‘Coach Is Fine’

When someone whose name is now lost to history dubbed him the “Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden cringed. The nickname suggested, he told an interviewer for the UCLA History project, someone who does things “on the sly or something, and I don’t want to be thought of in that way.”

Asked what he preferred being called, Wooden gave a simple, straightforward—and slightly deceptive, or wizardly—answer: “Coach is fine.”

The deception is in the simplicity of the “coach” rubric. As anyone knows who’s been watching the sports or news since Coach’s passing at the age of 99 on June 4, John Wooden coached basketball, but he taught life. So say his most famous players—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who was Lew Alcindor when he played at UCLA and transformed college basketball), Bill Walton and Marques Johnson—and others who went on to star as pros (Jamaal Wilkes), or moved on to successful professional lives in other fields. His career record as a coach is staggering: his first eleven years were spent leading high school teams in Kentucky and in his native Indiana, where he compiled a 218-42 record. Entering the college ranks at Indiana State University, he took his 1947 team to a conference title, then declined an invite to the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB National Tournament, predecessor of the NCAA tournament) because the NAIB banned African-American players. The NAIB reversed its policy the next year, and Indiana State lost in the title game—the only title game Coach ever lost. In 1947 he accepted UCLA’s offer to be head coach, and proceed to amass a 620-147 record, and 10 national championships in the 12 seasons between 1963 and his retirement in 1975. All told: 664 wins, 162 losses.

But as he would have it, Coach considered the won-loss ledger the least of his accomplishments.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man,” Abdul-Jabbar said to a UCLA interviewer. “But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation.”

In the wake of Coach’s passing, it’s heartening to see almost every report on him centered on his quality of character, the consistent message about conduct and discipline and hard work he broadcast to his players and practiced himself. Talk about walking the walk and talking the talk. He did it without cursing (“Goodness gracious sakes alive!” was his strongest epithet), without bullying, without posturing, and with a firm faith in his Christian values, which were free of bigotry and intolerance, and respectful of other races and creeds. It’s too bad more coaches haven’t followed his example, but more important that so many of his players did, and are passing on those values to others by living them every day.

To those who think his famous “Pyramid of Success” (“the only truly original thing I have done,” he once observed) hopelessly cornball, consider this from yours truly, who played high school ball for Eddie Sutton, who went on to become one of the college game’s winningest coaches but back then was starting his career at the high school level, at Tulsa (OK) Central. Coach Sutton modeled his strangling man-to-man defense after that developed by his mentor, the legendary Oklahoma State head basketball coach Hank Iba; he modeled his uptempo, fast-paced offense, and his personal creed, after that of Coach Wooden. On the first day of practice, we were made aware of the Pyramid of Success and how important it was to our fate on and off the court; and like Coach Wooden, Coach Sutton gave an inspired speech to the team about taking pride in all we did, down to tying our shoes properly and carrying our school books as we would anything that really mattered to us.

Here was the secret to the Pyramid of Success, as it was revealed to me over many, many hours of studying how to scale it: the very act of absorbing the Pyramid’s foundational values—industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm were at its base, with other levels defined by self-control, initiative, alertness, condition, skill, team spirit, poise and confidence, among other qualities—required exactly the degree of discipline, concentration and effort necessary to reach the pinnacle, where sat Competitive Greatness, defined by Wooden as performing to the best of your ability when your best is required—that is, “every day.” Doing the Pyramid meant you became the Pyramid. Then the real job began; as Coach told Bill Walton: “It’s the things you learn after you think you know it all that count.”

My greatest moment as a high school basketball player did not come in any game or with any achievement. It occurred following an independent league game late in my senior season, when a well-dressed man introduced himself to me as a regional scout for the UCLA men’s basketball team. I don’t recall everything he said, but I do remember these words as if they were spoken to me yesterday: “Coach Wooden thinks you belong at UCLA.”

