Phantom Blog

July 2010

Viewing posts from July , 2010

A New Jersey Hillbilly/Jim Ledbetter/Nashville Cats

I am writing some commentary to James Floyd’s poem ‘Wasted Flowers’ which is the Phantom Billstickers poem of this week. I was in Nashville, Tennessee this last week and if any place can be spiritual to me it is this part of the dear and blessed South. In terms of that pleasant and grounded feeling, Nashville comes close to Dunedin in old Aotearoa and which I miss. I miss the town belt of Dunedin and all those trees (Queen’s Drive) which seem to be of a completely unique colour in terms of this world. This good world will never let you down (or will it?) and Nashville never does. I even found a new country singing star, Chris Knight. Boy, is he good. In a world where 90% of music is mediocre, I am always happy to hear a good one.

That old Ford Crown Victoria has never disappointed me yet and the door wouldn’t unlock before I left. I took it into my local gas station here in New Jersey. I mean a man might have to evacuate his vehicle pretty quickly at times, who can tell? The gas station owner (Mike) of Cifelli’s Sunoco unlocked it and threw the locking mechanism on the back seat like it was disgusting and shameful to have to lock a car. At the same time, Mike was telling me about a house that was for sale here recently and how he overheard two women discussing it whilst getting their cars filled with that precious petroleum. The stuff we are ruining the earth with. One of the women said she wouldn’t want to own the house in question because there were only five bathrooms and her family was six. Mike said, “What, does everybody take a shit at the same time?”

Mike also said that the Afghanistan war couldn’t be won because “what’s to win?” I couldn’t agree more. It’s just another case of men gone wild and having to stomp other men.

Now all that’s New Jersey hillbilly wisdom. Hillbillies (simple people) are everywhere if you look.

That car ran on eight cylinders all the way and it is one sweet ride.


On to Jim Ledbetter:

Jim Ledbetter came off a methadone habit by locking himself in his car in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. He had nowhere else to go. He no longer had a house and probably few friends and this whole business (getting clean) was now merely between him and God. Of course if you were to count on anyone when the chips are down like that, then God would be the one. James Floyd’s excellent poem is for people like Jim Ledbetter and I feel I knew Jim well. As far as James Floyd goes, you can find him on Youtube under The Jefferson Street Poet.

I’m bound to say that it would have been cold there in Centennial Park and I know that every part of Ledbetter’s body would have shook from one door of that old car (it was a Chevrolet) to the other door as he got clean and got himself right with God, because that’s where he got. God cleaned the slate for Jim to start over again. Then, God didn’t let him down for the four years he was clean.

I love that country music in Nashville. One time I was walking down the street in my ‘Charlie One Horse’ Cowboy hat (the ‘Mama Tried’ model) and a car pulled up and the driver asked me if I was there to record a country record?

Jim Ledbetter, having proved himself to be a qualitative and deeply decent human being, died recently of a heart attack and that’s why I’m writing this.

Guys like Jim who make a comeback have a lot to offer the world and Jim did his fair share and more of good work. I salute him. Anyone who has gotten himself involved in the drug war (it’s bigger than Afghanistan and twice as unpopular) and has gotten clean. Well, there’s a life’s work and then some. There should be a congressional medal for it.

I won’t say much more about the drug war except that it is universal these days. No doubt the Afghanistan poppy crop was up again this year (and that’s with 100,000 troops in the country) and the Mexican city of Juarez has 250 drug-related murders a month now. It’s not the Somme yet but it will be. People will do incredibly craven-hearted things for money and drugs is where the money is. One time federal officers asked famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks and his reply was “that’s where the money is.”

There’s a remake/remodel of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville. Those Nashville Cats been playing since they were babies (I say this as an aside). Now I’m not really up on my Greek History (the original Parthenon was in Athens in Ancient Greece) but I think Socrates drove everyone mad by asking questions that pointed out the answer’s hypocrisy. People in power don’t usually like this sort of thing, they’ll even legislate against you and call in an endless supply of bureaucrats. I think they poisoned Socrates in Ancient Greece because they couldn’t stand the truth. Maybe I’ve got this all wrong and possibly I’m actually thinking of Martin Luther King who was shot because he told the truth. Boy, the truth is best for people in the long run but it’s hard getting there. You might even get your ass shot off. Still, it’s not all as hard as hanging out in an old Chev in Centennial Park. That’s true grit. That’ll make a man out of you and it’s remarkably honest. You’d stand tall after that and Jim Ledbetter did.

He was a true friend to everyone who knew him and a beacon of hope.


Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson

Diary of a Billsticker – Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania USA

Concerning Those Statues in The Park

It’s been so hot here for over a week now that a few days ago I saw a redneck explode in the street.

Then, yesterday when I was on 202 out near Flemington, New Jersey, I saw a dude in a bright yellow Camaro doing 120mph plus whilst being trailed by four New Jersey State Troopers wearing Smokie the Bear hats and wide grins. That is to say that all five of them were wearing the grins and the air was alive. I think they were all playing music by Prince.

