In the late 1980s, a friend and I started an original rock band and tried plying our trade in the Big Apple, our home town.

New York being a music industry town, competition among original bands was fierce and paying gigs were few.


Our group, The Pluto Gang (a Kurt Vonnegut reference), had managed to get into a particular seedy Brooklyn club a few times. It was well-known for having at least 5 original bands on stage every night. They were really about the only accessible place for original indie rock that we knew of at the time. The beer was cheap, but nobody ever got paid.

We talked our way into a few other places here and there, but we were watching local cover bands get all kinds of bookings right in our own neighborhood – for good money, too. But we didn’t want to do covers.

So, when we heard about a chance to play in a huge new club right near Times Square on a Saturday night, we had to look into it, right?

It turned out that this club was going to put 6 bands on stage for 40 minutes each, no sound check. And the compensation was explained like this: the band buys 25 tickets to the show for $5 each and sells them to their friends and fans for $8 each. Simple! We stood to make $75! Today, this is what’s known as “pay-to-play”, but it was new to us at the time.

Well, if memory serves we sold exactly zero tickets. We brought three or four people. Girlfriends, and such. Nobody we could actually charge for a ticket. But we were hoping to gain some new fans at this giant place. It was going to be a huge packed room full of rock fans, after all! Gotta love that, right? We had convinced ourselves it was worth the $125 investment.

I played bass in this band and the two guitarists and I shared songwriting and singing duties pretty equally. The lead guitarist was my long-time neighborhood partner in crime – I pretty much learned guitar from him and we had played what seemed like thousands of hours together in Brooklyn bars, parks, schoolyards, basements and studios. He paid his bills working for the US Postal Service.

Out rhythm player was definitely the best singer – and the songs he brought to the table were also the most commercially viable. He was either a pre-med student or some post-graduate species. His job was literally working in a lab that studied brains. Just brains…outside of heads.

We had a rotating cast of drummers. I forget which one we had at this Times Square gig, but it was probably one of two guys. The young drummer who was really shy and always played wearing giant headphones for ear protection, or the guy who’s dad was the lawyer who represented John Lennon in his U. S. deportation case.

The young guy wound up becoming a much-sought-after NYC jazz drummer and I think he did sessions for Joe Jackson at some point.

The other guy only knew just one drum roll, but he was cooler to hang out with. He had met Lennon, of course, because of his dad. So one day in the late 70s while he was in Central Park smoking weed with some similarly disaffected class-skipping high school chums, up walks John Lennon who says with a wink, “Eh, mate…does your dad know you’re smoking that stuff?”. This, of course, made our drummer an instant high-school celebrity.

Whichever drummer it was, we played pretty well at The Big Show on Time Square, despite there being no sound check. Our hopes of gaining new fans, however, were dashed by the band that played before us.

They emptied that formerly full room. Even our girlfriends were mad at us for having to be there during that torturous set. That was when we realized the promoters were discerning about only one thing: that the bands all paid the $125. I have to assume they never listened to any bands’ demo tapes (yes, this was back in the days of cassettes). There were thousands of aspiring NYC bands that would pass through that club at $125 each. At 6 bands a night, the promoters were guaranteed to make $750. The bar probably did OK too. This is pay-for-play.

Well that band broke up soon after that. The rhythm guitarist’s job and education were demanding more of his time, and I kept firing drummers. Finally I fired myself!

Speaking of drummers, our own The Merry Jaynz drummer Myron just became the proud pappy of a new-to-him vintage (like mid/late 60s) set of Rogers drums. He’s beside himself with drum set love!

These sparly blue vintage drums just had their maiden voyage with Myron on the throne…and at an outdoor show in one of our newest and most favorite places to play. We got a bunch of it on video, too and we posted one tune so far that’s available to all the public. We’ll probably post another one or two soon. Here’s the link:

It so happens that every new patron on Patreon inches us closer to our promised Filthy Pirate Song! Yes, if you hadn’t heard yet, I will learn and perform a live video broadcast of a Filthy Pirate Song when we reach 12 patrons or $50 in total monthly pledges. Check it out, become a patron!



For a year or so after we started the band,
we had older teens at home eager to earn a
buck for watching the “little kids”….

…then the elders aged out and left home.


Thereafter, when we had gigs we either had to pay more expensive
outside babysitters (when the gig was in a 21 and over bar or club),
or pack the kids up along with the equipment and bring them with

As time marched on, the bars and clubs were out of the picture for a
number of reasons (pitiful compensation, smoke-filled interiors and
expensive babysitters…).

There were a few gigs in places that served beer – but since they
were also restaurants, kids were allowed. The kids were into it for the
sodas and snacks, not so much for the show. But when we were
actually on stage, they’d just keep ordering more stuff – correctly
assuming we weren’t going to stop the show to deal with it. We lost
money at that one.

Then there was the time the kids asked us if they could sell our CDs
for us. It turns out that small, cute entrepreneurial CD-selling
children do a phenomenal business…then spend all the proceeds on
sodas and snacks while we are onstage! We lost money at that one,

We actually got an audition gig at a coffee shop/frozen yogurt
business right nearby home. There was no pay involved but the band
members could have a coffee of any type. At that show it was just
Susan and I playing – and our loop pedal “Sparky” handling all drum

The kids were very eager to attend – because frozen yogurt. The
treats for the kids weren’t complimentary like our coffee, by the way.
And the big draw for the frozen yogurt was really the endless
assortment of toppings. We told the kids we’d buy them each one
frozen yogurt, but they wisely made up for that by adding mountains
of toppings. It turns out these frozen yogurts are sold by weight – like
at the supermarket salad bar. We definitely lost money on that one.