I went to Oklahoma instead, in my home state, for valid personal reasons, with no regrets then or now. But those words—“Coach Wooden thinks you belong at UCLA”—spoke volumes to me about the path I was on, because I knew I had absorbed a truly great man’s wisdom, put it into practice, and it showed. The Pyramid lives on as John Wooden’s commitment to leaving the world a better place than he found it.

Coach is fine.—David McGee


The Genesis of Rand Paul’s Lunacy
It didn’t take us long to figure out what inspired Kentucky Tea Party lunatic Rand Paul to decide it’s necessary to roll back parts of the Civil Rights Act to allow private businesses to discriminate against customers.



Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber


Imani Winds: New Album Preview
By David McGee

The adventurous chamber wind ensemble IMANI WINDS has a new album completed and ready for August release. In an exclusive interview with TheBluegrassSpecial.com, IW founder/flautist/composer VALERIE COLEMAN (back row, far right in the photo) offers a preview of what’s to come and discusses the group’s 10th anniversary Legacy Commissioning Project.



The Story of the Filmmaker and the Film that Changed the Surfing World
By Paul Holmes

Made for around $50,000 and single-handedly produced, directed, filmed, edited and narrated by BRUCE BROWN, THE ENDLESS SUMMER is far and away the most successful surf movie of al time, and still the model for most surf flicks to this day. Its creator, Brown, was little known outside the limited confines of the surfing subculture, which in 1966, the year of the film’s release, was familiar to most Americans through the distorted lens of Beach Party movies and a surf music craze that had been on the wane since the British Invasion of 1964. As PAUL HOLMES writes: “Wholesome, charming, corny at times, but with what film critic Leonard Maltin describes as a ‘diverting, tongue-in-cheek narration,’ the film’s premise—a quest for the holy grail of a perfect wave—gave surfers some noble dignity at a time when they were often stereotyped as derelicts, ne’er do wells or delinquents. But the stars of The Endless Summer, Robert August and Mike Hynson, came across as clean-cut, fun-loving athletes and surfing itself as a grand, healthy, respectable sport with unexpected global appeal.” Brown and his crew literally followed Hynson and August around the world, chasing the sun and the summer as it crossed the planet, as the pair tested out some spots—such as Hawaii—famous for big waves, and others—such as Acra, Ghana—where surfing was completely unknown to the natives. With a spirited, plaintive soundtrack by The Sandals, the feel of The Endless Summer is as idyllic as its protagonists’ journey is romantic—a near-perfect mating of existential ambition depicted on screen and spiritual/metaphysical striving expressed in music. Holmes captures the whole epic saga in this definitive piece first published in the now-defunct Longboard surfing magazine in 2005. NOTE: THIS FILE IS IN PDF FORM. DEPENDING ON THE BROWSER BEING USED, IT MAY TAKE A COUPLE OF BEATS TO LOAD, SO BE PATIENT. THE WAIT IS WORTH IT.

And Then There Was Surf Music
By Paul Johnson, The Belairs

In 1961 Paul Johnson was the guitarist in an instrumental rock band from California called The Belairs. Along with Dick Dale, the quintet pioneered a new style of music dubbed by surfers themselves as ‘surf music’ for the way in which its sounds evoked the rolling and crashing of the waves, and the ethereal, metaphysical experience of riding those waves. But where, when and how did it start, this ‘surf’ music? Who better to answer the question than one of the artists who helped craft the form, namely PAUL JOHNSON his own self? Far from being a relic, Johson remains quite active and in the forefront of a very-much-alive surf music subculture as a member of The Surfaris (‘Wipe Out’), his own bands The Duo-tones and the Hepcats, and as a writer, whose new documentary on surf music history is now available at his website. In this exclusive piece for TheBluegrassSpecial.com, Johnson offers us a ground-zero perspective on the music around which a social community coalesced. No less an authority on surf music than Dan Forte, who in his guise at recording/performing artist Teisco del Rey has done laudable work demonstrating the continued vitality of surf music, hails Johnson, “more than any other artist,” for having “succeeded in bringing surf music into the present without sacrificing its past.” We welcome Paul Johnson to our pages, and are throwing in a cool bio of him that is also available on his website (www.pjmote.com), plus an audio clip of The Belairs’ groundbreaking, Johnson-penned hit, “Mr. Moto.”

