So, why do I blog? (#blogboost)

Michelle Shaeffer, one of the sponsors of this Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC), suggested that I (re)introduce myself and tell you a little about myself and this blog, so that those of you joining me thanks to the UBC will know what you’re getting into.

Fair enough.

I’m John Holton, and this is my blog, The Sound of One Hand Typing. It got its name because I type with one hand. Sometimes it’s more like I typo with one hand, but I usually get things cleaned up pretty well by the time I post.

So, why do I type with just one hand?

One Sunday night in February 2007, I was hard at work, trying to finish a project that I had been putting off, and something went “pop!” in the back of my head. I spent the next six weeks in the hospital, trying to learn to walk again and trying to whip my right arm into shape so I could do all of the things that I used to do with it. The fine motor skills never came back, so I’m typing with one hand and trying to teach myself to write left-handed.

Disheartened, I said “the hell with it” and stopped writing for a while. Then I heard about a man named Walter Wager. Walter used to write novelizations of movies and tie-in novels of TV shows, and was quite successful at it. I also learned that Walter was missing a hand. At that point, I decided that I needed to man up and get back to writing.

I write whatever strikes my fancy: short stories, novels, and non-fiction. It would be hard to pin down exactly what I want to write. I’m like a kid in a candy store: I read a book that I like, and I try to do what that author did. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so most of the ideas I come up with are ideas for mysteries and thrillers. I do, however, like the work of Janet Evanovich, Dave Barry, Lee Goldberg, and Tim Dorsey, so I sprinkle in plenty of humor. When I remember to.

I started this blog in January 2012. There are times when it’s been lots of fun, times when it’s been a chore, and times when it’s all the writing I do (the Gods of Writing will probably throw me out of the club for saying that). And, yes, there have been a few occasions when I have just wanted this to go away, but never have.

Why? Three reasons:

  • When I read other writers’ blogs, I learned about challenges like the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), and this challenge. They sounded like fun, and they had me jumping up and down (as much as possible) saying, “I wanna do it I wanna do it I wanna do it!” And the rules of all of them say that I need a blog.
  • The more I read the blogs of other writers, the more I realized that, if I wanted to be a successful writer (i.e. one who made money doing it), I would need to blog. The art is important, yes, but so is making a living.
  • And, the most important reason: I wanted to do it. It looked like a lot of fun, and it is. In fact, I think the more time and effort I put into it, the more fun it will be. That’s why I’m doing the UBC.

Until UBC, I posted twice a week. On Tuesdays, I do a feature called “Two for Tuesday.” I got the idea from all of the radio stations that do it. Each Tuesday I pick an artist, find two of their songs on YouTube, and present them along with a little information about the artist that I learn from Wikipedia and other websites around the Internet. Wednesdays are my check-in days for ROW80, when I tell the world how well or poorly I’m holding to the objectives that I set at the beginning of the quarter.

I want to add more features to the blog. It started as a writer’s blog, and has gotten away from that. so I’ll do some writing or writer-related posts this month. The baseball playoffs and World Series happen this month, and one of my favorite teams, the Atlanta Braves (the other is the Chicago White Sox) are playing the Dodgers in the NLDS (National League Divisional Series) starting Thursday nigtht, so you can expect a few posts on that. And…

Well, come back tomorrow and you might find out.

Two for Tuesday: Stringbean (#blogboost)

David “Stringbean” Akeman is the last of our stars from Hee Haw that we’ll talk about here. It’s sad that he might be better known for the way that he died than for the music that he made.

He was born into poverty in Annville, Kentucky in either 1915 or 1916. His father was a great banjo player, and young David learned to play from him. After a tour with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, he divided his time between playing the banjo and being a semi-pro baseball pitcher. He came to the attention of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music, and played with Monroe in the mid-1940’s. He and a man named Willie Egbert Westbrook would perform a music and vaudeville act during breaks with Monroe’s band. When Stringbean left the Blue Grass Boys, he started doing his music and comedy with “Doctor” Lew Childre. It was around this time that he met Grandpa Jones, and the two of them, both banjo players and comedians, would become best friends. Little wonder that, when casting Hee Haw, producer Sam Lovullo called on Stringbean to add to the great music and cornpone comedy.

The Depression made Stringbean wary of banks, and carried a good deal of money with him and kept a large amount at home. He didn’t keep it a secret, and that may have led to his death. After playing on the Grand Ole Opry Hour on November 10, 1973, he and his wife Estelle drove home and walked in on brothers John and Doug Brown, who were tearing the place apart looking for money. The Browns murdered Stringbean and his wife and got away with nothing more than a chainsaw, a pillowcase, and some guns. Grandpa Jones found their bodies the next day. The case is well-documented, so I won’t dwell on it here.

Stringbean had an interesting way of dressing his long, lanky frame in the early days, as you’ll see in today’s first video, “Chewing Chewing Gum.” He demonstrates his two-finger picking style here.

