Saturday, September 06, 2008

Today's Tune: Chris Isaak - Two Hearts (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

How a Tumor Is Changing My Life

By Robert Novak
Chicago Sun-Times
September 06, 2008

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 12: Columnist Robert Novak speaks to reporters after he testified for the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial February 12, 2007 in Washington, DC. Novak's column was the first to disclose the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the public. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The main reason I am writing this column is that many people have asked me how I first realized I was suffering from a brain tumor and what I have done about it.

But I also want to relate the reaction to my disease, mostly compassionate, that belies Washington's reputation.

The first sign that I was in trouble came on Wednesday, July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street in downtown Washington while I was on my way to my office.

I did not realize I had hit anyone until a shirt-sleeved young man on a bicycle, whom I incorrectly thought to be a bicycle messenger, jumped in front of my car to block the way. In fact, he was David A. Bono, a partner in the high-end law firm Harkins Cunningham. The bicyclist was shouting at me that I could not just hit people and then drive away. That was the first I knew about the accident. Mr. Bono called the police, and a patrolman soon arrived.

After I said I had no idea I had hit anyone until they flagged me down and informed me, Mr. Bono told The Washington Post, "I would not believe that." Fortunately, the investigating officer, P. Garcia, was a policeman who listened and apparently believed me. While Mr. Bono and other bystanders were taking on aspects of a mob, shouting "hit-and-run," Officer Garcia issued a right-of-way infraction against me, costing me $50, instead of a hit-and-run violation that would have been a felony. Following Officer Garcia's instructions, I promptly paid the $50 fine at Third District Police Headquarters in Northwest Washington, in cash and in person.

Officer Garcia's justification in believing me was soon confirmed by the diagnosis of my brain cancer, in which I have lost not only left peripheral vision but nearly all my left vision, probably permanently. Several people have asked me whether the person I hit was crossing in front of me on my left. I answer, "I never saw him."

The person I hit, identified by police as Don, with no fixed address, was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where police said, "There are no visible injuries."

On the next day, Thursday, July 24, there were more clues that something was seriously wrong. I lost my way to my dentist's office in Montgomery County and never found it. I also had trouble finding my way back to my office. After returning from a speaking engagement in North Carolina on Friday, I found it difficult locating my office in the 13-story building where I have been a tenant since 1964.

My wife Geraldine and I left Washington Saturday to spend the weekend with our daughter, Zelda, and her husband, Christopher Caldwell, and their children at their summer house at Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. When Geraldine noticed that I was having trouble following her in the Boston airport, she suggested I go to a hospital emergency room. I always resist such suggestions and did so this time, but fortunately Zelda prevailed. The CT scan at Salem Hospital showed a brain mass. I returned to the summerhouse and went into seizure the next day.

When Zelda said to call 911, I again resisted, but she again prevailed. I promptly suffered another seizure in the ambulance, the second of three seizures that day. I gained admittance to the high-quality Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which has an excellent oncology staff. A biopsy was performed, which showed a large, grade IV tumor. In answer to my question, the oncologist estimated that I had six months to a year to live. Being read your death sentence is like being a character in one of the old Bette Davis movies.

I believe I was able to withstand this shock because of my Catholic faith, to which I converted in 1998.

I then called Dr. Donald Morton of the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., who removed a cancer from my lung in 1994 and has been a friend and close medical advisor.

He told me that different people react to serious cancers in different ways and reminded me that I was a three-time cancer survivor.

Dr. Morton recommended Dr. Allan H. Friedman, a master surgeon who is chief of neurosurgery at the Duke University Medical Center.

After studying my CT scan and MRI, Dr. Friedman said a resection -- that is, a removal of the tumor -- was possible by surgery. Dr. Friedman had performed a similar operation this summer on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

In today's world, it is up to the "informed patient" to make many decisions affecting treatment. Dr. Morton recommended that I go ahead with surgery by Dr. Friedman.

My dear friend, the Democratic political operative Bob Shrum, asked Sen. Kennedy's wife, Vicki, to call me about Dr. Friedman. I barely know Mrs. Kennedy, but I have found her to be a warm and gracious person. I have had few good things to say about Teddy Kennedy since I first met him at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, but he and his wife have treated me like a close friend. She was enthusiastic about Dr. Friedman and urged me to opt for surgery at Duke, which I did.

The Kennedys were not concerned by political and ideological differences when someone's life was at stake, recalling at least the myth of milder days in Washington. My long conversation with Vicki Kennedy filled me with hope.

The irony of my going to Duke to save my life can only be appreciated by somebody who knows that I am a fanatic University of Maryland basketball fan with no use for the Duke Blue Devils and their student basketball fans, who certainly have not turned the other cheek toward me.

The ingenious taunts by the students at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium are usually directed against opposing players, but I am one fan who also has been the target of the "Cameron Crazies."

During my last visit there to watch a game won by Maryland, students raised a placard with two pictures: one of Benedict Arnold and one of me. "Two Traitors, " said the headline.

But I was treated with immense courtesy and skill by the great Duke neurosurgical team. Dr. Friedman operated on me for over four hours, starting at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 15. He later showed me before-and-after pictures, revealing that the 3-by-1.5-inch tumor had been removed. Of course, cancer cells remain, requiring a rigorous regimen of radiation and chemotherapy, managed by the Duke team and conducted at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington.

Al Hunt, who has become a close friend, though we disagree about almost everything, says it will be very difficult for me to inveigh against Duke in the future. I do believe he is correct. Al and his wife, Judy Woodruff, have been staunch pillars of support during this ordeal and helped arrange our living accommodations at Duke.

I am now at home in Washington, awaiting further therapy. Dr. Friedman recommended that I try to get back to at least parts of my normal life. He suggested reading, but also that I try to write columns, which is the reason I've composed this piece.

There are mad bloggers who profess to take delight in my distress, but there's no need to pay them attention in the face of such an outpouring of good will for me. I had thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington made me more enemies than friends, but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case.

But Joe and Valerie Wilson, attempting to breathe life into the Valerie Plame "scandal," issued this statement: "We have long argued that responsible adults should take Novak's typewriter away. The time has arrived for them to also take away the keys to his Corvette."

Thanks to my tumor, the Wilsons have achieved half of their desires. I probably never will be able to drive again, and I have sold the Corvette, which I dearly loved. Taking away my typewriter, however, may require modification of the First Amendment.

Support for me and promises of prayers sent for me poured in from all sides, including political figures who had not been happy with my columns. I'm told that President George W. Bush has not liked my criticism, particularly of his Iraq war policy. But the president is a compassionate man, and he telephoned me at 7:24 a.m. on August 15, six minutes before I went into surgery. The conversation lasted only a minute, but his prayerful concern was touching and much appreciated.

Thoughts on McCain's Speech


By Jay Cost
« A Strange Night
HorseRaceBlog Home Page
September 05, 2008

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin wave to supporters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota September 4, 2008.
(Rick Wilking/Reuters)

I typically do not engage in exegesis of candidate speeches, but given the reaction to McCain's address from many quarters, I think a dissenting view might be worth hearing. That plus the uniqueness of the speech's substance inclines me to make a more fuller comment than I otherwise would.

On the first viewing of McCain's speech, I was pretty much in line with Tom Bevan's thoughts on it: it was good enough, but far from great.
Later in the evening, though, I felt compelled to go back and review it. I couldn't get a few of the lines out of my head, which made me wonder if I had misjudged it.

I have to say that it grew on me by leaps and bounds. Over two weeks of speechifying and politicking, it was my favorite.

Obviously, McCain is not an eloquent speaker. He's a plain speaker with a blunt, flat delivery. The speech was written for a man with that kind of style, which made it extremely direct. So, everybody got the gist of the McCain candidacy last night. That's a very good thing for any candidate: his message got across.

The speech also had its charming moments. His ad lib in response to the protesters was just great. With that third interruption, I really thought McCain was going to lose the crowd. His "please, please, please" seemed plaintive and desperate for a moment, but then he wowed me: "Please don't be distracted by the ground noise and the static." He then cracked a big, genuine grin, and followed it up with, "I'm gonna talk about it some more, but Americans want us to stop yelling at each other...OK?" And then another ear-to-ear grin. That was pure McCain. Good humored and bipartisan. As moments go, that was the best of either convention.

And we simply have to give McCain credit for this kind of gutsiness.

On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin, I prepared for my 23rd mission over North Vietnam. I hadn't any worry I wouldn't come back safe and sound. I thought I was tougher than anyone. I was pretty independent then, too. I liked to bend a few rules, and pick a few fights for the fun of it. But I did it for my own pleasure; my own pride. I didn't think there was a cause more important than me.

Then I found myself falling toward the middle of a small lake in the city of Hanoi, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and an angry crowd waiting to greet me. I was dumped in a dark cell, and left to die. I didn't feel so tough anymore...

A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I'd been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I'd been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.

Who does this in a nomination speech?

Typically, presidential candidates use their time in combat to reinforce the warrior virtues. Recall, "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty!"
McCain basically turned that on its head last night. It was not his heroism or leadership in war that shows he's ready to command. Instead, it was the horror of war that made him understand how great our country is, and why it is worth fighting for. He was a cocky jerk prior to his captivity, but the brutality of that experience broke his selfish, independent spirit. It was the idea of America that saved him, and - per the speech - he was reborn her humble, imperfect servant.

Delivered in his blunt style, these passages reinforced the idea of McCain being honest even when it isn't expedient. He's willing to talk straight about anything, including his own frailties.

