Sunday, June 16, 2019

Folk Law, Fiction, or Fact?

Folk Law, Fiction, or Fact?

Is this a tale, a fantasy concealed in reality, a yarn—not a fable of a family visually able to turn your head around without making a sound? Is this a gift, a curse, or even worse--a joke, a goof, a spoof, or just the truth?

So that you might better understand the nature of this potentially heartbreaking affliction my family has been encumbered with, I have assembled some actual photos of my Negron Family members who suffer this innate infirmity—The Negron Curse!

Top, left to right: Chuck Negron, Sr. (father); Chuck Negron, Jr.; Rene Negron (brother)

Bottom, left to right: Chuck Negron III (son); Conrad Negron (uncle); Ashton Negron (grandson, son of Chuck III)

“Acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today.
When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—
some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until
I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way
it is supposed to be at that moment.”*

The Negron family has learned to accept what for most would be seen as a blessing, not something that would encumber you. I might appear disingenuous and narcissistic to address this personal issue as a potential problem; however, The Negron Clan has at times experienced anguish and confusion when dealing with our dilemma… 


My Teenage Odyssey

As a middle schooler, a beautiful high school co-ed approached me. She explained she was frightened walking to her apartment alone and asked if I would escort her. Upon arriving at her door, she engaged in conversation and began touching my hair. What kind of a person messes with a boy’s hair? Annoyed, and at a loss for words, I left.

An older boy in the neighborhood, who always hung out on the corner in front of the candy store, called me over and wanted to know how I was able to hook up with an older high school girl. I explained what had happened. He was completely baffled when he realized I was unable to assess the romantic potential of the situation. In fact, I couldn't relate to, nor accept, the concept of this popular girl possibly liking me!

At that point, the conversation got weird and awkward for me. I was a naive boy who was never comfortable with obscenities and vulgarity. In my apartment, you were hit if you used any kind of colorful language. I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother and twin sister. There was no male influence. My sister and I slept in the same room for 18 years and not once did I even see her in a bra. I was unfamiliar with sexual-related language, let alone actual participation.

He proceeded to say, “If I were you, I'd go home and choke the chicken!” I honestly had no idea what he meant for I had never choked a chicken! When I asked him what he was talking about, he replied. “Charlie, you know, clean your rifle, paint the ceiling, Jack in the beanstalk, and hold the sausage hostage.” I swear I had no idea what he was talking about!

I had to ask what he meant. Although I had heard the word masturbation before, I honestly didn't know its meaning. He explained all the guys were doing it, but the Catholic School boys feared going blind. He warned me it was a sin and might grow hair on my palms. Still, I borrowed a National Geographic Magazine along with a picture of a bra and headed home!

Making Out 101

My interaction with this lovely high school co-ed transformed, after being informed of the romantic possibilities. I still fondly remember our romantic rendezvous and her patient guidance in the hallway of her building on Sherman Avenue in The Bronx.  

I must admit in my teens, hallways became my choice for romantic trysts. I might have been a bit of a hallway slut.

A culture of sexually inquisitive boys and girls existed that I knew nothing about. In the 1950s, parents did not talk about sex with their children so an underbelly of normal and curious teenagers, myself included, had to find out on their own.

The Stud Farm

On September 14, 1972, Rolling Stone stated:

"Three Dog Night looks like an advertisement for a stud farm."

My partners were very flattered, but I felt the statement was meant to minimize our achievements. I resented what I saw as the writer negating our talent and the magnitude of the success we had achieved by focusing on our appearance. The cover story went on to further diminish our artistic excellence by creating the misconception that we were marionettes controlled by management who made all the decisions and had created this mega moneymaking machine of pretty boy toys.

I Digress!

I've always believed most boys and men are pigs concerning their attitude towards girls and women; however, my opinion broadened once I became a successful musician to include a new breed of liberated young ladies. With my first success, I contributed my newfound sexual appeal to the phenomenon of The Negron Curse, but soon came to realize I was just one of many Rock & Rollers being pursued by this brazen group. 

Some of these lovely ladies viewed us as sexual objects. Some wanted souvenirs in the form of plaster casts of our privates. To others, we were a name to add to their list of Rock & Roll conquests. Nevertheless, I loved seeing them at the concerts for they were a barometer of our status and success.

Just over 12 years ago, while cutting fruit, I sliced my finger severing a nerve and causing significant bleeding. At the Emergency Room, I noticed people who came in after me were being seen. When I finally inquired as to why, I was told the older patients and those needing urgent care were seen first. I explained no one talked to me concerning the seriousness of my injury when I checked in so you couldn't possibly be aware of my condition. 

