Elliott Murphy - Justified

Been reading in Wikipedia (where else?) about famous American pioneer figure Kit Carson who, if nothing else, had a great rock ‘n roll name. Most of his renown came from fighting Indians in the US Southwest, primarily the crafty Apaches, and although my own sentiments tend to lie on the side of the Indians, it does seem that there was a grudging respect from both sides back in the day. Toward the end of his life, Kit himself buried the hatchet and travelled east to Washington DC with some Ute chiefs to plead with the US Government for better conditions on the pitiful reservations – no need to wonder how that turned out. Kit died soon afterwards of a stroke. Nowadays, in a stroke of irony, many Indian reservations are sporting very profitable gambling casinos and hosting rock ‘n roll concerts and even, I hear, some of the money gets back to the tribes themselves – call it Geronimo’s revenge. I know that Bob Dylan has played at numerous such venues and I’d jump at the chance myself if given a chance. I enjoy playing casinos myself although honestly, I’m not much of a gambler, having had a stepfather who appreciated the ponies running at the local track a lot more then he appreciated me. But I do like that hypnotic anticipation of watching a large roulette wheel spinning around and around. Makes me feel like James Bond.

Frankly, I always thought that being a musician was gamble enough for me to take in this fickle world. That’s why I’m pushing my son Gaspard to finish his degree at SUNY Purchase before he embarks down the dangerous rapids of the rock ‘n roll river. Gaspard is a fine guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer (he produced my last album, Elliott Murphy, and we’re already working on the next) and I think he has a good chance to make his own mark in the music world. But God knows (and so do I), that this is a business, which freely breaks hearts, minds and souls of even the most gifted musicians. After nearly forty years of knock, knock, knocking on the Grammy Awards door (somebody let me in!), I’d have to say that the secret ingredient for anyone trying for a coveted place in the Rock ‘n Roll hall of fame is faith and, above all, perseverance. Of course, a little bit of talent never hurts either but whether it’s still a prerequisite for success these days … well, you tell me. So, I’m hoping Gaspard will have that warm fuzzy feeling of a college degree in his back pocket when he’s riding in a van with miles to go for his next show.

Watched an interview with The Rolling Stones’ always entertaining Ronnie Wood the other day and heard him talking about how difficult it can be between tours just to settle down when there’s no plane to catch or stadium show to perform. Ronnie is a fine and internationally recognized painter in his own right and I’m sure that helps him stay focused for the years that pass before that huge Stones machine decides to get back into gear. My own tours are somewhat smaller undertakings and tend to be long-weekend affairs, sometimes bridging the weekdays in-between but I’m rarely out there on the proverbial road for more then 10 days or two weeks at a time. But unlike mega groups and artists, I often do four or five shows in a row and the odd thing is that I never feel the exhaustion until I get back home. Then I just lay in bed for a few days and start getting into all the great cable TV series I’ve missed since living in France via iTunes. I went through The Sopranos(loved Little Steven in that), Deadwood (the Wild West full of whores with hearts of gold), Downton Abbey (delightful British upper class drama, which only they can do with a straight face) but now, I am totally addicted like never before to Justified, the story of a fearless modern day U.S. Deputy Marshall carrying out his deadly duties in the depressed coal mining region of eastern Kentucky. Star of the show is charisma king Timothy Oliphant (also great in Deadwood) who plays Marshall Raylan Givens but its bad guy and smart hillbilly criminal mastermind Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Goggins) who keeps me coming back. Boyd’s a homespun villain who speaks in a gothic southern vernacular, something akin to how William Faulkner wrote, with a hairstyle that literally stands on end. I chain-watched my way through Seasons 1 and 2 in less then a month and now I’m on to Season 3 where I gnaw at the bit waiting for each new episode to be delivered on Tuesday. And the theme song, which gives hip-hop a country twang, is brilliant as well. Not to mention that if what I see on Justified is a true representation of what the femmes in Eastern Kentucky look like, I might consider moving.

Hope this is not starting to sound like some sort of blog (I hate the sound of that word blog, sounds like a disease among Irish farm animals) and really what is a blog anyway if not a continuing series of essays on nothing in particular via the internet. So I want to know if Thomas Paine’s [US revolution rebel rouser who eventually moved to France) Common Sense [pro-independence pamphlets] was the first of the blog? Off the point, I know, but if revolution is around the corner that’s where it’s going to come from.

Seems to me like there’s more creativity in TV these days then films. Maybe that’s because it takes 5 years or more to make a film and a TV series can be put together in 6 months. Suits the zeitgeist of the time, and especially super-series like Justified that leave you hanging after each week. We’re living in the age of addiction, whatever that may be: booze, drugs, sex or great TV. I’ll take door number four … well maybe door number three too. Often journalists ask me about my musical and literary influences and I give them the usual menu: Books (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kerouac), Films (John Ford, James Cagney, Marilyn Monroe), and, of course, Music (The Dylan Stones Beatles holy trinity). But is that really what carried me along to where I am today as an artist? The truth of the matter is that I have probably spent more time watching TV then reading books, watching films or listening to music put together. What really has been always watching over me, from a very early age, has been the omnipotent and ever-present God of television – and I’m grateful for that benediction. My first sexual desires were definitely kindled by Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club, and my wardrobe tastes were shaped by the western series Have Gun Will Travel (black always works best). I learned what a family should be like in Father Knows Best (although that’s rarely the reality) and, then of course, there were endless hours of watching nonsensical cartoons of singing cats and dogs and lampposts and Tex Avery wolves howling after pretty girls. So I was perfectly ready when the next step of singing animals came along, that’s right, The Beatles, right there on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show in 1965.

When I came home from school, it was the first thing I’d do – turn on the TV. And now when I get home from a gig and plop onto my hotel bed what’s the first thing I do? Zap on to CNN and make sure the world hasn’t gone up in flames while I was burning up on stage.