But this was not confession for its own sake. Last night - McCain did three things: (a) Reminded us that he's a maverick; (b) Told us what the maverick would do if we elect him; (c) Told us why he's a maverick. [So, contrary to some pundits, it was actually a very well-organized speech.] The confession at the end was the "why." He fights for the country, not for a party, because it was in Hanoi that his country saved him. Country first, party second.

This might not resonate with strong partisans who see their party as the protector of the national interest, but there is a huge subset of voters who see politics the way McCain describes it. Get average people talking, and sooner or later you'll hear them say, "Nobody stands for all of us. Everybody stands for their narrow faction."

Ultimately, this speech was very Jacksonian to me. It was Jackson, as much as anybody, who made the president the representative of all the people. This notion can be oversimplified, for sure, but at its root it is accurate. The president should not speak for a mere faction, but should articulate the true public voice. I don't know whether McCain can actually do that, but he clearly sees this task as his top priority, which puts him a notch or two above many previous nominees of both parties.

Final point. Contrary to some critiques I read, McCain's middle "laundry list" section of the speech definitely defied Republican orthodoxy at key points. There might be plenty of reasons not to like this speech, but lines like this are not the things we hear from Republicans:

-I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy and it often seems your government hasn't even noticed. Government assistance for unemployed workers was designed for the economy of the 1950s. That's going to change on my watch.

-We will prepare them for the jobs of today. We will use our community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities.

-For workers in industries that have been hard hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one while they receive retraining that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage.

That middle one is actually quite noteworthy. Just a few months ago, I heard the exact same policy proposal...during a keynote address of a Democratic think tank! I thought to myself, "Now...that's a good idea! Why doesn't somebody do that?"

Friday, September 05, 2008



By Rich Lowry
New York Post
September 5, 2008

Ready to fight: McCain’s out to beat Obama on change.

As rhetoric, it wasn't particularly stirring - deliberately written to stay within John McCain's plain-spoken comfort zone. As a performance, it was so-so. But as a basis of the fall campaign, it puts McCain exactly where he needs to be - Johnny the Fighter, on a last mission to protect the people's interest in Washington.

McCain joined his traditional theme of patriotic service to a message of change and work-a-day populism given new oomph by his pick of the GOP's new popular hero, Sarah Palin. He buttressed these themes with his personal narrative, of sacrifice in Vietnam and of service to country rather than party in Washington.

The election isn't a contest of dueling speeches, and McCain ought to be grateful for it. He's notoriously uncomfortable with big set-speeches from a teleprompter. So convention planners put him out at the end of a long runway where he spoke from a minimalist waist-high podium. If the set-up aided in his connection to the crowd or in his delivery, it wasn't obvious.

Then again, McCain's message wasn't always congenial to these delegates. You never would've known that he's a Republican running when Republicans have held the White House for the last eight years. There was a nod to President Bush for keeping us safe at the top; after that, McCain made the case for getting "this country moving again" - typically an out-party message.

The reaction in the hall was tepid to his diagnosis of how the GOP has lost the trust of the public, and to his pledges to work cooperatively with all well-intentioned comers in a nonpartisan manner. But his real audience was out in the country, where traditional GOP politics is a tough sell this year.

Remarkably free of derisive references to his opponent, the speech was meant not so much to bury Obama as to co-opt his appeal. The heart came at the end of his description of Palin, when McCain said, "Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-noth- ing, me-first-country-second Washington crowd: Change is coming."

He followed up with a definition of "maverick": "What it really means is, I understand who I work for: I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."

McCain was trying to take his politics of honor - often abstract and personal - and make it about people's everyday lives. Uncharacteristically, he talked of peoples' struggles "to buy groceries, fill your gas tank and make your mortgage payment."

The selection of Palin last week and this speech signal the McCain campaign is now trying to capture the populist fighting spirit that fueled Hillary Clinton's late-primary charge against Obama.

Politically, this is shrewd. At a time of popular disgust with Washington, it's a theme that is very saleable and (as last night showed) can be made to fit McCain's unique traits. But there needs to be policy meat on the bones. His speech was the most substantive one of a largely policy-free convention - but its general passages on domestic policy won't make much of an impression.

If the speech was often dull, it was utterly sincere. "Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight," McCain urged at the end, as the delegates rose for a rousing finish.

This is the ground McCain has staked out. His clash with Obama over who can best fight for change will be the bloody crossroads of this election.

In the Bronx, a Parting Shot

Only 2,700 Fans Saw Lou Gehrig's Last Home Run, But It Left an Echo

The Wall Street Journal
September 5, 2008; Page W4

At the end of this baseball season, we will say goodbye to Yankee Stadium. My favorite memory of the ballpark comes from a game played 70 years ago this month. I wasn't there, but I have a picture of it in my mind, and I will cling to it when they tear up the sod and knock down the walls this winter.

On Sept. 27, 1938, a cool and cloudy day in the Bronx, Lou Gehrig stepped into the batter's box to hit against Dutch Leonard of the Washington Senators. It was a meaningless Tuesday afternoon game. All but 2,700 of the stadium's seats were empty.

Leonard threw, Mr. Gehrig swung, and the ball flew into the right-field bleachers, giving the Yankees' Iron Horse the 493rd home run of his career. It would be his last.

Baseball's legendary individual performances are well known: In 1921, Babe Ruth hit 59 home runs -- more than eight entire teams. In 1941, Ted Williams hit for a .406 average. In 2001, say what you will, Barry Bonds broke Mark McGwire's home run record and Babe Ruth's slugging-percentage record. Those were great feats. But for my money, nothing compares to 1938.

That year, Gehrig played with advanced symptoms of a brutal and deadly disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known today as Lou Gehrig's disease. He not only appeared in every one of the Yankees' 157 regular-season games, he played brilliantly, hitting .295, with 29 homers, 114 runs batted in, a .410 on-base average, and a .523 slugging percentage. Alex Rodriguez this year has produced roughly equivalent numbers.

Throughout the entire season, Gehrig knew something was wrong with his body; he just didn't know what. He arrived in St. Petersburg for spring training after filming a singing-cowboy movie called "Rawhide" (check it out on Netflix; it's a hoot). He entered the season as the highest-paid player in the game, with a one-year contract for $39,000, and saying that he thought his body, always the game's most solid, ought to hold at least a few more years. He was 34 and had played for 13 years without missing a game.

His first swings of spring were feeble. He popped a few high and dribbled some into the dirt before his hands began to ache. "I'll get the feel of this thing in a hurry," he told a reporter that day.

He never did, though. All that spring he felt clumsy. He tripped. He dropped easy throws. He developed blisters and bone bruises on his hands, and began taping foam to the bottom of his bat handle to reduce the pain.

In hindsight, all of these are likely symptoms of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, shutting down messages from the brain to the body's muscles. Most victims survive only two or three years after diagnosis. Gehrig's muscles were withering away. As he tried to compensate, he probably squeezed the bat more tightly than usual, causing the blisters and bruises.

Most people with ALS don't know they have it for the first year. At this moment, there are about 5,000 people in the United States walking around without a clue. A year or so from now, when they are diagnosed, they will look back and say, "Oh, yeah, so that's why I had trouble with the belt on my son's car seat." Gehrig was no different -- except that he was a professional athlete who was being watched and criticized every day. Nevertheless, he kept going. What else could he do? He assumed the malfunctions were a result of age, or a virus, or perhaps his imagination.

By late April, reporters were commenting that Gehrig seemed to have lost strength. Maybe he should have been working out instead of cavorting all winter in Hollywood, sportswriters sniped. His manager, Joe McCarthy, moved him out of the cleanup spot in the batting order into the sixth position.

Though his body was growing weaker by the day, Gehrig was so well-conditioned and so gifted an athlete that he managed to adapt. He started slapping at the ball instead of trying to crush it, and his batting average climbed. He put in an order with Hillerich & Bradsby Co. for some lighter bats, which helped him regain some of his power.

When I was researching my biography of Gehrig, I interviewed Charlie Wagner, who pitched for the Red Sox in 1938. He said Gehrig "could still get up and bump that ball," but he seemed to be stumbling when he ran. Gehrig was surprisingly speedy, and you can probably win a bet by asking someone to name the Yankees' all-time leader in triples. It's Gehrig, who hit 163 of them. But in 1938 he looked like he was running in snow shoes. He talked to reporters about his troubles. He seemed mystified, even angry at times. But he never lost his temper, never blew up at the reporters who zinged him, never criticized his manager for moving him out of the cleanup spot.

The Yankees went on to sweep the Cubs in the 1938 World Series. Gehrig managed four singles in four games. The next year, he tried again to play, but only briefly. By then it was clear that something was seriously wrong. He was diagnosed in June of 1939. On July 4, he made his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, calling himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He bowed out with the grace, dignity, and humility that had defined his career.

He died two years later, just shy of his 38th birthday. Gehrig will be recalled for his speech, which was surely the most touching moment in Yankee Stadium's history.

Lou Gehrig, “Farewell to Baseball Address”
July 4, 1939; Yankee Stadium

But I prefer to remember him before he was stooped by disease. I prefer to picture him on that long-sleeved autumn day in September 1938. What comfort he must have felt when ball met bat, the resonance of it running from his hands up into his arms. The fans heard the sound. They watched the ball fly high and deep, and when it ponged into the near-empty bleachers they looked back to the field and saw good-old Lou, head down, trotting around the bases one last time. Never before had such a life-and-death struggle played out on a baseball diamond. For that day, at least, Gehrig was the winner.