He asked me my name. When I told him, he said we thought Mr. Negron had left when we didn't see him in the waiting room. I explained, “I'm Mr. Negron! I never left.” He sheepishly replied that he had seen me, but dismissed the thought I was the 65-year-old man he was looking for. The curse struck again! I was too svelte, well groomed, and a little too attractive to be cut and bleeding. The dreaded visual evaluation had put me at the end of the line!

I received 10 stitches and was told to stop taking aspirin to lessen the bleeding. I also had severe nerve damage which would need surgery. I never had the time nor inclination for surgery so all these years later, my finger still feels like pins and needles running through it, but I look better than ever! 

You Want to What!?!

If you travel by air, you are sadly aware of what a stressful and demanding experience it can be—requiring one surrender after another. You are a powerless lemming controlled by individuals, who at times are lacking in basic common sense! I'm certain these aficionados of security have strict guidelines and protocol they are required to follow, allowing them to only utilize linear thinking when dealing with the old, crippled, and impaired travelers. 

For those who do not know, I travel with oxygen for my COPD.

When I approach a TSA inspection area, I am wearing my oxygen simulator, cannula in nose, and am often in a wheelchair. Even so, the following ensued recently:

TSA: Sir, can you take off the oxygen?   
CN: Of course, it's ONLY a fashion statement!  
TSA: Will you be wearing it on the flight? 

CN: No! I only utilize it when I'm training for the Ironman Triathlon!

TSA: Can you take off your shoes? 

CN: NO! I can't even put them on! 

TSA: Sir, would you please take off your shoes? 

CN: I'm 77 years old and no longer required to remove my shoes per TSA regulations.  

TSA: You're what?

Ami: He is 77 years old, on oxygen, and in a wheelchair. What's wrong with you? 

TSA: Can I see some ID? (He carded me!)

The next agent was a young man who was seemingly nervous as he began his speech concerning what areas of my body he would be fondling. 

TSA: I'm going to rub your groin and your buttocks area with the backside of my hand, do you mind? 

CN: No, it's the only reason I fly.

TSA: Sir, would you rather do this in private?

CN: Can I trust you?

Ami and I were finally boarding the plane, but then, a Steward, or Air Host, assertively inquired:

Air Host: Does he really need to use the oxygen during the flight? If he does, we will need a prescription from your Doctor, paperwork acknowledging the Federal Aviation Administration approves the oxygen simulator you're using, paperwork from our airline approving the use of your machine on the flight, batteries for eight hours of travel, and I'll also need to be included in your Will!

Ami: The airline hasn't required paperwork for almost three years. We have a sufficient amount of batteries.

Air Host: We'll see about that!

That would be the last time we saw him for once he found out Ami knew more than he did concerning the rules, he managed to avoid us the entire flight. No apology, no assistance, just unprofessional indifference due to the underlying belief that attractive individuals don't need special consideration or assistance so they will NOT get any! Ami and I encounter many of these road blocks every time we fly!

What is more difficult, not getting what you want or accepting what you get?

Beware...Beauty Kills!

Truthfully, acceptance has become a blessing in my life. When I stop fighting everything and everyone, and come to terms with my extraordinary good looks, I immediately realize I have taken a positive step in accepting The Negron Curse! 

How about you? Life is often difficult, full of disappointment and loss. Embracing who we are and how we look is paramount. I learned that rest, exercise, and good diet exacerbate my condition. I found myself staying up for days, not eating, smoking, drinking, and doing drugs in hopes of arresting my condition to no avail! As the years passed. my condition worsened. By age 21, I was a 6'1", 180-pound boy toy, an easy score, and a harlot!

A respected doctor I knew recommended a therapist who might be of assistance to me on my emotional journey. Ultimately, her guidance aided me in understanding we don't always get what we want, but we learn to accept what we have. In time, with therapy, I accepted there was more to me than my good looks. I no longer needed to accommodate all females who made romantic overtures to me. 

My therapist explained that some people view the “Terminally Good Looking” as slow, shallow, and enjoying wonderful lives simply based on how they look. She also felt the correlation between a person’s appearance and how they are treated is detrimental to all concerned. It is possibly an inherent character flaw in many individuals who evaluate others based on appearance, for that often leads to inaccurate or judgmental characterizations of people we otherwise know nothing about. 

She also expanded my limited knowledge of romance by enlightening me on the Kama Sutraand the importance of flexibility. I was informed and she had left the therapeutic community (something about an American Counseling Code of Ethics infraction.) 