As the kids got older and as the novelty of going to their parents’
gigs gradually wore off, we faced the ultimate in diminishing returns:
the bored and angry kid at the gig. This actually leads to impromptu
unrehearsed musical adventure! We sometimes found ourselves in
the middle of a song, suddenly “jamming” with a kid who just
decided to walk up on stage and a) ask Momma for money for snacks
and sodas – again, b) complain to Momma of a headache, ear ache,
belly ache, sadness or their sister’s behavior, c) ask when we are
going to be done – again or d) demand to go home right now. I do
have plans for adding kids to the ensemble…but those plans include
the actual playing of music.

So, anyway, we’re done with bars and clubs and the kids are over
coming with us unless there is some other irresistible draw for them,
so we just factor in babysitting expenses as a cost of doing business.
We’ve had some amazing shows in this post-bar, non-kid-ular era.
Mostly outdoors and private. But they’ve all been relatively
predictable, they’ve all lacked that randomity factor that gigging with
kids provides so well.

These days, in order to keep our performance chops sharp and also
provide you with that live rock and roll vibe, we want to do more live
broadcasts. We have the drums set up in our bedroom (still) and
could put on a 20 or 30-minute show at almost a moment’s notice.
We plan to run these broadcasts through Patreon using YouTube
Live. At first, we’ll open them to the general public. Eventually, we’ll
be making more of these live events Patreon members-only perks.
We would encourage you to check out our Patreon page – and also
tell us what you want to hear in a live broadcast…we reply to emails
you know!

CLICK HERE fort our Patreon link:


I never heard a real, good, filthy pirate song until July of 2013.

Filthy limericks? Yes. Written a filthy tune or two? Yes. But a real, good, filthy pirate song? Nope, not really. Not at all.

But, there I was, reunited with my on-again off-again folk music compadre of 20 years, on a 2-week camp-out at a hippie/pagan/new age/tree-hugger festival, sitting around a campfire at night while everyone BEGGED Kevin to break out his filthy pirate songs.

We were there with a full band who had never all met in person until we all arrived there near the shores of Lake Erie. We were contracted to play two shows over two weeks and we were getting handsomely compensated. Further, we had agreed to practice in public next door to the best food concession daily in exchange for dinner every evening. Also did I mention we were getting PAID??!!

It really was one of the sweetest gigs ever. First of all it was always a treat to play with Kevin, but he had outdone himself putting the band together. The drummer and singer were among the best I have ever played with on bass. The drummer was studying percussion (emphasis on jazz) in Kansas and the singer was a Berklee College of Music candidate for their Masters of Vocal Performance program – and she played a mean rhythm guitar as well. I kid you not when I say we were smokin’….

If you have read many of my past stories about my folk music exploits, you might remember that nudity was usually involved. Kevin was in every one of those scenarios – though this is the first time I’ve named him (and I have changed the name to protect the….innocent…or sump’n).

Well, surprise, surprise! The entire festival site was clothing-optional!

Usually when I say that, I can tell the listener is envisioning nothing but completely naked lingerie models and NFL quarterbacks scampering about suggestively and lasciviously from one orgy to the next. This is not the case. Not at all. My experience with public nudity really isn’t vast, but it goes way back. All I can say is that the nudity one DOES find at such events is not the kind ordinarily sought after by the lecherous and is unlikely to cause arousal in anyone. Anyway, there is an ethic among those who live that lifestyle, and newcomers are made aware of it with no exceptions. Those who think they have entered the land of easy meat are soon disavowed of that notion and quickly removed if need be.

So there we were, late at night in the woods around a campfire – about a dozen of us. Most of us had known Kevin from his days as a popular Renaissance Fair musician. I missed that whole phase of his career, but that’s where his fame as a purveyor of filthy pirate songs came from. This crowd wanted their filthy pirate songs and weren’t taking no for an answer!

There is something about the combination of folk music and absolutely blisteringly deviant sexual content that is irresistible and oddly satisfying. And Kevin had honed his delivery over the years to a fine point. If you’ve never heard one performed live before, it is like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Even the seasoned may blush at first – or throughout – but you always find yourself hoping there’s another verse even filthier than the last! Or maybe that’s just me. Whatever…

So, you may be wondering what brought all this up. Glad you asked!

It was a very recent father and son moment about The World’s Filthiest Limerick. You know the one: the infamous Nantucket. Anyway, he’d heard it hinted at before, but had never heard any more than the first innocuous line – and that was from a Spongebob episode ages ago. So, we had that moment and the laughter and the blushing was epic. And then I recalled the filthy pirate songs. And that gave me a great idea!

I would like to engage those among you who are willing to enter into a contest-like arrangement with me.

I will learn, practice and perform LIVE (for any who care to attend) a real, good, filthy pirate song. Of course this may be brimming with foul language of the worst sort. Of course this may mention all the most unmentionable of body parts and sexual acts in the coarsest of terms. But it wouldn’t be a filthy pirate song if it didn’t.

There is a subtext here as well, that I might as well mention. This performance, once it becomes a part of the public record (having been broadcast over the internet) will end for all time any chance that I might someday take leave of my senses and decide to run for public office. It is a step that needs taking!

So, here’s the contest part:

If I gain twenty new Patreon patrons (currently there are 2) or a total of 50 additional dollars (there are currently 10) by the end of November IT IS ON!!!

This means that even those who don’t have the resources to do so personally can still help bring this abomination into the world by wheedling, cajoling, influencing, persuading, demanding, begging or threatening all the filthy-minded in their lives to become a patron of The Merry Jaynz.

I know, I know…if successful, this plan will raise the overall level of moral turpitude of the statistically average Merry Jaynz fan. We know it may invite scorn from the self-described “righteous” (hopefully the Westboro Baptist Church). We know we may never realize our secret dream of performing to a clothing-optional crowd at St . Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

But, hey, people forget. Just look at the last U.S. election!

You can check out our Patreon channel here:

When this contest helps us reach our goal, the live broadcast will be scheduled through and view-able on Patreon. Plus there is already some cool stuff up there – and some Patron-only stuff that can only be experienced by patrons. Both of them….for now!



