Saturday, September 17, 2005

Roadie Report 9 (Aug cont. & Jacques Levy) by Camilla McGuinn

The Columbia River (Photo by Camilla McGuinn)

We left Moses Lake early in the morning on August 28th. Our route on Interstate 84 would take us along the Columbia River. We could have spent days exploring the historic Columbia River Gorge but we wanted to reach the King Estates Vineyard in Eugene, Oregon before nightfall.

I hadn’t heard the news for days, so I turned on the radio. A reporter was interviewing a person in New Orleans who wasn’t going to evacuate even though Hurricane Katrina, a possible category 5 storm, was headed their way.

We are very familiar with hurricanes. Last year our city was hit three times. While listening to the Katrina news, memories of the last hurricane to pass over our home came flooding back.

On Thursday, September 3, 2004, I was sitting in my office when the telephone rang. A quick glance at the caller ID told me something was wrong. The name was Levy, and even though Jacques Levy and his family were dear friends, we seldom called each other. We usually just surprised them when we were in New York City at their SOHO loft.

I picked up the receiver and recognized Claudia’s soft voice. I asked her what was wrong. She told me Jacques was dying.

Roger had met Jacques Levy in 1967. Jacques sent a pretty blonde girl backstage at a BYRDS' concert to ask Roger if he would like to write the music with him for a Broadway play. Jacques figured correctly that the pretty lady would have a better chance of meeting Roger than he would. Jacques was a clinical psychologist turned Broadway producer and he and Roger became not only writing partners, but also close friends.

They were together writing songs when Martin Luther King was shot, the night Robert Kennedy was shot and when the first man walked on the moon. They also wrote songs on and about Bob Dylan’s “The Rolling Thunder Revue”

The news of Jacques imminent leaving this earth hit us like a ton of bricks. We had not known of the lung cancer that Jacques had been battling with for over a year. I told Claudia that we would be in New York City soon. We were scheduled to be in the area for two concerts, but we decided to leave earlier so we could be with the Levy family.

Our original plan had been to leave on Sunday, but Hurricane Jeanne was knocking at our door and was scheduled to hit Orlando on that day. A reporter was flying in on Friday night from London for an interview with Roger. It was that commitment that kept us in Orlando until Saturday at noon. We were praying that we were making the right decisions for everyone involved.

We hit the road and decided to take the inland route because of the weather. The first night we got to Tifton, GA. The next morning we awoke early in order to beat the storm’s northward path. We made it to Virginia. The storm hit the Georgia area we had been in with a lot of flooding.

Monday night we arrive in Weehauken, NJ. As soon as we checked in we called Claudia. They had moved Jacques from the care of Hospice in their home to the hospital. She wasn’t sure if he could see anyone. Later I talked to Maya, their daughter, and asked if it would be possible for Roger to visit Jacques and quietly sing to him the songs that they had written together. Maya said she would ask her mother and the hospital.

Late Tuesday night Maya called and said that everyone thought it was a good idea for Roger to come to the hospital and sing. I told her we would be there Thursday. Roger had a concert in Paramus on Wednesday.

On September 30 we arrived at the intensive care unit of the hospital around 1 p.m. The ICU had eight separate cubicles which were open to the nurses’ station. Jacques was in the first one by the door. He was unconscious, breathing with the help of a respirator. There was no one with him. Roger sat down by his bed, took his 6-string guitar out of the case and started softly singing “Chestnut Mare.”

I stood behind Roger at the entrance to the cubicle. Halfway through the song, Maya walked down the hall. Jacques' beautiful adult daughter greeted me with the longest hug. She went into the room and sat next to Roger. Then Julien, Jacques' sixteen year old son, came slowly walking down the hall with his eyes focused on the floor. He had grown so much since the last time we had seen him.

Julien stood at the entrance with me and we all watched Jacques’ face as Roger sang. We could see faint smiles and when Roger sang, “I Want to Grow Up To Be a Politician,” the corner of Jacques’ mouth turned upward. His sense of humor was intact.

Claudia had been talking to the doctor. It was time to remove the respirator. It was time to let Jacques go.

They took Jacques off the respirator and woke him up, so everyone could say goodbye. He let his family know that he had heard Roger singing. Jacques couldn’t talk but they had figured out ways to communicate.

