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Tag: country

Blake Shelton names his new honky-tonks after classic (but not his own) country song

Not since a fried chicken chain opened under the name Bojangles, has a name been so blatantly borrowed from the music world for personal gain.

Blake Shelton is opening a chain of restaurant/music venues/retail stores later this month under the name Ole Red — a slightly altered spelling of his hit song “Ol’ Red,” which wasn’t really his song either.

I don’t know if Bojangles restaurants pay any form of royalties to Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote and first recorded “Mr. Bojangles,” or, for that matter, if Shelton’s new restaurants give much of a nod (financial or otherwise) to George Jones, who originally recorded “Ol’ Red,” but it makes me wonder.

sheltonmugAre song names fair game? Can anyone appropriate them for their own personal or business use? Can I, without repercussions, or lawsuits, open a business named after a song?

Perhaps a hoagie restaurant called “Yellow Submarine,” a home cleaning service called “Another One Bites the Dust,” or a vitamin and health food dispensary named “Stayin’ Alive?”

It may be legal, but it’s still a little presumptuous.

What Shelton is doing would be the equivalent of David Lee Roth opening a chain of Hooters-like restaurants and calling it California Girls.

Blake Shelton took George Jones’ song — written by James “Bo” Bohan, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill — and turned it into a hit of his own in 2009.

jonesgraveThe song tells the delightful story of an inmate who enlists a prison bloodhound — whose job was to track down prisoners — to assist in his own escape.

It is narrated by an inmate who is serving a 99-year sentence for a violent act committed when he caught his wife with another man. After gaining a position of trust, though, he is allowed to take the bloodhound, Ol’ Red, for his evening run.

The inmate secretly arranges for a cousin in Tennessee to bring an especially alluring female blue tick hound to the outskirts of the prison and put her in a pen. The inmate, during that evening run, begins regularly dropping Ol’ Red off there for nightly trysts.

Ol’ Red gets so smitten with the blue tick hound that when the inmate makes his own escape, he knows Ol’ Red will be released to chase him down — and he knows Red will head in the opposite direction, straight for his new girlfriend.

The escape is successful, as the final line of the song points out:

“Love got me in there, love got me out.”

(You can hear George Jones’ version — still preferred by many — here.)

Jones died in 2013.

namethedogsI’m sure Shelton had to pay some person or entity to record the song, but I’m not so sure if any deals were involved in naming his two new establishments after the song.

Maybe altering the name — from Ol’ Red to Ole Red — served as a loophole, even if it does lead some people to give it the Spanish pronunciation: Olé.

Shelton opened the first location of his new honky-tonk chain yesterday in in Tishomingo, Okla. A second will open later this month in Nashville.

And today he released a new album, entitled, interestingly enough, “I’ll Name the Dogs.”

I don’t know what that song is about, but once it shows up on the Internet I’ll bring it to you — just in case you, like me, have an interest in dog songs, or if maybe you want to use that name when you open your own hot dog stand.

Oh wait, here it is now:

How nice. Not what I’d call a dog song, though. Shelton sings of how he and the woman he is proposing to will divide household duties once they are married: “You name the kids; I’ll name the dogs.”

This is what country singers do. They sing about their undying love for their woman. Then they sing about breaking up with that woman. Then they sing about their forevermore loyalty to the next woman.

(George Jones has Blake Shelton beat in this category too, having married at least four times, once to Tammy Wynette, who was married five times and who recorded the No. 1 song of 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” She married Jones the next year. It lasted six years.)

When they’re not singing about love realized and love lost, country singers turn to simpler topics, like beer and whiskey, their truck, fishin’ and their dog.

They also sing each other’s songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when they establish an entire franchise based on somebody else’s song? One could argue that’s going too far. One could say that’s bad manners. One could say, in more countrified terms, “That dog don’t hunt.”

(Photos, At top, Shelton shows off some of the merchandise at his new honky-tonk, USA Today; middle, George Jones’ dog, Bandit, visits his grave, Facebook; bottom, cover of Shelton’s new album)

“That’s how we do it in the country”

chickenA woman who duct-taped a dead chicken to a dog’s neck to teach it not to kill chickens defended the practice by saying that’s how they’ve always done it “in the country.”

The unidentified 74-year-old woman was cited for animal cruelty after a neighbor reported her to authorities and posted images of the dog on Facebook.

The woman is from Phenix City, Alabama, but was house sitting for a daughter in Columbus, Georgia, when the incident occurred.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said police went to the home Monday after a complaint from a citizen.

The mayor described what happened this way: “The dog kills the chicken … So she said that she duct-taped the dead chicken to the dog to, quote, ‘Teach it a lesson not to kill her chickens.'”

The woman told police that’s what people do in the country to train dogs not to kill chickens, the mayor told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Apparently, the woman had brought the live chicken with her from Alabama.

It wasn’t immediately confirmed if the dog, described as a pit bull, belonged to her or her daughter.