Bespoke is an adjective for anything commissioned to a particular specification.

It may be altered or tailored to the customs, tastes, or usage of an individual purchaser. So says Wikipedia…

Within the first week of finishing Air Force basic training and arriving at my tech school in Denver, I got two new roommates in the barracks.

They had gone through boot camp together and more or less knew each other. So, since they were new, and since alcohol was expressly forbidden in the barracks, I got them drunk. And we all became great friends.

Then they wanted to go to the mess hall. I told them I was just going to practice on my guitar (purchase number one on day number one after boot camp). Well, one of them had been reading a Penthouse magazine article and said, “Mannnnnn….I bet you can’t turn this article into a song before we get back from dinner.”

Ha ha ha. It was done with twenty minutes to spare! It was perfect and remained a staple and an oft-requested crowdpleaser for years after.

It was a filthy song full of deviancies best not repeated in this politically correct era. But it was exactly on target.

That was my first Bespoke Song.

Sometimes folks want to give a custom-written song to someone else as a gift. Other times, a custom-written song is ordered for a specific event, like weddings, memorials, corporate or church functions. There is no end to reasons why a custom-written song might be called for.

These are called Bespoke Songs.

You may have heard one of our songs and thought to yourself, “Mannnn!!!! If I were going to get a custom tune recorded to go along with my plans for an over-the-top marriage proposal for the object of my ardour, the apple of my eye, ear, nose and throat, I would want it to sound exactly like this!”

Or you may have a song idea, but no musical ability, and you thought to yourself, “Mannnn!!!! If I were going to ever record this song idea that haunts me 24 hours a day 7 days a week like a horrifically persistent cloud of gnats, I’d want it to go something like this Merry Jaynz song Tom sent me.”

Or you are producing a major feature film, or even a homemade 3-minute YouTube video, and you know you’ll get JUST the right vibe by adding some music or even a custom-written song. And you thought, “Y’know….mannnnnnn….that Tom Smith has just the approach and touch to nail this song to the wall and make my production tower above the rest.”

AND THEN you thought, “I wonder if Tom actually has the time, resources, equipment, ability and willingness to even consider doing this custom-written song for me…maaaaaannnnnnn – he probably won’t do it…”

How could you think that!!!???


I do custom-written songs. Bespoke songs.

You know what the music I put out sounds like, but you might not know that what I choose to produce and release for The Merry Jaynz is just a small slice of the overall music pie I ate way too much of (and which caused me to have an afternoon coffee which will definitely make me really “typey” at the keyboard and keep me awake all night).

Any idea you have can be developed with as much or as little up-front detail as you want or as much or as little input and influence that you want.

So, if you’ve been thinking along these lines, just reply and let me know what’s up!



Having once again entered the ranks of the blissfully unemployed, my thoughts turn to the notion of work and day jobs and such.

I recall a long car trip with my two oldest kids (when they were really small) where we killed two hours by me listing and summarizing every job I ever had up to that point – and I was about 40 then.

We all have to start somewhere, right? I started at age 14 with not one, but two jobs during that summer. See, I had already gotten into music and there were basses and amps and concert tickets and albums to buy.

So by night I was a dishwasher at a restaurant where I had some friends working already. By day I was a produce department go-fer at the nearby  supermarket. My best friend was hired into the produce department the day after I was. This wouldn’t be the last time that working with friends didn’t end well….

At the restaurant, they wanted me to wear whites, so I stashed my street clothes in a room near the dish washing station. I got really really behind mainly because the other dishwasher was a crashed-out 20-something speed freak. He spent the night flipping silverware at me when he could raise his head up off the table long enough. When it was time for the owners to close for the night, we found that my street clothes were now locked in the room where I’d stashed them. My apartment keys were in my regular pants, so they said I could wait for the janitor who would come at 6 AM – he’d have the keys to free my clothes. And I was told I could help myself to whatever was behind the bar while I waited. Didn’t end well.

The supermarket job lasted longer for me but ended badly for my friend. He had started tossing cases of beer into the dumpster by day, then retrieving them by night. Finally, he contrived to get himself locked into the store by hiding in the men’s room at closing time. Naturally it was a while before he got through to the manager on the phone and even longer until the manager and the cops came to let him out. He, too, was told to help himself. But his days in the produce department were done.

My next few jobs were all summer jobs as well and all with my Mom’s bank. My Mom was high up in Personnel (now, of course, Human Resources), but a lot of bank Moms had their teenage kids working at summer jobs at that bank. Mainly in the mail room. But my last bank job was at a local branch within walking distance from home.

It was strange at first, that I should be hired to do nothing else but type teller’s checks or cashier’s checks and nothing else. Then I found out why. On a certain day of the month, all depositors had the interest applied to their savings accounts. This bank branch was in the middle of one of the most populous centers of Hasidic and Conservative Judaism anywhere in the world outside of Israel. On interest day, the line for tellers check’s went out the door, down the street and around the corner! All the good supporters of Israel would have the amount of their accrued interest drafted into a check. I thought that was awesome! What a communal sense of purpose! What organization! The part that got to me was all those last names had an average of 15 letters and hardly vowels! Lots of “C”s and “Z”s, hard to type. I’d get one wrong and the customer would yell at the poor teller and I’d have to re-do it, sometimes checking the spelling three times. Torture!

Immediately after high school I worked briefly for a huge multi-national chemical company with its own office building on Park Avenue. I was second-in-command of the 9th floor mail room. My boss was a chain-smoker with emphysema who coughed more than he spoke. Indoor smoking in the workplace (or anyplace) was not even a thing back then.

My next job after high school was while I was actually residing in a neighborhood park. A nice, late 2 PM start time, cleaning a small family bakery. I still managed to be late a little too often. I had another job after that – one for which I had an actual residence. It was at a sandwich shop near the central New York Public Library. Lots of craaaaaazy stuff was happening in that place. All morning and afternoon, it was a cat-and-mouse game pitting the prostitutes and the drug dealers and the cops against each other. But at lunch time they all sat and had their sandwiches together in the shop and had a good old time. I lasted in that job right up until I went into the Air Force.