Roger continued to sing and play until his fingers hurt. He said it was very hard not to cry, but if he cried he couldn’t sing.

Close friends came to the hospital. Roger had a few minutes alone with Jacques. He held Jacques’ left hand and told him he loved him. They made eye contact and even though Jacques couldn’t speak, his eyes lit up with agape love. Roger came away from the hospital with a positive feeling about Jacques’ journey through eternity. It was a peace that surpassed all understanding.

We returned to our hotel in New Jersey on the ferry. We were staying at a hotel on the Hudson river and our room had a view of Manhattan.

Jacques had passed away. The emotions of the day had wearied us, so we had a light supper in the room. After eating we stood looking at the New York City skyline. A full moon shimmered in the sky and then suddenly, a cluster of five silver balloons appeared drifting toward the heavens in the trail of the moonlight. I smiled at Roger and said, “Look at those balloons drifting to the moon. It’s like Jacques is going to heaven.” Roger said that was exactly what he was thinking.

That night, standing quietly looking at the city where he had worked, lived and loved, we said our earthly farewell to Jacques Levy.

The next night, Roger had a concert in Huntington, NY. He told stories about Jacques and sang most of the songs they wrote together. Jacques Levy will always be alive in Roger’s music.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Roadie Report 8 (Aug cont. & Jim McGuinn Meets Peter Fonda) by Camilla McGuinn

August 2005 Tour (cont.)

I asked Roger if he ever stopped at Mount Rushmore. He hadn’t and neither had I, so now was the once in a lifetime opportunity to view a historical site that we should have seen when we were ten years old. Besides vague memories of a teacher trying to impress upon us the importance of a monument carved on the side of a mountain, our recollection of the Mount was totally connected to Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” I was sure that the faces of the four presidents were going to be huge. They had to be because Cary Grant spent a lot of time crawling around those faces in Hitchcock’s movie.

(Photo by Camilla)

At our first glimpse of the four faces we simultaneously shouted, “It’s small!” We said the same thing when we first saw the White House in Washington, DC. Our media has a way of really blowing things out of proportion.

The only charge to view the monument up close is the $8 parking fee. There is the normal gift shop, feeding stations, an amphitheater and a walking path around the mountain. We passed by different groups of tourists each speaking a different language. I wondered if they were wondering why those faces were carved on that mountain because that was what I was wondering. I obviously didn’t pay attention to my teacher in elementary school. The answers were available in the gift shop and of course you can always “google it.”

We spent about 30 minutes looking at the faces of granite and at the faces of those looking at the faces of granite. Every face has a history.

We drove down the mountain and continued to Washington, stopping for the night in Gillette, Wyoming. As we crossed the border into Montana, Roger talked about Peter Fonda and how Peter had traded his sailboat “Tatoosh” for the Big Sky country.

The first time Roger met Peter Fonda was in Las Vegas,1962, when Roger was accompanying Bobby Darin. Peter came to watch the show with Sandra Dee, Bobby's wife. They had just finished filming “Tammy and the Doctor."
Peter knew about Jim (Roger) McGuinn because he was a friend of Stormy MacDonald, a childhood pal of Jim’s from Chicago. When the BYRDS hit the Sunset scene in Hollywood, Peter was there and arranged to have the group play for his sister Jane’s birthday party. Henry Fonda was not fond of the loud music and told Peter to have them lower the volume. Peter tried to explain to his father that this was THE BYRDS but Henry didn’t care what they were, he just wanted them to be quiet.

David Crosby and Jim loved airplanes and would often go to Aviation Boulevard at LAX to watch the planes land. It is that place where Peter filmed an opening scene in the movie “Easy Rider.”

One day the BYRDS missed their flight to Pensacola, so they chartered a Lear Jet to get them to the gig on time. The pilot was John Lear, son of Bill Lear, the inventor of the Lear Jet. That was the beginning of a friendship between, John, Jim and David. Peter later joined them in their flight adventures. Jim even wrote a song called “The LEAR JET SONG” and was rewarded with free Lear Jet rides.

We spent the night in Missoula and arrived in Moses Lake in time for lunch the next day. The trip from Orlando, Florida took 5½ days.

