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Thu September 6, 2007
"Tulips for Lunch" - Chuck Brodsky
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - Inspiration for a songwriter can come from a variety of sources the people you meet, the places you go all true for Asheville resident Chuck Brodsky, and all represented on his latest CD. George Olsen got up with Chuck during a rare break from the road for Chuck and has this.
If you've listened to the music of Chuck Brodsky for any length of time, you're most familiar with him in the guise of storyteller his recounting of incidents or scenes of his rural community or those he's visited or his baseball ballads recounting the tales of such folk as baseball clown Max Patkin or Fred Bonehead Merkle. Chuck's latest CD Tulips for Lunch continues that tradition more baseball ballads, even a ping-pong ballad more about that later but includes a few tunes where he's telling the story of no one.
22:15 The sheer need to complete an assignment.
That's Chuck's response to my question about the inspiration behind the tune Two Left Feet.
If you listen to Chuck's music, you tend to listen trying to decide whose story he's trying to tell. I thought Two Left Feet might be his own, Chuck being recently married. Nope. It was an assignment he received at a songwriter's retreat he teaches at in Michigan on a yearly basis.
23:03 I primarily tell real people's stories. I've been especially interested in ordinary people doing extraordinary things and that's been my focus, then there's the baseball songs, etc. But to make up a story, that's outside what I've doing for many years now.
One other song from Tulips for Lunch resulted from Chuck's participation in that Michigan songwriter's retreat it's the aforementioned ping-pong ballad, though in this case some of the inspiration came direct from Chuck's own experiences.
05:30 I actually wrote that song as a big metaphor. I did play ping-pong literally with my dad every night after dinner. On one level I tried to make the song work literally, but it's a lot deeper than that. It's about the father/child relationship. I'll use myself as an example getting to my teens and getting a bit more outspoken and rebellious and the typical clashes that a teenager might have with his father, then coming full circle where you realize the point of it all is hanging out and spending time. Nobody has to be right.
Tulips for Lunch also includes a football ballad The Great Santa Snowball Debacle of 1968 which recounts a somewhat-famous instance of Santa Claus being booed by fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. But lest you worry he's moved on from his fascination with baseball a fascination which has led to his performing his baseball ballads on several occasions at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown he hasn't. Tulips includes two new baseball ballads one recounting the Curse of the Billy Goat that was put upon the Chicago Cubs in 1945 and reportedly still holds and another of a less known story the Death Row All-Stars whose title describes the exact circumstances surrounding the team.
03:38 Well, the fact that the players were playing for their lives, and as long as they kept winning they would be granted stays of execution. The club's manager, the prison warden and the judge, local judge who were betting on the team and making money off of them winning, so as long as they kept winning. So the players were all on death row at the time so they all kept getting stays of execution, but if they started losing, players started messing up in the field or at bat, the next thing they knew they would get an execution date just a few days later.
The Death Row All-Stars came about after Chuck stumbled upon a book of the same name. Some of the tunes on Tulips for Lunch came from suggestions & stories told to him by audience members Mary the Elephant about an elephant hung in Tennessee for a quote-unquote murder and The Unreliable Taxi about, well, an unreliable taxi. But Tulips also features one song not suggested by a listener but about an actual listener The Man Who Blew Kisses.
19:24 I was at a festival in Nova Scotia, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, performing on the stage and out in front of me was a group from the local home for the developmentally disabled. There was a fellow by the name of Arthur who was about 30-40 feet in front of me in the audience. The entire 45 minutes I was on the stage he stood there blowing kisses at me and dancing around and clapping his hands and having the time of his life. I thought about him for a long time. In the moment I was so taken by it that between songs I started blowing kisses back, and all 7000 people were sort of in on this. It was a pretty special experience for everybody, myself most of all.
But for all the songs suggested by other people or assigned by other people, there's still the occasional tune direct from Chuck's life special not just for that fact but for the message his friend conveyed one that every musician hopes to see be passed on.
15:05 It was a person that I know who did that, found out about a little girl in her community that, whose mother couldn't afford to keep renting her the flute she was using to take lessons on and this little girl had to drop out of the school band and was heart broken. The woman in the holler found out about it thru the grapevine and happened to have a flute she was given when she was a little girl and many years had gone by since she last played it. She understood that a musical instrument should be played and shouldn't be sitting in a closet somewhere so she decided to pass it on with a very beautiful note she wrote to the little girl explaining how it was now hers, and should a day come when she finds herself not playing it anymore that she should pass it on. So the whole spirit of it was something that I thought was special and needed to be written up and celebrated.
A Toast to the Woman in the Holler from Chuck Brodsky's latest CD Tulips for Lunch. Chuck performs this Friday and Saturday in a pair of shows sponsored by the Down East Folk Arts Society. Friday he's at the Trent River Coffee Company in New Bern. Saturday he's at Clawson's Restaurant in Beaufort. Both shows start at 8:00 pm. I'm George Olsen.