 A Cold & Foggy Night 

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention is a huge event held at the Anaheim Convention Center. NAMM is the global crossroads of music, sound, and event technology attended by people from all over the world. 

I agreed to perform on the Yamaha Grand Stage on closing night. Unfortunately, on the night of the concert, I was dealing with the last stages of antibiotics and steroids for my pneumonia. At that time, I wasn't comfortable having the industry and fans know I used oxygen so I didn't bring it to the show. It was a cold and foggy night for an outdoor concert so Ami and I were concerned about getting me on and off the stage and back inside as soon as possible.

To run a show with many established artists, such as Elton John and Stevie Wonder who have appeared at previous NAMM events, takes many people and dedicated volunteers to make it happen. The NAMM convention and concerts last three days. Each day, the glitches and mishaps of the previous day are addressed for an ongoing, problem solving process. 

One issue that I was unaware of was artists had been arriving at the Yamaha Grand Stage later than the production manager felt comfortable with so from that point on, all acts were brought down early. Not a problem on a beautiful California night, but a bad situation for me on a cold, damp, and foggy night. Ami explained our dilemma to an assistant in The Green Room. I needed to remain inside until shortly before I was to perform. When I spoke with her, she subtly implied I might be attempting to receive special treatment and possibly not be sick. She stated, “You look pretty good for someone with pneumonia!” I then said, “That’s because I’m good looking, but I’m still sick with pneumonia!”

When we were told it was time to leave. we were led to a cold tent directly behind the stage. Bill Chapman from Chicago and other artists were there including Floyd Sneed, my dear friend and band mate from Three Dog Night. Ami and I quickly learned our request to remain indoors as long as possible had been ignored. It would be 45 minutes before my stage call, which turned into over an hour in the cold. It was distressing and set in motion some unpleasant events. For the most part, I am a cordial man, but when my health is put in jeopardy, especially at an event in which I'm donating my time in support of the LA music scene and NAMM, I WILL let you know if I'm unhappy! 

It was too far to walk back to The Green Room. Leaving the event was the best option for my health, but I just couldn't do that to my fans so I was stuck! I was angry and fearful. Floyd Sneed kept me engaged as Ami did everything possible to help the situation. By the time I received my stage call, I felt fine and was looking forward to performing.

As I made my way onto the stage, someone grabbed my jacket stopping me in my tracks. A gentleman in his forties, who looked totally out of place, had his hand wrapped around the shoulder portion of my jacket holding it so I couldn't proceed. Even after I laughingly asked him to "Use your words," he just looked at me with my coat held tightly in his hand. My boyish good looks must have disguised a 6'1”, 200-pound, Bronx-trained man who might take issue with being handled! 

I later found out he was a dentist as well as the NAMM volunteer in charge of keeping everyone but artists off the stage. Again, the production manager had been upset by too many individuals not associated with the show being on the stage during previous performances and had sternly requested this volunteer stay on top of it. Instead of finding out what the next artist looked like—utilizing some initiative, common sense, and appropriate behavior, he instead chose to physically stop me from gaining access to the stage area. I must reiterate, it was The Negron Curse coming into play once again. 

The volunteer only knew that one of the members of Three Dog Night would be performing. When I entered the stage, he felt I was too young to have been in a band from the 60s and 70s. Flattering? No! At this point I couldn't care less about anything but getting to the microphone with enough time to catch my breath so this issue remained unresolved. The show went well. The crowd and the band were great. As far as I know, everyone had a good time.

After my performance, Ami and I proceeded to leave the stage area when the volunteer came into view. He wasn’t there to apologize or thank me for my participation at NAMM, but to further stimulate bad will. The reality of the situation is that I am an older gentleman, about 30 years older than this guy, who would hope to be treated appropriately. I am not dead and will not allow aggressive individuals to put their hands on me. 

There was a time when confrontation would have not just been warranted, but also an understandable behavior. Of course, that mentality is passé for now people shoot one another instead. Although I may appear to be posturing and my thinking somewhat archaic, the truth is I'm too old to fight, yet too young to lay down. I found myself walking towards him in hopes of working on his teeth, perhaps a good cleaning, when he mockingly smiled at me initiating the launching of a right cross towards him.

Unbeknownst to me, Ami had picked up on the silent, but aggressive language between us and was moving quickly to intervene. Amazingly, she appeared between us as I was throwing my right hand. Even more fortunate, Ami wasn't hurt as the blow bounced off her shoulder. She then physically moved me away from the altercation! 

