Touching History

I have always been a person of many passions and interests… and am constantly curious about history and events. Have you ever come close to touching history? Perhaps you attended an historical event or been introduced to a person of great renown?

One of my many diversions has been the Middle East…  its people, history, culture, language and food. Through this interest, I was lucky enough to have met many historical figures, often royalty from that part of the World. For example, I had attended two different dinner parties during the Shah of Iran’s stateside visits, and was seated each time at the Shah’s table, [where I was formally introduced]. The first time, he was with his wife of the moment, Soraya. The second time, years later, he was with a new wife, Farah Diba who sat next to me at dinner. I remember her leaning over to me after we had been introduced and quietly remarking that we had the same name. It turns out that Farah means “Joy” in Farsi! I later became friends with a member of the Shah’s immediate family which lead to a formal invitation to the Shah’s coronation in Tehran. What a thrill! This was at a time when Shah Reza Pahlavi decided to crown himself emperor to celebrate the 2500th Anniversary of Persia. Of course, I didn’t go… but can you imagine all that pomp and circumstance? See?… touching History.

I have another story that is entirely different but terribly tragic.

I love Arabic Music, especially when it is played by a live band with belly dancers and everything. Los Angeles, in the Sixties had many Middle Eastern Night Clubs with music, one of my favorites being in Hollywood, called “The Fez”. I would bypass the lavishly decorated dining room with its expensive menu and high roller clientele, strolling strings, large band, the whole nine yards… and head upstairs. Upstairs was another world entirely. It was a darker moody setting, dangerous looking in a James Bond Movie sort of way, and full of mystery. Patrons were seated on large cushions atop Persian carpets at low tables placed very close together. There was a full bar… an oud player with percussionists and belly dancer.     The music was so sexy and seductive. When the mood and atmosphere had risen to its most decadent point, listeners were encouraged by the belly dancer to get up and join in. Sometimes she would start a line dance, leading with her scarf ala Zorba the Greek. Other times, she would pick out someone from the crowd to dance solo. How embarrassing I thought, but she had plenty of male volunteers to choose from. I loved the whole scene so much that I would later enroll in belly dancing classes and even learn to play finger cymbals!

It was in this setting where I met the well known oud player, Adel Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian who had come to the U.S. with his mother and brothers. They were a very normal loving family who lived in Pasadena. We became good friends and he introduced me around.

Adel’s youngest brother, Sirhan would come to the Fez every once in a while. He was polite, very soft spoken… almost shy. We learned that Sirhan was having trouble staying in school and seemed pretty lost at the time of that meeting. Adel had become very concerned about his younger brother’s well being.

One Monday in June 1968 during one of our many nights out at the Fez, Sirhan appeared to be upset and very preoccupied. The club had closed for the night and a few of us were chatting over turkish coffees. Someone brought up the recent war (1967) between the Palestinians and Israelis. As the conversation escalated, Sirhan became very involved and animated, gradually getting louder and louder… until he was totally out of control.

It seemed that he blamed Robert Kennedy for that particular War, as his use of language and statements became very inflammatory… very extreme… and very hateful. He got so angry that his Arabic and English was all running together. Needless to say, it had gotten very uncomfortable so we all decided to leave. Adel apologized and took Sirhan home. It was very a upsetting evening to say the least and it had started out so nice and civil.

The next day was Primary Election Day in California. Bobby Kennedy was standing for the Democratic nomination for President. I had been working the phones for his campaign alongside many celebrities who had also volunteered. One such celeb being Rosie Grier, the football star. To our elation, Kennedy won! I was at home that night watching the election returns on TV with my daughter when Bobby gave that wonderful and historical victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After he finished and the seemingly never ending applause died down, the TV cameras followed him and his party through the hotel kitchen when suddenly, came the sound of gun fire and Kennedy was down. It became total chaos. Oh My God!! Rosie and some others tackled the shooter and brought him and his gun down to the ground. Other people had been shot as well. All of this was of course on live TV. How could this happen… again?

Cameras stayed on Kennedy who looked just horrible… blood was everywhere. Ethel, his wife was on her knees trying to help stop the bleeding. One of the cameras panned towards the shooter as he was disarmed and pulled from the floor. People were screaming. Nobody knew who he was. Much to my shock however, I did recognize him and couldn’t believe my eyes…  it was Adel’s younger brother, Sirhan.

