Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Blossoms: Film Photography

British quintet Blossoms is unapologetically ambitious. Rather than quietly release 2014 debut single “Blow,” the band announced it with an ardent, online manifesto. “We want to be heard by everyone,” it read, in part. “We want to be as mainstream as Will Smith, as great as the Smiths, and as uplifting as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The band has just issued its self-titled debut. Blossoms will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Charlie Salt: First things first. I’m a complete amateur—in other words, I “blag” it. My first attraction to photography came in the form of a Smiths photography book by Paul Slattery. It contained some really cool snaps of the band in and around Manchester, backstage at Glastonbury Festival and the dressing room at Norwich UEA. I remember thinking how effortless the shots were and how the beautiful grain complimented the dreariness of the ’80s. Why film? Well, I’ve always taken some form of camera with me wherever I’ve wandered, kicking off with an old digital Casio number always left on the sepia setting, desperately trying to achieve that “pastiche,” organic look_to no avail. I soon moved on to a film camera, where the results were unachievable from any digital I’d used. Don’t get me wrong; there was a lot of trial and error—like there is with any new hobby—but I don’t care what anyone says: Film is not dead. It captures something a lot more than a moment. 2017 sees me shooting primarily on my Canon AE1 Program 35mm and my beloved Pentax 6×7 Medium Format 120mm camera; she’s a thing of beauty. Anyway, enough with all the nerdy shit … I intend to compile a book at some point, entitled Blaggin’ It. Whether anyone will buy it is another story.

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From The Desk Of Blossoms: Movies

British quintet Blossoms is unapologetically ambitious. Rather than quietly release 2014 debut single “Blow,” the band announced it with an ardent, online manifesto. “We want to be heard by everyone,” it read, in part. “We want to be as mainstream as Will Smith, as great as the Smiths, and as uplifting as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The band has just issued its self-titled debut. Blossoms will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Tom Ogden: I’ve always been a big fan of movies growing up. I went to the cinema a lot as a child. The first first I remember seeing at the cinema was Small Soldiers. As I got older, I got really into Alfred Hitchcock, and Vertigo has become my favourite film. I also really like gangster films, such as GoodFellas and Donnie Brasco.

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: Record Store Love

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

Hogan: I grew up in the suburban hinterlands, about 40 miles west of Atlanta. I woulda given my left lady nut to have had a local independent record store to go to back in the day, but all we had in my town was a cruddy Kmart full of Debby Boone and Dan Fogelberg LPs and man, did that suck. “Here, have some vanilla.” “Don’t you guys have any other flavors?” “Sure! Here—have some french vanilla!” Most of my friends were happy with vanilla, but I had an itch. I needed a place to go where I could find out about real music. I didn’t even know what was out there, but I knew something was happening that didn’t involve the Captain, the Tennille or the Bread. I was getting hints.

While baby-sitting late at night at a neighbor’s house in sixth grade, I saw a beautifully disheveled Bette Midler on Saturday Night Live singing a great song that went “Those were days of roses/Poetry and proses and Martha/All I had was you and all you had was me, ” and even though I didn’t know the title, I tried to memorize the song on the spot so I could find out what it was. But then the next day I remembered that there was nowhere for me to go to even try to buy that record—and no one to even ask about it! Which, if I had, I would’ve found out that that song was written by Tom Waits. Tom Waits. I could’ve known about Tom Waits when I was 12! Oh, the time I would’ve saved!

But no. I probably just flipped over my copy of Styx Pieces of Eight and played side two again.

A few years later, on another late-night TV show, I got a boner from a clip by a crazy hyped-up band called the Dickies. The next weekend, I begged a ride 16 miles to the closest chain record store to try to buy a Dickies record. Turns out all I got for my gas money was a blank stare from the teenage employee and a mute gesture toward the monolithic Phonolog. Oy, the Phonolog.

