Ron Stutts

The World's Greatest Mother-In-Law

This “Music In My Head” column is going to be a little different, but it’s a reflection of what’s been in my head lately…and there’s music, so here goes: Let me tell you about my mother-in-law. http://youtu.be/gXo04kA60Fg That song was obviously written by someone who had no appreciation for his mother-in-law, maybe with good reason.  Sometimes mothers-in-law get joked about…and that plays right into the old stereotype, that they’re just plain evil, with no good intentions toward their sons-in-law.  That may be true for some, but let me tell you about mine. I loved Sue as much as I loved my own mother, and she was an amazing woman.  She passed away a few days ago, and the world won’t be the same without her.  Anne Beverly Allen Wooten Harkins Montague outlived three husbands, and that’s how she got that long name.  I only knew two of them, since Bev’s dad passed away when she was only eighteen.  Anne Beverly Allen Wooten Harkins Montague was always called “Sue” by her family and friends.  The story goes that her father really wanted to name her Suzzanne, and he lost the argument, but that didn’t stop him from calling her that anyway.  The new name caught on, and eventually, was shortened to Sue.  Sue had three brothers, and it was that way for them, too.  The oldest was Thomas Coley, but...

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People Are People

I promise this is still a column about music, even though it may not appear that way at first.  I don’t consider myself to be an authority on much of anything else, and most days, not even on music, but I love it so I write about it.  These days, however, something else has been weighing heavily on my mind, so this is a good avenue for expressing my thoughts on it.  Amendment One is staring us all in the face.  A lot of folks, including me, have taken advantage of early voting, and, of course, it’s time for the actual Primary Day.  Some people like to wait until that actual day to get to the polls, and that’s cool.  Sadly, though, some don’t vote at all, and that really disturbs me.  Especially this time, with the Proposal for Amendment One on the ballot.  Why certain legislators have chosen to lead this effort to insert discrimination into the Constitution is beyond me.  On the surface of it, it simply says that “Marriage in North Carolina shall only be recognized only if it’s between one man and one woman.”  Well, guess what?  That’s already on the books in North Carolina. So all those people who have distaste, distrust, and disgust with anyone who happens to be gay want to put this so-called amendment into law, to try and take away...

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Protest Music

I was 19 the first year of the lottery system. I’m talking about the U.S. Military Draft Lottery. My number was right in the middle, and I was terrified that I would be drafted and sent on a one-way trip to Vietnam. I had no desire to go off to Southeast Asia and fight in a war I didn’t believe in, to kill people I had nothing against, and to witness the pain and suffering that was commonplace for so many U.S. military personnel. The Vietnam War was raging, and if I had actually been called up, I’m sure I would have gone-reluctantly-and not run off to Canada. My fear wasn’t based so much on a deep, philosophical objection to the war. Mostly, I was naive and scared. So I managed to avoid the draft by getting into The National Guard. (I guess I should never run for political office because that would surely be used against me.) I simply wanted to stay alive and that was my #1 priority. For me, and for everyone who pays attention, there has always been protest music. Not just anti-war songs, but songs against poverty, racism, and social injustices of all kinds. I thought I would take a few moments here to share some of the protest songs that have made a difference in my life, in the hopes that it might...

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The Rolling Stones

Music is always playing in my head, and a big percentage of the time it’s The Rolling Stones!  They never really go away, and for that I’m glad.  I read a book a few years ago, called “Old Gods Almost Dead.” And if you look at the members of the band up close, dinosaurs immediately come to mind.  These guys are getting long in the tooth.  They can still deliver the music, though, and that’s what’s really important. Like so many groups who sprang to prominence during the so-called “British Invasion,” the Stones were in love with an inspired by black musicians in America who played the blues. And it took the Stones and yes, the Beatles, the Animals, and a lot of others who got famous in the 60’s, to expose that music to people right here in this country.  These blues artists were laboring here in the midst of us, almost in anonymity, until British rock n roll artists came along and confessed their love for the songs, put their own spin on them, and exposed them to a much wider audience.  That’s still happening to this very day.  The Rolling Stones started out as a blues band and here’s an example of the music they were performing early in their career. This is the Stones’ version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster!“.  (Sorry embed disabled by...