The incident set off a lengthy Facebook debate after Columbus resident Hannah Gillespie posted pictures of the dog:

Gillespie said in the post that the dead chicken remained taped to the dog’s neck for at least nine hours.

The ongoing Facebook debate took a dramatic turn when a someone claiming to be the woman in question posted, in a message to all the critics, that she had taken the dog to be euthanized.

Gillespie later commented on Facebook that the dog was still alive, and remained in the woman’s custody.

Colombian vice president declines ambassadorship — to stay home with dog

garzon-apColombian Vice President Angelino Garzon says he turned down an ambassadorship in Brazil because the climate there would not be healthy for his dog

And when we say climate, we mean the weather.

Garzon, in a letter to the Colombian president, said he was declining the job for personal and family reasons. He elaborated on those reasons in an interview with the magazine Semana.

Basically, it comes down to one family member — his German shepherd, Orion, who he said wouldn’t be comfortable in Brazil’s steamy climate, and who he refuses to live without.

“I have turned down the ambassador job because the dog you see on that picture is very hairy and the hot climate of Brasilia could harm its health,” Garzon, 67, told the magazine reporter as he showed her a photo of Orion.

“Wherever Angelino goes, it goes,” he said.

We find his reasons perfectly acceptable, even admirable (though calling his dog something other than “it” would be more to our liking).

Some, though, are scoffing at his excuse, including Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, according to the BBC.

She called Garzon’s rejection of the post “very embarrassing … When he mentioned personal problems, you would expect something deeper than that. It is as though he doesn’t realize the importance Brazil has,” she said.

We may have a duty to our country, but we have a duty to our dogs, too, and — whether or not “it’s too hot for the dog” is his real and total reason for declining the post — we think Garzon has every right to say no thanks for any reason he wants. We especially like this one though.

Garzon announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election alongside President Juan Manuel Santos. He said he might consider running for mayor of Bogota or Cali. “In local government, you can have a bigger impact in improving people’s lives than as vice-president,” he said.

(Photo: Associated Press)

If only I could read his mind …

While I feel pretty attuned to my dog – though nowhere near as attuned as he is to me – there have been times, lots of times, during our seven months of traveling that I’ve wondered what he really thinks of it all.

We’ve been on the go since the end of May, not staying anywhere, until our most recent stop, for longer than two or three days. More often, it has been a new Motel 6, or similarly priced lodgings, every night, followed by four, five or six hours of drive time, then landing in a new place, with new smells, which must be sniffed out and, of course, peed on.

By the time we’re done, in another week, we will have traveled over 22,000 miles, he will have peed on 31 states (and Canada) and we will have crossed the country twice in our red Jeep Liberty.

And he will have, hundreds of times, looked up at me with those big brown eyes, which are so highly expressive.

If only I knew what they were expressing.

Ace in May in North Carolina

The back of my Jeep, which once meant he was heading on an outing, has become — other than me, and dinner — one of the few constants in his life of late. It, more than any place, is home, and he still jumps in it excitedly.

During our four weeks of sitting still in Arizona, he still waits to jump in the car. Is it  conditioning, or is he truly eager to go; and, if the latter, is it because he has come to love the road, or that he wants to finally get the hell home?

Is he enjoying the adventure, or, irony of ironies, does he find the Liberty confining?

 While Ace seems to have adapted wonderfully to the new routine – or lack of one – and shows no visible signs of being unhappy, I still wonder if not being rooted, not having one place to call home, is bothering him.

Ace in June in Alabama

Does he find being a vagabond liberating, as I – most of the time – do, or is he longing for a place of his own, an end to the travels, a return to the daily routine? Dogs do seem to love their routines.

His tail has remained curled most of the time, and that has always been the most obvious barometer of his mood.

But there are times I look at him, when he’s lying with his head on his paws that I wonder: Is he sad, is he depressed, or is he just lying with his head on his paws?

It’s important for me to know, because this trip, in more ways than one, is about him.

In addition to having nothing better to do, thinking it might be fun to travel across America, documenting our daily exploits and seeking out dog stories — to put together a “Travels With Charley” for modern times, only a more dog-centric version — this journey was also sparked by a feeling I was left with after writing my first book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

Ace in July, outside Amarillo

After researching the often incredible lengths bereaved pet owners go to when their dogs get sick and die, including that most high tech length of all – cloning – it struck me, in what is likely neither a deep nor original thought, that we humans could, and should, do a better job of savoring our loved ones (of all species) while they’re still around. Maybe then, rather than prolonged and paralyzing grief, we could, knowing we had fully celebrated their lives, better accept their deaths.

Ace in August, at the beach in North Carolina

I don’t really know if that would lessen the pain of a loved one’s departure. It could, for all I know, only make it worse. But that’s not the point. The point is we humans, as the song goes, “don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” that we take things for granted – not just unpaved paradises, but our parents, our planet, our friends and our dogs.

