Posts Tagged ‘Crusin’’

Did I Mention We Got in the Iowa Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

As promised, here’s a look at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa, perched on the banks of Lake Okoboji. (The photo accompanying this update, however, was taken at Fruitland Fun Days on September 8.) This is mostly about the rock side of my purported talents, so feel free to bail if you have no interest.

Labor Day weekend at Arnold’s Park – and the area surrounding it – is frantic with end-of-summer vacationing, and the traffic that accompanies it. The trip north was both dull and eventful, because Barb and I discovered (on an endless farmland drive best described as a green wasteland) that the credit card we had recently had to cancel and replace got our cell phone service cut off, and at one point got us locked out of our hotel room.

That was the downside. The upside was a weekend that celebrated rock ‘n’ roll, specifically the Iowa variety. The members of Crusin’ all went their own way with their respective families, in this vacation wonderland, but came together for the various band activities. The Sunday morning sound check was not ideal – each group had very limited time, and in truth that led to some problems with monitors that evening. But with a dozen bands performing, that was perhaps to be expected.

In the afternoon a formal induction ceremony was held in a beautiful high school auditorium, and I represented the band with a brief speech, off-the-cuff as usual, which led to me forgetting at first to acknowledge former band member (and Daybreakers founding member) Dennis Maxwell, who only came from Arizona. Sallie Bunn accepted a plaque for her late husband, Chuck – also a member of both Crusin’ and the Daybreakers – and Brian’s brother Jim, who was our guitarist for over a decade, also picked up his award. Other members of the band (there have been fifteen or sixteen of us, over the 43 years) who couldn’t attend should be getting their plaques by mail in a few weeks.

The big event is the Sunday night induction concert, starting at 6 pm and going past midnight, and we had a spot that was at once terrific and terrible – terrific in that we had the ten o’clock slot, which is prime time, and terrible in that we had to follow an All-Star band with some top talent in it…Megadeth bassist David Ellefson sat in for a couple of tunes, for example. The All-Star Band even played two songs that were on our 25-minute set list – “Wild Nights” and “We Gotta Get Outa This Place.”

Now here is where my ridiculous ego comes into play. As we stood waiting in a sort of doorless green room just off stage, I started smiling when both songs were performed…because I knew we did them better. They did another song from our regular list, and I wished we had played that as well.

Understand that in the garage band scene of the mid-60s – at least in my corner of the world – the combos were like street gangs. We were all scrounging after a small number of gigs (sock hops, proms, house parties), and we hated the other bands. Fist fights were not uncommon. There was nothing we liked better than pimping out another group. When we opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock in the late ‘60s, an Iowa City band that we despised closed their set with a limp “Crossroads” – so we opened with our own blistering version. Once when a promoter stiffed us opening for the Kingsmen – saying we were lucky to be opening for a famous band, then instructing us not to play any Kingsmen songs – we opened with “Louie Louie.” (We also played “Money,” which we weren’t getting, though it was what we wanted.)

Meanwhile, back at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert…

The trouble with All-Star Bands is they are under-rehearsed and they are cluttered with talent. I have no idea how many people were on stage, but there were three lead guitar players alone. And Crusin’ might be a garage band from Muscatine, Iowa, but by God we are a band.

And that was one of the big pleasures of that night. We at least held our own among a dozen bands, some of whom were really, really good and none of whom stunk up the place. I felt we killed, and so did the rest of the guys, but we may be deluded. That’s okay.

Because last summer, after our very talented guitarist Jim Van Winkle left us, and we had to replace him and come up with three sets of material in about a two-week period, we weren’t really a band. Veteran local musician Bill Anson came on board, just to temporarily help us. But he found out how much fun this group is to be in, and he decided to stick around. We are glad and grateful he did.

Crusin’ had a busy summer – busier than I intended – and most of our gigs were outside in awful weather. Just sucky, humid, shitty weather. And we are not kids anymore. I began talking about making this my last summer of gigs, with the Hall of Fame concert my send-off. We discussed limiting performances to two hours (not the standard three and hell no to four hours) if we did come back.

