BillyRadd Music

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Don't Miss Neileeo

My good friend and musical coconspirator, Neil Laurence, will be busking (playing for tips on the street) from July 29 - 31, 2011 at the Belle Chere Festival here in Asheville, NC.  Neil, who recently goes by the name Neileeo, is a singer-songwriter who's thoughtful lyrics and happy melodies entertain audiences of all ages with his personal message of peace and spirituality.  As a former beach comber on both coasts, Neil's compositions profess an idylic "life on the beach" which most people can smilingly identify with.  Sporting a signature straw hat and his toe-tapping menu of diverse musical styles (like blues, rock, surf, country, folk, and fantasy), his broad experience as a live entertainer gives him a empathetic connection with any audience that can only be described as a mutual love fest.

As a seasoned one-man band, the multitalented Neileeo really rocks the street with his ukulele, harmonica and clear, articulate voice.  The man can whistle up a storm, too.

If you happen to pass by Neileeo on an Asheville street during Belle Chere, or any other time for that matter, give him a listen.  Pay particular attention to his original lyrics.  He'll make you smile and fill your head with good, happy thoughts.  Being a personal friend, I know that spreading joy through music is his only goal and a conscious mission.

As part of his audience, you might also want to drop a bit of cash into his tip bucket to return the favor.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Name Game

Nibiru? Let the Fireworks Begin!

I was looking for a name for a new recording I finished mixing with GarageBand today.  I started by searching the internet (one method I frequently use for brainstorming when I don't have a clue) for an appropriate appellation for this rather rambling creation that is more improvisation than inspiration.

First, I started my search with exotic names for the Space Shuttle, since just this morning it disengaged from the International Space Station for its final descent into the pages of Space History.  I couldn't find a suitable name since words describing this first space plane were too literal for my taste, like Endeavor or Atlantis (already overused).

Then I thought, hey, our Native American brothers and sisters have really cool names for some of their deities.  But, after a quick search of a few sites, none of the ones I found really rang the bell for me.  But, I found a link on one site that did called The Church of Critical  This site is a weird mix of bad graphic design and eclectic non-religious ramblings, but it does quote the late Frank Herbert, the author of the science fiction classic novel, Dune, and noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, one of my personal heros, so I figured that it couldn't be all bad.

Hidden in the interesting clutter of linked pages to subjects like The Missing Link Enigma, the Actual Origins of Homo Sapiens, and Why the Prophets were part of our Evolution, not Creation, was a page about the Planet X Dilemma which, since 1982, has convinced some astronomers (not astrologers) that a tenth planet orbiting our sun "this way comes".

Well, I've never heard of that so I thought I'd delve deeper into this new (for me, at least) astronomical mystery.

It seems that the Sumerians, people of an ancient civilization that existed in Mesopotamia between about 3,000 and 1800 BC, invented monarchy, political states, and a system of social regulation and conflict resolution that we call law today.  They also predicted the existence of Planet X that they called Nibiru whose orbit passes by Earth every 2,000 years or so.

As stated on the Church of Critical Thinking web site, 

"This means that PlanetX / Nibiru is visible every 2000 (2,160) years during its orbital pass. ( Sumerian and Mayan text both state that Nibiru is clearly visible by day as well as night )

The sumerians told us that Nibiru wreaks havoc with the earth's axis every second orbital pass. (Every 4000 years or so). Basically, Earth's axis precessed from a right tilt forward and probably 180 to the left in around 10 or 20 hours due to the gravational (sic) "jolt" that takes place."

So, in the end, I'm calling my new tune Nibiru in honor of a probably fictional, mythical Planet X that the author of  the Church of Critical Thinking web site calculates will pass by earth causing a disastrous catastrophic tilting of the earth's axis in the year . . . 2012?  Yes, that's correct.  It just so happens that this date matches with that predicted by the now famous Mayan Calendar (and the recent hit movie, 2012).

Maybe someone will make a new movie called Nibiru and use my music for their theme song (hint, hint).  But, on second thought, there's barely enough time to produce this new major motion picture about the Sumerians' prediction of Planet X leaving little time for me to spend the millions of dollars I would glean from royalties.


Anyway, check out my new song, Nibiru - WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Enter the Canjo

A couple of weeks ago, my wife Anita and I traveled about an hour from Asheville to the 22nd annual Summertime Arts and Crafts Show presented by Mountain Artisans at the Ramsey Center on the beautiful Western Carolina University campus at Cullowhee, North Carolina, which I mention in my previous post.  When we first arrived at the show, we were greeted by what sounded like banjo picking music.  Upon investigation, we found the mountain music was emanating from a booth hosted by Alice and Henry Hoover, a very nice couple from Allardt, Tennessee.