Are y’all familiar with the abject hopelessness of the Phonolog? Might as well just go ahead and kill yourself. It was a reference source about seven phone books thick, full of mostly obsolete information, printed in really small type, and if you did actually find an entry (and the accompanying billion-digit serial number) for the record you were looking for, you would write all of that out on a tiny order slip, and wait three months or more—only to have your slip come back stamped in red: “out of print.” Son! Of! A! B!

I probably just went home and played side one of Journey Infinity again. Things weren’t looking too good for me and music.

Then, when I was about 17 and finally mobile, I found Atlanta’s Wax ‘N’ Facts—a truly independent, weird, grumpy, capricious, filthy dirty, nook and cranny-y, hip, dorky, opinionated, cram-packed and bottomless golden barrel of music record store! Finally! The record store that changed my life. Ahhhh! I had no idea that so much music—so many kinds of music—existed in the world. Duke Ellington! Price! Barbara Dane! Blowfly! Bartok! Oscar Brown Jr.! The Del Rubio Triplets! XTC! Stuff Smith! Sheila Jordan! Peter “Snakehips” Dean! Yma Sumac! Jonathan Richman! Speedy West! Style Council! Latimore! I realized that I could never ever live long enough to listen to even a fraction of it, but I was sure gonna try.

More importantly, it also made me realize that, if Blowfly and Bartok both rated Sharpie-labeled plastic LP dividers, then maybe there was enough room for me to make music in this world, too. Maybe one day there’d at least be room for me in the generic “H”s. I’d been secretly dreaming about it forever. You could say that a record store saved my life. My parents might say that a record store ruined my life. Either way, I won.

So listen up, young people! I come from a beige and forlorn shag-carpeted past with a warning: Don’t mess this up! A real record store is not some Etsy-y boutique “oh isn’t this quaint” luddite hold-over exhibit that you visit like Colonial Williamsburg! Record stores—real record stores—are the bloody, pulpy, veiny, throbbing reasons that your favorite bands exist! Don’t believe me? Go on twitter and ask ’em!

Count your blessings if you were lucky enough to grow up near an actual record store! And if you’re lucky enough to live near one today, get up off the internet and take a walk there right now! I beg you! Young people! Don’t mess this up! Record stores need you! And for sure, you need them. Trust me. I’m old. I’m from the past. I know stuff. Now get out of my yard!

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: First (And Second) Jobs

Ligon: My best friend Willie and I were going to save money and travel to Europe, so we both applied for a job at Steak ‘N Shake at the same time. We each got dishwashing jobs. I worked two days. Willie worked one. Then on my first day off, I had tickets to a Cardinals game and asked him if he could go. He said, “Well, I gotta work,” and I said, “Just fucking see if you can get out of it.” So on his second day of work, he actually went to ask our boss if he could go to the baseball game with me instead of working. Willie asked, “Could I just work a late shift?” and our boss said, “Absolutely not.” So Willie said “Well then, I guess I quit.” Then he went with me to the game, and there went our European vacation.

I continued to work at Steak ‘N Shake just long enough to suck the nitrous oxide out of all the whipped cream cans in the walk-in refrigerator, and then I quit. When I left, all that whipped cream was completely flat.

Then I was too embarrassed to come back and get my one and only paycheck, and when I finally did come back three months later they didn’t even know who I was. The manager on duty said, “We were wondering who this belonged to. Here’s your 50 dollars.”

My second job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken with my friend Dave. We’d been there for about a month when a new manager arrived and started making life miserable for us. Our previous manager had been fired for doing something awful, but I don’t remember what.

One night Dave and I walked out into the alley to smoke a joint by the dumpster. Our new boss burst out of the back door and said, “All right! Finish the night and then you’re fired!” Dave laughed and said, “Fuck that. If I’m fired, I’m leaving.” The she pointed to me and said, “Scott! Finish the night and then we can talk.” But I said, “Umm, I think I’ll just go with Dave.”