I quickly dialed his mother’s house, hoping I was wrong. Nobody was home. I then called a mutual friend, George Elias, [another musician who worked at the Fez] and who had also recognized Sirhan from the live newscast. We didn’t know what to do but George suggested that he should call one of the leaders of the local Arab community… which he did. That call resulted in Sirhan’s official identification.

Tragically, Robert Kennedy died the next morning at nearby Good Samaritan Hospital.

Days later and still grieving, I was approached [while at my Salon] by two FBI agents and two members of the Elite LAPD Squad who were investigating the tragedy. They wanted to hear my story, what I knew about Sirhan personally, and most importantly if I thought Sirhan had acted alone or was part of an organized conspiracy. I told them all I knew and that I was almost positive that Sirhan had acted out of his own convictions and hatred.

I would find out later that my home phone had been tapped for about ten days. The LAPD Squad was still checking out their conspiracy theory and were especially interested in any calls to or from my Arabian friends, which made me very angry but I understood. Consequently there were no such calls, I had had no contact at all. The only calls they would hear were teenage girl talk by my daughter and her friends! Ha ha, I thought.

This time, being touched by history broke my heart. I am glad that Sirhan Sirhan is spending the remainder of his life where he is unable to ever hurt anyone else.

I often wonder how different the World would be if we had been able to live under the guidance of President Robert F. Kennedy.

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My Best Birthday

Unexpected VisitorIt just happened that this year… my Birthday fell on a Wednesday… Monktet Rehearsal Night. I thought it would be great fun to celebrate with my band and a few friends. Since I usually spoil my musicians by setting out strawberries, assorted fresh fruits and cookies or brownies, plus coffee and Newcastle… the basis of a party was already there… all set, ready to go.

I had asked my nephew, Greg Bendoni and his friend Stan Ausmas… the week before… if they could bring their video cameras since I wanted to prepare a demo. Just before Rehearsal time, my partner and Best Friend, Larry Williams set up the band (a nonet) in the Living Room, then asked me if I wanted him to pick up last minute goodies at the market. He came home with a bunch of bags and put everything away. He’s such a good Guy!

Special Deivery CakeAfter all the Hugs, Kisses and Birthday Wishes… the Rehearsal began… pretty much on time. Maybe because they were in a celebratin’ mood, the Monktet sounded even more energetic than usual. It was almost “Break Time” and Mike Nelson was in the middle of a fabulous Alto solo from “Joy Bop” (the title tune from our latest CD) when someone rang the Doorbell… Pounded on the door… and Yelled… “POLICE!”…… OMG!

It was a COP… a balding, middle aged guy… with a badge, gun and attitude… Taking immediate control. He said our neighbors had complained and we would have to “shut it down”. I explained that in 30 plus years of rehearsing various bands at the House, no one has complained. He answered that the previous watch sergeant had been a former student of John’s and would just toss the complaints… but they’ve got a “new guy” who plays by the book” and we would have to stop. We were all shocked… especially me. I explained… “But… But… It’s my Birthday!”… He continued talking… Then stopped dead: “Did you hear what she said? It’s Joy’s Birthday!!!” He then broke into the “Happy Birthday” song! A shocked bunch of people joined in. He then proceeded to dance (Bump and Grind style and sang a funny song with special lyrics. His rear was almost in my face (I was sitting down)… I was afraid he was going to strip! He didn’t, thankfully. He was just the opposite of Buff.

Joy Takes the Cake!Now remember… everything was being recorded for posterity by three cameras.Greg Dahl has added his for good measure!

Suddenly… everyone stopped and started to “ooooo”…right behind me was the most wonderful surprise… I turned around and Larry presented me with my favorite chocolate mousse cake all a-sizzle with a zillion lighted birthday candles!!! It was “Happy Birthday “all over again. Of course, I burst into tears of Joy.

This birthday was the best and most memorable… so much love plus giggles went into the planning. Larry’s partner in crime was my best bud, Byron Fry. As fellow guitarists do, they email and talk on the phone… a lot… about music, techniques, pedals, equipment and other whatevers peculiar to their instrument… so… in the week before my Birthday, I didn’t think that there was anything unusual about the many conversations between such Good Friends. Hah!… Little did I know. They were so afraid that I would figure Something was going on. Even up to the very last minute, Larry couldn’t believe everything was going “like clockwork”. No one else knew… except a few at the very last moment!