Shagging Into Oblivion: Beach Music Lives!
By David McGee

Bruce Springsteen and the Swingin’ Medallions, ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love, live, Sept. 16, 2009, Greenville, SC

The East Coast counterpart to surf music actually predated surf, was rawer, bluesier and blacker, never migrated east to west, and wasn’t even a defined genre. But its music—drawn from Stax, Motown, Atlantic, and countless indie labels, featuring nationally known and obscure artists both—was simply great and timeless, the lynchpin of a life affirming, joyous scene. Which may account for that scene remaining vibrant today in the Carolinas of its birth, however much below the national radar it may be. Herewith a basic guide to BEACH MUSIC essentials. And if you like the Springsteen-Swingin’ Medallions clip above, check out the clip accompanying this capturing the Medallions performing their signature Beach Music monument live in North Myrtle Beach, SC. Whew!

A Half-Century Of ‘Psycho’

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’s classic turns 50 this month, on June 6, to be precise. You know the beginning. You know the middle. You know the end. You know every nuance of Bernard Hermann’s indelible score. You even know when the director makes his trademark cameo in the film. And Pyscho remains surprising and creepy.

In this section:
*Who better to tell the story of Pyscho's genesis and production than Hitch himself? In ‘The Making of Psycho,’ we reprint the Psycho chapter from interviews with Hitchcock as conducted and collected in book form in 1962 (Hitchcock by Truffaut: The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock) by FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT, a film legend himself, come to think of it. We also have the complete audio recording of the Hitchcock-Truffaut interview available here, for those who want to follow along. Yes, the shower scene is embedded here, too.

And what would Psycho be without the unsettling music of BERNARD HERRMANN, Hitchcock’s maestro, and one of the silver screen’s greatest composers? Honoring Herrmann’s contribution to the Hitchcock legend, we offer:

By Steve Vertlieb

Tracing the artistic collaboration and personal friendship of Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock from ‘the earliest satiric strains of The Trouble with Harry to the cold war menace of Torn Curtain,’ Steve Vertlieb documents how two gifted but headstrong artists collaborated on grand cinematic achievements, then had an irreparable falling out over the music for Torn Curtain, never again speaking to one another. ‘Herrmann deeply mourned the loss of his friendship with Hitchcock, and pleaded with mutual friends and colleagues to intercede on his behalf, but it was to no avail,’ Vertlieb writes. ‘As far as Hitchcock was concerned, Herrmann had tried to sabotage [Torn Curtain] and their friendship was over.’

By Bill Wrobel

In what he describes as a ‘short, informal and spontaneously written essay,’ the author takes a musicologist’s look at the structure of Bernard Herrmann’s music, ‘trying to determine what makes it tick.’

By David Raksin

A personal reminiscence of Bernard Herrmann, the man and the composer, by a fellow composer who knew him well. ‘In the end,’ Raksin concludes, ‘it was the humanity of this extraordinary person that spoke in his music, his art, for which he is justly celebrated.’

From vilification to effusive praise, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho ran the gamut of critical appraisal upon its release on June 6, 1960. A brief history of the immediate response and Hitch’s last laugh.

*Anatomy Of A Screen Kiss
Like all artists, Alfred Hitchcock could find inspiration in the most unexpected settings. In his 1946 film Notorious, his stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman locked lips in what was billed ‘the longest kiss in screen history.’ While being interviewed by Francois Truffaut in 1962, Hitchcock revealed how he came to the idea of two lovers multitasking in an effort to sustain the romantic moment. Hint (or Warning): It involves urination.

