Monday, April 8, 2013

Pheaturing Kent Gustavson

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile on a Monday. How are you? Well, the biggest news this week is I am gonna funally have my surgery on my shoulder tomorrow. Are you excited? Why would you be? I am excited and kinda nervous. And now for other news about some other people.  Tensions continue to mount in this North Korea situation. The U.S. has moved a Navy warship off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Is that going to scare the North Koreans? If you really want to scare them, don't send a warship. Send a Carnival cruise ship. Some experts believe North Korea may have the missile capability to reach Los Angeles. That’s why NBC is moving “The Tonight Show” to New York. Of course. It makes perfect sense.  Samoa Air wants to be the first airline to charge passengers by the pound. You stand on a scale, they weigh you, and you pay your fare based on that. In a related story, Gov. Chris Christie changed his flight from Samoa to Delta.  Model Heidi Klum was in Hawaii and saved her 7-year-old son from drowning. The rip tide pulled him out, and Heidi jumped in the water and saved him. I was surprised the kid isn’t a better swimmer. He's half seal, isn’t he? LOL. Man, I want to see a picture of Heidi doing all that... or at least in a bikini on a beach. Come on internet, don't let me down.

There! You gotta love it! Just how I imagined it to be, but who blurred her breast? Aggghhh.  Fast food workers in New York City went on strike. They're demanding the companies double their pay to $15 an hour. If it doesn't happen, there will be no fast food in New York. Mayor Bloomberg has got to be torn on this one, huh? You will never see this kind of strike happen in New Jersey... not on Gov. Christie’s watch.  Texas Highway Patrol pulled over a tanker rig for what they thought was a routine traffic stop, but when they searched the truck, they found 3.9 tons of marijuana in it. This is why you never ask the cops for directions to Willie Nelson's house.  Snoop Dogg has a new song collaborating with Miley Cyrus, making it impossible for fans of either artist to enjoy it. Snoop is the only recording artist whose greatest hits don't involve music.  Last week, President Obama announced a $100 million initiative to map the human brain. Joe Biden said, "You can map mine for a lot less."  They’re testing a new breakfast sandwich that has eggs and bacon stuffed inside a glazed doughnut. It goes with their new slogan, "America runs out of breath on Dunkin'."  A man in New Jersey was arrested for stealing $100,000 worth of perfume. Not good. I mean, if there's one thing you don't want in jail, it’s to smell pretty.  The White House has now put together a website for kids. It's a website to teach kids how to manage a budget responsibly. The website is called  The federal government says it will do one more study on the risk of cellphone radiation. Or as the guy with the third ear growing out of his neck said, "That's cool. Take your time."  A new report found that, despite the slowing economy, going to college is still paying off. Unfortunately, still paying off is what you'll be doing with your college loans for the rest of your life.  Did you guys go see Jurassic Park in 3D? I might go today and see it. Not only did they transfer the movie into 3D but they also added a few things. Take a look...

This is real... Lay's, the potato chips company released this ad...


I vote to save Eva Longoria and to lay her as well. Okay, I apologize. That was the dumbest joke ever. Hey, wanna see another change they did to Jurassic Park?

That's a little better.  I have to show you this, a Phile reader sent me this picture...

It's a broken Foghat record, I think "Foghat Live". They asked me if I could replace it for them. Lemme think about it. Send me your address to and I will see what I could do. But how did it break in the first place? Why is it so dirty?  On Saturday, Disney's Hollywood Studios ran it's Countdown to Fun parade for it's last time. So, that got me thinking. What other parades could be put in it's place. How about the World's Largest Bikini Parade? Wait. That's already been done. Bikini parades are fairly common, but in this case it is the size that counts. All over the world, cities are constantly competing with each other as to who can hold the largest. Last year's winner was Panama City Beach, Florida with 450 bikini-clad lasses, smashing the previous year's record held by Gold Coast, Australia who had a mere 357. USA! USA! Hey, maybe this year Disney can beat Panana Beach. Okay, let's see who kicked the bucket. This is fresh of the press and I think you probably know who it is.