Unfortunately, Byron was not able to join us… He was driving to Oregon for some gigs and a recording session… but he certainly attended my surprise Birthday Party in Spirit… which was all over the place!

The Singing PolicemanAnd for Larry… what can I say? How’d he do it? How’d he hide the cake? How did I not know anything…? I totally bought the cop’s story (Byron’s Script)… as did everyone else.

My Best Birthday Gift has to be the Love and friendship that surrounds me. With such a fantastic start of this New Birthday Year… I am looking forward to a great one!

 

 

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Hollywood Invades Magruders June 1976

Chaos Broke out at the home of John and Joy Magruder when a variety of escapees from nearby studios invaded the celebration of the Magruder Machine’s Third birthday.
It was reported that the first to arrive was a tribe of multi-ethnic “Native Americans” quickly followed by a noisy “posse”, possibly “Blazing Saddles” Rejects. A chase ensued…. Which was interrupted by the arrival of the “Marx Brothers” who proceeded to disrupt the party as only they could. Something had to be done. The Band was safe in the dining room bandstand but the sanity of the guests was at stake. They were soon rescued by two “Keystone Kops” firing cap pistols and blowing whistles. Calm was restored but only for a moment.

Surprising everyone, one Keystone Kop brought in a black cape and silently draped it on the Band Leader…… who then got “pied” by the other Kop.

This done, the Band was presented their birthday cake…. with three giant candles.

A good time was had by all.

Note: credit must be given to the fabulous cast of characters, all members of the Uni Jazz Band. A nod of thanks to my friend, Doris Guest who played the shorter “Kop”. No one else, including the photographer. Laurie Pepper, knew what was going to happen. Costumes / Make-up / Wigs, etc were done quietly in the “Green Room” and the cast waited for their cues in the darkened pool area. (truth be told: John knew about the pie… which made him even more brave in my eyes.)

History:

1st Birthday: Cake was delivered by a gorilla.

2nd Birthday: Cake was delivered by Uni High Marching band in full regalia with instruments…. I was the “Leader” for the night.

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At Last…Wilmon is Here!

I’ve wanted to write about Larry Wilmon Williams for some time now…but found it very overwhelming to write Anything…since this special man and his music both reside in my house.
Larry’s musical experience, which is at once joyous and mischevious, makes my heart beat in a new way. This music has a familiar ring yet with so many twists and influences, it might as well be a whole new sound. Jazz, Folk and Classical genres make up a sandbox of ideas and voices that are unusual and innovative. Larry is a true sound improviser.
For 36 years, Larry Williams made his living playing the trumpet…with flugelhorn, EWI, percussion and even vocals running in the background. (Especially the guitar since it was always used as his principal composing tool). Currently, Larry has seven releases to his credit… as a featured artist and leader.
His eighth and newest effort, “Tales of Wilmon” (2010), is dedicated to his father, the late James Wilmon Williams. It showcases Larry on guitar. Now this was a great surprise to me…I did not know he even played guitar, let alone play it so well! Oh…that’s not all…you will hear percussion and vocals all over this project… Guess who?
Defying categorization, this CD is a sweeping American journey…emotional, provocative, and rich in sound textures. Featuring Larry’s original compositions and arrangements, “Tales of Wilmon” merges subtle rhythmic invention with the nervous brilliance of pure jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism.
About the Band… Wilmon Will, consisting of violin, clarinet/alto recorder, seven string bass, percussion, and Larry on guitar and vocals, covers the dynamic themes and songs á la Wilmon. What has developed is an undeniably powerful chemistry among the musicians as they bring the Wilmon idea to life.
Try to imagine…having flashing arppegios to the wit of a clarinet—violin—guitar trio…add to it…a stompin’ yet imaginative rhythm section…a tremendously unique atmosphere…a playful yet unexpected approach, Copelanesque in spirit…with a certain restlessness. All this is my idea of Wilmon Will!
BTW… “Tales of Wilmon” will be the LAST of Larry’s projects on which he blows his own horn! Embarking on the next phase of his career, placing guitar in the forefront will be a priority. I think having a new musical voice and direction must be so exhilarating for him…but he handles it with the greatest of ease.
Amid all this musical intensity, a halo of trills and a myriad of textures, one can easily experience Larry’s commitment to innovation and excellence. That is the message of his on-going work. Watch… and listen to what comes next. Larry is totally consumed by the Art of making music. His next CD will be solo guitar and vocals…can lyrics be next? Stay tuned.

