SHEL SILVERSTEIN | FREAKIN’ AT THE FREAKERS BALL IN THE SKY

Shel Silverstein– the late, great, cartoonist, poet, author, playwright, singer, songwriter, musician… photo by Alice Ochs

“Sometimes he wears a beard, and shaves his head.  Sometimes he shaves his beard, and wears his head.

Sometimes he’s writing articles, and drawing cartoons for Playboy magazine.

He’s in Hollywood working on movies.  Sometimes, he’s lonesome.

But wherever he is, he’s the one and only Shel Silverstein–

and one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met.”

–Johnny Cash quoting one of America’s most prolific and revered songwriters, Harlan Howard.

Shel Silverstein– Songs and Stories

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1980’s OLD SCHOOL BMX RADNESS | FREESTYLE FLYIN’ & STREET STYLIN’

Full disclosure — I was the kid with the crappy bike.  No Haro, no Redline, no Mongoose.  Not even a brand new POS Team Murray.  Mom bought me a brand new bike from Pep Boys the summer before 5th grade.  I picked it out.  I didn’t know diddley yet–  I was a kid from Rochester who listened to Van Halen. I just knew it had red rims and looked like the bikes the cool kids were ridin’.  It had that tiny sprocket that couldn’t keep up.  Tiny sprockets suck. No worries, it was stolen.

I didn’t get schooled in bikes until we moved to Anaheim in 1980, and it was all about BMX… and Blondie.  Thought I’d finally made it when I bought my friend’s used Rampar with heavy duty rims. Damn bike was stolen three days later while I played Tron in the local Fry’s.

No, I never was that fly freestyle guy with the rad bike.  But I can still dream.

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Kettering, 1986. via

Old School BMX/Freestyle –All rights reserved by vincent frames

“The Condor” Mat Hoffman, mid-flight, Oklahoma City. –All rights reserved by TenEyck Media. via Snapshot from the old Hoffman Bikes HQ in Oklahoma City. Hoffman’s contests were an annual pilgrimage for serious freestylers back in the day.  Between competitions, Hoffman would get towed via motorcycle up to speed, hit the giant quarterpipe and soar. Everyone in attendance held their collective breath until he landed.

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POISON IVY OF THE CRAMPS | PSYCHOBILLY GUITAR GODDESS

Now, you don’t seriously expect that I can post on Elvis and not followup with The Cramps, right? There’s something about a gal playing a sexy Gretsch guitar that makes a many a little weak in the knees. ‘Least that’s what I’ve been told…

Poison Ivy “Rorschach” and Lux Interior, R.I.P. (her husband and co-founding member of The Cramps) gave us a genre of music gleefully known and loved known as– Psychobilly.  Starting out as the ultimate garage band back in ’76, with their raw performance intensity and simple, throbbing tunes– they influenced an entire generation of rock/punk/goth bands who followed behind in their giant footsteps, and are still thrilling kids who “discover” their musical legacy to this day.  Lux is the man, and Poison Ivy is no doubt the woman. Just get a load of these epic pics, and try not to bite through your lip…

1992– Poison Ivy of the Cramps, Tamaris Rock Festival  via

1995– Pois0n Ivy of The Cramps at the University of Utah Olpin Union Ballroom. via

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TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | TOM WOLFE THE ORIGINAL THIN, WHITE DUKE

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“There are just two classes of men in the world, men with suits whose buttons are just sewn onto the sleeve, just some kind of cheapie decoration, or—yes!—men who can unbutton the sleeve at the wrist because they have real buttonholes and the sleeve really buttons up.”

The Secret Vice, by Tom Wolfe

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In 1952, a promising young pitching prospect out of Washington and Lee University showed up for a tryout with the New York Giants (the baseball Giants, that is– they hadn’t yet decamped for San Francisco).  The prospect made a decent showing: three innings, three men on base, no runs scored.  Good screwball, nice sinker, not much heat.  “If somebody had offered me a Class D professional contract,” says the prospect– whose name was Tom Wolfe– many decades later, “I would have gladly put off writing for a couple of decades.”  But the Giants cut Wolfe after two days, and he became a giant of another kind. (Via)

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Recently, in the wake of the recession, Wall Street greed, and the wreckage of Lehman Brother, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns et al, the term “Master of The Universe” keeps getting thrown around to describe these fallen titans of Lower Manhattan.  Whenever I hear this term I always think of the man who penned it, my nominee for the TSY Style Hall of Fame, Tom Wolfe.