They can tear down the park, but they can't take that away from me.

Jonathan Eig is the author of "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig" and "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season."

Write to Jonathan Eig at

Sarah Palin: it's go west, towards the future of conservatism

Her thrilling convention speech showed that the Governor of Alaska is a force to reckoned with. But she might be more than that

Gerard Baker
The London Times
September 5, 2008

The best line I heard about Sarah Palin during the frenzied orgy of chauvinist condescension and gutter-crawling journalistic intrusion that greeted her nomination for vice-president a week ago came from a correspondent who knows a thing or two about Alaska.

“What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?”

“One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.

“The other kills her own food.”

Now we know, thanks to her triumphant debut at the Republican convention on Wednesday, that Mrs Palin not only slaughters her prey. She impales its head on a stick and parades it around for her followers to jeer at. For half an hour she eviscerated Mr Obama in that hall and did it all without dropping her sweet schoolmarm smile, as if she were handing out chocolates at the end of a history lesson.

There's a powerful danger in the sheer thrill that has followed her astonishing performance that we could get carried away with John McCain's running-mate. Some of the coverage has a hyperbolic tone to it. Not since Paris handed that apple to Aphrodite has a man's selection of a woman had such implications for the future of our civilisation.

So let's stipulate one obvious and important piece of wisdom about US elections. The choice of a vice-presidential candidate rarely makes much of a difference. The pundit class waxes historical in the excitement of the moment but usually the vice-presidential choices go back to playing second banana. However mawkishly we dwell on the mortality of the presidential contenders, it is they who determine the voters' decision.

This one, to be fair, could be different. For at least the next few weeks the press will follow Mrs Palin's present and dig deeper into her past, still hoping for some morsel of stupidity or evidence of cupidity to doom her. But in the end, barring such a discovery, this is still an Obama-McCain contest.

But let me try to explain why Mrs Palin, whatever impact she might have in November, may be a figure of real consequence in our lives.

It's partly about what she represents and partly about what she has already done, but mostly about where she and her ilk might take the Republicans - and possibly America.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Left falls again and again into the old trap of underestimating politicians whom they don't understand. From Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to George Bush and Mrs Palin, they do it every time. Because these characters talk a bit funny and have ridiculously antiquated views about faith, family and nation, because they haven't spent time bending the knee to the intellectual metropolitan elites, they can't be taken seriously.

So the general expectation was that Mrs Palin would stumble on to the stage in high heels, clutching her sprawling, slightly odd family (five children! how weird), mispronounce the name of the Russian Prime Minister, mutter a few platitudes about God, and disappear for ever to a deafening chorus of sniggers.

No one paid much attention to the fact that she had been elected governor of a state. Or that she got to that office not because, unlike some politicians I could mention, her husband had been there before her, or because she bleated continuously about glass ceilings, but by challenging the entrenched interests in her own party and beating them. In almost two years as Governor she has cleaned out the Augean stables of Alaskan Government. You don't win a statewide election and enjoy approval ratings of more than 80 per cent without real political talent.

Never mind all that. She didn't have a passport! She was a former beauty queen! It was so axiomatic that she was a disaster that I was told by lots of savvy men - with deliciously unconscious sexism - that the real problem was what the choice said about Mr McCain and his judgment: cynical, irresponsible, clueless. It was as if Mrs Palin wasn't really a human being at all, but an article of Mr McCain's clothing that showed his poor taste, like wearing brown shoes with a charcoal suit.

So here's why she matters.

First of all she offers an opportunity for an ailing Republican party to reconnect with ordinary Americans. She's conservative, but her conservatism is not that of the intolerant, uncomprehending white male sort that has so hurt the party in recent years. She is much closer to a model of the lives of ordinary Americans - working mother, plainspoken everywoman juggling home and office - than any Republican leader in memory.

The contrast with Mr Obama is especially powerful. The very fact that Mrs Palin didn't go to elite schools but succeeded nonetheless - the very ordinariness with which she so piquantly jabbed Mr Obama on Wednesday - is what will make her so appealing to Americans. And as a pro-life conservative she debunks in one swoop the enduring myth that all women subscribe to the obligatory nostrums of radical feminism.

But there's more to it than that.

The Republicans have decided that they are not going to make the mistake Hillary Clinton made and run against the effervescent Mr Obama on the premise of experience.

Experience hasn't got Americans into a very comfortable place. They want change. Before he signed up to some of the less attractive Republican attitudes this year, Mr McCain's career had embodied that change - the anti-establishment candidate running against his own party. Now he is joined by a woman who, in her short career, has done the same thing.

Democrats think that Mr McCain, with the social conservative Mrs Palin, will launch an old-fashioned culture war at them, using her appealing manner to drive a populist assault on the familiar Republican issues of God, guns and gays.

Perhaps this Manichean interpretation will prove true. But I suspect that it misses the real appeal of the Republican team. The opportunity for McCain-Palin is not reaction, but reform - a reform rooted in a distant conservatism that could be due for a comeback

Hailing from Arizona and Alaska, the Republican ticket has a chance to rekindle a western conservatism different from the old Yankee paternalist sort or the Bible Belt version. They like their guns out there (some still kill their own food) and they are pro-life and deeply pro-America, of course. But at a time of grave challenges, the themes of economic freedom and opportunity, the resistance to the idea that government holds all the answers, could resonate with voters.

This is an election, as the Democrats have realised all along, about an America on the cusp of change. With the moose-hunting, establishment-taunting Mrs Palin at his side, Mr McCain might represent a bigger change than the one that his opponents are offering.


Outsider Palin electrifies Republicans
'She's like a moose going after a cabbage'
Comment: Sarah Palin passed this test but there will be more
This is Alaska's Margaret Thatcher

Why Obama's "Community Organizer" Days Are a Joke

By Michelle Malkin
New York Post
September 05, 2008

Rudy Giuliani had me in stitches during his red-meat keynote address at the GOP convention. I laughed out loud when Giuliani laughed out loud while noting Barack Obama's deep experience as a "community organizer." I laughed again when VP nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin cracked: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Team Obama was not amused. (Neither were the snarky left-wingers on cable TV who are now allergic to sarcasm.) They don't get why we snicker when Obama dons his Community Organizer cape. Apparently, the jibes rendered Obama's advisers sleepless. In a crack-of-dawn e-mail to Obama's followers hours after Giuliani and Palin spoke, campaign manager David Plouffe attempted to gin up faux outrage (and, more importantly, donations) by claiming grave offense on the part of community organizers everywhere. Fumed Plouffe:

"Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed. Let's clarify something for them right now. Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies."

Let me clarify something. Nobody is mocking community organizers in church basements and community centers across the country working to improve their neighbors' lives. What deserves ridicule is the notion that Obama's brief stint as a South Side rabble-rouser for tax-subsidized, partisan nonprofits qualifies as executive experience you can believe in.

What deserves derision is "community organizing" that relies on a community of homeless people and ex-cons to organize for the purpose of registering dead people to vote, shaking down corporations and using the race card as a bludgeon.

As I've reported previously, Obama's community organizing days involved training grievance-mongers from the far-left ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The ACORN mob is infamous for its bully tactics (which they dub "direct actions"); Obama supporters have recounted his role in organizing an ambush on a government planning meeting about a landfill project opposed by Chicago's minority lobbies.

With benefactors like Obama in office, ACORN has milked nearly four decades of government subsidies to prop up chapters that promote the welfare state and undermine the free market, as well as some that have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and voter fraud. Since I last detailed ACORN's illicit activities in this column in June (see "The ACORN Obama knows," June 19, 2008), the group continues to garner scrutiny from law enforcement:

Last week, Milwaukee's top election official announced plans to seek criminal investigations of 37 ACORN employees accused of offering gifts to sign up voters (including prepaid gas cards and restaurant cards) or falsifying driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers or other information on voter registration cards.

Last month, a New Mexico TV station reported on the child rapists, drug offenders and forgery convicts on ACORN's payroll. In July, Pennsylvania investigators asked the public for help in locating a fugitive named Luis R. Torres-Serrano, who is accused "of submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registration forms he collected on behalf of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now to county election officials." Also in July, a massive, nearly $1 million embezzlement scheme by top ACORN officials was exposed.

ACORN's political arm endorsed Obama in February and has ramped up efforts to register voters across the country. In the meantime, completely ignored by the mainstream commentariat and clean-election crusaders, the Obama campaign admitted failing to report $800,000 in campaign payments to ACORN. They were disguised as payments to a front group called "Citizen Services, Inc." for "advance work."

Jim Terry, an official from the Consumer Rights League, a watchdog group that monitors ACORN, noted: "ACORN has a long and sordid history of employing convoluted Enron-style accounting to illegally use taxpayer funds for their own political gain. Now it looks like ACORN is using the same type of convoluted accounting scheme for Obama's political gain." With a wave of his magic wand, Obama amended his FEC forms to change the "advance work" to "get-out-the-vote" work.

Now, don't you dare challenge his commitment to following tax and election laws. And don't you even think of entertaining the possibility that The One exploited a nonprofit supposedly focused on helping low-income people for political gain.

He was just "organizing" his "community." Guffaw.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sob Story

Tears from the Xcel press stand.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez
National Review Online
September 04, 2008, 9:45 a.m.

Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, holds her infant son, Trig, as she stands on stage with her husband, Todd, during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

ST. PAUL — I cried Wednesday night at the Xcel Center.

