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JIM SHORTS – my first book

jim shorts cover.png

This isn’t a book for everyone. (I’m quite the salesman, aren’t I?) Inspired and influenced by the wordplayful writings of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, Edward Lear and John Lennon, Jim Shorts is a decidedly non-mainstream collection of 50 stories, poems and specialty forms (playlets, advice column, letter, magazine article, etc.) with line drawing illustrations. In an era more suited to soundbites and short attention spans, the dense wordplay and punning preclude this from being a quick and easy read. Evelyn Wood herself, rest her speed-reading soul, would have been hard-pressed to zoom through my pages, at least without grasping the enhanced meanings the altered spellings and fused words add to these fictional pieces. Therein lies the key. The strange words are not arbitrary and haphazard. This is not merely a trunkload of malaprops (though there are many). This is not Norm Crosby on acid. No, most every syllable is deliberate and, more often than not, contextual. Some of the poems do appear in “straight” language, placed at intervals to clear the mental palette, as it were, but the majority of the book is stylistically what has become known as Joycean. Actually, while indebtedly tipping a glass and raising a hat to those afourmentioned authors, I would prefer, at the very least, Geoycean. Or better yet, Georgean.

How would I categorize it? Nonsense? Sure. Surreal? Definitely. Absurdist? Guilty. Avant-garde? Fair enough. Experimental? OK, but no Bunsen burners were used in the creation of this book. Above all that, humor–be it black, satirical or just plain wacky–is the aim. And in my art of arts, I do believe it’s a very funny book. Funny, punny and honey for those who are sweet on words and have a taste for cunninglinguistics. (Which reminds me, be advised there is adult content, albeit in distorted language.)

What are the stories and poems about? In plain English–unlike the stories themselves–“Blue Spaghetti” is about a floundering restaurateur who tries to spice up business by serving up a gimmicky, colorful dish called Pasta Azul. A disaffected young man with bad skin finds solace when he runs away to join other like-faced comrades in the “The Fresh Foreign Lesion.” A bandleader with a strict dress code faces a mutiny from players who want to wear shorts onstage in “The Litre of the Band.” “The Cardsharks” are a roving trio who goes door-to-door, forcing their hosts into playing card games for money that the intruders invariably win. In “Orville’s Raccoon Problem,” the protagonist faces a murder charge for axing his mother-in-law while claiming that in the dark garage he mistook her for a large raccoon. Not quite feel-good stories. Then again, if they trigger anything from chuckles to guffaws in the reader, maybe they are.

After wasting far too much time chasing my tale(s) seeking a publisher and finding them unwilling to even read the book, self-publishing seemed my only option. However, that method, too, is problematic, as I cannot afford to print hard copies. Furthermore, due to the idiosyncrasies in the book’s layout, it cannot be uploaded to the usual ebook formats. Consequently, I have decided to release it on a grassroots (sha la la la la, I live for today) level as a simple PDF. As such, it can be viewed in a two-page open-book format, which is better suited to an illustrated offering like this. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s easily emailed, and, most importantly, it’s the book I created in the form I wanted without any interference from a muddleman.

And so, if any of you would like to try on Jim Shorts (one size fits all), it can be purchased at: https://payhip.com/b/Tf2K

Thanks for lending an eye.

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

MY MIND’S EYEFUL – My First Children’s Book

my mind's eyeful

(© 2019 Jim George)

When I was a kid, we used to play this game in which we’d close our eyes and tell each other what we were “seeing” within the murky darkness of closed eyelids. Informed by our own imaginations, we would concentrate and soon perceive shapes of people, animals and objects in various surreal (at least in my case) scenarios.

That is the premise of my first children’s book, My Mind’s Eyeful. Because a rainy day prevents him from venturing outside to play, a little boy instead travels inside his own fertile imagination and recounts to the reader the zany things he has observed. The words “dream” and “sleep” are never used because it’s not slumber-induced. (What young lad naps of his own free will?) More of a daydream—with eyes wide shut, to borrow a phrase—an adventure unfolds simply by the boy closing his eyes and allowing his mind to usher him through this carnival of the absurd, where Lewis Carroll and Shel Silverstein might feel at home.

In creating this book, my modus operandi was probably the opposite of the way most authors work. Rather than write a narrative and then illustrate it after the fact, I went through drawings of mine and wrote verses (in normal English!) to fit each visual I chose. Every picture did indeed tell a story, and each one became a different scene.

