing. There was this guy, a known
name in TV land, who used to show up at the Intercontinental every month or so, have
some drinks, listen to us play, always with a good-looking hooker at his side. How do
I know she was a hooker? Musicians know these things. And the proof of that came
one night when he was there with two beautiful ladies on his arm… now you tell me…
they were all laughing over in the corner of the room and having a good time. One
of the beauties came over to the piano and sweetly asked, “Can you play Blue Moon
for me? It’s my favorite song…”
Strange request for a jazz trio, but I said sure, knowing the guy and remembering he’d
tipped us before. She thanked us and dropped a $50 bill on the piano. Needless to say,
we played Blue Moon with considerable feeling. Before that set was even over, she
came back over to the piano, leaned over and asked, “Will you play Blue Moon again
for me?”
I was mulling it over when she dropped three crisp one hundred dollar bills on the
piano in front of me. I stared at them and probably stammered something stupid like,
“Why sure, ma’m, darn tootin’! I think we can scratch up a little Blue Moon fer ya… “
and we played a long and meaningful Blue Moon for her before ending one of the
most memorable sets I ever played.

On the break I distributed the bounty between the guys, saying that’s the first time
I ever got more than 50 bucks for a single tune. Billy smiled and said, “Yeah man,
and that’s the first time I ever played Blue Moon twice in one night… and in the
same set!”

After the gig that night we were still laughing about it as we packed up. Paul was
wondering if it was the guy’s money or the hookers’ money. I thought it was probably
the guy who tipped us. Billy was laughing. “Well, if it wasn’t, man, then maybe we
should all have been hookers!”

One of the best recordings I have of Billy’s exceptional playing is on the CD
“Warhorse, and Other Stories” by the Rick Bell Quintet, available on Amazon.
The album features a great Atlanta group, with some original material and excellent
recorded quality. I love this album… it’s ‘real’ jazz, classy from top to bottom, just
like Billy!

So I guess, Billy, that you left us with so many good memories while teaching us,
through the fun and laughter, about quality, and integrity, and consistency. You had
all that in spades, man, and showed us that it is possible to emulate those qualities
every day of our lives. I think you quietly taught us all that, Billy, and if so, then I
think I can say, with a tear and a smile, that your work here is truly done.

Steve Hulse


Time (code) In A Bottle

by SteveHulse January 28, 2018

A Mini View Of The Midi Revolution Non-audiophiles, beware! This one is for my music biz pals who are over 50… and there are quite a few, believe it or not. I’m hoping you will find this interesting, or, at the very least, memory-jogging and perhaps entertaining. It’s one person’s view of the transitional time […]

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What’s In A Name?

by SteveHulse January 13, 2018

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare Well, I get that, Bill. There is, of course, a basic truth in what you said. Turns out, though, your famous quote might not be the be all and end all to this name game, Willy old sport. For […]

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The Child In Us All

by SteveHulse December 22, 2017

I’ll never forget my first electric train. I was six. My dad nailed it to a piece of 4X6 plywood. After I was asleep on Christmas eve, he somehow got it up into our tiny apartment above the bar, and set it up on the floor next to the tree. I remember being thrilled on […]

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In Search Of The Holiday Spirit

by SteveHulse December 19, 2017

B & I were chatting about Christmas the other day, about how commercial it has gotten and about how difficult it seems to be to recapture the spirit of Christmas that we had as kids. “Yeah, my bell has certainly stopped ringing,” I lamented, referring to Santa’s little bell in The Polar Express, which could […]

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The Magic In The Moment

by SteveHulse December 10, 2017

We’ve all had them, those special moments, when there is momentarily more clarity, more awareness of who and where we are, and, perhaps, why. Often we’re in a new and different place, which might trigger long dormant synapses that that sparkle and connect in a way that is unique to each of us. I have […]

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A New Perspective

by SteveHulse November 17, 2017

Very happy to be back on the North Sound on the SV Aimless, my safe haven from all the madness below. We just finished an excellent trip to Europe, eye-opening and perception-expanding, as always. The water and the air here are so refreshing, it feels like pounds of humanity dust are falling off me, making […]

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It’s Always The People… Always!

by SteveHulse October 31, 2017

Traveling abroad is usually comprised of different scenery, different cultures and different people. This time we enjoyed the historical elegance of Vienna, the grandeur of Lake Como, the beauty of the Croatian coast, the soft, rolling hills of Tuscany, the energy of Florence… yet the thing that always endures the strongest in our memories is […]

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Questions In The Tuscan Sun

by SteveHulse October 15, 2017

When all seems perfection –             Okay. So lying here on a lounge chair by the pool at Villa Buonasera, the midday Tuscan sun glowing down upon us, spreading warmth and good energy across the villa and the vineyards behind us. A slight breeze adds to what I feel is […]

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