I didn’t just tear up when Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, talked about her son, Track, who will deploy to Iraq next week. I didn’t just tear up when she talked about her beautiful daughters — including one who has to suffer seeing her most intimate mistake and challenge in the public eye. I teared up when this 44-year-old woman, with her proverbial hair down, felt completely comfortable and confident talking about her love for her husband in a packed arena: “We met in high school, and two decades and five children later, he’s still my guy.”

And, yes, when she spoke of her son, Trig, and about special-needs children, I cried. She said:

And in April, my husband Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig. From the inside, no family ever seems typical.

That’s how it is with us.

Our family has the same ups and downs as any other . . . the same challenges and the same joys.

Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.

And children with special needs inspire a special love.

When you look at that beautiful boy and realize that in America, some 90 percent of parents would not have let him live, how can you not be both terrified for us and filled with joy for the love this little boy has? How can you help but be excited by the prospect that Americans might become more aware of the silent elimination of such blessings?

Without pandering, without sounding like a politician, Palin was able to say, essentially, I am one of you. I work hard. Love my family. Love God (“a servant’s heart”). We struggle, just like you. But we know what is right and what is wrong. And I am here today to make sure you can make the choices you need to do right by your family.

She didn’t have to spell it all out, she showed it to us Wednesday night. She showed us that even a small-town gal from Alaska can be successful and be a leader.

And she laid the groundwork for invigorating a movement. Immediately after her speech, National Review Online readers e-mailed me to tell me they had just watched the next Ronald Reagan, the long-awaited successor. What I think we’re seeing is a new generation of conservatism. As Mitt Romney laid out clearly in his speech earlier in the night, there are some real differences between liberals and conservatives, and with a passionate energy this young woman is on the road to leading the Right into the future, with great respect for those who have laid the groundwork before us.

Other readers asked me why Palin didn’t talk about “life.” Her entire speech was about it. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American exceptionalism. With love and spirit and good humor.

I’ve not cried during a political speech since the pope and George W. Bush met on the South Lawn of the White House earlier this year. There they talked freely about good and evil, truth and falsehood, God and man, love and hate. They talked about defending what is important and essential — most essential: our very lives and liberty. They talked about the special opportunity that is American life. This is what Sarah Palin presented to Americans watching her, probably meeting her for the first time, Wednesday night.

There are miles to go yet in this election. But Sarah Palin has gotten off to an excellent start. And Americans — men and women reminded of what’s important, boys and girls inspired by her energy and accomplishments — are better people for having met her, this woman in love with her country, her family, her God, and this gift of life in America.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

With a Smile on Her Face … and Steel in Her Spine

Sarah Palin taps into America.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online
September 04, 2008, 1:34 a.m.

The weather was awful, my flight was delayed, and I was late to the symposium — prototypical law school gasbaggery on whether captured terrorists were receiving sufficient due-process protections. So I missed the start of the professor’s keynote address, entering the hall as he railed about “the American Taliban.”

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, left, is joined by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, right, and daughter Piper at the end of her speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008.
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

It was 2004. Naturally, I assumed he was speaking about John Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen who’d been seized on the battlefield in Afghanistan and whose case was then very much in the news. But as I listened, it became crystal clear that, in this room, the traitor who’d thrown in his lot with enemies responsible for murdering thousands of innocent Americans was not the object of scorn. If anything, he was a figure who merited our sympathetic understanding — our self-examination about what we’d done to make him hate us so.

No, “the American Taliban” against whom this professor was railing was the United States Department of Justice under that well-known jackbooted thug, John Ashcroft. This leftwing gasbag was talking about me. Me and people like me who had worked night and day for many years, trying to ferret out threats to our country and prosecute the monsters behind them.

He was telling his audience of gazing law students and like-minded academics that we, not al-Qaeda, were the savages.

I couldn’t help thinking about that scene, which has been repeated more times than I can count, as I read commentary about the phenomenon that is Sarah Palin, who brought the house down with a barnburner at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night. Especially puzzling is the critique that the nominee for vice president was, at times, too biting, too sarcastic in her portrayal of the opposition.

I couldn’t disagree more. Palin is a natural. What we got is what she is: poised, sharp, charming, feisty, funny, and unapologetically patriotic. As she might have put it, the speech she gave in St. Paul is the same one she’d give in Scranton or San Francisco.

More importantly, the speech tapped into a teeming reservoir of repressed rage. Memo to Barack Obama: You’re right, many of us are bitter. We are damn angry about being framed as “the American Taliban” because we love our country and think it’s exceptional as is; because we think you deal with evil by defeating it, not cozying up to it; because the change we think we need is a government that shrinks and gets out of the way, not a confiscatory, will-sapping Leviathan; because we don’t see “patriotism” as the willingness — the eagerness — to catalogue America’s flaws while never acknowledging her greatness; because when it comes to “reputation in the world,” we think it’s the “international community” not the United States that has a lot of catching up to do.

But Sarah Palin didn’t court this anger with more anger. That would be a turn-off. What most frustrates Americans is that we are a happy, optimistic, can-do people ceaselessly harangued by media solons, delusional academics, post-sovereign Eurocrats, and the Democrats who love them. While we free and feed the world, they can’t tell us enough that we’re racist, imperialist, torturing louts. We know it’s a libel, an endless stream of slander. But we also know it’s an absurd libel. We’re tired of hearing it, but taking it too seriously would give it power it doesn’t deserve.

So Sarah Palin was sarcastic and biting. That’s how a happy warrior deals with absurdity. That’s how a happy warrior rallies the troops.

We are in a war against terrorists, and the other side has nominated a man who has been a friend and business partner of an unrepentant, America-hating terrorist. The press lauds Obama as post-partisan when even a cursory glance at his record shows he is as partisan as it gets. The press lauds him as post-racial, but he sat comfortably for years in Trinity Church, drinking in the racist ravings of Jeremiah Wright, and he sat comfortably for years in rough-and-tumble Chicago, playing by-the-numbers race-based politics.

Obama blathers about “change” but then chooses as his running-mate a Washington relic who has managed in 35 years to be wrong on just about everything while compiling a record nearly as slavishly Leftist as Obama’s. In an era of complex, vicious, asymmetrical threats, Democrats give us a “community organizer” without a shred of executive experience who, in his years as a state legislator, voted “present” when it was time to make the tough calls. Except, of course, when it came to life: In a nation repulsed by partial birth abortion, Obama decided to make his stand enabling the practitioners of infanticide.

It is positively absurd that such a candidate should have a snowball’s chance of becoming president of the United States. But he has a very good chance because Americans haven’t been rallied.

Well, they’ve been rallied now. And rallied, at long last, in a way that resonates: By an attractive winner with a smile on her face and steel in her spine. By a proud woman living the ups and downs of an American life — a woman the other side spent a week trying to destroy by coming after those she loves most. With grit and good humor, she brushed those critics aside like so many Styrofoam columns.

It wasn’t snide. Sarah Palin was grace personified. And now, finally, even we American Taliban have hope.

Sarah Palin Is My Girl

By Ted Nugent

Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin speaks to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota September 3, 2008.(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

With grave suspicion and reservations, I nonetheless rejoice that the fading embers of conservatism may have indeed caught fire once more. That fireball is Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, I pray the next Vice President of the United States. Now I know why I have seen no one with any guts in the Republican Party in so long: the governor of Alaska has them all. Her speech last night was clearly a grand slam out-of-the-park home run. America, we have liftoff!

By selecting Gov. Palin to be his running mate, Sen. McCain has finally electrified the conservative base -- the very base he desperately needs to defeat Sen.Obama in November.

I, for one, am greatly relieved and inspired by her message, delivery, confidence, poise, class and grace.

To borrow a relative quote from Michelle Obama, with the selection of Gov. Palin, it’s the first time in quite some time that I’m proud of the Republican Party.

Gov. Palin is a true outsider, a real maverick. She lacks Washington, D.C. political experience. That’s good. No, that’s excellent. It is her lack of D.C. political experience that is the refreshing outsider change America so desperately needs and wants.

Palin made it clear that she is like the rest of us, noting how Fedzilla is bloated, broken, ineffective, and wasteful. Our professional politicians no longer work for us, but instead represent K Street bandit lobbyists. These scoundrels deserve our scorn, anger and contempt, and, quite honestly, a big, old pink slip, and Sarah appears to be the tough leader we seek to get the job done.

The level of disgust and distrust across America is appalling and, I believe, unprecedented. A recent poll indicated the Nancy Pelosi-led Congress’ approval rating is at an abysmal record low of nine percent. That it is even that high shows how clueless and disconnected the lunatic fringe is.

America needs more outsiders in Washington, D.C. now more than ever. We need more tough, standup hockey moms like Governor Sarah Palin. We need more ordinary Americans to springboard from small city councils to the halls of congress and beyond. We need welders, cops, teachers, ditch diggers, business people, construction workers, secretaries, auto mechanics, and guitar slingers to come to Washington, D.C. and replant the good old "We the People" tree.

Americans need to replace the professional politicians who have rigged and ruined the system to exclude ordinary citizens from participating in this experiment in self-government. My advice is to get angry and vote them all out. The professional punk politicians are the problem, not the solution.

We need fewer lawyers in Washington. Lawyers have created a masturbatory legal system by raping our justice system. It’s refreshing to see that neither Sen. McCain nor Gov. Palin is a lawyer. This could be a good start back towards an experiment in self-government. Count me in.

We need fewer bureaucrats who accomplish nothing but sustaining and growing Fedzilla. Bureaucrats create reams of regulations, rules, and requirements that strangle innovation and punish producers. I expect Vice President Palin to lead the charge with a battering ram to smash in the bureaucratic doors that impede progress instead of enabling it. I had a bumper crop of crowbars this year. I'll donate them all to those willing to swing them.