I was frightened I had hurt her, but Ami was more upset that I would do something like that in front of my peers at a high-profile industry event. Ami was correct, and a total professional and caring partner. The actual act of fighting is ugly, dangerous, and in this particular instance, could have been harmful to Ami, the dentist, and me by resulting in jail or worse! I was wrong and I will never forget my outrageous behavior nor repeat it again...I'll go with the left hook next time!

Our basic instincts can aid us in a visceral sense when in jeopardy, but these instincts, or survival mechanisms, can be of little aid in a world of people with sharpened social skills to the point of sociopathic-like behavior. The willingness and ability of so many to change their appearance with plastic surgery, Botox, and a cornucopia of beautification procedures make it impossible to obtain an accurate read on many.

An obvious and simplistic fact, "You can't judge a book by its cover," should be adhered to. We need to delve deeper than just what we see for the essence of every human being lives within them!

*Borrowed from “Acceptance Was the Answer” in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A View from the Peanut Gallery

A View from the Peanut Gallery 

The Rock Hall Induction Criteria—Does This Subjective, Arbitrary “Standard” Echo the Beginnings of Rock When Artists Were Marginalized?

Initially, I don’t believe this was the intent. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was at first a DREAM—a vision of men and women whose primary purpose was to honor not just musicians, but all of those who gave so much to build and expand the industry. By reaching milestones of both artistic and commercial success that advanced the medium, the bar was raised artistically, economically, and socially for those to come. Unfortunately, that is not their mission. 

I'm finding it difficult to arrive at a positive reason for which The Rock Hall chose to establish a more subjective and arbitrary standard for nominations and induction instead of existing and recognized criteria already being utilized by other Hall of Fames. Somehow, The Rock Hall saw fit to reinvent the wheel and established precarious guidelines void of tedious and mundane facts, milestones, and statistics.

I imagine vetted data and factual evidence of achievements would hinder one's ability to honor those who would not endure actual standards and impartial scrutiny, hindering The Rock Hall from continuing their nepotism. The inconsistent actions of these voyeurs of Rock & Roll are suspect, and unfortunately reminiscent, of the carpet baggers who arrived on the Rock scene in its infancy. Reflecting on those opportunists who viewed not only this new genre, but also the young musicians who created it as naive and vulnerable, maneuvered many into unethical contracts leaving behind broken dreams and empty pockets. Those were the days when Rock & Roll was similar to war in that it was built on the backs of the disposable. 

The reality is these individuals are still prevalent in and around music. Sadly, it appears some have found a home at The Rock Hall. They exhibit a Pavlovian dislike, and visceral reaction, to hugely successful artists that in their view are insignificant, commercial, or not eligible for reasons only they are privy to. It has been noted there are individuals at The Rock Hall who frown upon artists who didn't pen their own material; thereby ignoring the historical evidence that early Rock records were actually covers of old blues songs and standards from previous generations adapted to fit this new genre! 

The alliance between writers and artists helped build 
what is now Rock & Roll!

Even so, many great Rock & Roll artists who did not write their music rightfully avoided this scrutiny and have been inducted. The list includes Jackie Wilson, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, Elvis Presley—“The King,” The Temptations, The Supremes, The O'Jays, The Drifters, and The Four Tops to name a few.

That being said, the subjective nature of the induction process opens the door for prejudice, favoritism and compromise, which affords all concerned the flexibility to ignore their own guidelines and predilections. 

Another unfortunate fact is that many artists who were instrumental in creating and furthering the different genres that made up Rock & Roll in its infancy are being passed over simply because of their limited ability to sell tickets to the Induction Ceremony. One year, a Doo Wop group was bumped, even though they had more votes than the act which replaced them. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, who are ARGUABLY NOT Rock & Roll and barely fulfilled the 25-year eligibility criteria, were inducted for their ability to fill seats!

Even The Beatles had to wait seven years after 
they were eligible to be inducted!

Musicians who have given their lives to making music, having been blessed with illustrious careers, expanding the boundaries of the genre, are once again faced with those who would marginalize and cheat them! 

Rolling Stone Cover Story 

On September 14, 1972, Rolling Stone magazine’s cover stated:

More Gold Than The Stones! 
Bigger Crowds Than Creedence! 
Fatter Purses Than Elvis!

12 Gold Records in three years
83,000 people in three concerts
$125,000 in 60 minutes

If there were standards of excellence, specific achievements that must be attained to qualify for induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what would they be?