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1970s, New York City — Author Tom Wolfe — Image by © Bob Adelman/Corbis

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Cultural Chronicler is another term that also gets thrown around a lot– I mean one well reviewed novel and Bret Easton Ellis was the voice of his generation (I remember I lived through it), but few American wordsmiths can actually lay claim to writing about the people and events that shaped a lot of the last 50 years of the 20th Century as a largely inside observer, and in the process coining some phrases that became part of the popular lexicon.

Tom Wolfe always managed to get underneath the surface of events and reveal the most primal of human emotions-greed, arrogance, courage, humor, longing-and come up with phrases like “Radical Chic”, “The Me Generation”, “Social X-Ray”, “The Right Stuff”, and one of his favorites “Good Ol Boy” which he used to describe the racecar driver Junior Johnson.

Other than being an avid reader of Wolfe’s work I have a somewhat personal connection.  For a few years we lived in the same NYC neighborhood and while I can never say I spoke to him, he was impossible to miss.  A tall man, with an aquiline nose Wolfe was always decked in an immaculate white suit, high collar Jermyn Street custom dress shirt, splendid tie, pocket square that screamed dandy, white shoes, and occasionally white hat.  His style was very much like his writing, elegant but with a sense of humor and irony.  I mean who dresses like that anymore!  Yet Tom Wolfe looked crisp on the hottest of days.

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Tom Wolfe — the American journalist, pop critic and novelist, 1980. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

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ROKY ERICKSON | THE GREAT, LOST TEXAS PIONEER OF ROCK AND ROLL

“I’ve gone through three changes– I thought I was a Christian… then I was the devil… then the third one, where I know who I am… you know… I feel like I’m an alien.”  

–Roky Erickson

The beautiful, gifted, misunderstood and mysterious Roky Erickson will forever be lumped with Syd Barrett and other so-called mad, musical geniuses– but unlike some of the others, thankfully Roky came back to us.  Better late than never.  We love you, Roky.

Photo by Scott Newton

roky erickson

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Photo by Scott Newton

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roky erickson

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TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT! | DAC, JOHNNY PAYCHECK & BIGFOOT MANIA

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“Always go hard and fast enough so that when you hit the ditch,

you can pull out the other side.”

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–Johnny Paycheck

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Country music outlaw Johnny Paycheck– singer of the hit song “Take This Job and Shove It”

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When the legendary Country music tune “Take This Job and Shove It” was released by Johnny Paycheck in 1977, it became a universal fist-pumping anthem for working stiffs everywhere– crossing cultural and geographical divides to unite workers in a time when the country was facing rising taxes, gasoline prices, unemployment (ironic given it’s title), and decreasing employer loyalty.  The song provided a much needed outlet for our frustrations, and said better than any others before just how much we’d like to turn the tables and stick it to The Man. Just walk away with head held high and no looking back.

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“Take this job and shove it.  I ain’t workin’ here no more.  My women done left and took all the reasons I was workin’ for.  You better not try to stand in my way as I’m walkin’ out the door.” Amen.

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Johnny Paycheck– the late 70s poster-child for frustrated and fed-up workers everywhere.

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The song made Johnny Paycheck a household name– and for good reason, because his hard-livin’ badass persona fit the bill perfectly.  So did that of the song’s original writer and Country outlaw legend, David Allan Coe– who saw the fifteen minutes of fame feeding Paycheck’s career more than his own. People say DAC  was more than a little pissed to see Johnny get all the glory, and not throw him a bone for actually penning the tune that had made him a star.  Well, they’d have a chance to share the limelight together a few years later when the movie of the same name was released  and both were given cameo roles.  Only problem was they were both upstaged by– a truck. But not just any truck– we’re talkin’ about Bigfoot.  The first on-screen monster truck that started the national jacked-up 4 x 4 craze that’s still with us.  I remember seeing the flick as a kid and being blown away by the massive, blue F-250 Bigfoot’s size and power…  Johnny who? The attention seemed to change overnight to— Take This Truck and Crush It.

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Bigfoot’s stardom skyrocketed while Johnny Paycheck and DAC both ran into trouble after trouble– ultimately resulting in prison time.

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“THE PIANO HAS BEEN DRINKING…” | TOM WAITS, YOUR INNER DRUNKARD

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“If I exorcise my devils, well my angels may leave too.”

–Tom Waits

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In my struggle to walk the straight ‘n narrow everyday, it doesn’t help things any that the salty, taunting voice of Tom Waits is in my head saying, “Hey kid…. over here.”

