The Decade the Music Died

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We’re a few days away from February 3rd. It’s a day that forever lives in Rock and Roll infamy.

It was on a cold winter’s night precisely sixty years ago – February 3, 1959 – that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson boarded a Beechcraft Bonanza and found Rock and Roll heaven in a barren cornfield outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

Much has been written about this, including two film biopics (The Buddy Holly Story in 1978 starring Gary Busey and La Bamba in 1987 starring Lou Diamond Phillips). Perhaps the seminal tribute, though, remains Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.” It was his song that first used the phrase “the day the music died” to describe the plane crash that took the lives of those young rock stars.

I’m not going to add to the litany of previously published thoughts on “the day the music died.” Rather, I’m going to share with you a conversation I had with a reporter. We sat at a high table in The Menches Brothers Restaurant in Green, Ohio (between Akron and Canton, for those using a GPS). I sipped my Diet Pepsi as the reporter asked me questions about what inspired me to write Hamburger Dreams (my latest book that looks at the evidence refuting and supporting the various hamburger origin stories).

At one point, he asked if I had written any other “food” books. I mentioned A Pizza The Action (albeit it’s more about business than food). Then I added that I had penned a short article on my grandfather’s pizzeria, mapping its beginning to the emergence of Rock and Roll.

That’s when the fun started. Little did I know this reporter, though nearly my age, still Continue Reading “The Decade the Music Died”

A Christmas Carol

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King_of_Diamonds_stock_xchng_royalty_free-1Sett’ e mezz’!” roared my grandfather as he rose from his seat. He towered over my meek ten-year old body like a grizzly bear rearing above its prey.

I saw hunger in his ferocious eyes. But I wasn’t afraid. I knew the next lesson was about to begin.

“Sam!” yelled my grandmother, instinctively and in that terse disapproving way it seemed she could summon up from nowhere. Immediately the aggressiveness vanished from my grandfather’s countenance and he obediently shrank back into his chair.

“What do you want me to do, Flo? Those are the rules,” he said, timidly trying to justify his actions. Sensing his own reticence, he tried to counter it by continuing with a voice rising in intensity and ending with a tone of self-assured purpose. “He dealt me the King of Diamonds. The rule is you have to let the dealer know as soon as you get it. You’re supposed to shout ‘Sette e la mezza,’ too. Do you expect me to treat him any different than anyone else? Sooner or later he’s gonna go out in the real world. You think they’re gonna treat him nice? No. Look at him. If he doesn’t toughen up, they’re gonna eat him alive.”

Continue Reading “A Christmas Carol”