McDonough: The summer I turned 14, I was a caddy at the Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, Ill. I was the worst caddy ever. I hated golf. Never liked golf. Ed Norton addressing the ball—that’s about as close as I ever came to liking golf. And I liked Caddyshack, but Bill Murray wasn’t anywhere near this place. (I do like mini-golf, ya know, but that’s probably because of the crazy holes with Frankenstein, a giant windmill or a big gorilla. It’s more about that than it is about golf.)

Also, my eyes kind of have their own thing going on. When I look up in the sky, I see all kinds of floaters. But when I was a caddy, whenever someone would hit the ball, I was supposed to follow it up into the air, watch it sail, determine where it landed, then go find it. Because of my floaters, I never had any friggin’ idea where it went. “It was here a minute ago! You’re the a-hole that knocked it away! Why don’t you go look for it?”

But I would grudgingly be out there at 8 a.m. waiting for a turn on the green, and then they would give me 10 dollars at the end of it—and I’d run to Record Swap and buy a Beatles album. That was really about it.

I was supposed to be paying off a guitar that my parents had bought for me: an Ibenez Les Paul “Lawsuit” that I eventually traded for my first bass: a Kustom. Anyway, I don’t know if I ever finished paying them off, because I was such a shitty caddy. Worst caddy ever.

The next job I had was as a dishwasher at Tom’s Family Restaurant for $1.75 an hour, a free meal and all the Pepsi you could drink. They definitely lost money on me on Pepsi alone. And my free meal was usually three eggs, some hashbrowns, toast, a cheeseburger and fries. That lasted about six weeks until one Saturday night I didn’t feel like going in. Working there was nothing like Diner. I had just seen that movie several times and thought, “I could do that”—but of course it’s more fun hanging out at the diner than working there.  I know that now.

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: The Roches

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

O’Connor: Urbana, Ill., 1987: I was away at Southern Illinois University, and my boyfriend at the time was two hours north at the University of Illinois. We were competitive mix-tape makers. His were usually better, but mine a close second. That’s when I first heard “Want Not” by the Roches (and “Bobby Brown” by Frank Zappa—what a weirdo … ) I loved my Walkman in college, and listened to a ton of Beatles tapes. Instruments bouncing back and forth between the left and right side of my brain. But the extreme panning of vocals on “Want Not” by the Roches made my head spin with glee. I’ve been chasing that level of panning on every record I’ve made since. It was the beginning of what would be a lifelong commitment to the music of the Roches.

New York City 2009: It was one of the very first times I left my budding family to tour. Back then, when the boys were little, I had to turn down gigs and touring opportunities. But there are certain people I always say yes to. Neko Case is one of them. I love the shit out of that lady! It was the perfect tour scenario, less than a week away from the kiddos. I had sung on a few tunes on Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone record. She graciously asked me to do a few shows with her and the band right around the record’s release. One show being David Letterman.

I wasn’t the only one that said yes. We were to sing “This Tornado Loves You” on the show, and I was beyond thrilled when I found out that Rachel Flotard (Visqueen’s front woman and an all around funny-as-shit super badass) and one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Lucy Wainwright Roche, would be back-up singers as well. All of us put sprinkles of vocals on Neko’s record that year. Kelly Hogan (who I’m convinced is maybe a singing polygamist because she has been Neko’s and my long-time singing wife) was the fearless leader of our backup singing pack. Hogan’s been singing live and on Neko’s records for many years now.

(Did I mention that Drew Barrymore was on the show with us? She flew in and out of the studio, and we only got whiff of her fairy dust. But hey, we were in the same building at the same time!! All I heard was “Drew needs a straw!”)

It just so happened that Lucy Wainwright Roche was also opening for the Indigo Girls in the city that night. I’m a blubbering fan of Amy and Emily, and I was excited to see Lucy do her thing, since I was really diving into Lucy’s first two records at the time.

Little did I know that when Lucy put us on the guest list, I wound up sitting in the VIP section with her mother and two aunts. Now, her mother is Suzzy Roche, and her aunts are Maggie and Terre: the Roches!!! I was sitting at a table with the Roches watching the Indigo Girls. It was too much. Too much, I say. I tried to keep it together, but it was very difficult. The Roches are my favorite family group of all time. Their melodies, harmonies and sense of humor hits me in all the right spots. I’m in awe of their guitar playing too. You can just tell they’re doing it right.