But what happened at the Hall of Fame concert was that we came together as a band. A real band. Any time you change a member in a four-piece configuration, it’s a new band, and it takes a while to gel (and sometimes you just congeal). I knew we had the makings, because Bill Anson is a strong singer with a very different voice and style from mine, which immediately gave us a boost. As for guitar playing, I’ve liked Bill’s work from day one; but he stands in two big shadows.

First, his brother Dave is a fairly legendary guitarist around here. Second, Jim Van Winkle – his immediate predecessor – is something of a genius with guitar. But guess what? At the induction concert – actually after the sound check – I had three people individually come up and comment on how great our guitar player is. “Where did you find that guy? Wow!” That kind of thing.

Another factor was my purchase this year of a new Vox keyboard to go with my Hammond-style Nord. A Vox keyboard hasn’t been produced in decades, but Korg recently put one out. The authentic ‘60s sound of it got me some great comments at the concert. And it, too, makes us a different band.

So maybe we killed, maybe we didn’t.

But we were, in a way, born. If not to be wild, exactly, wild enough to come back for another summer of this insanity…probably with a CD of new original material.

A word about the venue. We were playing at the Roof Garden, one of the Midwest’s most famous ballrooms. Among those who played there were the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Guess Who, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds, and Bobby Darin. We played to a capacity crowd of 1000. The building (the second in the venue’s history) is being torn down by the time you read this. We performed at the last event prior to the building of a new facility with the old Roof Garden name.

I can almost hear my old bandmate Paul Thomas saying, “We’ve closed down bigger joints….”

* * *

So originally I was supposed to be at Bouchercon in Florida this weekend. But Barb and I decided with the long Labor Day weekend, which included not only the musical responsibilities but a very long drive going and returning, that setting out more or less immediately on another big trip was just nothing we could face. Much as I wanted to see my friends and fellow authors (not mutually exclusive categories), I decided against it. Worst part was not being there to promote Scarface and the Untouchable.

But I am so glad we cancelled.

Why? On our return to Muscatine on Labor Day evening, we discovered our basement was flooded and half of the electricity in our house was out. The latter included the washer and drier, and the TV (cable box fried), though the refrigerator was running (neither of us had the energy to catch it).

We spent all day Tuesday dealing with an electrician, getting electricity back around 5 pm, and the rest of the week was taken up with dealing with our sopped basement.

Miraculously, I had – after years of putting it off – recently turned the hoarder’s nightmare that the basement’s library area had become, bringing in new and additional bookcases and thoroughly sorting and downsizing. So very few books or magazines were destroyed. And the band room had few instruments or amps on the floor, since Crusin’ had been on the road when two torrential rainstorms hit Muscatine.

Today (Sunday the 9th as I write this) we have the basement dried out enough to bring the carpet cleaners in on Thursday.

We would have had to leave for Florida and the Bouchercon on last Thursday morning. Our Tuesday and Wednesday were nightmarish enough, let alone factoring in getting ready for another major trip.

* * *

As the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers’ outgoing president (in the sense of leaving, not being bubbly), I sat for an interview with new president, Jonathan Maberry. You can read it here.

The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog has used a piece from me about Mickey Spillane’s 100th.

The Seattle Times gave Scarface and the Untouchable a terrific review. (They don’t like it if you’re blocking ads, though.)

Finally, since this update started out with Crusin’ (and Bouchercon), we’ll finish the same way. Jerry’s House of Everything mentions Crusin’ doing “Incense Peppermints” (by Strawberry Alarm Clock – their second mention this column!) in 2011 at the St. Louis Bouchercon.

Sadly, this was bass player Chuck Bunn’s last gig – he passed away two weeks later. Jerry’s You Tube link didn’t work for me, so here it is again (in a clip put together by the great Eugene George).

M.A.C.

Crusin’ Inducted Into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Dennis Maxwell and his wife Chaffee. Denny is an original Daybreaker and also played with Crusin’

NO rest for the wicked: Joe LeValley at the Meet and Greet at Arnold’s Park for the Hall of Fame induction brought along books for M.A.C. to sign — a board member no less!