Tales of Wilmon,” “The Bridge” and “A Time to Play” are available on CD Baby.

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Once Upon a Diamond…

I thought you’d like to hear the story about Al Capone… a Diamond… Prohibition…the “Beer Baron of Chicago”…and an unusual payment of debt, gangster style.

Terry and Joy (Magruder) Stone

During the Prohibition era in Chicago… it wasn’t the Italians who were the “muscle” in the beginning… it was the Irish!… especially on the South Side. The most powerful gang in the gin and beer business was the “Drugan-Lake Gang”, headed by the man known as the “Beer Baron of Chicago”… Terrence (Terry) Drugan. He literally had a lock on all the beer traffic, warehouses, trucks, etc. He had even owned race horses and 1/3 of Arlington Race Track. This was before Elliott Ness. He drove Deusenbergs, a Bugati, Pierce-Arrows or whatever he fancied at the moment. It was said that he actually owned a solid gold toilet seat. I’ve had it confirmed that it was only gold plated! The actor, James Cagney, looked a lot like him and played a character in the movie, “Public Enemy” which was based on, you guessed, Terrence Drugan… grapefruit and all!

Eventually, others saw the possibilities of moving in on the Irish in other areas…headed by a new guy, Al Capone. Drugan allowed Capone to “lease” some of his operations…for a nice price. It worked out well, at first…. but ugly ambition set in, then violence. The Capone people decided that they shouldn’t have to pay to do all the work! So they didn’t. This made Drugan angry… he personally called on Capone to pay up. Capone pleaded poverty and wanted time…. Drugan was having none of it. He then noticed the belt buckle that Capone was wearing. He demanded, “Give me that… the diamond in that belt buckle!” Capone said no… guns were drawn… Drugan insisted…. Capone refused… guns all around were flashing even more than the diamond. Finally, Al Capone realized that he had no choice but to give it up. He ordered his “assistant”, Frank Nitty, to remove the almost 2 carat stone from the buckle with his knife. It didn’t cover the entire debt but it established a strange working relationship between the two men.

Drugan kept the diamond (unmounted) in a safe deposit box where it was found many years later… after his death in 1954. Terry Drugan became the father-in-law that I never met! His son had changed his name from Terrence Joseph Drugan Jr. to Terry Stone… because of the negative baggage attached to the Drugan name in Chicago and points east. His father passed away one month before I met Terry. The Capone Diamond was given to me to honor our engagement/wedding. We took it to Laykin et Cie at I. Magnin in Los Angeles with my own design which placed the stone in the center of a bow of diamonds set in platinum. I wore it for the 10 years of our marriage. Terry passed away in 1965.  Now, I am afraid to wear it, as beautiful as it is. I keep it in a bank vault where it will remain until I pass it on to my daughter and/or grand-daughters.

The Capone diamond can easily be identified because it is an antique mine cut from the 1920’s or earlier…but most importantly…what looks like a defect is actually an identifying asset. The very point of the stone has been cut and blunted. The reason?….because it wouldn’t fit in the buckle…otherwise!!

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Live at Joy’s

Byron FryThe Jam Session“Jammin’ at Joy’s House” is not unheard of…In fact, Live Music is the absolute norm….that’s everywhere….all the time. But something truly Special happened on March 19, 2010. Super Guitarist Byron Fry came to LA for a gig at the Lighthouse and wanted to “play” on his free night, so…we put together an outstanding group of musicians…Larry Wilmon Williams on EWI; Paul Morin, String Bass and Remo Packer brought his gorgeous drums. Karen Elaine came later and added her magic on Viola!
Paul Morin I had a “feeling” that this might be worth recording….so I brought in Steve Pierson, recording engineer and Greg Dahl, to photograph it all. A little food, cookies and Newcastle turned it into a party!! Even the break was fun…cigars on my front porch (me too!). Anytime Byron and Larry can play off each other…oh well, what can I say?….sexy….exciting….funny….a challenge to the musical Ear! What a spectacular night of Jazz!!
We are planning to capture some new magic in July…when Byron comes down from Bishop, again.