Near the end of the Indigo Girls’ set that night, the Roches got onstage and sang “The Hammond Song”—and, of course, it was pure gold. I tried so hard to be cool, and they were just so loving to me. It was a night I’ll remember forever.

Recently, Maggie Roche died at the age of 65 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was the main songwriter of the group and will be missed so much by all of her fans.

I’ve been reading a lot of tributes to Maggie, and this quote stands out: “‘It’s very important to collaborate successfully,’ she told me. ‘It’s rewarding every time you can manage it. I hate to use the word ‘share,’ because it’s so overused, but whenever you can share anything with someone else and not feel like you got ripped off, it’s very exhilarating. That’s what I get out of recording and performing. I hope that’s what other people get out of it.’” (from Maggie Roche: The Hidden Heart Of The Roches By Geoffrey Himes)

Since that magic New York City night, I’ve had the opportunity to become closer with Lucy Wainwright Roche (I’m always singing her songs at my solo shows!) and have gotten to know Suzzy a little bit. After Maggie’s passing, Suzzy described her sister as “smart, wickedly funny and authentic—not a false bone in her body—a brilliant songwriter, with a distinct unique perspective, all heart and soul.”

Hogan: From the time I first saw them on SNL in 1979 (while eating frozen coconut cream pie, babysitting in a suburban cul de sac in Douglasville, Ga.), the Roches meant everything to me—they were brilliant and playful, but also had those crazy blue-steel-perfect harmonies. I was blow away by the seemingly simple presentation of what I already knew (from singing in choir) was intensely complex and difficult music to pull off.

Later that night, as I walked home alone down silent streets, I was humming “The Hammond Song,” and my head was filled with new musical possibilities. Thank you and farewell, Maggie Roche. You and your sisters opened my ears.

P.S. Yep, The Roches are harmony geniuses—but really the secret harder thing to do is unison singing, and they are the top, top, top of that mountain. Assassins of unison. Mad respect.

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: Thoughts On The Documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

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O’ Connor: I really enjoyed the movie 20 Feet From Stardom, but that title bugs me a little. I’ve never felt 20 feet away from anything. I’m very comfortable and feel super-valuable singing harmonies and supporting other singers. I didn’t want to be Elvis Costello—I wanted to be the ladies who sang “I’m giving you a longing look/Every day, every day I write the book!” Or the ladies who sang on “Lay Down Sally.” Or the ladies from Schoolhouse Rock: “Verb!/That’s what’s happenin’!”

Hogan: When it came out, so many people told me, “Hogan! You have to see 20 Feet from Stardom!” And a few years later when (sitting on my couch at 2 a.m. with wine and my laptop), I finally did see it—far from making me feel removed from stardom (or anywhere else some folks think I might rather be, or ought to be). On the contrary, my drunken notes from that night start off like this: “20 feet from my asshole! I’m a band person. A band person!”

Speaking purely for myself, I only ever wanted to make songs happen—it didn’t matter in what capacity. It’s just a blast to be part of a good song—whether that means singing the lead vocal, playing a bass part on a beat-up one-stringed guitar in the the Rock*A*Teens or singing backing harmony vocals. Which, on a few Neko Case numbers, means singing two or three words just once, a minute and 45 seconds into the song. So when people ask me, “What’s the hardest part of singing back-up?” I can honestly tell them, “Not singing.”

We are “The Noble Sidemen”—that’s what we sometimes say in the Neko band, and it’s true. There is an honor to being in the band. But nobody looks at the guitar player or the drummer and imagines that, while they’re playing their hearts out and kicking ass, they’re really wishing they were center stage at the mic—with all the pressures, scrutiny and uncomfortable undergarments that go along with that job.