M.A.C. interviewed with Crusin’ looking on at the interminable “Meet and Greet” presentation, drummer Steve Kundel amused by my quick, short answers to get it over with.

Crusin’ at sound check Sunday morning (9/2/’18)

Crusin’ at the awards ceremony

M.A.C. Steve Kundel (standing) and Bill Anson signing autographs after the induction ceremony.

Crusin’ in the Rooftop Ballroom at the Sunday night induction concert.

M.A.C. at the induction concert

M.A.C. at the induction concert

Crusin’ alumni Dennis Maxwell (coming from Arizona!) joins Crusin’ onstage at the induction concert.

Crusin’ with Maxwell at induction concert.

* * *

Here’s a nice Scarface and the Untouchable review.

This fun interview with Brad Schwartz and me focuses on our reading habits.

The UK Daily Mail weighs in on Scarface and the Untouchable — favorably!

M.A.C.

Mission: Incredible

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Knowing a new Mission: Impossible was coming, Barb and I decided to watch all of the movies in order, one night at a time. Which we did on Blu-ray. Most I hadn’t seen since first seeing them in the theater. And I came away much impressed – I would be hard pressed to think of a series that maintained this high a level, and even improved as it went along.

Brian DePalma and John Woo are two of my favorite directors, and I was struck this time by how their entries (the first and second respectively) were so much their movies. DePalma’s style but also his recurring themes were much on display and the same was true of John Woo in number two, right down to the pigeons in slow motion.

But the auteur here is Tom Cruise. He is a genuine movie star, who commits every molecule of his being to the job at hand. In the new film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he spends much time telling his comrades that he won’t let them down – that he will pull off whatever crazy job is expected of him. But the subtext is that he’s saying the same thing to the ticket buyers. His Jackie Chan-like insistence of doing his own stunts is both thrilling and frightening. Learn to fly a helicopter in a matter of months? No problem. Run on a broken ankle? Piece of cake.

But none of that would work if he wasn’t a strong screen actor – not just presence, but actor. He brings an emotional reality and intensity to this, let’s face it, inherently silly material that is the real impossible mission that he and the various directors and writers pull off.

J.J. Abrams is also key to the enduring success, both commercially and artistically, of this stellar franchise. Just adding Simon Pegg and his humor and humanity lifted an already soaring series. Abrams fine-tuned the formula with the third entry, and my son Nathan’s favorite – the fourth film, Ghost Protocol – found a strong director in Brad Bird. Christopher McQuarrie followed that perhaps definitive entry as the first director (also writer) to do two chapters in the saga, rather boldly making Fallout a direct sequel to his Rogue Nation.

If you’re down on Cruise because of Scientology, let me say that I’m no fan of the L. Ron Hubbub, either. But I’ve said it before and will likely say it again: what an artist owes the public is his or her work. And Tom Cruise works damn hard and so well.

* * *

Crusin’ played another outdoor gig in Muscatine (well, the rural area near Muscatine) last Friday night, at Ardon Creek winery. It went very well, and showed what we can do on a beautiful cool evening as opposed to the horrific, soul-crushing heat we’ve played in previously this year.

I have frankly considered throwing in the towel, after over fifty years of this; but we had fun and the crowd was large and responsive, so what was not to love? The band is like a woman; just when you say you’re going to quit her, she gives you a really, really good night, and all bets are off.

* * *

Here’s one of the interviews I did at San Diego, where I was promoting the Mike Hammer comic book mini-series and the graphic novel Quarry’s War.

This is a fresh link on the Mr. Media interview.

Here’s another San Diego podcast, this one with the prestigious PW’s graphic novel editor.

Finally, here’s a nice, loving piece about Mickey.

M.A.C.

M.A.C. (Barbara) San Diego Comic Con Schedule (And More)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

This week’s update will mostly be the SDCC schedule promised above, and some links to reviews and an article from Brad Schwartz and me about Ness and Capone that you may enjoy.