On this poster run, I topped up about 120 A3s that I had placed on lamp-posts two weeks before. I added about 60 A3s and it brought the total amount placed to 180. This is a reasonably good ‘showing’ in a town of 4000 people. I placed posters by Bill Manhire, Mariana Isara, Robert Creeley and Gerald Stern. The poem posters have been noticed and I get lots of comments and emails. Posters in the street are very real.

There are many theories as to how to do a perfect poster campaign. I always thought that you started in the outskirts of the city and you kept adding to the posters and bringing pressure to the centre of the city as the play date grew closer. You want to get to the areas where there is a high volume of foot traffic and at the end, you want your point to be inescapable.

My thinking about all of this comes from the time when neither radio nor television were playing much of the Kiwi bands I was promoting and newspaper advertising was very expensive and oftentimes not very effective. In Christchurch, for a long time, the Christchurch Star was a quite effective way for bands to advertise themselves whilst the Press was a bit more conservative and didn’t really appeal. But both newspapers had excellent columns on entertainment that appeared weekly and these really helped. The Christchurch Star’s column was written by Rob White (a great writer) and the Press by Nevin Topp. Of course there was always a lot of disagreement about what worked and people tried many things to promote their bands and this was all for the good. Many good acts came out of this time and climate. Original New Zealand music was thought to be brand new and it took on aspects of being a religious event. I tell you if you’ve seen Toerag at the Gladstone then you’ve seen something and the same goes for Peter Sweeney’s Smack Riflemen. If you’ve ever met Harry Sparkle then you ain’t never gonna forget. This is a man who escaped from jail where he was doing a cooling off period for a smash and grab on a bottle store (The Star & Garter – another great pub gig), and who went to Timaru dressed as a woman. Now that’s what I call creativity. Most people would have gone to Ashburton.

So I always get these posters on the lamp-posts in Lambertville/New Hope to cover the best possible viewing opportunities. I criss-cross the city energetically enabling the posters to be seen in many different locations. Upwards of sixty locations is a good number.

As I put the posters up, I imagine people walking down the street and the direction they would be coming from and then I place the posters accordingly. Because I want to get poetry read as much as I possibly can and I’m not going to go on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ to do so, then I have to reduce this whole thing to pure and utter simplicity. I think everyone knows that these American TV shows are hyped and probably cause obesity and no one really believes in them. But, ah… A poster in the street is very, very true and if you read a Brian Turner or a Michael Palma poem in Lambertville on an old wooden lamp-post, then you have been touched my friend.

So I often think of postering as simplicity with constant repetition. You take the kick-backs and you keep going. Aaaah, my thoughts, my feelings seeping through in truth.

I always think about Kiwi music on a poster run and I am always proud of it. This week I have been thinking about people who deserve statues in the park and my first would be, in my opinion, New Zealand’s greatest ever band manager. My vote would be for Charley Gray. Charley was a very direct guy who cut through a lot of stuff and made a mark. He was way ahead of his time and very honest and devoted to music.

Then I’d give Murray Cammick a statue in the park for his work at ‘Rip It Up.’ In my view, this was New Zealand’s best ever music magazine. It’s hard to say how such a magazine could ever be duplicated or how a website or a Facebook page could come close to matching it. Rip It Up made a clear point… These days the water tends to be murky in many ways.

Aaaah, simplicity and directness of purpose.

Lastly, I’d award a statue to Eddie Chin. Eddie Chin had a few nightclubs in Dunedin when I was growing up. When people mention Dunedin music, I always think of Eddie first. In the 1960s he had a club called ’77 Sunset Strip’ and some great bands played there. These bands sometimes tended to be quite commercial and had very compelling stage acts; this was before such a thing often became something to be sneered at. Eddie nurtured many fine acts and people.

One of my favourite all-time Kiwi Bands was The Fantasy. This was Craig Scott’s band in Dunedin in the late 1960s. Craig moved on and the band went through several line-up changes (no doubt ‘musical differences’). Anyway, some of my mates were in that band and went to play for Eddie in 1971. This is what one of them (Jeff Stribling) said:

“We arrived in Dunedin at midnight one night in 1971. We had caught the 6 PM railcar from Christchurch, Bill (Kearns), Ronnie (Harris), and myself. We couldn’t get a residency in Christchurch as ‘Ticket’ (now there was a band!) had Aubrey’s and Chapta was at Mojos. So we thought we’d try Dunedin. We stayed at a motor camp that night and the next day we went to see Eddie at his restaurant, the ‘Hong Kong’, in Rattray Street. We said we were broke, starving and needed a place to live and play. He found us a flat, fed us and gave us the keys to his club across the road. The club had been closed for a long time and he said that if we painted it he’d feed us every day and we could be his resident band. We worked for three weeks and opened it as “The Groovy Room.” We called ourselves “NZ Fantasy” and we packed the venue with 600 people and it stayed that way. Eddie came into the band room one night with a massive amount of cash and gave us a bonus. He said, “I had a very good night on the horses tonight.” He was a live wire; a very kind man… My lasting memory of him is that his face was always smiling.”

Dudes, that’s how we built New Zealand Music.

I’m away to Flemington now to find that guy in the yellow Camaro. I want to smile like that.


Keep the Faith,



Jim Wilson