It’s wrong to suggest that just because Gov. Palin is not a career D.C. politician that she lacks the experience and intelligence to lead the nation. She clearly has more executive management experience than Sen. Obama, who has zero experience at running anything. He’s not qualified to run an all-night donut shop, much less America.

Gov. Palin is an executive. The mark of an effective executive is to surround herself with bright, talented, capable professionals who share her vision to accurately represent the people they work for: Americans. Chief Executive Officers need to be visionary leaders, not tacticians who micromanage. Her experience demonstrates she is prepared to lead if necessary.

Gov. Palin represents real hope and change. In her case, hope and change are not simply hollow words. As a city councilwoman, mayor and governor, she has achieved tangible results. She exudes energy and passion, has the experience and the skills, and is ready for the job. I couldn’t be more excited for America.

In addition to her executive experience, and based on unbiased, genuine research, Gov. Palin concludes that global warming is a fraud, supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, hunts and fishes, and is a member of the National Rifle Association. What’s not to like?

Those pundits and Fedzilla fanatics who proclaim Gov. Palin has no experience to run the country are the very punks who want to continue to feed Fedzilla. They advocate taking more of our paychecks, wasting more of hard earned money, and not being held accountable. I would like to buy these Fedzilla punks a one-way ticket on the express train to Hell.

President Reagan would surely be proud of Sen. McCain’s choice of Gov. Palin to be his running mate. President Reagan’s words so many years ago ring true once again: it's morning in America.

Last night, a political savior may have arrived. Ted Nugent at your service,Vice President-to-be Palin. I’m your biggest fan. Let’s rock.

- Rock legend Ted Nugent is noted for his conservative political views and his vocal pro-hunting and Second Amendment activism. He also maintains the Official Ted Nugent Site at Coming October 6th from Regnery Publishing is Nugent's new book Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto, which can be pre-ordered at

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Post-Speech Analysis From Ann Coulter:

"SARAH PALIN KICKED ASS! - I guess that ended the 'vetting' questions."

September 3, 2008, 11:11 PM

By Ann Coulter
September 3, 2008

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his running mate finally gave Republicans a reason to vote for him -- a reason, that is, other than B. Hussein Obama.

The media are hopping mad about McCain's vice presidential selection, but they're really furious over at MSNBC. After drawing "Keith + Obama" hearts on their denim notebooks, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews stayed up all night last Thursday, writing jokes about Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the presumed vice presidential pick. Now they can't use any of them.

So the media are taking it out on our brave Sarah and her 17-year-old daughter.

They claimed Palin was chosen only because she's a woman. In fact, Palin was chosen because she's pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling and pro-tax cuts. She's fought both Republicans and Democrats on public corruption and does not have hair plugs like some other vice presidential candidate I could mention. In other words, she's a "Republican."

As a right-winger, Palin will appeal to the narrow 59 percent of Americans who voted for another former small-market sportscaster: Ronald Reagan. Our motto: Sarah Palin is only a heartbeat away!

If you're going to say Palin was chosen because she's a woman, you're going to have to demonstrate that the runners-up were more qualified. Gov. Tim Pawlenty seems like a terrific fellow and fine governor, but he is not obviously more qualified than Palin.

As for former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, the other also-rans, I can think of at least 40 million unborn reasons she's better than either of them.

Within the first few hours after Palin's name was announced, McCain raised $4 million in campaign donations online, reaching $10 million within the next two days. Which shortlist vice presidential pick could have beaten that?

The media hysterically denounced Palin as "inexperienced." But then people started to notice that she has more executive experience than B. Hussein Obama -- the guy at the top of the Democrats' ticket.

They tried to create a "Troopergate" for Palin, indignantly demanding to know why she wanted to get her ex-brother-in-law removed as a state trooper. Again, public corruption is not a good issue for someone like Obama, Chicago pol and noted friend of Syrian National/convicted felon Antonin Rezko.

For the cherry on top, then we found out Palin's ex-brother-in-law had Tasered his own 10-year-old stepson. Defend that, Democrats.

The bien-pensant criticized Palin, saying it's irresponsible for a woman with five children to run for vice president. Liberals' new talking point: Sarah Palin: Only five abortions away from the presidency.

They claimed her newborn wasn't her child, but the child of her 17-year-old daughter. That turned out to be a lie.

Then they attacked her daughter, who actually is pregnant now, for being unmarried. When liberals start acting like they're opposed to pre-marital sex and mothers having careers, you know McCain's vice presidential choice has knocked them back on their heels.

But at least liberal reporters had finally found someone their own size to pick on: a 17-year-old girl.

Speaking of Democrats with newborn children, the media weren't particularly concerned about John Edwards running for president despite his having a mistress with a newborn child.

While the difficult circumstances of Palin's pregnant daughter are being covered like a terrorist attack on the nation, with leering accounts of the 18-year-old father, the media remain resolutely uninterested in the parentage of Edwards' mistress's love child. Except, that is, the hardworking reporters at the National Enquirer, who say Edwards is the father.

As this goes to press, the latest media-invented scandal about Palin is that McCain didn't know her well before choosing her as his running mate. He knew her well enough, though admittedly, not as well as Obama knows William Ayers.

John F. Kennedy, who was -- from what the media tell me -- America's most beloved president, detested his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.

Until Clinton interviewed Al Gore one time before choosing him as his vice presidential candidate, he had met Gore only one other time: when Gore was running for president in 1988 and flew to Little Rock seeking Clinton's endorsement. Clinton turned him down.

To this day, there's no proof that Bill Clinton ever met one-on-one with his CIA director, James Woolsey, other than a brief chat after midnight the night before Woolsey's nomination was announced.

Barring some all-new, trivial and probably false story about Palin -- her former hairdresser got a parking ticket in 1978! -- the media apparently intend to keep being hysterical about McCain's alleged failure to "vet" Palin properly. The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that everyone is asking: "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?"

No one's saying that.

Attacks on McCain's "vetting" process require the media to keep claiming that Palin has a lot of problems. But she doesn't have any problems. Remember? Those were all blind alleys.

Unfortunately, for the ordinary TV viewer hearing nonstop hysteria about nonspecific "problems," it takes a lot of effort to figure out that every attack liberals have launched against Palin turned out to be a lie.

It's as if a basketball player made the winning shot in the last three seconds of the game and liberals demand that we have a week-long discussion about whether the player should have taken that shot. WHAT IF HE MISSED?

With Palin, McCain didn't miss.

Today's Tune: Chris Knight - House and 90 Acres (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Reviews: Chris Knight - Heart of Stone

Chris Knight
Heart of Stone
(Drifter's Church)
US release date: 2 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Juli Thanki
August 27, 2008

Move over, Steve Earle: Chris Knight is hands down the best alt-country songwriter out there. On Heart of Stone, his sixth album in ten years, Knight’s lyrics are at their strongest. He’s a twangified mix of Earle, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp in their prime, i.e. minus their current tendencies toward windbaggy proselytizing. Each song is a self-contained vignette, full of hard luck folks and rambling men set to hard-driving guitars and lap steel. In short, this is Americana at its finest.

Despite his Kentucky address (can you get any more country than living in Slaughter, Kentucky, population 200?—the answer is “No"), musically Chris Knight seems like he might be more at home in a Texas roadhouse—not the romper rooms of Pat Green songs, filled with baseball-capped frat boys and Shiner Bock, but a Double Deuce-style roadhouse, complete with drunks trying to outrun their miserable lives, and maybe Patrick Swayze in the corner to keep the peace. Fans of Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen will definitely appreciate Knight’s brand of swaggering roots rock, while Robbie Fulks and Ryan Adams listeners will be drawn to the sharp lyrics.

The standout track of the record—perhaps standout track of the year—by far is “Crooked Road”, a song that could easily be renamed “Coalminer’s Father”. Almost certainly inspired by Knight’s previous career as a strip-mine reclamation inspector, it’s the story of a man and his wife trying to pick up the pieces of their already not-so-great life after their son is killed in a mining accident. In tried and true country fashion, they try to find salvation in the open road, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one. Most heartbreaking of all is the chorus: “Damn these hard times / Damn the coalmines / Damn the good dreams gone cold / And while I’m at it, damn this crooked road”. Producer Dan Baird, formerly of the Georgia Satellites, keeps his hands to himself (sorry, but that joke, however lame, is irresistible), letting Knight’s powerful lyrics and whiskey-raw vocals do the heavy lifting with only an acoustic guitar to accompany them.

On the album’s opener, “Home Sick Gypsy”, Knight vocally channels the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women”, emulating Mick Jagger’s raspy howl to a T while singing about country music’s old favorite: the ramblin’ man. Now, Knight’s rambler is nowhere near as plaintive and lonesome as Hank Williams’, but I think Luke the Drifter would have appreciated the straightforwardness of Chris Knight’s lyrics. And we see just how straightforward Knight can be on the album’s closing track, “Go On Home”: “Stupid’s in the water these days”. ‘Nuff said.

This is what Americana is supposed to sound like. It’s free of the redneck chest-thumping and twee sentimentalizing that runs rampant in commercial country music, as well as the semi-recent groundswell of faux-Southern rock, while remaining unflinchingly honest about life, love, and hard luck. Heart of Stone isn’t exactly the feel-good record of the summer, but it’s certainly not one to pass up.

Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
August 27, 2008

I was admittedly late in getting to the altar of Chris Knight. He had already released his fourth effort, Enough Rope, when I first came to know of him. I’ve since countered my tardiness by amassing his entire disc catalog and preaching his gospel every chance I get. Heart of Stone marks Chris’ sixth effort, and his music is still far too good for country radio and far too obscure for good taste.

On Heart of Stone, Chris sticks to what he does best by writing simple songs that carry the weight of the common man. Bringing Dan Baird (who previously produced Pretty Good Guy and The Jealous Kind) back into the fold brings a slightly more rocking edge to this album, but it’s still 100% Chris Knight. If you ain’t liking him at this point, you ain’t gonna like him after hearing Heart of Stone….and you’re pretty much an idiot.

The people of Slaughters, Kentucky (population 200) are lucky to have a songwriter of this caliber telling their story, and we’re lucky to get to hear it. 100% Essential Listening.

Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
posted by Chip Frazier in Reviews
Mon, Aug 25, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

Suffice it to say that Chris Knight knows what Nashville has forgotten, that country music is the original narrative of the common man. It grew out of the Great Depression and forged a transcendent bond with its’ fans.

Country music turned the struggles of rural America into poetry that helped ease the pain of fans for decades. Knight hasn’t forgotten the ability of music to sing to the soul of listeners. Probably because he is from coal mining country in Kentucky, which has been in economic upheaval as the rest of America has prospered. Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopkra do not resonate with someone who loses their job or their land or perhaps both. However, the songs on Heart of Stone will speak to them.

There is a certain moral code on this album. Even when times are hard Knight does not glorify people who lose their perspective. Hard times are no excuse to cook meth in your basement ("Hell Ain’t Half Full”), or abandon your family ("Heart of Stone”). Conversly he also sings about hope on “Something to Keep Me Going.” The power of faith and the fight to keep it is at the heart of “Crooked Road.” The latter song is gut wrenching and powerful. In this one song, Knight goes through a lifetime of complex emotions with the central character, who is emerging from the depths with an eye on the future but carrying the scars of the past.

This record also rocks. Knight returned to work with Dan Baird of Georgia Satellites, who produced Pretty Good Guy and The Jealous Kind. In fact, the album comes out of the gate rocking on “Homesick Gypsy.” Another great rocker is the song “Another Dollar” that addresses the greed in our society. When people talk about the great songwriters they need to include Chris knight in the conversation. His body of work has earned him that distinction. He certainly sings to the common man in the manner of Cash and Haggard. The album was released on September 2nd.

Chris Knight - My Old Cars
Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
Chris Knight - Another Dollar
Chris Knight’s Official Site
Chris Knight on myspace
Buy Heart of Stone

DAWN BREAKS: Chris Knight finds other ways to tell hard-luck tales of the South

By Steve Wildsmith
The Daily Times (Maryville, TN)

Death just doesn't hold the same appeal for Chris Knight as it used to.

Not that Knight was a morbid guy -- he's not, and likely never has been, cut from the cloth of death metal or gothic rock or anything similar. He'd look about as natural wearing black eyeliner and painted black fingernails as The Cure's Robert Smith would in a weightlifting contest.

But Knight has always been drawn to the darker fabric of life in the South. Perhaps it was his rural, hardscrabble upbringing; perhaps it was the anger he felt at those who looked down there noses at a simple Kentucky boy who sought his way in the bright lights of bigger cities like Bowling Green or Nashville.

Whatever the case, Knight's early albums were dark and gritty portraits of shifty-eyed men, desperate women, hard times and rough nights. His songwriting was stark and vivid, his characters so real they seem to have been lifted from the corner market or small-town gas station or roadside honky tonk that most Southerners have drifted through over the years.

Somewhere around his record "The Jealous Kind," however, Knight lost his taste for the dark stuff -- the killers and bad men who populated his songs in the same way they do the stories of contemporary Southern gothic writers Chris Offutt, Tom Franklin and Larry Brown. His focus began to shift, and these days, he doesn't care too much about revisiting that well from which he drew his water.

"The story songs are probably less violent and intense, because I feel like I've covered that ground pretty good, and now I'm having to come at things from a little different angle," Knight told The Daily Times this week. "I'll start with a hook and write around it and try to stay away from previous topics. It's harder to come up with stuff to write about; I had all these stories I needed to write up until this point, but now I've got to look a little harder for ways to write a song.

"I just don't feel compelled to write about it so much. The older I get, the less angry I am, and I've got to leave some of that stuff behind. I haven't left it all behind -- I still love those songs, and I love to play them for people. I can play them night after night, and they don't get stale.

"But I can't go back to that same place," he added. "I can't go back to really being that guy in 'Down the River' anymore. I've written two or three songs with that guy in mind, and it feels like it's enough."

Knight's humble drawl and stoic attitude reflect the roughshod, ramshackle nature of his rural upbringing in Kentucky. Born in 1960, he cut his teeth first on the country of his mother and father, and later on the folk-rock music of master songwriters like John Prine and J.J. Cale. At 15, he took over his brother's guitar, and his sibling, who worked the second shift in the nearby coal mines, took notice of Knight's growing talent.

Encouraged by his family, he tinkered with music until after graduation from Western Kentucky University, when he threw himself full-time into writing. Working for the Kentucky Department for Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, he wrote on the side, submitting his songs to Nashville. Urged on by those impressed with his abilities, he took the plunge in 1994, quitting his job and landing work as a songwriter with a publishing contract.

But the music just didn't sound right without Knight's world-weary voice to lend it credence. Encouraged to cut his own record, he sat down and recorded a self-titled album in 1998. That was followed by "A Pretty Good Guy" and "The Jealous Kind," released in 2003 to critical acclaim. "Enough Rope" was released in 2005, followed by "The Trailer Tapes" -- a collection of early demos -- and "Heart of Stone," which hits stores on Tuesday.

"I used my road drummer and my guitar player, and we just went in there and sat down on the floor and played the songs as a band until we felt like we got the feel we wanted," he said. "Then we went in, everybody went in to their places, and we tracked them. We even recorded the practice stuff, so we could go back to something if we forgot how it went."

The album is as solid an effort as Knight has ever done -- and that's saying a lot, given his proclivity to capture mood and spirit and the human heart like a Kentucky-born version of Bruce Springsteen. There's a gift that good Southern writers have, an ability to see beyond the surface of things and connect the landscape in which they live with the raging tempest of the human spirit.

Such insight accounts for the term "Southern gothic," used to describe so many tales of the darker side of the South, and it's not limited to novelists. Knight possesses it, and it's one of the reasons his brand of country music is some of the best outside-the-mainstream traditional country being made these days. They're tales of stragglers and survivors, some from Knight's life, others a compilation of characters he's met over the years.

"When I was younger, I wasn't ever really angry, but I come from a real small town," he said. "I grew up in the woods, and when I went to college in Bowling Green, I never realized that people actually though I was dumb just because I came from real life. And so I started thinking, you know, that I would just stay quiet about it and let them think I'm dumb.

"All along, I was thinking that they're no better than I am, and I fed off of that kind of thing, that kind of anger, for a while. I still do once in a while, but that stuff's not as important to me anymore. It doesn't matter as much, so I'm not as intense about it anymore."

As he gets older, he said, he's turning his artistic eye more and more toward those characters and the lives they live rather than the darkness that lurks within their hearts. "Heart of Stone" is replete with such tales -- from the overwhelming melancholy of the title track, the story of a man who finds himself more like the hard-drinking father who abandoned him than he cares to admit ... to "Hell Ain't Half Full," about a methamphetamine manufacturer ... to "Miles to Memphis," a combination road song/lost-love ballad that a sublime combination of both.

Like many of his Southern contemporaries, both in the literary and music worlds, Knight tends to gravitate toward darker subject matter. It's not that he has a dour outlook on life -- it's just his gift, the ability to get across with three chords and few worlds the struggles of rural Southern life.

He's reluctant to look at his talent that way -- to him, it's not a gift, merely a way for him to channel his experiences and observations into something that others appreciate.

"I just want to keep writing decent songs that I want to record and people want to listen to," he said. "That's what's real important to me now. I hope I've got several more albums in me, and I've already written three songs I want to record for my next one. I just want to keep on making it work, and hopefully making people happy with whatever they get out of my music when they listen to it."

But as he's grown older, he's mellowed out some as well, he admitted. And while the dark side of life might always appeal to him, the darker side of human nature, on the other hand, is loosening its grip on his muse.

"I was writing with a guy a couple of weeks ago, and he had an idea for a song about a guy who had a terminal disease or something," Knight said. "I stopped him right there and said, 'I'd kinda like to stay away from death today.' So we wrote another song, which is better.

"I'm just seeing what else I can come up with. There's a lot of art involved in writing a good story-song, but there's also art in writing a good groove tune that people like, or a hook that makes them want to sing along, without it being fluff or plastic."

Originally published: August 29. 2008 3:01AM
Last modified: August 28. 2008 2:27PM

Scrutiny on the Trail

Who talks about change? Who implements it?

By David Freddoso
National Review Online
September 03, 2008, 9:40 a.m.

St. Paul — The media is now applying an appropriate level of scrutiny to the political career of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee. It remains an open question why they have not done the same thing to Barack Obama, who is, after all, a candidate for president.

Much of Palin’s record, as outlined in a 2006 opposition-research document from the campaign of her Democratic opponent for governor (obtained by Politico), is positive and impressive. As mayor, she fought against laws to shorten bar hours in Wasilla, and against unnecessary and arbitrary statewide laws limiting the hours of alcohol sales. She called for spending reductions and a hiring freeze in state government. She helped keep crisis-pregnancy centers — which provide support for women who might otherwise feel forced into having abortions — open by providing very modest city funding.