Crusin’ has been active this summer, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever take on this many gigs again. This is the point in the picture where the grizzled movie star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” and a helicopter blows up.

Most of our gigs are outside and the Iowa weather (or rather excuse for weather) has lavished us with all the heat and humidity aging rockers could ever dream of. But I’m enjoying playing with the line-up that includes longtime members Steve Kundel, Brian Van Winkle and newbie Bill Anson. The Labor Day weekend induction of the band into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame will make a nice conclusion for my years of playing rock on a more or less regular basis. This does not mean we won’t do occasional gigs, when the event seems right.


Playing in the park at West Liberty on Sunday July 15 as the County Fair kicks off.

As for SDCC, I am trying to get a good chunk of Caleb York #4 done before I leave, plus putting together trade material for my comic art collecting jones. Unfortunately, Nate and Abby are not going with us this year (grandson Sam, either), and it’s likely Barb and I will attend in future only when we’re guests with somebody else paying the way. Much of what I have gone to the convention for in past years has either faded away – the RiffTrax boys don’t come anymore, and my favorite book dealer, Bud Plant, an old friend, will not be there after decades of attending – or is inaccessible. Don’t you think I’d like to see the panel with the Breaking Bad reunion? Yes, yes, and yes, but hell no, if I have to stand in line – perhaps overnight – to see it.

I am thrilled, however, that the convention is honoring Mickey Spillane’s Centenary. I am being interviewed about Mickey and Mike Hammer and me, and have done a big article for their program book, with an emphasis on Spillane’s comics work.

If you see me there, say hello – you’ve spotted an endangered species.

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2018 M.A.C. SKED
NOTE: If you are attending SDCC, check your program guides about these times and room numbers – they may have changed, or I may have screwed them up!

Thursday, July 19:
11:30am-12:30am “You’re Wrong, Leonard Maltin!” Discussing movies on social media has become a blood sport instead of a forum for debate. Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie, who host the “Maltin on Movies” podcast for the Nerdist network, are willing to take on all comers who have a gripe over one of Leonard’s reviews. Marquis of Queensbury rules will be enforced, but anyone who wants to have a lively discussion is welcome to spar (verbally) with America’s best-known film critic. Max Allan Collins will join Leonard to defend Deadpool 2. Rm 24AB

12:30pm-1:30pm In this special anniversary discussion, Titan Publishing’s Andrew Sumner sits down with writer Max Allan Collins (Quarry’s War, Road to Perdition) to discuss the life and legacy of Mickey Spillane on what would have been his centenary year. They delve into the history of his most famous creation, Mike Hammer, along with his return to comics in an all-new Titan series based on one of Spillane’s original plots. Room 24ABC

2pm-3pm signing, Titan, Booth 5537

Friday, July 20:
2pm-3pmInternational Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards – Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer) will host this year’s Scribe Awards for excellence in tie-in writing. Join nominees/panelists Michael Black (The Executioner), David Boop (Predator), Matt Forbeck (Halo), Christie Golden (Star Wars), Jonathan Maberry (Planet of the Apes), and Sarah Stegall (Deadworld) for a lively look at one of the most popular and yet under-appreciated branches of the writing trade. Room 32AB

Sunday, July 22:
12:30pm-1:15pm Mysterious Galaxy booth #1119, Max and Barbara Collins will both be signing, with a number of titles available. (It’s always a great booth.)

* * *

A. Brad Schwartz – my co-author on Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago and I have done an article for the Chicago Review of Books on the upcoming Ness fest in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. We talk about Ness and Capone in some depth, so if you’re yearning for a real update/blog this week, check this out.

And check out this great five-minute clip from the forthcoming audiobook of Scarface and the Untouchable with the terrific Stefan Rudnicki (veteran of Quarry audios).

Speaking of Eliot Ness, here’s a nice Dark City review from Paperback Warrior.

Here is an intelligent and perceptive review of Quarry, a book I wrote a long time ago that seems to have something of a life.

The current Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur, makes the big time with this True West magazine review!

Here’s a Mike Hammer #1 comic book review, brief but nice.

And here’s another.

M.A.C.