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The Riff

Another Music Challenge

Another music writing challenge from The Riff

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Would you have believed me if I told you slightly over a year ago that we’d have 400-ish days without live music?

You would’ve looked at me as if I had three heads on my neck. Or three necks on my head.

Well, the present is just as bad as a Black Mirror episode and worse than my taunting of you shutting The Riff both are criminal.

If people around the world (ahem, Americans) decide to mask up, we could get back to having live music as soon as this year. …

Introducing The Riff. A place to share your musical story.

Photo by Jisu Han, Unsplash

We started The Riff out of frustration.

It was at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and I was reading Anthony Kiedis’s memoir Scar Tissue.

I’ve always liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but my connection with their music fell deeper after reading the book. I wanted to write about that connection.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find a good place to do so.

As a listener who doesn’t play instruments, I feel that writing is another art form I could take on to enhance my intimate connection with music. …

Photo by Paul Marshall (AKA Rally Tog) on Unsplash

Flash Fiction: A Rock & Roll Tale

NOTE: I tried a new experiment here on Medium, a “mini narrative rock opera.” The link below is my narration of the story, where the last five minutes consist of a simulated live performance as if it were the band in the story; written, performed and recorded by me. Had a lot of fun creating this! Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Ralph, who is reclining on a worn paisley couch, is warming up on the bass, and the ceaseless click of strings is making Andy’s skin crawl to a point where he wants to shout…

A Playlist Series


Photo by Chase Baker on Unsplash

How many of you knew I would? Come on…tell the truth. How could the American Crisis Playlist series not go after the saintly Matt Gaetz. Sorry, I’m borrowing the moniker that our former president and LOSER, the Orange Plague, bestowed on current President Biden.


Once upon a time when my parents were preparing to visit me in D.C., driving from their home in Bessemer (where last week a union for Amazon was defeated), a neighbor asked them if they’d have to drive through Florida to get to our nation’s capital.

I hope my parents didn’t answer her in the…

My weekend was full of it

I had the best weekend I had in a long time.

On Friday night, I downloaded a novel on my Kindle and finished it on Sunday. And throughout the weekend, I jammed with both of my instruments on the beach and in my room. I played at least eight or nine hours worth of music this weekend.

Playing music after a long work week is especially cathartic when you haven’t done so in a while. …

The music that speaks to my soul

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

I’d have a hard time making sense of life without the pleasure of listening to great music. Phenomenal songs reach into me and awaken aspects of me I didn’t know laid dormant. I can’t name one “favorite” song — just as I can’t name one favorite book or one favorite movie. I revisit musical works of art so often; I know each lyric and each note. I love other songs because they helped me capture a particular life moment or sense of being.

Three songs to lift my coolness. Three songs to guide me. This list could easily hold 270,000…


Lone Justice- “Shelter”

Album cover for Lone Justice’s Shelter
Album cover for Lone Justice’s Shelter
Photo courtesy of

Artist: Lone Justice
Release Date: November 1986
Record: Shelter
Highest Chart Pos. (US): #47 Billboard Hot 100

Music fans love to assign labels to artists. Critics too. We endlessly sort, categorize, and tag labels to try and bring some objective sense of order to the subjective.

Dance, Rockabilly, Cowpunk- no band is immune. But sometimes groups do their level best to evade being put in a box.

Lone Justice was formed in the early ’80s by Ryan Hedgecock and vocalist Maria McKee. Initially doing covers, they rounded out their lineup and began recording their own material.

They soon became a…

The British Invasion knocked many American groups off the charts in the mid-1960s. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, who scored a number one hit with “Sugar Shack” in 1963, decided to adopt a grittier sound with “Bottle of Wine.” Gilmer still performed lead vocals, but the band shortened its name to the Fireballs to reflect ‘60s fans’ preference for groups.

“Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs

Recorded at producer Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, where Buddy Holly got his start, “Bottle of Wine” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. While the Fireballs’…

At the Beacon Theater (NYC), April 5, 1986

Miles Davis (left, from Tutu), B.B. King (right, from

I remember the conversation. On the phone.

“Hey, Mom. Does Dad like Miles Davis or B.B. King?”

“What? Of course he does. Dad plays trumpet. He loves Miles Davis.”

“Miles Davis and B.B. King are playing. I was thinking of getting him tickets for his birthday.”

“That would be amazing.”

And I thought, Dad plays trumpet? Because the Dad I knew played guitar and the B.B. King angle was where I was going with those questions. It turns out that my Dad did play trumpet, but hadn’t for some years. And he did love Miles Davis.

“Haven’t you noticed he…

On 23 November 1963, I became conscious of electronic music from behind the sofa. I am still hooked.

Keith Emerson gigging with a Moog
Keith Emerson gigging with a Moog
Surka, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was 9, and it was the first showing of Doctor Who with the iconic theme tune that can still instil fear into my bones. Here are some of the highlights of the intervening fifty-eight years. I have listened to electronic music live and on record, played it on hardware, and now fiddle about with software at home. I have lived through the period of the first recordings to a world where most pop music is electronic-based, and even vocals are primarily electronically manipulated.

This journey map is not just for music geeks. I will keep history and hardware to…

The Riff

A new publication on music and how it’s impacting our lives ❤

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