Tag Archives: Minnesota

Listeria – Significant Others

7 Dec

We went to the grocery store, which was deserted because no one needs groceries the day after Thanksgiving, and I bought a couple of magazines. In fact, my magazines accounted for half of the total cost. Anyway, the good folks at the Smithsonian have put together a list called “The 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”

People are always putting out lists like this, and I am always buying them. I look through them and wonder why they pick this person over that one. Then, I wonder how I can use it in this blog. Do I pick out the ones that I like and write about them? Do I pick out the ones I disagree with and write about them?

There are a bunch of Listeria posts on this thing, and I have probably already done all of that. This list is going to be different. In an attempt to change the pattern and pump up my state, I went through the list of “The Most Significant Americans of All Time” and picked out the ones who have a connection to Tennessee. Some of them are obvious, but a few may be surprising.Flag

Meriwether Lewis, along with William Clark, led the Corps of Discovery across the Louisiana Territory and to the Pacific Ocean. Upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of that territory. Facing stresses of many types, he traveled the Natchez Trace on his way to see Thomas Jefferson. Just south of Nashville, he died of two gunshot wounds in a roadside tavern. Lewis remains buried near Columbia, Tennessee.

Those who have studied the Civil Rights Movement know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. However, they may not know that he received training in activism at the Highlander Folk School in Grundy County, Tennessee. Other activists, including Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy, also attended the school.

W.E.B. DuBois founded the NAACP. Before that, he graduated from Fisk University in Nashville. Upon graduation, he taught at the Wheeler School in Wilson County, where I live. According to the The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, his work at the Wheeler School influenced his work, The Souls of Black Folk.

Andrew Jackson was the first president from Tennessee and lived a life that could fill a shelf of books. In fact, my colleague is currently working on his third book about Andrew Jackson. To purchase a book and find out more information about Old Hickory, visit his website at jacksonianamerica.com.

Theodore Roosevelt visited Tennessee while he was in office and spent some time at Jackson’s home, The Hermitage. According to legend, the drank coffee brewed at Nashville’s Maxwell House Hotel and said that it was “good to the last drop.”

Before his presidency, Ulysses S. Grant commanded all Union armies during the Civil War. Before receiving those orders, he commanded troops at the Battle of Fort Henry and the Battle of Shiloh in West Tennessee.

Oprah Winfrey is an icon of television and other forms of entertainment. Before all of that, she graduated from East Nashville High School and Tennessee State University. After winning the Miss Black Tennessee pageant, she was hired as news anchor for Nashville’s WLAC-TV, which is now WTVF.

After a failed robbery attempt in Northfield, Minnesota, Frank and Jesse James needed a place to hide. They chose Nashville. With their families, they lived under aliases and lived quiet lives. Unfortunately, Jesse was not content and wanted to return to outlawry. They returned to Missouri where Jesse was killed.

Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi but spent most of his life in Memphis. A lot can be written about the life of “The King of Rock n’ Roll,” but, for the purpose of this post, his rise to fame started in Tennessee. It was a fame that took him to the greatest heights and the lowest depths.

I learned a lot about Bob Dylan while researching for my class on the History of American Music. He has been more influential than I ever realized. What connection does he have to Tennessee? Nashville Skyline was recorded here, and he spent time with several legends of country music. According to the stories, the home of Johnny Cash was one of his favorite places to be.

Jimi Hendrix grew up in Seattle and first gained fame in London. He introduced himself Americans at Monterrey and became a legend at Woodstock. However, he learned how to play guitar in Nashville. While in the army, he was stationed at nearby Fort Campbell and spent his weekends playing in the clubs on Jefferson Street. He met and learned from Johnny Jones, a local guitarist. Hard to believe? Watch this video of his first television appearance on a local R n’ B show.

As far as I know, Cornelius Vanderbilt never visited Nashville. However, there is a university in the city that bears his name. One of the school’s founders was married to a distant Vanderbilt cousin and met the Commodore at a time when he was considering several causes in which to donate. The timing was perfect because the meeting led to a $1 million gift.

Babe Ruth and his teammates used to barnstorm during the offseason, and one of those tours took him to Chattanooga. That is when he was struck out by a female pitcher.

13 out of 100. That is not too bad.

 

 

What Hath Bell Wrought

28 Feb

This week, I have been telling my classes about some of the technological advances of the late 1800s. That was a time when inventors experimented in labs throughout the world to develop the next great invention. One of those, the telephone, greatly impacted communication and continues to be an integral part of our lives.

(Interesting Trivia: The telephone was up and running before George Custer was killed at Little Big Horn; before Wyatt Earp became a lawman in Dodge City; before Jesse and Frank James attempted a failed bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota; and before Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president.)

Alexander Graham Bell is known by most as the inventor of the telephone. Of course, there has been debate about who invented it first, but he is the one who took the invention and made it a part of everyday life. This post is not about who invented it. Instead, it is about what we discussed in class.