Margaret Thatcher
Oct 13, 1925 - April 7, 2013
Being nicknamed "The Iron Lady" by the Brits is like being named "World's toughest" by the Boy Scouts. I was never impressed.

Okay, well, he was here yesterday and he's here today. He's a singer, patriot, renaissance man, and one of the coolest members of the Phile phamily. You know what time it is. Please welcome back to the Phile... Laird Jim.

Good morning, humans... Yes, I know it's Monday. Just suck it up, cupcake, happens once a week. Quote of the night comes from my 12 year old, Michael. We were listening to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" and Michael says, "How does he sing like that? It sounds painful... sounds like mom in the bathroom after drinking too much." I love this kid.

It's 10:42, 72 degrees and Kelly revealed backstage at the Academy of Country Music Awards that Blake Shelton will be conducting her wedding. The “American Idol” winner said Shelton, who had already agreed to perform at her wedding, is now set to have an even bigger role at her December nuptials. December wedding?! Aggghhhh!!! Maybe if she hears Strawberry Blondes Forevers' single "Kelly Clarkson" she'll change her mind.

Alright, today's pheatured guest is the author of "Blind But Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson", the 25th book to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Book Club. He is an award winning author, a singer and a doctor. Please welcome to the Phile... Kent Gustavson.

Me: Hello, Kent, welcome to the Phile. So, how are you?

Kent: Great, thanks!

Me: Where are you from, Kent?

Kent: I grew up in Minnesota, Louisiana, and I've lived in a couple dozen places at different times, but I don't like to think of myself as a wanderer. Maybe I'm like one of those plants with roots that sometimes blows down the road. Right now, I'm located near Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Woody Guthrie country... in the red dirt hills where it used to be called the "Indian Nation," not far from Tahlequah, which was in the great book "Where the Red Fern Grows."

Me: You teach in Stony Brook University and have a PhD, am I right? First of, what is the PhD in and second, should I call you doctor?

Kent: Four fun questions here... I'll answer in reverse order! You can call me Doc or Doctor, or whatever you like. Friends in college nicknamed me Rusty, after Rusty Griswold of the Vacation movies with Chevy Chase. Call me Kent, like Kentucky. The PhD is in classical composition (music, not Latin & Greek!), and I taught at Stony Brook for about ten years... I loved it there. I will go back to teaching, but I've taken the last year to support my writing and speaking.

Me: What do you teach?

Kent: I was kind of a maverick at Stony Brook, teaching whatever I could get my hands on. The last couple of years, I was the Faculty Director of the Leadership Development and Community Service Learning programs in charge of those two minors, as well as teaching leadership, social action, and writing. I also taught the German language from introductory through graduate translation, and music in several formats & forums.

Me: Doc, I grew up in Port Jefferson, and used to drive through Stony Brook all the time to get to Smith Haven Mall. Well, I didn't drive, I was just a kid, but you know what I mean. Did you live in Stony Brook?

Kent: During grad school and when I taught at Stony Brook, I lived several places, from right on the water to right near campus, across from the train station. My first year of grad school, I biked 10 miles to and from Corum every day, rain, snow or shine. I was usually humming my atonal sight singing lessons under my breath as I rode, and would arrive in class 5 minutes late, sweaty and smiling. Ah, those were the days.

Me: I remember Corum. I had a few friends that lived there. Do you get out to Port Jeff often?

Kent: I would always take walks with my fiancée and my dog out on the beach in Port Jefferson, and we spent many evenings walking through town. It's a great little city.

Me: Yes, it is. Apart from being an author, Kent, you are also a musician. What kinda music do you play? Spiritual music, right? I like that word better than religious.

Kent: I like to think all music is spiritual. But I play all kinds... I am known in some circles for my liturgical music that I wrote for the Lutheran Church, but in other circles for my singer-songwriter stuff, and that's not religious in any way :) My favorite record is one I recorded with Dejan Iliic of EYOT a few years ago, and after that, I enjoyed playing with my Stolen Shack trio, our record was featured on NPR's All Songs Considered, which was cool. I like all music that takes performers and pulls them out of their everyday consciousness. I just heard a fantastic young string quartet this weekend, and they had some incredible intensity. I grew up playing upright bass in jazz & classical settings, and I grew to love folk music, then bluegrass, and then old-time. Now I like just about everything. I am especially proud of my new attempts to play cover tunes of pop songs on YouTube. My cover of Bruno Mars' "Grenade" got some attention.