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Circa 1980, Hollywood, Los Angeles– Tom Waits Relaxing by Piano –Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

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Tom Waits

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DON’T DO THE CRIME– IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME | A THUG’S LIFE ARCHIVE


“Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion — and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion… while truth again reverts to a new minority.”

–Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

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Circa 1972, NY– Prisoner reading in his cell with photos of women covering the walls in Tombs Prison. — Image by © JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis

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Circa 1954– L.A. Gang Squads.  Image by George Silk for LIFE Magazine.

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Circa 1993– South Central LA 40th Street Gang members show off scars from bullet wounds. — Image by © Mark Peterson/CORBIS

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All my friends know the low rider, the low rider is a little higher. The low rider drives a little slower, low rider is a real good goer.

 

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Tattooed inmates of the California State Prison. — Image by © Ted Soqui/Corbis

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It’s so easy to laugh. It’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”

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LA GANG LIFE | DICKIES, THUGS & GUNS THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF ROBERT YAGER

When I was 11 or 12 years old, I learned all about the cholo firsthand. I had been born and raised in NY, when in grade school we suddenly uprooted and headed out West for a new start. After a brief stint in Anahiem we finally settled in Arizona– and we were flat broke. For a good many months we (mom, stepdad, sis, myself, and our Doberman pup) lived in a tent out in the alien desert north of Phoenix.

When the family finally scraped up enough money through my mom waiting tables at some greasy spoon and my stepdad running screw machines, we rented a rundown, roach-infested 2 bedroom trailer in Glendale, AZ.  I’ll never forget that place as long as I live.  The trailer park was directly across the street from the Glendale High School. It was anchored by an old, once-stately mansion that was cut-up into cheap apartments, and was surrounded by a sad assembly of rundown trailers and a couple white-washed shack homes.

It was the first time in my life that as a White, I was a minority– and boy did I stand out. I was a lanky stick with shoulder length, fiery red hair that I wore parted down the middle, and to top it off I also wore glasses. This was before the days of designer frames, people. I don’t think there was such a thing as cool glasses back then. I felt like I had a bull’s-eye painted on my forehead. I was fresh meat in a school of tough-ass kids who looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.  The guys all wore pressed Dickies khaki pants, white tees, and hi-top white Chuck Taylors. The uniform didn’t change, except come winter a large untucked flannel shirt, also pressed, and buttoned up to the neck was added to the ensemble. They looked as foreign to me as I must’ve to them. And the funky music, well I’d never heard anything like it– man, I still have Rick James’ “Give It To Me, Baby” ringin’ in my ears…

I quickly learned that if you start runnin’, you’ll be runnin’ the rest of your life. Better to stand and fight– even if you get your ass beat, you can still look yourself in the mirror, and maybe even gain a little respect. Soon enough I’d hear them say in the halls that I was ok– I put up a good fight. Damn if it wasn’t the roughest school year of my life– but I wouldn’t trade those days, even if I could. The cholo brothers taught me to stand up and not take any crap off of no one. I don’t by any means advocate breakin’ the law, but I do advocate findin’ your voice and letting the world feel the weight of who you are.

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THE NASHVILLE PORTRAITS, PART II | PHOTOGRAPHY OF JIM McGUIRE

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Chet Atkins– Known as “Mister Guitar,” Atkins was a trailblazer who is widely credited for the creation of the so-called “Nashville Sound.” One of the most influential and best-loved guitarists in the history of the instrument, he became the president of RCA Records and produced many classic country albums. — 1976 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Prine–  Country/folk singer-songwriter originally from Illinois, has achieved critical and commercial success since his move to Nashville in the early 1970s. His grandfather played guitar with Merle Travis, and he took up the instrument himself at the age of 14.  He was a postman in Chicago and had served in the military before beginning his musical career. Already a star in Chicago’s folk music scene, he was discovered in a local club by Kris Kristofferson. He is known for his wildly imaginative songs and unusual voice and singing style. His 2006 release “Fair and Square” was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.  — 1984 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Hiatt– Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Hiatt, a rock guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter, moved to Nashville in the early 1970s to write songs and to find his musical voice. After his song “Sure as I’m Sitting Here” (recorded by Three Dog Night) became a top 40 hit, he was signed to a recording contract by Epic Records. This portrait was shot just before the release of his first solo album, recorded in 1974. Since then, he has released twenty albums, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Joan Baez, and Jimmy Buffet, to cite just a few.  *** — 2004 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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