And while I’m as guilty as anybody on the parents and friends part, I resolved – after writing about how people go so far as to “stuff,” mummify and freeze dry their deceased pets, or pay $100,000 to produce a genetic replica through cloning – that Ace would be appreciated. In life.

In September, aboard a sailboat we slept on in Baltimore

That doesn’t mean spoiled and pampered — that’s entirely different. But I made a promise to myself to fully enjoy my dog — to, if it’s not too precious a word, treasure him (not that I didn’t already) — in our relatively brief time together. (Ace, who came into my life when he was 6 months old, is going on 7 years now, and being a big dog, will be lucky to reach the teens.)

Ace at Niagara Falls in October

I saw the trip, rightly or wrongly, as a way to do that – to take the time we shared beyond the routine of coming home from work, walking to the park, eating dinner and snuggling in front of the TV — though, again, for all I know, perhaps that was the life that Ace really preferred.

If, as I suspect, our dogs reflect our moods, then doing what makes me happiest, I reasoned, would make him happiest – especially given the fact that we’d be doing it together — and probably nothing makes me happier, other than Ace laying his head on my belly, than traveling, writing, seeing new things, and meeting new people.

So, even though finances didn’t really permit it, with an assist from my 401K and unemployment benefits, we set off on this journey, not being sure where it would lead, how long it might last, or what, other than some stories to share, it might result in.

In November, on the coast of Oregon

At first, I planned for three months on the road. When that was done, we kept going, heading to the former home of John Steinbeck on Long Island and, on the same day he left 50 years earlier, starting again, roughly following the same route the author took in “Travels With Charley.” That took another three months.

Now, we’re preparing to head back east – we’re still not sure where home is, but Baltimore will do for now. We’ll be sticking to interstate highways to make better time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that schedules and itineraries – and particularly interstate highways — make traveling, at once, more stressful and boring. They snuff out any opportunities for spontaneity. You miss out on the character, and characters, America has to offer.

But as we “make good time,” I’ll be a little less stressed about whether Ace is enjoying the ride.

Ace and friends in December, Cave Creek, Arizona

Despite all the time I pondered the questions; despite my long looks into his soulful brown eyes attempting to gauge his emotions; despite some one-sided conversations where I’ve attempted to explain things, with his only response being giving me his paw; despite priding myself on having some dog empathy, I’d been unable to figure out the answer to that question: Is Ace having fun?

So, last week, before I left Cave Creek, I sought a second opinion.

It was Ace’s second visit with an animal communicator – the first having come when I was researching a series I wrote for the Baltimore Sun about trying to uncover the past of my mysterious new dog, adopted from what used to be the city pound.

What was he, and where did he come from? For the answers then I turned to DNA testing (which showed him to be a Rottweiler-Chow-Akita), to legwork (walking the streets of the neighborhood where records showed he’d been picked up as a stray) and, finally, to an animal communicator. Perhaps the answers, I figured, could come straight from the source: Ace.

I’m neither a big believer, or for that matter a big disbeliever, in those that claim animals talk to them, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to listen – to them, or, if possible, to Ace. 

Not long after parking myself in Cave Creek, Arizona, I visited For Goodness Sake, a thrift store that donates part of its profits to animal rescue organizations. At a weekend fund-raising event there, I entered a raffle for a session with a local animal communicator, and I won.

Last week, Ace and I sat down with Debbie Johnstone of Listen 2 Animals.

And according to her, Ace had lots to say.

(Tomorrow: Ace talks)

On music, memories and the open road

This trip, whatever else it’s about, is also about nostalgia, and I got a big dose of it on the drive to Houston – most of it induced by the long-distance driver’s best friend, the radio.

Music, like old friends revisited and roads previously traveled, can be a powerful memory trigger.

Music and roads, in fact, have a lot in common.

The road itself has a rhythm – the steady thwack-thwack percussion of cracks in the highway, the different humming tones produced by different road surfaces, the rat-a-tat drum roll when you accidentally veer across those lane divider bumps, which always causes Ace to, ever so briefly, wake up.

Then, on the Interstate at least, there is the familiar chorus: Exit ahead … Food, Gas, Lodging … Shoney’s, Cracker Barrel, Taco Bell.

When it comes to roads, some are pop roads, also known as Interstate highways, where you’re not likely to see anything you haven’t seen before. There are classical roads, like Route 66; and blues roads, which are dark and swampy with moss hanging from the trees. There are jazz roads, which meander, make abrupt turns and have unpredictable curves and riffs. There are alternate, or alternative highways, which often lead to something interesting; and of course there are country roads, which may or may not take you home … to the place … you belong.

On Friday, with the radio blasting, I traveled a swampy stretch of I-10 – a combination blues/pop road — from Baton Rouge to Lafayette, crossing a piece of the Atchafalaya Swamp, whose name itself is almost musical. During the drive I had four flashbacks, three of them music-induced.

Blame the first on the Red Hot Chili Peppers – the musical group that, like the vegetable, tends to come back and haunt me.

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