My Mind’s Eyeful is available as a PDF for $6. As with my first book, Jim Shorts (read all about it in another blog here), I elected to make it available in this format for a few reasons. For one, I am unwilling to spend months or years hustling to get traditional publishers to read it, let alone publish it. For another, once again I cannot afford to print physical copies—although, even if I could, I wouldn’t pay a vanity press to produce it in a different form necessary to fit the limitations (size, layout, fonts, etc.) of a template. Most importantly, the book can be issued exactly as conceived, with no concessions—artistic or financial—to any editor or publisher who doesn’t see eyeful to eyeful with my vision.

Anyone interested in this oddventure with nary a video game or smartphone anywhere within its pages can purchase My Mind’s Eyeful at: https://payhip.com/b/cnXV

my mind's eyeful-back

(Back cover © 2019 Jim George)

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

STELLLLLLA!! (The Backstory of My Stella Stevens Interview Appearing in Cinema Retro Issue #42)

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I probably first became aware of Stella Stevens in Playboy during my adolescence. In my circle of friends at the time was a fat boy I’ll call Larry. Although he was a classmate, because of his size and girth, Larry appeared older than the rest of us. I can’t recall if we elected him or if he boasted that he could do it, but just the same, he was put to the test and moseyed into his neighborhood corner store to buy a copy of Playboy using coins we’d all chipped in. While we anxiously waited outside, like some wheel men in a bank robbery, Larry emerged with a grin and a paper bag that signaled success. It worked! He got the goods!

This was our routine when a new issue hit the stands, and Larry always came through. Returning home with all of us in tow, and steering clear of his mother, our portly pal would smuggle the magazine, tucked under his shirt, into the house and promptly upstairs to his room. There in his lair, we would excitedly crowd around as Larry riffled through the pages—past the liquor ads, Jean Shepherd stories and Gahan Wilson cartoons–to the “Sex in the Cinema” section or the layouts that featured famous actresses au naturel. Then, with Larry authoritatively manning a razor blade, the glorious photos would be excised and divvied up amongst us. I nabbed the Stella Stevens ones. Which I still have.

Fast-forward to 1993. Having watched most of her films over the years and having seen or read interviews with her, I thought she’d be interesting and fun to talk to, so I queried the editor of Femme Fatales magazine to see if the idea of a Stella Stevens interview appealed to him. He liked my credits as a freelancer and immediately gave me the go-ahead. After putting in my request to Stevens’ publicist, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from Stella herself to personally schedule the interview. She was open, honest, earthy, quotable and as enjoyable as I’d imagined, and I ended up doing the interview right then and there, winging it as I hadn’t prepared any notes. She graciously agreed to talk again and address any additional or follow-up questions I might have. Soon afterward, she sent me a large envelope containing her latest 8×10 pin-up photos and a hand-written letter.

Unfortunately, the editor would never give me a straight answer as to how much I would be paid for the piece if accepted. I’ve dealt with many editors over the years, and they never mince words over payment (or, in some cases, non-payment), so that was a red flag. Byliner beware. When, after being asked for the umpteenth time, Mr. Vague finally gave me a figure, he quickly added, “But don’t hold me to that.” By that point, my patience had reached its limit, and I never finished or submitted the article. Curiously enough, he never asked for it either, and so I considered it a closed issue–in both senses of the word.

Last year, when I read the sad news that Stevens was in a care facility suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, not only did it literally hit home, as I lived through the nightmarish disease as a caregiver for my afflicted father, but it also triggered a fond memory of what a dream subject Stevens was when I conducted that never-published phone interview with her all those years ago. Rummaging through my archives, I unearthed the scribbled transcript of that ’93 conversation and crafted it into the Q&A that has just been published in Cinema Retro (Issue #42).

Among the topics covered are some of Stevens’ favorite roles, working with such directors as Sam Peckinpah and Jerry Lewis, the plight of aging actresses, her exit from and re-entry into Hollywood, her move into directing, and the charity work that gave her a sense of fulfillment.

It’s a good one because Stella was a good one.

http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/categories/15-Current-Issue

THE SECOND COMING OF JOHN & YOKO

maxresdefault(This, with a few edits, is a newspaper piece I wrote on the release of John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy. It was published on Nov. 30, 1980, two weeks after the record’s release and eight days before Lennon’s murder. Despite all the hoopla, the much-anticipated album did not shoot straight to the top of the charts until after the tragedy (which gives the phrase “Number One with a Bullet” a chilling irony) and some critics were not kind. My editor at the time told me that following Lennon’s death, some of the bad reviews were pulled before publication and rewritten .)