We’ll mostly skip over the Air Force part for now. Suffice it to say I spent almost as much time in tech school as I eventually spent fixing radars on F-4 fighters. In the end I would up being the guy near the end of the runway who emptied jet fuel out of wing tanks into a little 4-inch port in the tarmac that went down to an enormous underground tank. There I sat, alone  in a little shack atop all that jet fuel, with my guitar, hair way longer than regulations would allow, and my electric heater and my IAFPP (improvised aluminum foil pot pipe). 

I got out of the Air Force at age 21 and still didn’t have a driver’s license. So I got a few local retail jobs and some messenger jobs. First as a foot messenger, then as a bicycle messenger. As a bike messenger, my bosses bought me the bike (way too small) and took out the cost of it from my pay. When they’d recouped the cost, they stole the bike back and fired me! Thus began my time as a chimney builder and all-around home improvements contractor.

At that point I believe I got a drivers license and got involved in HVAC work followed by the flower business. There is some very crazy stuff going on in the NYC flower business, too! 

I think we’re up to at least 20 jobs now.

After the flower business (5 years of it!) I got back into home improvements contracting again for a few years, then a final Corporate Floral Sales job. Suit and tie and everything. Here I did really well. So well my boss asked me if I had any Brooklyn friends who needed a job. I did! That was about the end of that job.

Soon after that I left New York for Vegas and delivered flowers again, then it was more HVAC and a temp job in an automated warehouse that was under construction. That gig saw me become a Dad for the first time and also led directly to my unintended software career. 

1995 I started working with the software guys for the Engineering firm that designed the warehouse automation. Before too long they hired me! I took care of all the parts and tools from 6 am to 3 pm, then learned software during system testing from 3 pm to 8 pm.

5 years later, after doing software for Nike and Levi Strauss, I was brimming with confidence and had what I thought was a great resume and more savings than I ever had before. So I quit to play more music and look for a better IT or software job. 9/11 happened a few short weeks later and I didn’t see another tech job for 4 more years! Recruiters at job fairs were laughing in my face! So, more home improvements contracting and my foray into coffee-slinging and being a waiter.

Then I went out to Los Angeles and did political petitions. I was supposed to be there to set up a tour with a folk band, but…..nope. Political petitioning was lucrative, but seasonal. 

I returned east and was on a framing crew out of Asheville, North Carolina building custom homes in the mountains, then was involved in the used furniture business in Johnson City, Tennessee. Then finally back into the software business again.

And here we are, five software jobs later! Don’t ask me why I never became a bartender…it is still a mystery.

So, one possible future is a full-time music future. Doesn’t that sound great?

I have a friend who did it – and also did it after 20 years in software. But it isn’t going to involve a recording contract, that’s for sure. It will involve direct involvement with fans! That’s YOU.

So what do you want to see more of from us? What channels do you want to see and hear us on? Like more live videos? Singles instead of CD releases? Vinyl? Get in touch let us know!

Here’s the new CD for those of you who might not have it yet:

The Merry Jaynz – LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Mucho Peace-o,


All young musicians have their music heroes…

…and there is a strong incentive to dive into the influences behind those music heroes.

Those of us with music heroes that were popular in the rock scene of the 60s and 70s became well aware that these influences were not always other musicians. Not that substances were unheard of as influences upon artists of the past – far from it. But when it came down to exploring our favorite musicians’ influences, their favorite substances were on the list.

It bears mentioning that my mind was completely blown when I left my Brooklyn neighborhood as a young adult and discovered that there were actually people who had never indulged…who didn’t even know anyone who had ever indulged. Including alcohol. WHAT??!!

The culture I came from was so incredibly immersed in drugs (us kids) and alcohol (our parents) that it never occurred to me that a substance-related lifestyle was more the exception than the rule in society at large at the time.

Also, in the fullness of time, we see that opinions differ in some cases as to what substances are “drugs” and what substances are not. One’s opinion will vary depending on a range of factors; like whether a substance is legal or illegal, addictive or non-addictive, natural or manufactured.

This is why my little newsletter this week isn’t about “drugs”. Alcohol, tobacco, weed, nitrous oxide, coffee, whatever the stuff in “vapes” is…these are up for debate as to whether thay qualify as “drugs”, but there is no question that they are substances. They alter the mood, and this alteration – at least at first – is the reason for ingestion in the first place.

We all know humans have been ingesting mood-altering substances throughout our time on Earth, but let’s look at recent human history and at musicians specifically.

Would musicians have any different reasons for doing substances that non-musicians? Nope. Escape, boredom, stress management, inspiration, peer pressure and self-destruction are all present and accounted for. But artists in particular seem to experience creativity in cycles – with the low end of the cycle hovering at or around soul-crushing depression resulting from self-doubt, fear of rejection or failure. Substances play right into this cycle.

All substances have one thing in common: diminishing return on investment. The aspect of the substance that was once attractive loses its kick over time and with enough repetition. This usually results in increasing volume, or moving on to a new more potent substance.

Another thing common among most substances is the way they affect a person relative to the dosage. In the short term, usually a wee bit is enlivening, euphoric, or at least erases whatever targeted pain was present. More than a wee bit results in mental and physical impairment. In most cases, there is a point at which a dosage will be fatal.