We are now calling the band “Element”. Look for them around town soon….

http://vimeo.com/13290625

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Romantically Inclined

Romantically inclinedA while back… I went to Mexico City to compete in the World Championship (shotguns). I was privileged to be a shooter on the American Team and most of us, as well as the other competitors from the U.S., traveled on the same plane from LA. There wasn’t the security problem we have now. There were enough privately owned guns on that plane to start a revolution! All each of us had to do was present our guns, safely in their cases, to the Steward and he would take them to the Pilot’s compartment. At the end of the flight, we would personally reclaim our weapons. Smooth. Ammo went through “Luggage”. Since this was a World Competition, each Country sent their shooters the same way. America’s greatest competition was the Italian Team. They arrived wearing matching coats, hats and ties! We all spent the next two weeks trying to sabotage each other at restaurants and parties…with champagne and mariachis and other impractical jokes! Parties?….Oh Yes….remember this gathering was on a World Scale… Royalty, Political Leaders, International CEO’s, Celebrities, and me. I was happily single. One of the most memorable evenings went as follows….
The President of Mexico, Miguel Alemán, invited many of the most prominent competitors from the U.S., Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico and England to a very elegant party at the Museum of Anthropology which houses the famous Aztec Calendar and other Mayan and Aztec treasures. There was an Orchestra and we all wore our best formal clothes. After a magnificent dinner, the President asked me to dance with him… of course, I accepted. El Presidente!!! We danced a slow Fox Trot first… then he, very dramatically, put his fancy sombrero on me and the Orchestra started to play a Mexican Folk Dance. Fun! Except, just then we were interrupted by a very classically handsome Gentleman. The President was a little startled that someone would have the nerve to “cut in”. The Orchestra suddenly stopped….everyone else did too. The Gentleman offered a polite excuse…got down on his knee….took something out of his pocket…and said to me….”I want you to marry me and become the mother of my children”…then he presented me with an exquisite antique diamond ring!!
What an impossible situation! Yes, I knew who he was…he, elegant and silver-haired… was a well known Italian Count! He had attended many shooting competitions all over the Western States in which I participated. These included a lot of social events. We had been introduced and he had watched me shoot in competition. I remember his name to be Luciano. I had no idea that he had such intentions. No, I did not accept his proposal or his ring… much to the disappointment of the romantically bent audience. Of course, I was honored… but I hardly knew the man and there were so many other adventures awaiting… though I have often wondered what my life would have been like… as a countess!

During the 10 days of competition, I managed to maintain a 4 way tie for first place. On the last day I whiplashed my neck during practice. The team doctor couldn’t do anything for me. Drugs would have disqualified me.  I had no ability to move on a quick shot to the left, and unfortunately that’s what I got and missed. Individually I finished fourth in that World Championship. The American team placed second, beating the Italians. Hah!

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Fan Happenings

I’ve had many fan clubs during my “Hollywood” years. They were very important to me and a lot of fun. I personally answered each letter….sometimes in the hundreds, each week. Whether it was because of my frequent TV exposure, locally and nationally….or the USO Shows that I had been doing since I was three….or just because of a large group of sailor-fans from various ships….I was never sure….But I was honored for the day on the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier. The Navy brought it into Long Beach to celebrate “Hollywood” and its contribution to the Armed Services. There was a huge sign with my name, welcoming the Wasp to Hollywood….Bob Hope was the Emcee. We did a show of comedy routines and music. There were hundreds and hundreds of the best Sailors the Navy had to offer….cheering for me (I was a voluptuous 14 year old, cheating as 16) on that magnificent ship!! It totally went to my heart. What a thrill!
But my favorite fan “happening”, at that time, was closer to home. It was a Daily Parade from my school to my home….about 5 blocks. I went to an 8 year parochial school in LA, which was next to the all boys’ Loyola High School. On days that I wasn’t filming, I was met after school by about 25 boys on foot, skates or bikes…and another 10 or 12 in cars from the high school (including Bing Crosby’s boys, David and Lindsay)! The “anointed” ones would carry my books and, with all the rest, escort me home in the most outrageous Daily Parade in the history of my neighborhood…or so they told me. I lived in a big Victorian house with a huge front lawn…and everybody would hang until my dad would come home and good naturedly “chase them all away!” It was a lot of crazy fun and of course…..I was very flattered. Is it any wonder why I am the way I am, today?