 

Whether he was reshaping the world as a Beatle, giving peace a chance, exposing his jagged psyche, traipsing left-ward with the likes of Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, about-facing and shunning the mixed-up media or settling down to family life in any one of his home-sweet-homes, John Lennon and his art have been one.

Mercurial, eccentric, quick-witted and brilliantly talented, Lennon has always plunged heart-first into anything he’s created. He’s given pieces of himself on the printed page (his two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works) and on celluloid (the avant-garde films he shot with Yoko Ono). Vinyl-ly, with his records, he’s invariably left blood on the tracks (as Mr. Zimmerman would say) with his confessional offerings, beginning with such compositions as “Help” and “I’m a Loser.”

Though the mythology of The Beatles has in some ways proven to be a weighty albatross for him and the rest of the Fab Foursome, it was in the context of the group that he first quaked the earth. Lennon was the controversial one, the dream-weaver and the wave-maker. The intellectually-inclined slice of The Beatles’ audience gravitated, predictably, toward the brainy, zany Lennon.

No, he wasn’t The Beatles. No one of them was. But as Pete Hamill wrote, “In some way, John had been the engine of the group, the artistic armature driving the machine beyond its own limits, restless, easily bored, in love with speed the way Picasso was in love with speed, and possessed of a hoodlum’s fanatic heart.”

The post-Beatles Lennon was once likened to Sisyphus; indeed, ever since Yoko Ono supplanted Paul McCartney as his partner-in-rhyme, Lennon has been a twentieth-century Sisyphus, pushing his rock (and roll) uphill, with snide snipers taking pot shots at him—and, especially, his paramour—at every opportunity.
In their early days together, this ripening pair weathered a lot of bruises and eventually parted ways and means, only to be reunited eighteen months later because, as Lennon put it, “the separation didn’t work out.”

And then in ’75, with a pocketful of fresh songs and on the verge of booking studio time, the Lennons had a baby boy and John unplugged his guitar and stopped dead in his soundtracks.

“I became an artist because I cherished freedom—I couldn’t fit into a classroom or office,” he told Newsweek recently. “Freedom was the plus for all the minuses of being an oddball! But suddenly I was obliged to a record company, obliged to the media, obliged to the public. I wasn’t free at all!”

So he clammed up, offed the record, and became a hearth-and-homebody focused on the raising of his son. The man who back in ‘72 wrote the pro-woman anthem “Woman is the Nigger of the World” (which, sadly, was squashed dead by misguided objections to the title—usually by white males, as Lennon pointed out) went one better and swapped roles with Yoko. She became the breadwinner, he the bread baker. The Lennons invested in dairy cows and real estate, and it was moos and moola for five years.

Now 40, he has rolled away the stone and reappeared with a hot new single, “Starting Over,” and a grand-new album, Double Fantasy. Ah, but to set the record straight, this is not just a John Lennon album. It’s the Second Coming of John and Yoko. And it’s a superlative double-headed triumph.

Like it or not, it took guts on Lennon’s part to divvy up the 14-numbered LP with his wife. After all, their last collaboration, in ’72, was Sometime in New York City, generally considered to be the rough nadir of Lennon’s recorded output (not counting the trio of avant-garde albums, Two Virgins, Life With the Lions and Wedding Album). Consequently, starting over together, for better or for worse, as the wedding vowels go, could be sales-suicide. For the record, while doing well, the album currently is not topping the charts.

“It’s like a play,” Lennon said of Double Fantasy. “We wrote the play and we’re acting in it. It’s John and Yoko—you could take it or leave it…otherwise, it’s cows and cheese! Being with Yoko makes me whole. I don’t want to sing if she’s not there.”

Therefore, she is there with seven originals. One of them, “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” concludes with orgasmic panting, for which Yoko will, no doubt, get slam-banged once again. More exhibitionism, they will say. But no one crucified Donna Summer for doing it in “Love to Love You Baby.” Different strokes? Quite possibly.

Yoko clearly doesn’t have the pipes of a diva, but some credit is due. In 1970, Lennon told Rolling Stone, “She makes music like you’ve never heard on earth…It’s fantastic. It’s like 20 years ahead of its time.” Or maybe 10. Listen to The B-52s. Yoko was on the New Wavelength before it had a name.

But before anyone screams, “Yoko oh no!” about her inclusion on the new album, be advised that the oral hijinks are minimal, and her seven contributions are her finest to date. They include the lovely, classical-tinged “Beautiful Boys,” the edgy “I’m Moving On” and the ska-flavored “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him.”