Sunset at Moses Lake(Photo by Camilla)

Moses Lake is a small town with a great sense of community. Roger was playing at an outdoor amphitheater located on a river. Every year the town brings in artists for free summer concerts. The audience, on the cool August night, was a mixture from the whole town, young and old. At my lemonade stand, I was touched to talk to people who had driven for hours to see Roger in concert. I even drafted one of the fans to man the lemonade stand while I set the stage for the show. Fans become friends in a twinkling of the eye.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Techie Report - 3- By Roger McGuinn

While in Eugene Oregon we stayed at the King Estates Winery. Director of Sales, Steve Thomson loaned me a book about the founder Ed King Jr. Ed was a friend of Bill Lear, the inventor of the Lear Jet. He told some amazing flying stories. One aviator friend of Ed's ran out of fuel but was able to land his Lear Jet "dead stick" that is without power from over 50 miles away from the airport.

Mr. King was an active pilot for forty years and flew his own jet until age 71. He is very proud to have assisted the Rutan Brothers in accomplishing their dream of circumnavigating the globe by airplane on one tank of fuel. Using King's products exclusively for navigation, flight control and communication, their Voyager aircraft flew around the globe on one tank of fuel in 1986. The King name is proudly emblazoned on the side of the Voyager which now hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

(Ed King Jr. hand testing his radios)

The King Story

Someone once said that the greatest inventions come from creative, free thinkers who haven't been told that "it couldn't be done" by experts. In a way, this is how King Radio Corporation was born. In 1952 Ed King Jr. fulfilled a lifelong desire by earning his private pilot's license. However, for King a 1943 Kansas State University graduate in electronic engineering, was only the beginning of an interest in aviation that would eventually lead to King Radio Corporation.

Ed, who owned and flew a Beechcraft Bonanza for pleasure, quickly became dissatisfied with the poor quality radio gear offered to the private pilot in the early to mid-50s. The best selling NAV/COMM on the market at that time offered a continuously tuned receiver and only 27 transmit channels, and still priced well over $1000. King knew there had to be a way to build a low cost NAV/COMM that offered the same optional features that the expensive airline equipment provided. However, as a president of his own highly successful electronics company, Communications Accessories Corporation, he just didn't have the time to do anything about it, so it took a back seat to other business interests.

Finally, in 1956 Ed sold Communications Accessories Corporation to Collins Radio and agreed to stay on and manage the company. Between 1956 and 1959 king tried to interest Collins in light aircraft avionics designed with some of the same features as the expensive airline equipment. However, Collins was heavily involved in the growing airline business and couldn't spare the time or manpower to pursue the light aircraft avionics products.

As a result, in 1959 Ed King left Communications Accessories Corporation and formed King Radio Corporation where he designed and handmade the first low cost 90 channel crystal controlled VHF transceiver for light aircraft. That same year he sold five units to private customers for $845 each. Since his model had a lower price and far better performance than comparable radios of its day, Ed had no trouble finding customers and well established agents willing to sell and service his product so Ed set up for "mass" production in an old dairy farmhouse on the outskirts of Kansas City, with production and shipping on the ground floor, engineering and testing on the second floor, and service parts in the attic.

In February 1960, King had 30 employees and production was on the rise. By 1961, King Radio Corporation had moved out of the farmhouse to a plant in Olathe, Kansas, and continued to climb to become a major factor in the light aircraft avionics field. The KY 90 VHF COMM Transceiver soon had the reputation of providing crystal clear communications, and was installed in almost every type of American-made light aircraft, including such famous aircraft builders as Cessna, Piper and Beachcraft. With the success of the KY 90, King quickly introduced compatible navigation receivers and was soon able to offer a complete line of Navigation/Communication.

The creative atmosphere at King Radio has yielded many important firsts. King brought the first all solid-state transceiver for airline use to the market in 1966, the KTR 900: the first digital ADF for general aviation, the KDF 800, in 1969; and the first low cost all solid-state TSO'd VHF NAV/COMM unit, the KX 175, in 1970. The company also pioneered the use of digital frequency synthesizers which replaced bulky crystal banks in NAV/COMM units and allowed the widespread use of 720/200 channel NAV/COMM's in general aviation. King has led the industry in the design of Large Scale Circuits (LSI chips), small chips about 3/32" square which do the same work of literally hundreds of transistors. The subsequent use of LSI technology in various systems has resulted in a significant operational and cost break-through while reducing the size and weight and increasing the reliability of new avionics systems.