Me: Do you play just play guitar?

Kent: I play just about anything with strings, but guitar is my vice. I love it. It's an incredible crossbreed invention... they really got it right. Mandolin & banjo float my boat, and so does my first true love the upright bass. I also love the piano, but only when I can mess around inside & prepare the strings like John Cage.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your book that's in the Phile's Book Club... "Blind But Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson". What made you choose to write a book on Watson?

Kent: Well, I am intrigued by Doc in many ways. He is a bridge between north and south, black and white, upper and lower classes. He was blind, but his heart was open to all kinds of people. His music infected the playing of Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and every other major figure of the 1960s and afterwards... he changed guitar sound and technique forever. But the true reason I got obsessed with Docs music is that I started singing his songs... He was an incredible conduit of old-time and mountain music to musicians like me. We sing Doc's songs, and Doc sang the songs of the mountains.

Me: I thought you were gonna say because his first name is Doc. Is this your first published book, Kent?

Kent: Not technically... I put out a book on publishing years ago, and I've ghostwritten probably around 50 titles in the last 10 years. But this is my first book that really has had a wide audience and distribution, so it's been an incredible and humbling experience.

Me: It won a few awards, right? Not bad, sir. What awards did it win?

Kent: It won a Next Generation Indie Book Award... that's an incredible independent non-profit in New York that really works hard to choose books that are well written and produced. They have a great party up there for the winners every year, it was fun. And the book also was a finalist in the Foreword Book of the Year Awards for Biography. That was a great honor... the fellow I was up against was author Eric Metaxas with his beautifully written biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Me: Watson died last year... I mentioned his passing the Phile saying something like "and you thought he was blue before". What do you think about that blurb?

Kent: Shocking, of course! No, but Doc was a true master of the blues and that's something we often forget... Music is a messy melting pot between the races. Some of the highest praise Doc ever got was when he was backstage, and overheard a couple of the old time blues guys saying that he and Merle could really play the blues. Doc played some incredible bills back in the day with Lightning Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, and all the greats...

Me: I don't know much about Watson to be honest. At first when I heard his name I thought he was the band leader from the old "Tonight Show". Anyway, what does the title of the book mean? Was he blind?

Kent: Ha! That's funny. Yeah, Doc wasn't necessarily all that well known in his own right, but he is revered among the musicians we know today. I had some incredible interviews with everyone from Pete Seeger to Ben Harper to David Grisman... They all play with Doc's DNA inside of their music. Let alone the guitarists who were influenced directly by Doc, like Tony Rice, Clarence White (of the Byrds, who died tragically at far too young an age), Warren Haynes...

Me: How long did it take you to write the book, Kent?

Kent: It took me about 6 years... And it's been never ending. The second edition came out in 2012, and the third edition will come out this month. That will make it about 9 years of my life.

Me: What kinda research did you do?

Kent: I did a great deal of research... mostly at the archives at the Smithsonian where Ralph Rinzler's papers are stored. Also down in North Carolina, and in many libraries along the way! The best research was the interviews I did... hundreds, and about 100 made it into the book.

Me: I am guessing you spent a lot of time in North Carolina. That's where Watson is from, right?

Kent: That's right. Doc is from Deep Gap, North Carolina, from a hollow right near Wildcat Creek. It's beautiful country, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Me: Did you see the statue of him there?

Kent: There's a beautiful statue of him down in nearby Boone, where he is sitting on a bench with his guitar and a smile, with a note on the back that says, "DOC WATSON Just one of the people" It's become a landmark there, and people all take their picture with their arm around the old master guitarist.

Me: Is there anybody you interviewed for it that you were amazed you were interviewing?