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In Loving Igor

The artist in his studio

“I have more music racing through my brain than I could ever capture….walking out through the sage, under a full moon does that every time.”
Byron Fry is an Artist whose instruments and interests provide him with the best in musical technology. Yet with all this at hand, he still notates all his music with a pencil and a paper score pad! Sure, he has a full blown studio where he can track and tweak any sound in his musical universe…but he walks around with his 2nd Symphony in his head, thinking about Igor…or what he can call the sexy new ballad that he had just written as his 4th song on his new Album.
Then there is the now infamous Rock Opera he has been working on….recently writing a murder scene to the poetry his client provided. How juicy is that?
His current fusion Album, “Combustible” is still the best seller, after one year, on Numberonemusic.com. It’s available on Amazon.com and Numberonemusic.com/byronfry. Pandora Music (radio) now has Byron on its list of Artists for air play. You can also check this Album on myspace…. myspace.com/byronfry. It’s wild….provocative….exciting and beautiful! It is full of energy but I like to play it at the end of a long day…as a lullaby!
Byron tells me that his new Album will be more “organic” …with “sexy ballads”…more deeply into “interesting”. “Chowderhead Theorem”, “Meltdown” and the amazing “Sandfire” can be heard on his website.
It seems that living in Bishop, CA…..in the paradise of the Eastern Sierras, would isolate a composer of contemporary and classical music…from the “nowness” of what is happening musically on both Coasts. But he seems immune to so much of the pop-junk that abounds….especially on TV. Though he comes to LA to record and perform….Byron, through his technology, works with the best of the music world Internationally. He plans to tour with the Rock Opera next year.
A final note….for now. Many of you know that while he is one of the best contemporary guitarists alive….Byron is also a strong political activist. He cares about our Planet and works hard to improve our lot. On Memorial Day…outside…at Mammoth Mountain…he dramatically performed Jimi Hendrix’ “The Star Spangled Banner”! What a beautiful tribute to those who gave everything for us to be free. Bravo, Byron.
Links:
Sign Mailing List on numberonemusic.com
and myspace

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Shreds of Genius

Byron Fry: ShredderAt this point in my Life…it seems ridiculous to think of myself as a “Late Bloomer”! But I have to admit that this is very true….and totally wonderful! I have just discovered the Brilliance…the Genius….of Byron Fry!!
I am envious of the magnificent ROAR that he has within him…to be able to harness that energy into such a thing of beauty…His Music.
I know…I know…a lot of you are familiar with the exciting music he creates on Guitar. He can play anything! He can “Shred” to make your head spin and make your heart ache with his ballads. Jazz, Latin, Fusion, Classical, Flamenco, Pop, and good ol’ R&B… it’s all within this one remarkable man!
And more astonishing is the fact that he has written “Fry’s 1st Symphony”….all three movements have been performed in the Eastern Sierra city where he lives…Bishop, California. Breathtaking music created in a breathtaking part of paradise.
He has just finished writing a complex Rock Opera for an Australian client. He has composed scores for TV and Movies and would like to do more. He has traveled with his Music, though not recently. Since he feels very strongly about Education…he enjoys giving clinics and has many students. So many roads beckon him….it is his dream to “do it all.” He will.
I discovered Byron through Friends and Facebook. How could I not have heard of him before? I recently ordered his new CD, “Combustible” through Amazon.com. Wow…WOW!!…it’s Passionate, Provocative, and Powerful!… “Music to make love to…all night”…Sexy…Whew! But pay close attention to the tune, “Blues for Brittany”…a touching tribute to his daughter. His love for her is revealed in its unforgettable theme, He is already working on his next CD. He sang a few lines of his newest tunes to me…Marvelous!
Getting to know Byron and his Music is an on-going adventure. I will bring you along with me…it should be a pleasure for us all.

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