1. This has been our third winter/spring cycle in Northern Arizona, and it’s been something of a doozy: colder, wetter, snowier, and longer than the chilly season normally lasts, by a long-shot. One of the consequences of all the rain we’ve had here, and all the snow they’ve had a few thousand feet up and a dozen miles north of here, is that our nearby rivers and streams have been in full flood for weeks now. There are two perennial streams (Oak Creek and Wet Beaver Creek) and one intermittent stream (Dry Beaver Creek) near our house, plus boodles of normally-dry unnamed washes. We’ve seen them flood explosively during monsoon season (including the two that immediately abut our property), but those flows are short-lived. The current inundation is likely to keep running for a long time yet. It makes hiking difficult (both in terms of not being able to get across things one normally can, and in terms of how five pounds of mud caked on each boot makes your legs feel), but I do keep having to remind myself how good this is for the region in macro, after years of mega-drought. Marcia and I have rambled down to the three local creeks, and the views have been impressive. Click the photo of Oak Creek taken yesterday (where that whitewater is, there is supposed to be a trail) to see some of the other wet and wild images hereabouts these days:
2. As a follow-up to my announcement upon the release of my new book with Rear Admiral Jim McNeal, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, I’m happy to report that it seems to be fully and widely available now in both print and eBook versions from all of the major online retailers. Thanks very much to any and all of you who have purchased a copy. That means a lot. If you’ve actually managed to read it, and if you enjoyed it, Jim and I would also be deeply appreciative if you’d be inclined to rate/review it Amazon or any other online retailer, or on your own websites, or in print, for our working journalist friends. I guess if you read it and hated it, you could review it too, but, gosh, who are we to ask to continue to wallow in something that you didn’t enjoy? Maybe just let it go and move on instead, yeah?
3. As another follow-up to my other announcement about winning the Unleash Creatives Book Prize for Ubumembu and Other Stories, I am pleased to report that I have, in fact, signed a contract with Unleash Press to publish the book, and we are targeting an October 1, 2023 release date. So you’ve got one item for your 2023 holiday shopping set and sorted, easy peasy. I’ll be sure to pester you further about it in the months ahead, you bet. I’ve still got a full-length poetry collection and a full-length essays collection out for consideration in various locations, and our literary agent is working to negotiate placement for the next collaborative book that Jim McNeal and I are pitching, provisionally titled Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage. So there may yet be more good writing news here in the weeks and months ahead, building on what’s already been a great year for me on that front, with thanks to so many who have helped make that possible.
4. And I end today’s omnibus post with a brief memorial note on the occasion of the passing of an artist I admire: Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins (1941-2023). Fuzzy was one of the five original members of a doo-wop barbershop quintet called The Parliaments, founded in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1956. The group scored their first and only hit single under their original name with 1967’s “(I Wanna) Testify,” though in keeping with industry practice at the time, the recorded version of the song only featured lead vocalist George Clinton, while session aces rounded out the rest of the sound.
Due to a series of financial and legal disputes and disasters following the success of “Testify,” Clinton and Company rebranded themselves around their core supporting musicians as Funkadelic, then some years later signed the same group of singers and musicians to a second record label under the name Parliament. The collective released albums under both names in parallel throughout the ’70s, eventually cohering into “P-Funk,” with Parliament’s records leaning toward the soul/R&B/disco side of the cultural equation, and Funkadelic’s leaning toward the psychedelic/rock side.
Fuzzy was visually and vocally front-and-center throughout P-Funk’s most seminal recording era, credited with “Werewolf Vocals” and “Berserker Octave Vocals,” among other things. And he looked like this . . .
Fuzzy’s great run with the group finally ended in 1977, when he and fellow 1956 founders of The Parliaments, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas, bailed together, aggrieved by and tired beyond recovery over various shady behind-the-scenes financial dealings that devalued their historic and then-current contributions to the group’s recorded and live work. The founding trio made an attempt to reclaim the original Funkadelic brand as Clinton’s core Mothership was crashing into a fog-shrouded mountain of cocaine and legal acrimony, but their moment had passed, and the effort was to no commercial or critical avail. In that same transitional period, Fuzzy released two solo albums featuring a variety of P-Funk alums: A Whole ‘Nother Thang (1976) and Radio Active (1978). They’re both highly enjoyable and funky and soulful, if woefully underappreciated, then and now. (I was glad to see this week that they seem to be available on many contemporary streaming services, if you want to check them out).
Fuzzy also contributed as a collaborating songwriter during his P-Funk days, and in a prolific group with very, very few single-name songwriting credits (most of them George Clinton’s), Fuzzy landed three wrote-it-alone songs: “Back in Our Minds,” “I Miss My Baby,” and “I Got a Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing.” All of them are fantastic, and all of them are conceptually and creatively important in the group’s chronology and discography. I include a link to “I Got A Thing” below to wrap this post. If you’ve never heard it, you need to, along with all of the other early Funkadelic and Parliament albums in their entirety. On a historic note, “I Got A Thing” marked the P-Funk recording debut of Bernie Worrell (also RIP), who became one of the cornerstones of the collective’s sound and spirit through the ’70s, then emerged as one of the great go-to session keyboardists from the ’80s on through to his death in 2016.
RIP Fuzzy. I appreciated you.