Celebrating the Great Composer’s Bicentennial

Born March 1, 1810, Polish-French composer FREDERIC CHOPIN is getting a grand bicentennial celebration in his native country, with a full year of concerts, recitals and conferences underway in this, the ‘Year of Fryderyk Chopin,’ so proclaimed by the Polish Parliament. A Chopin Centre and renovated Chopin Museum are being inaugurated, and more than 1,300 Chopin concerts are scheduled everywhere from Norway to Florida. We honor Chopin with a look back at his life and his music, from various vantagepoints, and feature three moving performance clips, featuring ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN, SERGEI RACHMANINOFF and VALENTINA IGOSHINA in superb performances that demonstrate the enduring allure of Chopin’s music, which was memorably described by his contemporary, composer Robert Schumann, as having ‘cannons hidden amid flowers.’
(Painting of ‘Frederic Chopin Composing His C Minor Etude’ by Norman Price available at http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Frederic-Chopin-Polish-Musician-Composing-His-C-Minor-Etude-Posters_i1867827_.htm)


Dunce's Corner

On June 5, openly gay ELTON JOHN performed at the wedding (the fourth) of 59-year-old virulently homophobic lunatic radio talk show host RUSH LIMBAUGH to 33-year-old Kathryn Rogers (reportedly a direct descendant of John Adams, second President of the United States) for a fee People magazine reported as being $1 million (strange-two years ago Reuters reported John's fee for wedding is $2 million. Why the discount for Limbaugh?). Dame Elton follows another dubious character, BEYONCE, into the hypocrite’s Hall of Shame. The auto-tuned diva distinguished herself—if that’s the right term—by taking a cool million from Hannibal Khadafy, the brutal, woman-beating son of terrorist backing Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. We thought we had retired The Dunce’s Corner, but this outrage cannot go unpunished.

Dennis Hopper

Prostate cancer claimed Dennis Hopper’s life on May 29, but his is a career that will live in the movies he made and certainly in the legendary tales of excess and madness rampant in his biography. But for all that, Hopper was dedicated to his craft, a student of film and of acting, a distinguished alum of The Actor’s Studio who took his art seriously—maybe too seriously during those years he was in no condition to make sound judgments, but seriously nonetheless. But what a legacy he left. In this issue, we look back on one of his many larger-than-life moments, in bringing Easy Rider to the big screen. This excerpt from PETER BISKIN’s definitive study of Hollywood in the ‘70s, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How The Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (Simon & Schuster, 1998) tells of the whole wild ride, which ends with Hopper’s estranged wife (the first of his five marriages), Brooke Hayward, explaining how she refused to take any of Hopper’s cut from Easy Rider in the divorce settlement “because I didn’t want him coming after me with a shotgun, and shooting me.” Read on, friends.

Lena Horne

Much has been written in praise of Lena Horne since her death at age 92 on May 9, and a straight obit at this point seems pointless. However, we came up with a couple of other angles to offer a perspective on Ms. Horne’s life and art as a matter of filling gaps in all the published tributes. In one we look at the obscure origins of her career-making song, “Stormy Weather,” first recorded by ETHEL WATERS and, in effect, handed off by Waters to the young Ms. Horne after the former heard the latter imitating her in a Cotton Club dressing room. This piece also includes a video of Ms. Horne talking about her family and her early struggles in and out of the Cotton Club. For another take, see Allison Salerno’s piece in The Gospel Set.

The Gospel Set

After failing to find a single article “explaining how this amazing civil rights activist and entertainer chose to have her funeral in a Catholic Church,” ALLISON SALERNO looks into Lena Horne’s personal ‘faith journey.’ Accompanying this article is a video of Ms. Horne singing JOHNNY MERCER’s ‘Moon River.’