I took the students through the evolution of the phone. We talked about party lines and how neighbors could listen to your conversations if they were so inclined.Party Line

We talked about how operators used to connect calls by sticking wires in the proper sockets.Operator

We talked about rotary dials, when people had to stick their hands in the proper holes and turn the dial. Then, they listened to it click as it moved back into place.Rotary Phone

We talked about phones with long cords that became tangled and stretched.Phone Cord

In short, we talked about things that they had never seen.

The telephone was a great invention and has alter the direction of humanity. However, I noticed something as I talked about the history of the telephone. Several of the students were not listening because they were playing around with their iPhones and Droids. While I was going over the virtues of the telephone, they were taking part in the bad side of the telephone.

For teachers, or anyone else who needs to have the attention of a group of people, telephones are the work of Satan. They are distractions for the ones using them, and they are distractions for the rest of us. These things have become attachments that people cannot do without.

On the first day of class, I tell everyone to stay off their phones. No texting. No tweeting. Put them away and do not look at them. I may as well be whistling in the wind. People cannot put down their phones. I am convinced that Steve Jobs was the most successful drug dealer in the history of the world. We cannot do without his product.

Just once, I would like to go back to the old days and have a class where no phone was in the room. Students would still daydream or stare out of the window. At least there would not be the blatant act of picking up a phone and looking at it and providing physical proof that they just do not care.

Ironically, I had to stop talking about the history of the telephone to tell people to get off their phones. As I walked out of class, I began to wonder what hath Bell wrought.

The State of Music – Part 3

17 Apr

Well, we have made it to the long string of states that start with “M”, but I promise that we will get through it and move over to the “N” ones. I must confess that this project has become more tedious than I anticipated. However, I have happened upon some decent performers and songs. Without further adieu, here goes it with the next ten:

Massachusetts – Most remember the Bee Gees from the disco era, but they had a long and fruitful career before delving into that nonsense. One of their better songs was “Massachusetts”, and I choose it for a couple of reasons. One, I like it. Second, the Bee Gees have faced past tragedies and are going through another. Robin Gibb is currently in a coma; Maurice Gibb died almost a decade ago; Andy Gibb, the youngest brother, died in the late 1980s; and Barry Gibb bought Johnny Cash’s home (which is not too far away from me) only to have it destroyed by fire a short time later.

Michigan – This one comes straight from my iPod. I realize that “1823 S. Michigan Ave.” is not really named after the state. But, they name streets after states, so it has to count for something. Besides that, it is a cool tune by Magic Slim.

Minnesota – This one was a little tricky because I really couldn’t find anything. I did find some newspaper articles about how there aren’t many songs about Minnesota. However, I kept on searching and found a not-so-good song by Northern Light called – surprise – “Minnesota”. It’s weird to hear a Beach Boy-ish sound about a place with no beach.

Mississippi – There are a lot of Mississippi songs in a lot of different genres and by a lot of great artists. They range from social commentary to comedy, but I am going with something off the regular path. Mountain recorded “Mississippi Queen” about a prostitute, and, since I have written about the history of prostitution, it seemed fitting. Maybe that should be my next musical project – the best songs about whores.

Missouri – I am going more modern with this pick. Several weeks ago, I saw a David Nail, a new country artist that doesn’t sound very country. That’s the kind of country artist I like. He sang a song named for his home state of “Missouri”.

Montana – There is a herd of cowboy songs about Montana, and, as a historian of the American West, something inside makes me think I should pick one. I am not going to do that, though. Cowboy songs are kind of hokey to me. With that in mind, I choose “Hey Montana” by Eve 6 about a girl who needs to return to the mentioned state. By the way, Montana is one of my all time favorite states, and we are working on a “male family members” only trip this summer.

Nebraska – Known for corn, football and…that’s about it, Nebraska, like many others, has not inspired many songwriters. After a long and wandering search, I found a Josh Rouse singing “Dressed Up Like Nebraska”. It’s a rough video and tough to hear, but the song seems quite good.

Nevada – Las Vegas songs. Reno songs. Even songs about Hoover Dam. There are all kinds of songs about places within Nevada, but there is one excellent song named after Nevada. To preface, I will listen to anything by Mark Knopfler, and he had a record called “Sands of Nevada”.

New Hampshire – Going in, I thought this would be one of the hardest to get. As it turns out, it wasn’t difficult at all because Sonic Youth had a song called “New Hampshire”.

New Jersey – I found out one thing for sure. There are bunches of songs that refer to Jersey. However, I need the Jersey with the New in front of it and have found it with Red House Painters. I didn’t know this group before the state project began, but, when I heard it, I immediately downloaded “New Jersey”.

I am sixty percent into an alphabetized list of states and have used some good songs and some not so good songs. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what I find with the next two installments. To catch up with the states already covered, check out Part 1 and Part 2.