Kent: Definitely. I was honored to speak with every person who agreed to speak to me. I have to say that I have a soft spot for the NY folk singers & musicians, like Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Eric Weissberg, John Cohen, and Mike Seeger before he passed away. But it was a thrill to speak with bigger names as well, like David Grisman, Randy Travis (for the new edition), Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, Ben Harper. I think the best interview I had was with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show. He is one brilliant fellow, and really sees the world in an interesting way.

Me: Did you ever meet Watson? Did he know you were writing a book on him?

Kent: I met Doc a couple of times very briefly. He knew I was writing the book, and he wasn't happy about it. He didn't want any biographers writing his story. His daughter Nancy is coming out with a great set of CDs and a book this year, and I think he wanted the spotlight to be on her. So I'll divert the spotlight to her here... check out their project at

Me: Did you get any feedback from his estate?

Kent: Not yet. But I have donated to their Milestones project above, and am in touch with them. When it comes to my Doc connection, the strongest bond I have formed was with Jack Lawrence, who toured with Doc for 30 plus years after Merle died. He and I did a couple of gigs together. Jack is also coming out with a great new CD this year.

Me: So, are you planning on writing any other books, Kent?

Kent: I'm already neck deep in writing several books with other people, but you won't know I'm there. In terms of my next title... only time will tell! I'm auditioning ideas. In the meantime, the new edition of my book comes out this month.

Me: Apart from being a musician, and an author and teacher you also host a radio show called Sound Authors. I take it on that radio show you talk about books, am I right?

Kent: I used to. I stopped doing the show in 2008, I believe but over the several years of the show, I was able to interview some incredible people. It should still be available in iTunes, if I'm correct.

Me: Did you interview authors on that show?

Kent: Both authors and musicians... It allowed me to wear both of my hats.

Me: You have released tons of music, by yourself and with other people. What do you prefer? Doing your own thing or working with others?

Kent: I love both. But when I make music with other people, we can share the load of work to be done! And the records I have done with others are with great friends, and you can't beat that!

Me: Hey, I have to ask, when you were writing the book, was there one piece of Watson info that you were surprised about?

Kent: Hm. I guess I wasn't shocked to find out all of the salacious details because Doc didn't exactly live like the Rolling Stones... But I was genuinely surprised to find out all of the details about Doc's time at the Raleigh School for the Blind, and that he had been kicked out for smoking. Doc wasn't always the good boy he purported to be.

Me: What music did you grow up listening to, Kent?

Kent: I grew up listening to Beethoven & Baez, Prairie Home Companion and my mom's Minnesotan bluegrass band. It was a great childhood, filled with harmony and counterpoint. A bit of jazz, but very little pop or rock, until I had school trips to the roller rink in elementary school. Does that date me, or do kids still go roller skating on school trips?

Me: I don't think they do, Doc. Okay, so, here on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to a game called Tabletopics. Here is yours, sir... oh, this is perfect. If you could be brilliant in one subject which would you choose?

Kent: If I could be brilliant in one subject, I would actually love to know how to build things in wood... guitars, furniture, carvings. I have spent so much time with my nose in books that I often wish I could be a great carpenter... Pete Seeger told me that humans have always loved to "whack things" and that's why we love golf and chopping wood. I guess I wish I were a bit more brilliant at that.

Me: Kent, thanks for being here on the Phile. Go ahead and plug your website and I wish you continued success, sir. I hope this was fun.

Kent: Thank you! This has been a challenge and a blast! People can find me & my book in the following spots:, Twitter @drkent, Facebook kentgustavsonmusic, "Blind But Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson" is available just about anywhere books can be sold.

Me: Good job, Kent, and please come back soon.

That about does it for this entry. Thanks to Laird Jim as always and of course Kent Gustavson. The Phile will be back next Saturday with Matt Henderson, the lead singer for the band Old English. Old English? Hey, that's me. LOL. On Sunday it's the married couple that make up the band Spark & Echo and Monday it's Phile Alum Alexis Babini. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!

1 comment:

Entertainment Guru News and Views said...

It's safe to say that after the Lay Kelly Clarkson joke that the Mrs. doesn't read your blog?