In the process of striving to respond to more needs of general aviation and the airlines, King has experienced rapid growth in its 25 years since Ed King hand-built the first King radio. It is estimated that King has invested more in research and development for general aviation electronics than any other company in the industry. While sales were continually increasing, King enlarged its manufacturing facilities in Kansas, Its present headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, plus a facility at nearby Johnson County Industrial Airport and plants in three other cities in Kansas, occupy a total of 557,000 sq. ft. of space. Employment has increased from 30 in 1960 to 2,850 in 1984.

As growth in the general aviation industry began to level off, King embarked on a bold diversification plan. This began with the formation of King Marine Radio Corporation in Clearwater, Florida. From its inception in late 1981, King Marine has grown steadily to establish a firm position in the competitive marine electronics market. In addition, King began an aggressive plan to penetrate the military avionics field. The high value of King products and the strong engineering and technical base were responsible for a number of military contracts, and today military avionics make up an increasingly larger portion of King business.

During this exciting period of growth and diversification, the avionics product lines were constantly being upgraded with the latest technology. In addition, new products were added, bringing King quality to an ever increasing number of light, commercial, and military aircraft. Today King Radio produces a full range of avionics products, including Communication Transceivers, Navigation Receivers, Automatic Direction Finders, Autopilots, Flight Directors, Airborne Radiotelephones, Air Traffic Control Transponders, Compass and Weather Radar Systems. The company's Silver Crown product line is in its fourth generation and is used in light aircraft while the Gold Crown III product line is in its third generation and is designed for turboprops and business jets. In addition, King also produces five products for commercial airlines. These products are currently being used by more than 141 of the world's leading air carriers.

Each year King Radio has improved the high technology base that supports its diverse product offerings. In 1981 a CAD/CAM computer aided design and manufacturing system was added. This system allows King to develop new products quickly and efficiently. The latest in automatic test and manufacturing equipment was purchased regularly, maintaining King's leadership position in manufacturing technology creates a very fertile environment for new product innovation and assures a promising future for King Radio.

In 1982 a Mobile Communications Division was formed to develop a product line for the rapidly expanding Land Mobile Radio field. A team of top professionals was recruited from the industry to utilize King Radio's high technology base for a bold new line of microprocessor based two-way radios.

The King Mobile Division is housed in a 76,000 sq. ft. facility on a 57 acre tract in Lawrence, Kansas. From this facility will evolve the base for all engineering, marketing and manufacturing efforts.

As is typical of most King innovations, these new mobile handheld portable communications units will bring the very latest in features and technology (frequency synthesizers, keyboard programming, channel scanning, liquid crystal displays) down from the highest price levels into the low-to-medium cost range.

When complete, the line will comprise a full range of mobile units, the base stations and portables, in both VHF and UHF to assemble a complete mobile dispatch system using King Land Mobile equipment exclusively.

The use of advanced C-MOS micro-processor design and automated surface -mount component manufacturing techniques will not only enable King to produce a radio that is smaller, lighter and more reliable than other units on the market today, it also affords some rather significant production economies that can be passed on in the form of lower pricing.

In 1983, King Radio opened a 24,000 sq. ft. engineering and manufacturing facility in Singapore. This facility is presently engaged in major sub-contract work, along with the manufacture of VHF 7000 Transceiver and King 8001 Loran C for the marine market. They presently employ 175.

One has to wonder how a company like King Radio could have flourished amid huge conglomerates with almost unlimited resources. The answer is simple--Ed King and his ability to surround himself with employees possessing the same insatiable desire for excellence. Ed has always seen technological achievement and improved used benefits at reasonable cost as the challenge. According to Ed, "If you have highly innovative, reliable products at competitive prices, a lot of your marketing problems are solved."

(Photo By Camilla McGuinn)

We went from Oregon down through California Wine Country (more in Camilla's Roadie Report) and got to San Francisco just in time to appear on the first live TWIT podcast.

TWIT Podcast No. 21.

I talked about my amazing Samson C01U USB condenser mic, recording on my iBook using Audacity the cross platform audio editor, and many other tech related subjects.