John, on the other half, has never sounded more contented overall. As contented as those quarter-of-a-million-bucks-apiece Holstein cows the couple owns. In “Watching the Wheels,” he speaks of his at-long-last peace:

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

“I’m not interested in other people’s work—only so much as it affects me,” he said to Newsweek. “I have the great honor of never having been to Studio 54 and I’ve never been to any rock clubs. It’s like asking Picasso, has he been to the museum lately?”

The theme of Double Fantasy, which is a Jack Douglas and Lennons co-production, is simply John loves Yoko loves John. Not forgetting son Sean for whom John’s lovely lullaby “Beautiful Boy” was written. Lennon’s dreamy “Woman” is as beautiful and sensitive as anything in his catalog:

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man
Please remember my life is in your hands

In his funky “Cleanup Time,” a verse of which reminds one of his nursery rhyme-like “Cry Baby Cry” from The Beatles’ White Album, Lennon sings of his and Yoko’s juxtapositions:

The queen is in the counting house
Counting out the money
The king is in the kitchen
Making bread and honey

Yet, despite the album’s apparent bliss-blitz, the pair’s life together—“so precious together” (a little too precious for some people, it seems)—is not all Peaches and Herb. The underbellyaches of love are also exposed. Their fears, insecurities and tensions bubble to the surface in such cuts as Yoko’s “I’m Moving On”:

But now you’re giving me your window smile
I’m moving on, moving on, it’s getting phony

In John’s “I’m Losing You,” he sings:

I know I hurt you then
But hell that was way back when
Do you still have to carry that cross?

But the riled side of life is not dwelled upon, and Yoko concludes the album with an expression of hope in the gospel-tinged“Hard Times Are Over”:

It’s been very hard
But it’s getting easier now
Hard times are over
Over for a while

It is a fitting and optimistic finale to John and Yoko’s new peace of the rock.

THE CARDSHARKS

(This poem is from my book Jim Shorts.)

 

cardsharks

Raoul, Sylvie and her half-a-brother Yish
Were door-to-door cardsharks in search of sum fish.
“Let us in or we’ll torcher!” they all chunted with gleem,
All afiery of eye, all connivy of scheme.
“We mean no borderly harm,” they taled a nu family.
“Off course if you ‘fuse, we’re three pyros, you see!
“So ply us a few rounds of blackjag or poka,
“We’ll luff and we’ll merrymake and we’ll java some mocha.
“Is it too mush to ask? ‘Tis in yearnest we’re franker.
“Let’s let bygoons beat bygoons, don’t be sore as a canker!”
The main of the house shivered his timbres quite frightly
As the trio of gusts burched and belped impolitely.
“I demandate de deal!” Raoul Tabasco then sat.
“If it pleaseth the coat, just shaketh you hat.
“Jacks be nubile, jacks be wild,
“Jacks jumbo o’er thy first-bored sonchild,
“Doozies be wild, johnnies be good,
“Redqueens be monty, clift palettes be wood.”
So they plied and they plied by yon slivery moon.
The hosts heebie-jeebied and staid pat as a boone.
The cardsharks won potfuls as they mad their own luck.
Their cop ranneth over with plundy good buck.
“It’s been quite a pledger,” Raoul then boweled graciously.
“You’re a batch of good spots, believest ye me.
“Maybe sobtime we’ll all do it once more for the gypper,
“Only nicks time my Sylvie will bake a yum kipper.”
So into the horizone they twilighted three–
Raoul, spousewife Sylvie and her semi-sibly.
Dem’s de bones, dem’s de breaks, de cookies, de crunch.
Some gets de judy, some gets de punch.

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/first-blog-post/

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/jim-by-george-a-self-interview-on-jim-shorts/

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

 

JERRY LEWIS: THE FILM BUFFOON RETURNS

(In 1981 I wrote a newspaper profile on Jerry Lewis and subsequently sent him a copy. Not long afterward, I received a personal letter of thanks from him. This is the original article.)

jerry lewis letter--

 

Genius is childhood recalled at will.

–Baudelaire

 

If Baudelaire’s definition holds even a speck of truth, therein lies the clue to the European view of Jerry Lewis as a comic genius on par with Chaplin.