So, in terms of music and musicians, here’s what I’ve learned about substances:

  • Alcohol may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • Marijuana may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • The White Powders are too often highly addictive and deadly. Sometimes live performance scenarios are truly superhuman, but the trade-off is a very short career.
  • Pills (opiates) are similar to The White Powders and it is only a matter of time until one transitions to them. Music will eventually take a back seat to opiates over time, and once the musical instruments are pawned, music is soon forgotten.
  • Pills (uppers, downers). Really? Why?
  • Speed can allow one to stay awake a really long time, get really productive and play really fast. Until you die or are incarcerated. Speed is the substance one is most likely to get addicted to and least likely to recover from.
  • Psychedelics may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • Tobacco stinks. Wanna get rid of me? Light up a cigarette. Or worse yet, a cigar. More difficult to quit than heroin I am told. Ever seen a life-long tobacco addict die in the hospital from respiratory illness? I have and I hope you never do. Does it enhance the creative process or live performances. Some say it calms the nerves and improves focus. I wouldn’t know.

I may be leaving some substances out, but there you go.

I have not done all of these myself, but most of them. Without going into detail, some I would even recommend, but only to those blessed with willpower and capable of moderation.

There are societal and cultural factors that bring about the need for sress-management, for an escape from the pressures and frustrations of everyday life. Substances are what most people turn to because few are taught any alternative means of dealing with life when it gets rough.

As far as music is concerned, however, one can find stress relief and escape there. And pursuing a music habit on a regular basis tends to bring about improvement. Substances….not so much.

So, NOW its time to enable my music habit! Go ahead and order our new CD LOVE ONE ANOTHER and and be my enabler!

Peace, Love and Gratitude,


There are as many reasons for wanting to learn slide guitar as there are pickers out there…

…and there are innumerable ways to go about learning.

Although it worked for me, I do NOT recommend my method. AT ALL!

“No pain, no gain” is what they say. I found it to be true while first learning guitar and bass at a tender age. Until one builds up callouses on their fingertips, the strings and the death grip of an inexperienced guitarist can cause excruciating pain.

Once one gets through that phase – if they ever do – things usually get a lot better very quickly. But the pain certainly tests one’s commitment.

With slide guitar, the string is never pressed down onto the guitar neck at all…that would defeat the whole purpose of slide playing – and sound really horrible too. Consequently, it would seem logical that the same painful entry point to learning would be absent, wouldn’t it? Well, read on….

I was already playing for a while when I first heard Duane Allman play slide guitar. I instantly knew I HAD to learn how to do this. But back in those days I HAD to learn almost everything I heard come through my streo speakers, so slide only occupied a small fraction of my overall attentions as an aspiring Rock God.

Yes, there are a lot of jaw-dropping slide players, and I’m sure I heard them all, but Duane had a fluidity and a bite to his style that simply stood out way above any other player for me (until I heard Derek Trucks play – but that was decades later). Of course he aced the blues, but he also had the same level of groundbreaking mastery over other musical motifs – like that bright country sound and even dobro and country blues styles.

It was on acoustic guitar that I first set out to get slide playing under my belt – and the acoustic guitar is a very forgiving instrument (once you have the pre-requisite callouses). But in order to really get where I wanted to be it had to be done on the electric guitar, period. And I didn’t have one…yet!

It wasn’t until I was in the Air Force that I finally got an electric guitar. I’d been dabbling on guitar for 5 or 6 years by then – my main focus was on bass guitar. But getting that electric axe and an amp was where I first started to shift from bass to full-time guitar picking.

The first thing I learned as an acoustic picker is that the electric guitar is not a forgiving instrument at all! Welcome to the land of amplified mistakes, where the name of the game is control. There’s a lot of power at your fingertips and what separates the meningitis from the boysenberries is subtlety. I had a lot to learn, but I had all the time in the world to learn it.

Now, I would never imply that consciousness-altering substances should be a part of anyone’s learning curve in any pursuit. But in my case, certain nefarious habits indirectly led me to a slide guitar “breakthrough” of sorts. It all happened during a late night run to a local store for that most innocuous of consciousness-altering substances: beer.

My Air Force buddy “Zipperhead” (let’s call him Zip, OK?) and I were out of beer and between us only Zip had a vehicle. To our great dismay we discovered his battery was dead. In a stirring testament to that epic U. S. military can-do, never-give-up spirit, we decided to “borrow” the battery from a mutual friend’s car. We debated (briefly) taking the time to go ask him, then decided he’d probably want some of our beer and chose the least time-consuming route: we simply stole (temporarily) his battery. We reasoned that he wouldn’t mind and, besides, he’d never know anyway.

So, we scoop up the battery and all is well. We get our beer and get back on base and park. Then Zip held the beer while I “un-stole” this car battery back into it’s rightful vehicle.

That’s when I dropped the battery about 4 inches down onto the fingernail of my left ring finger.

Karma? You be the judge. Anyway, the fingernail cracked horizontally about halfway down and hurt like the blazes! The beer didn’t even put a dent in the throbbing agony and even looking at it made both of us nauseous. So, a band aid was employed and we finished the beer.

I knew right away that this gnarly injury would NOT stop me from playing guitar. After all, I had played with a broken right ring finger back when I was a bass player, cast and all.

So the next day I picked up my electric guitar (this was a Fender Telecaster for those of you who care) and decided I would just not use my left ring finger while fretting. OUCH!!! I should have known that would be impossible, what with most of what one learns becoming muscle memory through endless hours of practice.

Clearly, there was no way to practice while trying not to use one finger. Fortunately, the mangled member was the one on which the bottleneck slide was customarily worn when playing slide guitar. I gave it a try and it was almost pain-free! Yes!!! Hello, Uncle Duane, I’m-a-comin’….

Well, in the year of 1983, there was no internet with instantly accessible slide guitar lessons, so I just set about figuring it out for myself, playing along with my favorite tunes whether there were slide parts in them or not.

I played only slide guitar for at least 3 months – until the top of my cracked fingernail finally fell off and the nub finally grew back enough to fret again.

So, you want to be a slide player? Don’t do like Tom! Go take a lesson!

If you care to hear some of the results of my ill-begotten slide guitar skill, such as it is, all you have to do is check out our new CD Love One Another. The title track and a number of others have plenty of slide parts. Go ahead, judge away! You can do it right here:






Where the heck do they come from?
What stages do they go through between initial idea to finished recording?