There’s no All About Eve bullshit in what I do. When I’m singing harmony, I’m not holding a dagger behind my back, waiting for my “big break.” Hell no. I’m in the band, man. And that gives me great joy. The movie 20 Feet From Stardom actually confirmed the happiness and pride I feel from being just another part of the machine that serves the song.

I do love all those amazing singers featured in the movie, and I want all members of any band to get their due. I’ve pretty much had the good fortune to only work with bands who do just that—no caste system, all pulling together, sharing good times and bad. I’ve been treated with respect. I’ve tried to earn it with every note.

My Flat Five band member Casey McDonough was aghast the other night when I told him I wasn’t a big fan of The Commitments movie and had only seen it once. “Why?!” he asked. And I told him. Because at the end when they were onstage and the lead singer introduced the band, everyone was introduced with their full name, first and last. Except the backup singers. They were just introduced with their first names. And maybe it seems crazy to you, but that bugged me then and still bugs me now. Those singers were in the band. Just like the guitar player. Just like the drummer.

In the band, it’s the best place to be. That movie proved it for me. Reading my last wine-soaked revelation from watching that movie makes me laugh my ass off, and it 100 percent came true: “I’m a band person. Oh god I am gonna be so much happier from this day forward.”

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: The Barista Is Everything

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

Ligon: I’m an espresso junkie. Some might call me a coffee snob. But I’m not a snob; it’s just very important that we get this right. Actually, my whole day depends on it. A badly pulled shot of espresso can ruin me. Once I’ve had the bad shot, there’s no undoing it. There’s no amount of perfectly pulled espresso that will fix my chemistry now. I’m going to be this angry-screwed up version of myself until I’ve slept it off. That’s why the barista is everything.

I’ve had shots pulled by two different baristas in the same coffee shop on the same day that were completely different. It’s frustrating. Apparently one of them just didn’t care as much. Don’t they know that my mood hangs in the balance? We have to get this right people! More importantly, my bandmates need you to get this right!

It’s 11 a.m., and somehow I need to be at my best about eight or nine hours from now. Only coffee—expertly grown, picked, roasted, poured and consumed at the exact right intervals—is going to enable this miracle to happen.

I don’t like it when I can tell that I know more about espresso than my barista does. I try to avoid this whenever possible, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. The first sign of trouble is if the espresso machine is a push-button, pre-determined pour. I’ll walk into a cafe, and the first thing I do is check out their machine. If it’s a fully automatic, push-button shot, I’m gone. “I gotta get outta here” is my typical exit line. Hell, they almost ruined the show tonight!

If a barista asks, “Do you want anything in your espresso: sugar or milk or anything?” then I know I’m in trouble. Anyone who can’t fathom the idea of drinking a shot of espresso without anything in it has no business being in this business. I’m sorry, get a job at Dairy Queen if you want to make milkshakes!

Also, please don’t think you’re doing me a favor by pulling me an extra long shot. You’re not. If I wanted a regular cup of coffee I would have asked for it. The perfect shot of espresso should be no more than one or two ounces, between 92 and 98 degrees Celsius, and served in a ceramic espresso cup.

I had a friend ask his barista to stop his shot short when he realized that the guy was pulling it way too long and the barista said, “Don’t you want the crema?” But my friend put it perfectly, “The crema starts with drop one!” Of course, that’s absolutely true. The crema isn’t hanging around at the very end just waiting to be released! Also, if the barista calls it “expresso” forget it. “I gotta get outta here.”

As far as I’m concerned, the snootier the coffee shop the better. I don’t care if the barista is a complete and utter asshole, just as long as they get my shot right. Go ahead, tattoo yourself, grow your beard, judge me as soon as I walk in—I don’t care. Just give me the good stuff!

Being a traveling musician means that you’re going to be bouncing around in a vehicle all day, sometimes for five or six hours—and once you finally reach your destination your job is just getting started. Getting the caffeine balance is essential to group harmony and sustainability. That is why I firmly believe that when it comes to being a traveling musician, the barista is everything!