“I’m 55, but I’m really nine,” said Lewis in a recent Tomorrow interview. “The key to my whole lifestyle is mischief, and I cannot, as a 55-year-old man, really think mischievously because that demeans my being. But there’s nothing wrong with a nine-year-old thinking that way. I cherish that nine-year-old because he’s everybody. He keeps me young. He keeps me thinking young. He’ll be at my next birthday, and he’ll have the most fun.”

Jerry’s kid, that mannish boy who has bumbled, mumbled and mugged his way through more than 40 films, is about to return to the silly screen for the first time in a decade in Hardly Working, which opens this week. Like it or not, the film buffoon is back.

The French toast Lewis’ comic brilliance. Director Jean-Luc Godard expressed his admiration to an incredulous Dick Cavett not long ago. But in America, there’s a split-decision. Statesiders generally find his juvenile Jerry-atrics either hysterical or grating. And it is the red, white and bluenosed critics who are Lewis’ most vicious detractors.

The reason for the animosity may be simple enough. Like Peter Pan, that impish, jerky, wonder-struck little kid who resides in the body and soul of Jerry Lewis has never aged. Therefore, he has remained unshackled from the rites, wrongs and constraints of society. On one level, he represents freedom. People not so free, people squeezed into role-modeled behavior, people who act the way society says they ought to act are likely to feel threatened by that kid and the freedom he represents. Hence, the jeerleaders.

Lewis’ self-imposed 10-year stretch away from filmmaking was provoked by some overexposure of flesh flicks in the early ‘70s. When the cinematic tide turned from boffo to porno, Lewis took a cab.

“I love the film industry,” he told Tom Snyder. “I took it as a personal affront that they were getting shabby. And it happened with a film I made for Warners, Which Way to the Front? a film I was really in love with. I put two years of a lot of blood and a lot of sweat into it.”

The skin-toned times created a condition which shocked Lewis out of his director’s chair—and right out of the industry. Driving by a theater one disenchanted evening, he spotted the marquee which had double-billed Which Way to the Front? with Deep Throat. That odd coupling resulted in Lewis’ giving Warner Brothers a shouting-room only performance of Hellzapoppin’sans jokes and music. But the Warner Brotherhood had a cop-out: they were so involved with their then-smash Woodstock that they gave the distribution rights of Lewis’ film to other companies.

“Well, I don’t want to know from explanations,” said Lewis, “’cause I was shattered by it. In the mail I got, I was the heavy. The mothers and fathers were writing me, ‘You are someone we allow the children to go to see, and you have a responsibility’ and all that jazz. And I got really turned off, really cold.

“Now the capper was Dick Zanuck comes to see me and he wants me to direct and star in Portnoy’s Complaint. I said, “Dick, that’s not my style. I don’t think I know how to make that kind of film.” Then I got a script where they wanted me to play a homosexual who had committed matricide.

“I said, hey, let me get back to Vegas. I’ll play concerts, I’ll go back to The Palladium in London, I’ll do my thing. And I said it’s got to turn. If it doesn’t turn, at that point I really didn’t ever want to make a film again. And it did turn, starting in ’78.”

Jerry Lewis has always been a G-man; family-oriented films have always been the Lewis trademarquee. Yet, despite all those Jerry-vanilla comedies, he is not about to march behind that other Jerry, the pulpit politico Rev. Falwell, and wage war on pornography. (That would make a hilarious scene, though: the unsure-footed stumblebum Lewis character traipsing behind the preacher like a spastic marionette, yelling in that chalk-screechy voice, “Hey wait for me, Mr. Fellman! Uh Rev. Failsafe! I’m comin’ Rev. Fallout!”)

“I don’t believe in censorship,” said Lewis. “If you want to see a porno film, an audience should have a place to go see it. But it’s a little incongruous and it’s hardly sensible to run Bambi with The Devil in Miss Jones just for the sake of Barnum and Bailey showmanship. The theater should run The Devil in Miss Jones for that audience, but leave Bambi where it belongs. It’s that simple.”

As Lewis hoped, the packaging of flesh and funny bone was a short-lived phenomenon which, he said, “had probably the same chance that the Edsel did, thank God.”

In spite of his predilection for tomfoolish behavior, Lewis is a slapstickler for professionalism. As a director, writer and actor, he takes his comedy seriously. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or any other way. He said, “I hate incompetents. I get very difficult when somebody shouldn’t be in the job they’re holding because they’re keeping it from a man who’s qualified. Moreover, they’re contagious. They’ll run through your crew, and they will dismember that crew.