Border Crossings

Estonia: Liisi Koikson: The People’s Favorite
Liisi Koikson
can sing it soft and tender, and break your heart; or she can soar and belt in a triumphant tour de force of vocal brio. An alluring presence, beautiful, self-assured and self-contained, Ms. Koikson is in her youth a woman of mystery in the classic style of the young Catherine Deneuve, minus the latter’s high society embrace (she embraced it, it embraced her—and why not?). What we do know of Ms. Koikson is that she is a straight shooting Estonian lass who disdains the night life, prefers to stay home and knit, and has a melancholy streak she nourishes with the music of Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Diana Krall.

Also: a special report on the Estonian dominance in the international competition in the wife-carry competition. Yes, wife-carry, which is exactly what it sounds like. A relic of 19th Century Finland, where it was common practice to steal women from neighboring villages, the “sport” of wife carrying has been perfected to the nth degree by Estonians, who rule the annual competitions much as the Yankees of the ‘50s ruled baseball, or as Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or Bill Russell’s Celtics once ruled the NBA, as Otto Graham’s Cleveland Browns ruled the old American Football Conference. The winner is awarded his partner’s weight in beer.

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Discussing The Weaver with author/illustrator THACHER HURD and author/illustrator ELISA KLEVEN. ‘In the case of The Weaver, it’s perfectly accurate and fitting to call this one lovely. It’s ever-so lovely. It’s a fabulous grab-your-kid-and-get-cuddly-in-your-lap title, and it is, indeed—as Kirkusstated—comforting and reassuring and peaceful and…well, lovely. As for the art, it merges seamlessly with Thacher’s text, and also I cannot imagine for one second anyone but Elisa Kleven illustrating it.’ So says our books blogger JULES. Read on.

The Blogging Farmer
By Alex Tiller

This month ALEX TILLER looks at ‘The Consequences of Unclean Meats’ and advises: ‘Getting regionally raised beef at the local farmer's market costs more, but in terms of taste, quality and safety, there's no comparison. And yes I know, even local meat is still frequently processed through the big slaughterhouses and meat packing plants that are supposedly watched over by the USDA.  It’s not a full solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.’ In a related blog, ‘When Worlds Collide,' Tiller looks at the strange case of Amish dairy farmer Dan Allgyer, whose farm was raided by federal agents at 5 a.m. on April 5 for a ‘routine inspection’ that led to a written warning for Allgyer to stop selling raw milk across state lines, lest his farm and its products be seized and the farm shut down. Tiller wonders why the same aggressive policing isn’t being done to mega firms such as ADM, Monsanto and Con-Agra, ‘who really need to be reigned in by responsible elected officials.’

THE DIXIE CHICKS, PlayList: The Very Best Of The Dixie Chicks—Taylor Swift can protest and rant all she wants about her teenage romantic debacles, but look to the DIXIE CHICKS for women of strength, resolve, self-sufficiency and daring, able to take their lumps in love yet remain undaunted in their quest to be fully realized.

By Michael Sigman

In the aftermath of 24’s conclusion, our roving contributor MICHAEL SIGMAN finds another clockbound master of disaster to transfix him: Lee Child’s fictional longer/master strategist/babe magnet/true longer, JACK REACHER, appearing now in the 11th of Child’s Reacher novels, 61 Hours. Sigman explains why it’s as easy to become a Jack Reacher junkie as it was to be a Jack Bauer junkie, and wonders when the two might meet up in a movie. Can anyone guess the title?

By Michael Sigman

The end of 24 has inspired an outpouring of thoughts in roving contributor MICHAEL SIGMAN this month. In this installment, he explains how SHEL SILVERSTEIN’s ’25 Minutes to Go,’ best known in the version performed by Johnny Cash for his At Folsom Prison album, helped get him through eighth-grade chemistry. This road winds through the Big Bang, matter and anti-matter, muons and anti-muons, and comes out at Jack Bauer. Read, and believe.

Conspicuous By Their Absence: Do New Live Tapes Confirm the Legend of Moby Grape?
By Christopher Hill

One thing that would help us give a final thumbs up or down for MOBY GRAPE (and remove the nasty option of “fluke” from the spectrum of possible judgments we could make about them) would be some further recordings, preferably live, from the period of their ascendancy. And now with the release of Moby Grape Live we have them. And the answer seems to be that, yeah, this band pretty much had the goods.

ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: The Essential Carole King
By David McGee

With CAROLE KING now gallivantin’ across the nation’s stages with James Taylor, this collection is a timely reminder of how deeply embedded are her songs in the very fabric of a certain generation’s lives. More than one generation’s, in fact. And those generations that have embraced her as soothsayer, philosophical fellow traveler and general well-heeled guide across the rocky terrain of life and love—especially love—care not for chart numbers, although they helped make those possible. No, for these multitudes Carole King sings about their deepest longings to love long, to love truly and honestly, and to believe it will be—love, that is.

ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings
By David McGee

The Sinatra reissue program Concord has embarked on with the Frank Sinatra estate has already given us some revitalized classics, but this is the first of the discs to demand a whole new perspective on a particular segment of the Chairman’s work, as these recordings have never before been collected in one place. On this first chance to appraise the Sinatra/Jobim collaboration in toto, a pronounced continuity of approach and style obtains, no matter the years ensuing between sessions. So much for that. The more important point? This is great music. Pure and simple, great music, vital, timeless, essential, with two exceptional artists’ big hearts fully open and expressive. The human condition is well served in these hands.


HARLEM PARLOUR MUSIC CLUB, Salt Of the Earth—There’s something to be said for roots music being made for all the right reasons. The Harlem Parlour Music Club sings it like they love it from the assembled multitude’s hearts and souls, without a scintilla of the studied or the snobbish about it. The liner copy lists no less than 15 pickers and singers of various stripes as HPMC members, and collectively they describe themselves in a press release as an “Appalachian big band!” So there is little here of a spare or stark nature, but it is also, for the multiplicity of participants, without clutter, the instruments clearly defined sonically, but on a pure, gut level, together, and sounding very right and real.

JETT’S CREEK, GuiltyWith one celebrated album to its name (2008’s Supposed To Be), the Lebanon, Ohio-based family band known as Jett’s Creek is unlikely to surprise anyone with Guilty. To put a fine point on it, let’s say there’s unlikely a soul so dead as to be unimpressed or unmoved by the authority, the conviction and/or the unceasing displays of impeccable musicianship and emotionally compelling singing suffusing Guilty.

THE JOHN HARTFORD STRINGBAND, Memories of John—This entire album underscores how unique a man John Hartford was, how durable his music remains, and how profoundly his loss is felt to this day. But he’s here, spiritually present in every note his friends play and sing, and abiding in spirit in the gifts his music bequeathed to eternity. Listen closely, and you can even hear his song in the muscular blasts from the steamboat smokestacks along the mighty Mississippi. Roll on, big river.

NU-BLU, NightsNu-Blu’s debut album is not merely good, it’s a blessing for fans of traditional bluegrass.


THE BLUESMASTERS FEATURING MICKEY THOMAS—In the last few years Mickey Thomas has been jumping around from project to project, but this might be something he should consider developing. He sounds as natural as he did back when he was with Elvin, and his maturity as a vocalist shines through his knowing readings of these fine songs. The Bluesmasters is a band with a future, if its members want one.

PEGGY LEE, Let’s Love & 2 Shows NightlyA pair of reissues shows one of the 20th Century’s great popular artists both at her best (2 Shows Nightly) and ill served (Let’s Love).

JIMMY WARREN BAND, No More Promises—People working hard and barely making ends meet, if at all, is a recurring refrain of No More Promises, and them’s the blues, as surely as the turning of the earth.

STAX NUMBER ONESStax Number Ones is not marketed as a summer album, but you will have to look long and hard for any collection more perfectly and evocatively evoking the lazy, hazy days than the 15 incredible tracks on this CD. But it’s about more than music.

Video File

Hot fun in the summertime with Stax Number Ones.

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