Conservatives should not overlook Sarah Palin’s faults. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin went to her state’s senators, congressmen, and state legislators with hat in hand. She asked for earmarks to build sewers and shelters in her town. As governor, she originally supported Alaska’s controversial Bridge to Nowhere. She would finally scrap the bridge when conservatives nationally highlighted it in their indictment of congressional earmarking. It is highly unusual for mayors and governors to turn down federal money on principle when congressmen and senators are willing to provide it. But Palin’s late conversion to the cause might still disappoint some fiscal conservatives.

Palin was also once accused of receiving two faxes in her city-hall office from the designer of a logo for her unsuccessful 2002 bid for lieutenant governor (of course, it is not really possible to block a fax). She was also accused of arranging a campaign trip from her city office, and of having an assistant take care of printing up her campaign Thank You notes while on the city clock.

But the most impressive part of Palin’s resumé, and the sharpest contrast with Obama’s, is how she has taken on Alaska Republicans, fighting against political corruption in her own party and taking on some of the biggest names in the state. She may not have as much time in elected office as Obama, but Palin at least has a reform resumé, something that Obama cannot legitimately claim.

Facing an environment much like Chicago — corrupt, one-party rule, dominated by long-entrenched incumbents and special interests — Palin has rocked the boat. This year, the powerful 18-term Republican congressman Don Young has been under investigation for gifts he may have taken from VECO, a corrupt and now-defunct oil services firm whose CEO had bribed several state legislators. Palin did not just endorse Young’s primary challenger, but she actually surprised and delighted attendees of the state party convention by announcing the challenge there for the first time.

This alone is more than anyone can say about Obama, who has never challenged the corruption of his city and has frequently backed its perpetrators. He has demonstrated a craven willingness to endorse anyone favored by Mayor Richard M. Daley, no matter how crooked or damaging to the city. Obama’s record has frequently placed him in opposition to the bipartisan reformers who have tried to clean up Chicago’s massive and systemic corruption problem. He endorsed Daley last year and in 2006 he endorsed Todd Stroger, whose cronyism and machine politics are well-documented in the Chicago press. In the 2006 primary, Obama endorsed Dorothy Tillman, an Alderman who pulled a gun on her colleagues during a redistricting hearing, and who (as was explained to me only recently) had in fact become a Daley ally out of necessity after opposing him earlier in her career.

Palin, in contrast, has fought Republicans when necessary. In 2004, she stuck her neck out when she backed Mike Miller in his primary challenge to Republican senator Lisa Murkowski. The moderate Murkowski’s appointment by her own father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, had broken the latter’s trust with voters, which he never regained. Conservatives cried nepotism. Miller lost that race, but two years later, Palin would challenge and defeat Gov. Murkowski by a 30-point margin. His administration was by then scarred with scandal — his chief of staff was forced to plead guilty for $69,000 in illegal in-kind help from VECO in the governor’s campaign.Palin also clashed with Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the state Republican party, and forced him off the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she served as ethics chair. She also tried, unsuccessfully, to have him replaced in his party position. Palin accused Ruedrich of seeking reimbursement from the state for partisan political activity. He had also colluded with energy companies that he was supposed to be regulating on the commission, leaking a confidential commission memo to them and at times acting like their unofficial spokesman in interviews and meetings with communities.

The Anchorage Daily News later reported how the issue was resolved: “[W]hen Ruedrich settled state ethics charges June 22 [2004] by paying a record $12,000 civil fine and admitting wrongdoing, Palin said she finally felt some measure of vindication for bucking Ruedrich and members of her party.”

The Democrats’ 63-page document on Palin’s experience as an executive contains none of the self-dealing that characterizes Sen. Barack Obama’s legislative career. Both in Illinois and in Washington, Obama has used his position to cosponsor legislation that rained millions of dollars upon Tony Rezko and his other major donors in the slum-development business, to obtain state grants for his private law clients, and to earmark funds for government contractors who donated money to his campaigns and even to his wife’s employer, which had just given her an annual $200,000 raise.

By way of contrast, Mayor Palin once tried to get the Wasilla city council to cut her own pay, because she had opposed and voted against a $4,000 mayoral pay raise when she served on the council.

Palin has a record. She has sided with reformers and even taken on her own former allies if they turn out to deserve it (Gov. Murkowski, for example, had once given her an appointment). It is certainly possible that she has done such things from ulterior motives. And she could have gone further, too — say, by finding and championing a serious candidate (if one exists) to run against the recently exposed and indicted Senate Republican Ted Stevens, who was until recently the biggest and most popular politician in the state aside from Palin.

But at least Palin did something about the corruption in her state and in her party. That’s a lot more than Barack Obama can say of his career in Chicago.

Funny man Jerry Reed was a guitarist's guitarist

Despite film roles, music was his life

By PETER COOPER • Staff Writer • September 3, 2008
The Nashville Tennessean

Jerry Reed 1937-2008

Jerry Reed (L) with Waylon Jennings

Jerry Reed, country music's howling virtuoso and a star of stage, studio and screen, died Sunday just before midnight at his Brentwood home.

Mr. Reed, born Jerry Reed Hubbard, suffered from emphysema and was in hospice care. He was 71, and he leaves an unparalleled legacy of laughter and song.

"All of us pickers owe him so much," said recording artist and guitar player Brad Paisley. "Jerry Reed's instrumentals are required learning if you want to play country guitar. And every move he made was to entertain, and make the world more fun. Because he was such a great, colorful personality with his acting and songs and entertaining, sometimes people didn't even notice that he was just about the best guitarist you'll ever hear."

By the time Mr. Reed came to popular attention as Burt Reynolds' truck-driving sidekick "The Snowman" in the Hollywood Smokey and the Bandit trilogy, he was already a musical deity to the guitar players who admired the syncopated flurries he unleashed with a casual gleam. He also was a hit-making singer-songwriter by then, having topped the charts with "When You're Hot, You're Hot" and "Lord, Mr. Ford," and having written songs for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Brenda Lee and others. Then there was his work as session guitarist for Presley, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare and many others.

Mr. Reed enjoyed his comedic Hollywood roles (which included a part in the 1998 Adam Sandler film The Waterboy), and he often smiled when movie fans would ask for an autograph without realizing that he was a singer and guitarist of significance. Music was most important to him, though. Asked by interviewer Frank Goodman which facet of music he preferred — songwriter, solo guitarist, session man or entertainer — Mr. Reed said, "Hey, that's like trying to pick out your favorite leg."

"There's nothing on earth as powerful as music, period," he told Goodman. "I mean, it's pretty hard to fight and hate and be angry when you're making music, isn't it?"

As Mr. Reed's health declined in recent years, he focused on spiritual studies and on bringing attention to veterans' issues.

"For 50 years, all I'd done was take, take, take," he told The Tennessean's Tim Ghianni in 2007. "I decided from now on it is going to be giving. And I'm way behind. We're all way behind. We live this life like what's down here is what it's all about. We're temporary, son, like a wisp of smoke."

'Nothing else' mattered

Mr. Reed was born in Atlanta on March 20, 1937. He was the son of cotton mill workers Robert Spencer Hubbard and Cynthia Hubbard, who divorced in their son's first year. From fall of 1937 until 1944, the boy lived in orphanages and foster homes. He rejoined his mother when she married mill worker Hubert Howard in 1944.

Already transfixed by music, Mr. Reed listened to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio each Friday night, jumping around on a woodpile in lieu of a stage, and playing a hairbrush as if it was a rhythm guitar. Noticing his enthusiasm, Cynthia Howard bought a used guitar from a neighbor for $7, presented it to her son and taught him two chords. He began striking the strings with a thumb pick, a practice he continued throughout his career. When a guitar teacher told him to discontinue that method, an already headstrong Mr. Reed dropped the teacher rather than the pick.

Hearing finger-style guitarist Merle Travis play "I Am A Pilgrim" caused young Mr. Reed to aspire to something beyond simplicity.

"I thought when I heard it, 'Boy, there it is! That man is walking with the big dog. He knows where the bodies are buried, and I want some of that,' " Mr. Reed told Bob Anderson in a 1979 interview.

Another hero was banjo great Earl Scruggs, and Mr. Reed ultimately arrived at a guitar style that fused Scruggs' rapid torrents of notes with the rhythms heard in Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." That is the style that made Mr. Reed an inspiration to generations of guitarists. Though he would not fully realize his signature sound until the 1960s, he spent his high school years honing his musical and performing chops and displaying a talent and magnetism that set him apart from others at school.

In 1954, he played a self-penned song called "Aunt Meg's Wooden Leg" for Atlanta publisher and radio host Bill Lowery, who began managing and booking the young man. A 30-day tour opening shows for Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours ensued, and the experience was enough to convince Mr. Reed that high school was of little use to him.

"I knew what I was going to spend my life doing," he later said. "Nothing else made any sense. Nothing else made any difference."

'It really broke his heart'

In 1954, a 17-year-old Mr. Reed played a show in Atlanta in honor of country star Faron Young, who had been discharged from the Army. Ken Nelson, who ran Capitol Records, attended the Atlanta show. Lowery, who had hired Mr. Reed as a disc jockey at Atlanta's WGST, told Nelson that Capitol could do worse than to sign the cotton mill boy from Georgia.