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: Just The Tip Of The Tip Of The Iceberg

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

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Hogan: 24 years + 291 days later. Obit

I’m foggy on how we first met—it was either at the shitty, shitty White Dot club on one of those “Evening With The Garbageman” variety throw-down music nights—or maybe at Mudd Shack, that magic after-hours dork poetry slam in the old Tortillas burrito restaurant on Ponce de Leon Ave in Atlanta. But I do remember that he immediately blew my mind. I was an instant fan. The language in his poetry sounded ground floor but was meticulously crafted—dovetail joints—loose but tite like the best hip-hop rhymes—sophisticated—and truly Southern: dry, side-eye, sharp-as-a-shiv intelligence, humor, ribaldry. Such toothsome eloquence. Salt-lick vernacular. Double-dipped and fried hot. It’s hard to describe him to outsiders so that they’ll really get it — and what youtube clips that did survive do not do him justice. But to me he was a genius.

Our band the Jody Grind pretty much hand-cuffed him to our situation, and he traveled with us for about three or four years, opening our shows all over the place with his amazing poetry and spectacle.

I remember his buzzsaw voice and the way his coughs sounded like sneezes, so I was always “blessing” him until he’d get frustrated and yell at me to “cut it out!” I don’t really know what all he thought about me, but he always seemed bemused when I looked at him. Always little puzzled. Like he was trying to figure me out. He was always thinking. A buddha. Once during one of my love slumps he gave me some keen relationship advice that amounted to: “You, Hogan—you’re a classic paddler. Him? Well, he’s a classic floater. He’s gonna piss you off for the rest of your life.” Deacon was wise. And he was right.

Yeah, we all remember how he’d come running out onstage in Liberty overalls with the bibs dangling, wearing a giant white bra over his big man titties, sweating and heaving with adrenaline and stage fright, copper chest hair puffed up like Brillo pads. Or stomping out of a backstage janitor closet in muddy construction boots with that old ratty black and pink flowered muu muu flapping around his shins. The unbelievable racket of him banging his ball-peen hammer on that army surplus bombshell, and how he would start his set by revving a chainsaw held high above his head, gunning it over and over until the stage was shrouded in a big purple choke of gas fog. He sure knew how to make an entrance.

And though it might sound weird to people who only knew his onstage persona, one of the things I remember most about him is his gentleness—his shyness, deference, thoughtfulness, respectfulness, gentility, quiet intelligence, humility.

We all slept together so many nights on tour, five to a motel room, taking turns on the floor. Lord have mercy, that man could snore. And I remember his legs. He had great legs. Long freckled ones with incredible calf muscles. Skinny peanut toes sticking out of his Birkenstock sandals. That raggedy bright blue short-sleeve button-up shirt he always wore. His Stanley thermos. His knuckle wrinkles. How he’d hide his meticulously rolled toothpick joints down in between his cigarettes in the soft pack. That he’d comb his fingers through his lush red beard when he was telling you a story. That he was only 41. Forty-one.

I remember backstage at Sluggo’s in Pensacola in April of 1992. How there was no toilet and you had to pee out of a window, even the girls. I remember how that night after the show Deacon had wanted to ride back to Mobile with me and Bill and our manager, but because I felt sick and was getting laryngitis and wanted to lie down and sleep in the backseat, I am forever fucked in my soul because I said there wasn’t enough room. I said no. I said no. I said no.

His little seed corn front teeth. His diagonally framed Polaroids. The cheerful little jingly bell dangling from his rearview mirror. His hard crush on Richard Petty. His and Benjamin Smoke’s true and pure manly mutual admiration friendship love affair. How he once said that when he was young and had hair he got “more ass than a toilet seat.”

Whenever I hear that Dolly Parton song “Joshua,” I always cast him as the fearsome mountain man she sings about, living off all by himself—wild and imposing to those that didn’t know him, but sweet and cream-filled to those that did. I loved him. I love him. I miss him. I miss him so much. Actively. With fangs.