“I’m making a film that I hope one day my great-great-grandchildren are gonna see. They’re gonna examine my work, and the fabric and character of this man is gonna be up for grabs. I’m not havin’ some moron on the set looking at his watch yawning ‘cause it’s just a job. He’s outa there. That’s only happened twice in 41 films.”

Lewis’ upcoming attractions include roles in Martin Scorsese’s drama, The King of Comedy (which also stars Robert DeNiro), and the screen-bound adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, being directed by Lewis disciple Steven Paul.

The Day the Clown Cried, Lewis’ own dramatic film (his sole to date), has been gathering Swedish dust, along with two Ingmar Bergman films, since 1973. Like the Bergmans, it was shot in Sweden as a Swedish-French co-production. When the political deal soured, the films were stopped dead in their soundtracks. A Godard picture, also part of the (mis)deal, was similarly thrown a French curve and lies in limbo in his homeland.

“They tell us,” Lewis said, “that this year, it looks like they’re gonna make nice with one another, and we can all finish our films.”

However, for the present, comedy comes first. Sight-gagging and language-mangling are back in vogue, and the maestro has returned to show ‘em all how it’s done. Hardly Working has Jerry Lewis heartily working. Maybe he is 10 years older. But that kid is still nine.

 

CHUCK BERRY 1979: OUR FATHER WHO ART IN PRISON

chuck-berry w-credits

In 1979 when Chuck Berry, one of the founding fathers of rock & roll, was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to four months in prison in Lompoc, California, I was moved—provoked, actually—to write a song about him. My mission was twofold: a) to pay tribute to his indelible influence on music in general and mine in particular, and b) to protest what I, perhaps naively, perceived as an injustice. Not knowing the full scope of the case against him, I nevertheless concluded that someone–possibly chromatically motivated–was out to make an example of him. That was in no way excusing or defending the illegal actions to which he pleaded guilty.

“This tax thing that I was in was no bum rap,” he admitted in a 1983 Goldmine interview. “It was straight, true…”

However, as deep in the heart of taxes as the charges might have been, many others who similarly broke the law both before and after him, and often for a lot more than the $200,000 he denied Uncle Sam, were given the chance to pay their debts along with hefty penalties/fines/interest without serving any time. Years later, Willie Nelson, for instance, ran afoul of the law to the sour tune of more than $16,000,000 (that’s 80 times more than what Berry owed), yet he never spent a day behind bars. Crazy indeed. In addition, Berry received a run-on sentence of 1000 hours of community service. Whereas Nelson was On the Road Again, Berry had No Particular Place to Go. At least for four months.

 

The song I came up with, “Free Chuck Berry,” was purposely structured like one of his trademark tunes: a three-chorder featuring machine-gunned lyrics mixing humor with an issue, all propelled by guitar licks plucked straight from the Berry vine. A Chuck Berry song about Chuck Berry. It was a very crude home recording, but to my knowledge, no one–other than Elephant’s Memory with their “Chuck ‘n’ Bo,” which had gone largely unnoticed despite John Lennon’s production”–had written such an homage to the legend, let alone a plea for leniency, and I naturally hoped he would be amused by it.

chuck berry letter-resize3

free chuck berry-

Unfortunately, red tape and Fed tape came between my tape and Chuck Berry. Prison officials sent my recording and letter, unopened, back to me marked “Unauthorized–Return to Sender.” The Sender was not happy.

After three calls to the joint and a round of pass-the-Chuck, I spoke to Berry’s cell-block leader and was informed that inmates, including the famous jailhouse rocker in question, were not permitted to receive any such packages containing bulk items. I guess it’s understandable; you never know what a convicted criminal might do with a cassette tape. And, admittedly, I did hope it would be considered a killer song.

“‘C’est la vie,’ say the old folks, which goes to show you never can tell”

(To hear the song, copy and paste): https://soundcloud.com/jim-george-101/free-chuck-berry-c-jim-george

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

A Poem From JIM SHORTS

brucco-brothers-illustration-lightened2-edit2-png

     THE BRUCKO BROTHERS

The Brucko Brothers,
Buster and Buck,
Cut a fine figure
Despite their ill luck.
“My boys are all legs!”
Their mother exclaimed.
“But we’re fast as the wind!”
They said, unashamed.
“We bear no arms,
“No malice, no grudge.
“We never take handouts,
“And we make a mean fudge.
“We never need French cuffs
“Or mittens or gloves.
“We‘re experts at footsie,
“Just ask our true loves!”

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

JIM SHORTS – my first book

JIM BY GEORGE (A Self-Interview On Jim Shorts)

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