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The Music in My Head

The 80’s has never been my favorite decade for music. My favorite decade for music remains the 60’s and probably always will, for two really strong reasons. First of all, that’s the decade in which I came of age, and secondly, it truly was the best music ever made. I know you may feel differently, but that’s my truth, anyway. When the 80’s came along I was still more than a little bummed out by the disco-infested 70’s, and a lot of 80’s music just seemed a little blah for me. Oh, I would get excited about a particular artist or an outstanding song every now and then, but for the most part, the 80’s was a bit of a blur. A lot of that stuff just pounded in my brain. And as Jimmy Buffet once said, “I guess I never was meant for glitter rock and roll.” It all seemed to be about big hair and really loud, not particularly melodious guitars, accompanied by a lot of guys with high voices. So when I first heard about “Rock of Ages” coming to Durham Performing Arts Center, I wasn’t exactly enthralled. Then I started reading reviews of the show, and talked with someone who had actually seen it, and I decided it might be worth checking out. Then I did a phone interview with the performer who plays “Lonny”...

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The Gift of Music

At my house, everybody knows the best gift for me is always music-related. So when my birthday rolled around, it was only natural that it was time to do some serious listening. And with Father’s Day not far behind, I knew I was in for a couple of great weeks. Here are some of the highlights. The celebration started early with a trip to the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The tickets were cheap and I love the band. I’ve been fascinated with Grace Potter for maybe a year. She’s a great singer/songwriter, plays guitar and keyboard, and she’s almost a throwback. To whom, I’m not sure, but she’s really a musical phenomenon. So Bev and I went to the show that night, and never having been to the Lincoln Theater, didn’t realize it would be standing room only. It actually wasn’t too bad because at least we got there early enough to have a wall to lean against. My wife wasn’t crazy about it—mostly because it was so incredibly loud—but I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It WAS very loud, but that’s the way I like it, so it was okay. If you’re not familiar with the band, take a look at this live performance from a similar concert by Grace Potter. Months ago, Bev had purchased tickets for us to...

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Music is the International Language

You’ve heard it a thousand times and it’s true. Music really is the international language! I just got back from a trip to Italy and there, I enjoyed a refresher course. Music wasn’t a big part of our stay there, but I heard enough to know that whatever country we live in, whatever our race or ethnicity, and whatever our religion, we can all be moved by music. Regardless of the language we speak. It breaks down all the barriers. Of course, I’m my own jukebox, with music playing in my head, no matter where I am. My daughter, Cam, is a student at NC State University, and has spend the past semester studying abroad, in a charming little town called Tuscania, about an hour north of Rome. On the weekends, she’s had the opportunity to visit the big cities in Italy, and other countries, too, and has made some lifelong friends. We’re so glad she had the chance to experience this! She really wanted to live in Tuscania, where no one speaks English (except for a few people at the school) and she would be forced to use her Italian language skills. It was total immersion into the Italian culture, and I am really proud of her for diving in and making the most of the situation.. The only problem is that she fell head over heels in...

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Try a Little Tenderness

Otis Redding’s in my head a lot. The late, great “Big O,” as I’ve always called him. What an incredible talent and he was taken from the world much too soon. If there’s a rock n roll heaven, he’s singing with the band. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Otis was only 26 years old when he died in a plane crash on December 10th, 1967. He left behind a wife, 2 small children, accomplished musicians who would have done anything to keep playing for him, and a world of music lovers who were heartbroken. Some of us to this day. He was just beginning to hit the big time, really, having gained a big following in Europe, and he was starting to “cross over” as they call it, here in the United States. (That means making the transition from R & B star to becoming an artist popular with everyone.) It’s really sad that he had just recorded a song in the studio called “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay,” and he was excited about it. He said he just couldn’t get it out of his head. (I know what that’s like.) Sure enough, it was released soon after his fatal crash, and it shot all the way up to #1. It was the only #1 hit Otis ever had. I’m convinced he would have had...

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I Dig a Pony

Well, I woke up this morning with a song in my head. Anyone who knows me probably realizes this is not unusual, but it happens so often, I just try and anticipate what I’ll hear next. What artist? What song will be stuck in my head for days and days, completely out of my control. Fortunately, most of the time, it’s a song I actually like, and that’s a whole lot better than some songs that come to mind. I won’t name them because if I did, the lyrics would start running through my mind, and that would not be a good thing. The song I heard first thing this morning was “I Dig A Pony” by the Beatles. May as well say, “by John Lennon,” because this one is a John Lennon song if I ever heard one. “I Dig A Pony.” What the hell does that mean? I’m not going to claim I know all the words to this rather nonsensical tune, but I have a couple of verses stuck in my head and I found myself singing it in the shower, and then sporadically for the rest of the day (so far.) I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. Christy Dixon and I love John Lennon so much that one time we spent a half hour talking about the ridiculous lyrics in this song....

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