Well, I’m glad you asked!

I have been paying attention to “songcraft” for many years. Songcraft is a set of widely-accepted guidelines – dare I even say RULES – that are accepted and employed by many top-teir professional songwriters.

These writers of hit songs tend to mention songcraft in the same breath as the widely professed practice of writing songs every day – to develop the habit of songwriting.

I have no doubt that these tips, tools and practices are awesome and will result in noticeable improvement in anyone’s song writing efforts.

I utterly ignore them.

I have written about one hundred songs and the vast majority of them have lyrics. Some of them are closer in format to something a “real” songwriter would approve of: verse, chorus and bridge. Frankly, when a song comes to me, I take what is offered and try not to cloud this ethereal gift from, well, wherever, with over-thinking and too much effort.

I guess the place to start is the faraway fanatasy land known as Inspiration.

I am of the opinion that inspiration is always there. It just doesn’t always whisper great song ideas into my ear. It may whisper any number of things – and half the time it has something to do with NOT speaking what I’m thinking. I was “inspired” to not put my foot in my mouth by voicing what I thought was a hilarious idea out loud. This kind of inspiration took decades to hone and is probably the kind I value the most. It is close to, if not the same as, intuition. Trusting it is what takes decades.

There seems to be a widespread notion that inspiration is the one that chooses when – or if – it will appear. I don’t think that’s true. While sometimes it will hit you over the head with an idea, then not leave you alone until you act on it, other times it just sits there, as if it is looking at you and waiting. Saying, “Well…???”

Every now and then I have to sit down and write a song for some reason not related to the dawning of inspiration. A request for an original song is a good reason. With inspired ideas nowhere to be found, one does what one must: grind it out! Here’s where things get kinda weird sometimes, for me at least.

I’ll write down a list of subjects, I’ll try on first person voices, second, third. I’ll write lists of rhyming nouns or verbs or other parts of speech that fit the subject. Busy work, nitty-gritty stuff.

This is usually all done with an acoustic guitar on my lap, a guitar pick and a pen in my right hand (at the same time), and paper in front of me. Still other times (more rarely), the lyrical content will come and I’ll put it to music later. Setting words to music is a million times easier for me than coming up with lyrics to an existing musical idea.

There will be iterations – except on those rare occasions when inspiration just wakes up suddenly and a sonic gem pours forth. That is rarely the case, however.

The iterations can bounce between musical genres (now its a ballad in waltz time, now its a reggae tune, now its fingerstyle blues…), or between what will be the chorus, what will be the verse? Will the chorus and verse be stuck together? Will there be a bridge? Will there even be a chorus? Will there even be rhymes?

Along the way, inspiration can jump in at any time. Or it might not. When it doesn’t, then you’re left with pure invention. And shameless copying…er, ummm…borrowing.

At some point an idea solidifies around the subject and there is some sense to what is coming out. A form and a theme take shape. Things tend to go quicker then.

Even still, there may only be two verses…no further lyrics are forthcoming. At this point, I just accept it. That’s all there is…guess this song is supposed to have a lot of guitar solos!

There are always those inspired moments in the past that were captured on recordings, too. I have turned a few of these into songs over the years. It is a case of inspiration first, invention later – often prompting still more inspiration.

Occasionally, in the midst of a jam with friends, with some form of recorder running, an entire song beginning to end, music and lyrics, just flat out appears and needs next to nothing to call it complete. They may not be the very best songs, but their miraculous nature sets them apart – for me, at least.

Other times, sitting in front of blank paper, I feel like William Friggin’ Shakespeare and the words won’t stop coming through. Clearly, in such a case, inspiration has decided to hop on the train and ride it to the end of the line. I only recently discovered that invention in the absence of inspiration will sometimes evoke inspired creation after all. You hardly notice the shift until suddenly you realize it all has become automatic.

I will say this, though: invention without any inspiration rarely results in “keepers”. Those wind up in the trash can most of the time. They feel contrived, or they would be too “untrue” for me to attempt to sing.

I’m not the type who can just sing anything – and it isn’t about my vocal range at all. It has to be somehow true for me (AND fall within my very limited vocal range). This is the case even with cover tunes.

So now there I am with a song that has been written on acoustic guitar and is more or less complete. A whole range of questions now need to be answered. Is this song going to stay acoustic? Will this song get recorded? Will this song get an arrangement for three or four peices (also known as a band)?

It is here that most of the changes occur. Particularly in cases where the song is getting a rock band arrangement. More than once I have gotten inspired during this part of the process – coming up with a gorgeous melody line for the lyrics I wrote – only to find after hours of programming drums and recording rhythm parts that I literally cannot sing the damn melody!!!

Other times, this part of the process stays in the solo acoustic guitar domain until after weeks or months, a viable lyric/melody combination falls into place. Then arranging for a rock band format goes a lot smoother. During the time that passed, drum, rhythm and bass parts will have settled into my head, just needing to be made official and permanent in the recording process.

Lastly, some of the most inspired ideas I get come during recording – and even mixing. Small changes may happen that affect the whole musical direction, or a backing vocal part comes to me that really makes the melody stand out.

Sometimes, it is a subtractive process. In the mixing of a song, more than half of all the recorded parts may just get deleted, because a more refined sense of the final product got clearer – and the discarded parts muddied things up and had to go.

No matter what, the best song I ever wrote is the last song I ever wrote and I hope it stays that way – until I write the next one!

Speaking of the next one…IT’S HERE!!!!

Our new CD is out and the only place to get it is our very own web site.

Whether you want a CD or digital downloads of the album (or single tracks from the album), we got it!

If you’re going to buy it, please buy it from us…

The Merry Jaynz ONLINE STORE

Peace and Music,


“Why don’t you and your daughters just move to Las Vegas and join staff?”

That was the question I posed to “Elmer” – an elderly gent from Central California – during a phone conversation.