Reluctant to sign such a young act, Nelson acquiesced. He told Mr. Reed to wait until his 18th birthday before recording, and in October 1955 the men entered a Nashville studio and made a record. First single "If The Good Lord's Willing And The Creeks Don't Rise" made no great commercial waves, and neither did follow-up single "I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter." And neither did any others of Mr. Reed's Capitol recordings, as he flailed about for a form that rang true. He moved through country, pop and rockabilly, to little avail.

"My records were selling like hot cakes: about 50 cents a stack," he joked in later years.

Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed at the CMA Award Show at Grand Ole Opry House. (10/13/80)

In 1958, Mr. Reed ended his association with Capitol. He enlisted in the Army in 1959, the year he married Priscilla "Prissy" Mitchell. Army brass thought Mr. Reed's talents better suited for a stage than a battlefield, and the would-be warrior became a member of the army's Circle A Wranglers band.

Brenda Lee — a member of both the country and rock 'n' roll halls of fame — remembered that Mr. Reed was in full military uniform when he saw her at the Atlanta airport and mentioned that he had a song that would be good for her. That song, "That's All You Gotta Do," was a Top 10 pop hit for Lee, and it was the flip side of Lee's wildly popular single "I'm Sorry." That success was a change for the better, as were a 1961 military discharge and the development of a unique guitar-playing method that would later be called "claw style."

"If (Merle) Travis' thumb and index finger picking style was first generation, and Chet Atkins' use of thumb, index and middle finger was second, Reed's use of his entire right hand to pick (the famous 'claw' style) was the wild, untamed and dauntingly complex third generation," wrote historian and journalist Rich Kienzle.

Mr. Reed switched from a steel-stringed acoustic guitar to a nylon-stringed Baldwin model, with an electronic "pickup" that allowed the guitar to be heard above a full band. He signed a Columbia Records contract in 1961, but that deal yielded no hits. His songwriting and session playing proved more lucrative, as he performed on hits for Bobby Bare and penned Porter Wagoner's 1962 No. 1 hit, "Misery Loves Company." And Mr. Reed attracted a high-powered fan in Chet Atkins, the guitar star who ran Nashville's branch of RCA.

"Chet and I had got friendly, and he told me, 'You ain't never going to have a hit recording what's not you. Just go in there and be what you are.' Chet thinks I'm funky," Mr. Reed told Morton Moss of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

Atkins expressed interest in Mr. Reed's signing with RCA, and Mr. Reed broke the news to a Columbia executive that he would like to go to RCA. "It really broke his heart," Mr. Reed recalled later. "Took him about 30 seconds to let me go."

How to sound like Reed

Atkins was determined to record Mr. Reed as an atypical artist rather than molding him into a pre-established model. In his guitar work and in the songs he wrote, Mr. Reed revealed a humor and a wit that set him apart from other performers and endeared him to audiences.

The key was capturing that in a way that didn't dull spontaneity or intelligence, and Atkins figured quite correctly that he knew how to do this. Rather than asking Mr. Reed to write or record for a particular audience demographic, as he'd done on Capitol and Columbia, Atkins insisted that Mr. Reed be Mr. Reed.

"I owe almost every bit of success that has come to me to Chet Atkins," Mr. Reed told the Associated Press in 1999. "He's a nonconformist, and he suggested that I just play my guitar and sing my songs and he'd release singles."

The first best result of Mr. Atkins' prodding was instrumental showcase "The Claw," so named because of the way Mr. Reed's hand looked when playing in his intricate style.

Then, Mr. Reed came up with "Guitar Man," which showcased his guitar work, voice and storytelling ability. "Guitar Man" was followed by "Tupelo Mississippi Flash," which became Mr. Reed's first Top 20 hit, in 1967. "Tupelo Mississippi Flash" was a funky laugher that poked fun at an industry executive who didn't understand the power and reach of Elvis Presley.

In fact, Presley recorded two songs from Mr. Reed's pen, "U.S. Male" and "Guitar Man." Presley was unhappy with others' attempts to recreate Mr. Reed's guitar sound, and Mr. Reed received a telephone call from producer Felton Jarvis, asking how he did what he did. Mr. Reed told Jarvis that the only way to get the Jerry Reed sound was to have Jerry Reed on the session, asserting that most studio players are "straight pickers," while "I play with my fingers and tune that guitar up all weird kind of ways."

Jarvis, and Presley, took note, and Mr. Reed performed on the Presley sessions. It all made sense: The only way to sound like Jerry Reed was to be Jerry Reed.

A gentle 'wild man'

Mr. Reed wrote "Alabama Wild Man," a Top 50 country hit in 1968 that gave the native Georgian a fun but geographically incorrect nickname. Anyway, Bare said the only thing wild about Mr. Reed was his onstage persona.

"He was actually the opposite of the 'wild man' thing," said Bare, who spent hundreds of hours fishing with Mr. Reed on placid lakes where wildness isn't in demand. It should be noted that Mr. Reed, the product of a broken union, stayed married to Prissy Hubbard until his death.

"Jerry was as funny as the day is long, but he was a gentle, kind, sweet family man," Lee said. "He was precious."

Jerry Reed poses with his guitar during an interview on Feb. 15, 1999, in Nashville, Tenn. The 61-year-old singer and guitarist is promoting "Pickin," his first album of new music in nearly a decade.

A breakthrough career moment for Mr. Reed came in late 1970, when the funny, funky and swampy "Amos Moses" landed in the Top 10 of the pop charts and in the Top 20 of the country charts. An instrumental with Atkins won a Grammy in 1971, and the following year Mr. Reed won a best country male performance Grammy for his first No. 1 country smash, appropriately titled "When You're Hot, You're Hot." Two years later, he hit No. 1 again with the modern times lament "Lord, Mr. Ford."

During this time, Mr. Reed was also appearing regularly on friend Glen Campbell's Goodtime Hour, and television types took notice of his charisma. In 1974, he played a joke-cracking role in W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. His best-loved film role came in 1977, when he starred as Cledus Snow, aka "The Snowman," in the Reynolds flick Smokey and the Bandit. Mr. Reed co-wrote the movie's theme song, "East Bound and Down," which spent two weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard country singles chart.

"We were fishing out at Percy Priest Lake and Jerry told me about a movie coming out called Smokey and the Bandit," Bare said. "I didn't think too much about it at the time. We were chasing rockfish. But when I watched him on the screen, I realized he was a really good actor."

The Hollywood success and country hits provided smiles for Mr. Reed's casual fans, but musicians also took notice of the staggering virtuosity behind the records. Brent Mason, now a top session musician in Nashville, calls Mr. Reed "my favorite guitar player of all time."

"He called himself a 'guitar thinker,' not a 'guitar player,'" Mason said. "He would find new ways to play things, and you can play his songs over and over and hear something new inside them every time. I've been stealing from Jerry Reed for years. It was extraordinary, brilliant playing."
Mason and scores of others sought to decipher the secrets behind Mr. Reed's rocket-fueled licks. As Guitar Town struggled to catch up, Mr. Reed notched another No. 1 hit with "She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft)" and a No. 2. effort with "The Bird," in which Mr. Reed displayed his spot-on impressions of Willie Nelson and George Jones.

In terms of chart runs and guitar innovation, that was it. Mr. Reed had no Top 20 hits after 1983, and his triumphs after that were limited to live performance and movie roles. But the sound he got out of his guitar in the years between 1967 and 1983 is an influence that is more than temporary, more than a wisp of smoke.

"Like Django (Reinhardt), Chet and a few others, Jerry Reed created a unique style of guitar playing, one which will be carried on by admirers for generations to come," said musician David Hungate. Scholar John Knowles told Thomas Goldsmith, "His playing has the complexity of classical music but the rhythmic sense that comes from country, rock and gospel." And bass man Henry Strzelecki, who played on "Amos Moses," "Lord, Mr. Ford" and other Reed hits, said, "Jerry brought rhythm and blues and country together, and it came out funk. He's one of the finest talents we've known. And he made people happy. You couldn't be sad around Jerry."

Mr. Reed's own assessments of his career involved smiling, head-shaking disbelief.

"I got to write hit songs," he told interviewer Calvin Gilbert in 2005. "And I got to be on phonograph records. … I'm a cotton mill boy, and I got to go to Hollywood. Can you imagine that? Why, yeah, my goodness gracious. Go figure."

There were plenty who never knew of Mr. Reed as anything more than "The Snowman," or as the coach in The Waterboy. He was funny, and an entertainer, and in terms of moviemaking that was enough. He fully understood that most of the general public didn't know that he was one of the most compellingly original guitarists of all time, and he fully understood that many session guitarists not only understood it but also attempted to replicate his feel and technique. And he was fine with all of that.

In the end, Mr. Reed sought neither acknowledgment nor celebration, to the point that he requested a quick and private funeral. He was buried Tuesday afternoon in Nashville. He is survived by wife Priscilla Hubbard, by daughters Seidina Hinesley and Charlotte Elaine "Lottie" Stewart, and by grandson Jerry Roe and granddaughter Lainey Stewart.

Mr. Reed's only regret regarding the guitar was that his declining health meant he could no longer play. Making music would have been a comfort in his final months. Instead, he enjoyed the company of family, and the visits from old friends like Lee and Bare.

They told stories and jokes, and Reed sometimes got to laughing so hard that he had to pause and try to be serious in order to catch his fragile breath. They talked about the good times and the dumb luck, and the fullness of some lives. And on an August day, Reed told Bare something he'd been thinking a lot about: the fact that everything he'd ever dreamed had come true.

Reach Peter Cooper at 615-259-8220 or