I believe that this second clip was taken from Hee Haw, Stringbean’s take on Bill Monroe’s “Mighty Dark To Travel,” played clawhammer-style.

David “Stringbean” Akeman, your Two for Tuesday, October 1, 2013.

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I’d like to welcome those of you that might be dropping in because of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. This is the one regular feature of this blog, at least for now.

Two for Tuesday: Grandpa Jones

Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones played the banjo and guitar and was known for his use of the “clawhammer” or “frailing” technique, where he strummed the banjo rather than picked it. He was Hee Haw‘s link to old-time country and gospel music, and played frequently with his wife, Ramona, or fellow banjo player David “Stringbean” Akeman, who will be in the spotlight next week. After returning from World War II, he started playing with the Grand Ole Opry where he was known for his singing and yodeling, his playing, and his comedy routines, which probably earned him the honor of being one of Hee Haw‘s original cast members. One of his bits on the show was when when the cast would holler “Hey, Grandpa! What’s for supper?” Some of the responses were classics:

  • “Some large mouth bass as long as your arm, an’ roasting ears and ‘maters brought fresh from the farm. Fried apple pies, good and brown, and plenty of iced tea to go around.”
  • “Fat young possum and candied yam, its the best d’rn eating in the land, and fresh coleslaw and pumpkin pie and hot brewed coffee that’ll take ya eye.”
  • “Hog chitlins fix’d like mom used to and a piping hot bowl of vegetable stew, and homemade rolls with butter in between and rich pudding dessert, why it’s fit for a king.”

To which all would reply, “Yum yum!” Unless he came back with something like, “Well, they didn’t cut me no wood and the stove’s cold as ice, and we’ll eat bologna sandwiches and left-over rice. They didn’t bring ice, so the milk is not cold, and I guess that’ll teach ya to do as you’re told.”

Anyway, off to the music. Our first selection is “Mountain Dew,” taped at the Grand Ole Opry.

And our second, “When It’s Time For The Whippoorwills To Sing,” performed with wife Ramona on Hee Haw.

Grandpa Jones, your Two for Tuesday, September 24, 2013.

#ROW80: End of Round 3, Thoughts on Round 4, and Job Stuff

We’re at the end of another round of ROW80. I made it and I’m glad that most of you all did, too.

Here’s a summary of the round:

  • Write 1000 words every day: For the most part, I did this. It might have been too easy, but it was something that I wanted to do.
  • Learn Scrivener: I added this objective in the middle of the round, after I had been laid off, because I was tired of having the software on my computer and not using it. To the extent that I am now using the software and learning its features, I have had some success with it. I’m maybe using 5% of its features, but I’m using it. I had been listing this objective as “Master Scrivener”; I think I learned that there ain’t no such thing, certainly not after six weeks of playing with it.
  • Learn to write left-handed: Eh, not so well, I’m afraid. I was starting to get the hang of it, then I lost the notebook I had been using and didn’t find it for a couple of weeks, by which time I was using the time to look for a job and brush up on technical skills. This will be a Round 4 objective for certain, along with everything else.
  • Develop an article to sell every week: Nope. This will probably not be an objective until the beginning of next year, and even then, not as ambitious as one a week. Maybe one a month to start, then we’ll see how that goes.

So, I’d say that it was an average quarter, maybe a little better than that. Say a B minus.

Here’s what I’m thinking for next quarter:

  • Successfully complete The Ultimate Blog Challenge in October.
  • Ditto for NaNoWriMo in November.
  • Have myself writing with my left hand by Christmas.
  • Be up to 2000 words a day by the end of November.
  • Get a job.

I’ll have a formal post on this at the beginning of Round 4, whenever that is.

But listen, we made it! Congratulations to everyone! See you next round!

Two for Tuesday: Roy Clark

Roy Clark just has fun when he plays, which is what made him the perfect host for Hee Haw through its entire run. Behind all the goofiness and joke-telling is one incredible guitar player whose abilities and influence reach far beyond Country and Western music. I had never heard anyone play the guitar like him the first time I saw him, and I’m still amazed at some of the things he could do. He’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, does a lot of charity work (he raffled off his 1953 Piper Tri-Jet to benefit Wings of Hope and plays an annual concert to raise money for scholarships for young musicians at Longwood University in Farmingdale, Virginia), and still finds time to play. He makes his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they have a grammar school named for him.

Today’s first selection is probably his biggest hit, “Yesterday When I Was Young,” a song originally recorded by Charles Aznavour. It reached #9 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1969 and #19 on the Top 100, #2 on the Canadian Country Chart and #1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. This performance was from the Hee Haw archives.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Roy playing the “12th Street Rag” on Jimmy Dean’s show. Roy plays this on a Fender Jazzmaster, and adds in his eye-rolling, mugging, and comic musical embellishments while playing.

Roy Clark, your Two for Tuesday, September 17, 2013.