“Life is an illusion, so you might as well make it a good one.”  Deacon Lunchbox

“They got dope-sniffing dogs at Dollywood. My vacation plans are ruined.” —Deacon Lunchbox

Tim Ruttenber 1950 – 1992

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: Wizard Stats

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

Name: Casey McDonough
Role in the Flat Five: vocals, bass, piano, guitar
Height: 5″6′
Hair: blonde
Eyes: blue
Favorite singers: Solomon Burke, Dolly Parton
Favorite vocal groups: Clovers, Shirelles
Favorite bands: Beatles, Beach Boys
Favorite actor: Mickey Rourke
Favorite actress: Betty Lynn
Favorite movies: It’s A Wonderful Life, Night Of The Hunter
Favorite TV show: Route 66
Favorite TV couple: Morticia and Gomez Addams
Favorite TV theme song: “WKRP In Cincinnati”
Favorite TV dinner: Swanson
Favorite authors: Peter Guralnick, Roddy Doyle
Favorite food: Aurelio’s pizza
Favorite drink: Schlitz
“A&W or Dog N Suds?” Dog N Suds
Favorite baseball team: Chicago Cubs
Professional goals: to spread love and hope, one song at a time
Personal goals:
relax more, worry less

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From The Desk Of The Flat Five: Sympathy

In music, a flat five is a passing chord that harmonizes well with almost any sound. The singers in Chicago’s Flat Five—Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall—are as versatile as the name of their group implies. They’re all well-known songwriters, musicians and side-persons in their own right, but when they sing as the Flat Five, they touch on something transcendent. Their complex, intertwining harmonies bring to mind the shimmering sounds of the Four Freshmen, Beach Boys, Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, Harry Nilsson and the Everly Brothers—singers who could create breathtaking emotional effects using nothing but their voices. The Flat Five will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand-new feature with them.

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McDonough: I was in Liverpool with some of my best friends a few years ago. It was “Beatleweek,” and we certainly fab’d it up. But I was unprepared for how heavy and emotional it would be.

I’ve been to Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles and London, and I’ve stood in rooms or stared at buildings where some of my favorite music was recorded. But Liverpool was a different thing altogether. Every corner seemed to contain a bit of history that we had only read about. There were a lot of “but it was here … ” moments. Between our own gigs and sight-seeing, a few pints were quaffed. People from all across the globe were in town, and it didn’t matter if our mid-western accents sounded funny to them (the flaaat Chicaaaago brogue especially) or if we had a hard time understanding anyone younger than us. People, on a one-to-one basis, are generally just trying to find their own happiness. This was proven to us time and again throughout the week by strangers in every walk of life.

Walking through the boyhood homes and neighborhoods of my favorite band/people was an incredible experience. Sharing it with great friends made the days even more special. But the most lasting impression occurred in the wee hours of a Monday morning.

My friend Eric and I happened upon a small bar in the corner of the Adelphi Hotel. We had played in the ballroom earlier that night, and had been in and out of the hotel dozens of times, but we hadn’t noticed the America Bar. Walking in, we found ourselves in the middle of a hootenanny. A few guitars were being passed around, and just about everyone in the circle had a bash. There were Beatle songs, of course, and other things. Than it was time for this older gentleman to sing. Someone began strumming a minor chord for him. Everyone listened as he sang about “Sympathy being what we need, my friend … ”

“What is this song?” I wondered. We’d never heard it before, although most in the room joined in by the second chorus.  We might even have mouthed a few words by the end, but to be honest, I was doing my best not to, you know, cry. I was really having one of those frozen-in-time moments.

I couldn’t even talk to the man who had been singing. At the back of the room stood my new pal John from Northern Ireland. He would know. He did. Thank you, John. It was a song called “Sympathy” by the Family Dogg.

For years, I carried only the recollection of this song, before hearing a recording of it. The Family Dogg version is terrific, with an impassioned vocal from singer Steve Rowland. But in my mind it will forever be the version sung by an older fella at a knees-up in Liverpool. Yeah, YouTube is great for a lotta things, but it can never beat my memory. You shoulda been there.

Sympathy is what we need, my friends.

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