This phone conversation was at Elmer’s request – or actually his two daughters’ request. I’d been engaged in written communication with Elmer for a while. I had mentioned that I was from Brooklyn, and his daughters both were enamored with the “Brooklyn accent” due to movies and TV shows, but they’d never heard one in real life. Hence the call.

As a staff member at my wee church I was expected (ordered) to write ten letters a week. The point was to get people in the door under any pretext whatsoever in the hope that they’d pay for some services eventually.

We were provided addresses by the Mama Church. These addresses belonged to folks who had at some point provided them to The Cult for some reason. It was no surprise that the letter-writing aspect of our public outreach was a dismal failure. In fact, Elmer was the only one to have ever responded to my hundreds of letters.

Elmer, as it turned out, had been one of the very first people to latch onto The Cult’s Mighty Founder. They became close personal friends with Elmer even having been chosen by The Mighty Founder to deliver services unto The Mighty Founder’s Mighty Wife. Elmer eventually left The Cult – right around the time they decided to call themselves a religion. That’s when stuff started getting Cult-y. Good call on Elmer’s part.

Well, I had spoken on the phone to the daughters who were duly impressed with my authentic Brooklyn accent. Then, duty-bound to at least try to consummate the purpose of my communication, I posed the question.

Wouldn’t you know that less than 6 months later they all moved to Las Vegas and joined staff!

This was a nearly miraculous event, unheard of in my wee church. My standing improved immensely among my co-staff members and good things started to happen. Keep in mind all the other staff members had day jobs and only came in at night when there were courses happening. I slept in the church’s film room on the floor and kept the place open from 8 AM to 10 PM 7 days a week.

Among the good things that happened was that another staff member gifted me a car – my very first one! It was a $300-dollar 1965 Mercury Comet. Another good thing that happened was that some of my students convinced me to house-sit for some friends of theirs for a month. The house in question was a beautiful 4-bedroom deal with a pool.

My time house-sitting co-incided with some crucial visits to Las Vegas on the part of three very important parties: Our Mama Church’s two senior C-Members in charge of our wee church, Elmer and his daughters, and a female friend from my time at The Cult’s training place in Florida (we’ll call her “Spike”).

Spike was on her way from Florida back up to her home church in the Northwest. She had a long flight layover in Vegas and I had a 4-bedroom house, a pool and a car. She missed her connecting flight (pity) and had to spend the night…too bad! We had steak and beer and Very Good Times!

So, where did I get the money for steak and beer?

Good question! My first visitors were the C-Members from our Mama Church. While I was awaiting their arrival in the airport, it was announced that their flight was diverted due to major storms along the route. The delay was to be about three hours.

I had no money and lots of time to kill, so I did what any broke, bored Vegas resident would do in an airport filled with slot machines. I went looking for stray quarters in the payout trays. I figured drunk travelers gaming at the airport whose flight was called for boarding might in their haste leave behind a quarter or two. I found an entire intact roll of quarters!

In ten minutes, thanks to Ted’s video poker tutelage, I had parlayed that roll of quarters into $35!! When one is on a roll, one goes with it, so I drove to the nearest casino that had the much-sought after Flush Attack machines I loved so well. BAM!!! I walked out with $350 and still had a half-hour to kill before my visiting C-Members arrived. Good times!

Lastly, Elmer and his daughters arrived and I hosted them at “my house” most suitably. His daughters were “Teri” – 20 years old, and “Ana” – 17 years old. Teri was the most drop-dead gorgeous human I had ever laid eyes on – inside and out. I instantly saw our future together in my mind’s eye and my attentions somehow did not immediately scare her off – which was usually the case in such a scenario.

Eventually my house-sitting stint ended and I was back on the film room floor again, but not for long. Elmer and the girls rented a nearby apartment and I was invited to live with them. That worked out great, in more ways then one.

As time marched on, Our Mama Church decided that I needed to focus on tending to the growing student population in the course room at our wee church without the distractions that being the acting Executive Director posed. So they sent a couple of C-Members for a long-term stay to manage things. They slept on the film room floor.

When I finally managed to get Teri pregnant, she finally agreed to marry me and we would have a Cult wedding right there in the wee church with Ted (still in good standing with The Cult) as my best man.

Shortly thereafter we revealed the pending addition to our new family to the C-Members and announced that we’d be leaving The Cult for real jobs that actually paid money. Whenever something like this happens, The Cult’s C-Members are duty-bound to sit you down, “holding the cans”, and extract from you the overt acts you must have committed and witheld that were causing you to leave The Cult. They HATE it when someone leaves The Cult!

I got through my little session with no problem, but Teri came out from hers in tears. I was ready to kill me some C-Members! Having been so highly trained in Florida, the numerous technical errors they’d made in her session were obvious to me, but I was in a murderous rage only because they made my beautiful pregnant wife cry.

Three hours later after many threats of physical violence and lots of screaming and chasing each other around in the nearby streets at night in a rare Vegas downpour, the C-Members and I had tired each other out and called a truce.

It was done.

I haven’t seen the inside of The Cult ever since. Of course, despite changing addresses across many states many, many times, they always manage to find me and I still get mail and phone calls all the time, twenty-something years later.

One other good thing that happened was that our departure freed up Ted to finally unleash his long-planned program of protest against The Cult. He’d been holding off just because Teri and I were still in, but now he was free to let loose. It made him SO happy!

And now, my story about The Cult Years comes to an end. I am leaving out a million details, but you have things to do. Maybe someday I’ll write a screenplay and it will be a movie.

Thanks for reading!

This will be the part of the story about Ted…

…all about Ted and nothing but the Ted.


When I finally got back to Vegas after Florida and Brooklyn and Southern California (again), I wound up running the whole dingy store front Cult establishment as its temporary executive director. Most importantly, I also ran the wee church’s course room and all its training operations. That’s where I met Ted.