Alice was alone "manning" the booth and it was her that was playing the simple tune on what appeared to be a stick with an empty Spam can attached and one banjo string running the length.  

But, as we found out, this is no ordinary stick.  

I was intrigued by the design simplicity of this rudimentary instrument and the quality of the rather loud banjo sound it produced. During our short initial conversation with Alice, she related that her husband, Henry, had worked on the Polaris ballistic missile program, was quite smart, AND a very good father.

We decided to wander the rest of the craft show for a while and told Alice that we would return on our way out.

When we returned a few hours later packing some nice goodies from the craft show, we found that Henry Hoover had joined Alice in their Canjo booth.  And, of course, Henry was also playing away on another Spam-can-sporting stick.  

I asked Henry for some details about his invention, which he proudly and happily related. 

I believe he told me that he only uses one of four different hardwoods to make each canjo and explained the reason and specific resonant qualities of each. This man is actually some kind of Spam-ish luthier, I realized. After a few fascinating minutes, I asked Henry which one of the many canjo models displayed he thought was the best for me and he choose a beautiful oak canjo that, as you can see from the picture above, has a nice reddish color.

As I mentioned, this is no ordinary stick with a banjo string attached.  It is a perfectly fretted musical instrument made with pride by no less than a rocket scientist.  As far as I could tell, each canjo is a hand-crafted original based on a very functional but economical design, and finished with linseed oil.  The single banjo string, attached to a tuning machine up at the head end of the neck, is tuned to the key of D, but Henry told me that you can tune it to any key you want.  Versatile, too, eh?

I've already used my Canjo for a simple track in the new theme song for Anita's Diabetes Menus DVD Number Two that Anita and I are currently producing.  I am so happy to have met Alice and Henry Hoover and to be one of the newest proud owners of a Hoover Canjo.

Henry and Alice Hoover a-pickin' and a-grinnin'
To get your very own Hoover Canjo, contact Alice and Henry at

or 913-879-9955 or 931-397-9596

Or Henry Hoover
     P.O. Box 94
     Allardt, TN  38504

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pass the Psaltery, Please

It's my first handmade instrument purchase and truly a thing of beauty.

This particular beautifully crafted bowed psaltery was built by skilled craftsman Dave Lucas who, with his wife Paulette, are the resident instrument makers at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park near Birmingham, Alabama, where they can be found on many weekends from March through November demonstrating and selling their instruments. Visitors are welcome anytime in their craft cabin to view their instruments and sit a spell while listening to live demonstrations of the bowed psaltery. 

I met Dave and Paulette last weekend while they were demonstrating their psalteries at the 22nd annual Summertime Arts and Crafts Show presented by Mountain Artisans at the Ramsey Center on the beautiful Western Carolina University campus at Cullowhee, North Carolina, located about one hour southwest of Asheville.

According to their website, the psaltery is a musical instrument with origins dating back at least 4000 years.  It is recorded in the Bible in both the Book of Psalms and the Book of Daniel.  The psaltery is played by holding the instrument in the bend of your arm and pulling a bow across the individual strings.

Dave started making bowed psalteries several years ago after Paulette bought one and fell in love with the instrument.  He has now made over 5000 with a special collector’s psaltery made each time he reaches a thousandth mark. The bowed psalteries that Dave makes are either 24 note double back or a 36 note standard back “tenor”. They are fully chromatic stringed instruments and extremely easy to learn to play.
Paulette gave me a personal lesson when I made my purchase at the craft show. She has also written three instructional music books that come with the purchase of each psaltery so that anyone, regardless of their musical background, is able to play it right away.

Dave makes all of his psalteries by hand from scratch.  Made from various hard woods such as walnut, birch, oak, cherry, maple and mahogany, each psaltery is unique with no two exactly alike. Dave’s psalteries can be easily identified by the individualism that he gives each psaltery from decorative scrollwork applied above or around the sound holes to floral and nature designs hand painted by Paulette.

I'm looking forward to learning to play this bit of hand crafted history and plan to use it soon in recording the new theme song for Anita's Diabetes Menus DVDs that I am producing with my wife, Anita.

Paulette and Dave Lucas with their psalteries