Roadie Report 7 (Aug cont. & Heading West on Interstate 90) by Camilla McGuinn

August Tour 2005 -Interstate 90

Forgetting the bag in the hotel made it necessary for us to do some shopping for essentials. In Columbia, Missouri we found a Holiday Inn that was located at one of those American institutions - the shopping mall. The hotel and mall were just the ticket for our nightly needs. We quickly found replacements for most of the left behind items, returned to our room and happily ordered room service. The meal was surprisingly good.

We had crossed a time change border so we were awake early and decided to enjoy breakfast. The dining room was quiet with just a few early morning travelers and we were sure that we wouldn’t be there long. After a considerable amount of time, I started glancing hopefully at the kitchen door. Yep, it was one of those days where they had to go find the chickens. Starting the day on an impatient note is never a good idea, so I suggested to Roger that we share some good road memories about Holiday Inns since we were sitting in one.

I recalled when I took my first cross-country trip by car in 1970 in my 1968 yellow Mustang. My mother insisted we stay at Holiday Inns, just like the mother in the movie “Blast from The Past.”

Roger remembered the early days of touring with the BYRDS in a Clark Cortez motor home. After a long day of driving, the Holiday Inn sign would come over the horizon and the band would start singing, “Cheeseburger, wider than a mile”…to the tune of “Moon River.” That group of traveling musicians called Holiday Inns “plastic mommy.”

By the time the food arrived our memories had calmed us down and we enjoyed another surprisingly good meal at the Holiday Inn.

Interstate 90 is an interesting stretch of highway. We connected with it in Sioux Falls. There are long stretches with nothing but fields of sunflowers and billboards. Reading the billboards became a source of entertainment. We started noticing two enticements. One for the “Corn Palace’ in Mitchell, South Dakota and the other for “Wall Drug” somewhere up the road. The “Wall Drug” signs didn’t tell us where it was, but the signs had some interesting claims. According to one billboard, the store had had been featured on “Good Morning America”
(Photo by Camilla)

We arrived at the exit for Mitchell, South Dakota at 4:30pm. It was time to stop and besides it was the home of the “Corn Palace.” Before checking into a hotel, we made the pilgrimage to the palace. I didn’t know what to expect, having not done a history search on google, but I found myself staring at the craftsmanship of the fa├žade with a sense of wonder. Every year, the outside of the Corn Palace is decorated with thousands of bushels of corn, oats, grain, and wheat in the form of murals depicting various aspects of South Dakota life. The detail is amazing and I thought it would be really interesting to actually see the people gluing the bushels of harvest to the wall. The palace is the focal point of Mitchell but there is also a very good restaurant called “Chef Louie's Steak House.”
(Photo by Camilla)

We left Mitchell after a good meal, a good night’s sleep and some local enrichment. I know that sounds ‘corny’ but I couldn’t resist. Now the glory of the South Dakota sunflower fields and the “Wall Drug” signs filled our morning view. We started getting suspicious about “Wall Drug.” When we first saw the signs, they looked tasteful. We imagined an old fashion drug store like Ashworth Drugs in Cary, NC where I used to stop for a cherry coke on my way home after school when I was eight years old. Ashworth Drug Store is still in Cary and we always stop there when we pass through to eat at their lunch counter so I can reminisce about the early 60s in a small town in America. Cary is no longer a small town, but the drugstore still has same wonderful chilidogs with coleslaw.

The “Wall Drug” billboards finally told us where it was located - Wall, South Dakota. It didn’t occur to me that Wall Drug was named for a town. The signs even started telling us how many miles we had to go before the trumpeted exit. We figured “Wall Drug” on Interstate 90 is the equivalent of “South of The Border’ on Interstate 95. Even though we have never stopped at “South of the Border,” by the time we reached Wall, we had to stop. One of the billboards announced that “Wall Drug” had western wear and boots. That was the incentive we needed to brave the Disneyland of I-90.

(Photo by Camilla)

Wall Drug is the industry in Wall. It began its fame and fortune by offering free ice water to weary travelers in 1935. During our brief stop there, we bought Roger the prettiest boots I’ve ever seen but we didn’t drink the free water.

Next stop- the Alfred Hitchcock thriller ‘North by Northwest” also known as Mount Rushmore.