Like me, Ted was from Brooklyn. Like me, Ted was a veteran (he had been a US Marine in Vietnam). Like me, Ted was highly suspicious of the Cult’s whole “we’re a religion” angle – as well as all C-Members. Like me, Ted was in awe of the parts of The Cult’s technology that actually worked. It didn’t take long for the two of us to get downright conspiratorial.

He was already disaffected and was really just sticking around to gather actionable intelligence on the whole thing. He was good…played it cool, went along with stuff, but he was just biding his time. From the moment I admitted to him that I was basically just scamming room and board, we were instant best buds. You could say we went to different high schools together.

Ted paid his rent as a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He was born with a head for numbers. At his peak he was able to pay post-graduate math students to calculate odds on certain video poker and slot machine progressive payouts. At his peak he had enough money to pay for these calculations as well as more of the Cult’s courses so he could keep on “watching” their operation.

Ted could tell you how many video poker hands had to be played before a royal flush (the highest payout) was likely. Ted would know every progressive slot game in town, and at which point in the progressive growth of the payout each machine would be worth playing (in terms of dollars per hour given a certain number of hands played per hour). He was no amateur.

Ted’s real bread and butter was a particular type of video poker game that was always set up in a linked group of identical poker machines. This group of machines had the standard payouts for poker hands – except when the “Flush Attack” light turned on. Then a simple flush (5 cards all of the same suit) would be worth 40 points instead of 25 (with the maximum bet of $1.25). Ted had calculated the dollar-per-hour rate of return for Flush Attack machines.It was so much higher when the light was on that it was an irresistible source of income – as long as you stuck to his strategy.

Ted’s strategy on the Flush Attack machine was simple. Let the ignorant tourists dump money into the machine while the light was off. Sit at the machine drinking coffee and only playing a quarter a hand and only as many hands as it took to not get “asked to leave” by the casino. Then, when the tourists finally hit enough flushes with enough money in their machines, they’d turn on the Flush Attack light.

When that Flush Attack light came on, Ted sprang into action! He’d switch from betting a quarter a hand to the maximum bet and switch to playing a strategy that targeted flushes. He’d then play at lightning speed. He was going to be the first one to get a flush with the light on, and get his 40-point max bet payout. Then the light would go out, and he’d downshift, letting the tourists turn the Flush Attack light back on again.

This was worth an average of about $8 an hour. And it worked at whatever Vegas casinos where ignorant tourists were sitting at Flush Attack machines.Normal, non-linked video poker machines that did not have a progressive payout were not worth Ted’s time at all far as their dollar-per-hour rate was concerned.

After we’d been bros for a few months, I hopped on back of his motorcycle on a  rare day off and we hit The Maxim – an older “golden-era” casino that had the lucrative Flush Attack machines. I was an apprentice pro gambler!

He schooled me rigorously on his Flush Attack strategy. Once I passed muster, he would give me $300 of his own cash to work with. I would get to keep all the complimentary benefits and perks the casino offered just for playing (usually worth at least a few beers and a meal at the casino buffet every day I played).

I would get a certain percentage of any royal flush or four aces thad I’d hit (those were worth $1200 and $200 respectively – with maximum bet). And he’d pay me $5 an hour. Ted usually would get his $300 back and sometimes much more. I got to get out and about and drink the casino’s complimentary beer.

This lasted until the Heinekens finally won out over Ted’s strategy. After four or five of’ em, I’d start playing with my gut and chase the elusive Royal Flush – instead of using The Strategy. Naturally, this lost Ted money and eventually it’s what got me fired from the world of professional gambling. We remained close friends, though. In fact, Ted was the best man at my Cult wedding. Now THERE’s a story…one I’ll cover later.

At one point after I’d left The Cult, my Dad actually retired and moved to Vegas. He wound up getting a job as the head tech guy for the biggest gaming company in town – the one that manufactured and programmed most of the video machines. Crazy, right? I just had to get Dad (another Brooklyn boy – and veteran) and Ted together.

Sure enough, when they met it was instant fireworks! It was like the old Mad Magazine Spy versus Spy cartoon. Ted kept trying to wheedle something he could use from my Dad, and my Dad kept dismissing even the possibility that anyone could ever beat the machines with a mathematical strategy. It was epic!

Ted kept going to The Cult’s little church long after I had departed (as a married man with a kid on the way). Finally, he too parted company with The Cult as well. Thus began his long-awaited career as a full-time Protester of The Cult! He would attend every large Cult event, travelling hundreds of miles just to walk around with an anti-cult picket sign. He’d do that in Vegas too – in his spare time

He formally petitioned The Cult on a regular basis to officially declare him a Suppressive Person – as per their own very well-defined rules. Of course the Cult wasn’t going to do anything an Anti-Cult protester said to do, so he never got “declared”. This was very disappointing to him since said official declaration was considered a badge of honor among the Anti-Cult crowd he ran around with.

We kept in touch for years after I’d left Vegas. But, unlike Ted, I couldn’t be bothered being anti-anything.

While still in Vegas, but after The Cult, I sprouted a wife, a child and a promising software career. Then I started chasing money all over the continental United States, willingly re-locating to Memphis and then the Cincinnati area to stay employed.

Literally everywhere I ever lived since then, The Cult always found my address. To this day they still send me many pieces of mail a week.

I guess I have one more Cult story left in me. I’ll give the details surrounding the meeting of the wife, the wedding and the final rain-soaked, nearly violent confrontation with three C-members which led to my exit. That exit was what most would call a dramatic conclusion.

Speaking of dramatic conclusions, the crowdfunding campaign we ran for our new CD Love One Another wound up at 97% of goal – two days after the official end! We learned a lot from the whole thing and it was an unparalleled success. The physical CDs will be here within a week or so and are, of course, for sale. The tracks will be on Spotify, iTunes and all the rest of the world’s finest streaming sites at the end of August.

Go ahead and get your CD if you haven’t already!