  • 55 million records sold
  • 18 Top Twenty hits
  • 21 Top Forty hits in a row
  • 7 Platinum singles
  • 12 Platinum albums 
  • 8 Number One records as shown on the Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World charts, reflecting the Top 100, Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening, and R & B charts  
  • Created stadium touring 
  • Discovered and shined a light on some of the most influential writers of our time, including

Randy Newman              Paul Williams                 Daniel Moore
John Hiatt                      Leo Sayer                       Hoyt Axton
Laura Nyro                     David Loggins                Harry Nilsson 
Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Unfortunately, the aforementioned achievements are irrelevant since

Statistics are NOT relevant!

The Rock Hall elitists opt to play by their own rules and would rather perish than honor those they see as the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, they feel Gold and Platinum Awards, industry milestones, and record-breaking achievements are inappropriate guidelines for acceptance to The Rock Hall, but instead prefer conjecture, opinion, personal taste, and the artists’ influence on Rock & Roll which is totally subjective. Sadly, those with obvious credentials, but less cachet than these luminaries are comfortable with, are never even put on the ballot!  

The following is not an artistic judgment, but merely a comment on the inconsistent and ambiguous voting guidelines 
employed by The Rock Hall.

 I praise all the inductees for being honored by a business that has been known to take more than it gives.

The Velvet Underground never had a charted record on the Billboard, Cashbox, or World Record Top 100 charts.  They weren’t a successful touring act either; however, they are enshrined in The Rock Hall due to their contribution to furthering Rock & Roll. If the reality is that virtually no one bought their album or saw them live (I did!), then I’d like to know how their influence on Rock & Roll was calculated and determined?

Throughout the years, Rock and Pop became so sophisticated in its production, song writing, and artistic performances that it was literally out of reach for most aspiring musicians. We lost sight of the days when Rock wasn't tethered to one's limitations or musical expertise, writing, or vocal skills for Rock & Roll was born of rhyme, soul, young love, heartbreak, rebellion, raw passion, and all things innovative. 

The listener was tuned in and turned on by how the music made them feel as much as the vocal and musical mastery of the messenger.

Inevitably, the freedom which Rock & Roll encouraged from its beginning, coupled with overproduced records and manufactured artists, opened the door for Iggy Pop, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols—all of whom became an intricate part of a blossoming new music. 

Often an artist’s persona is defined as much by their shortcomings as their assets for that's what makes them unique. You don't have to possess the ability to dunk to play basketball!

Warren Zevon, a roommate of mine in the 80s, said to me after hearing a Grateful Dead song on the radio, “This is music for people who hate music!”
So many points of view derived from different perspectives and levels of expertise. Ones man's Beatles is another's Velvet Underground! 

A Synchronicity of Influences

I put forward this hypothesis:

Music and musicians are all connected and influenced by the many varying genres, artists, and writers who came before us.

We have inevitably been influenced and emulated an artist we have never seen or heard. We are inspired by musicians mimicking those artists, over and over again as one artist is inspired by another and so on, etc., ad infinitum

Each new sound, new song, or new artist is composed of a cornucopia of musical influences presented in a fresh new way! We are all linked by our love and respect for music as well as the individuals that bring it to life. To give credit to a specific musician or group for their musical influence might be lacking in historical perspective for we influence each other. 

That being said, there are always leaders, the best of the best, 
who we all learn from!

It's all connected. We're all connected.

In the 1940s, girl groups were embraced by our soldiers in Europe, in the South Pacific, and at home. The Andrews Sisters, Boswell Sisters, and The Chordettes established a formula that female groups would emulate for decades to come! The 1950s and early 1960s girl groups were in heavy rotation on every AM station in the country. The Shirelles, The Chantelles, The Shangri-Las, and The Ronettes led the way for The Bangles, En Vogue, Destiny’s Child, and The Spice Girls in future generations.

The Golden Gate Quartet, a 1930s vocal group, was credited with pioneering the Jubilee Gospel sound as well as influencing Doo Wop vocal groups to come. The 1940s gave us The Mills Brothers, The Four Vagabonds, and The Ink Spots setting the stage for Doo Wop groups that helped define the 1950s and early 1960s including The Cadillacs, Five Satins, Drifters, The Passions, and Dion & The Belmonts. Jazz and Pop influenced The Skyliners, who wrote their own hits, featured one of the most unique, lead vocalists of the day—Jimmy Beaumont, and were followed by The Dells, Stylistics, Chi-Lites, Four Seasons, and Manhattan Transfer from the mid-1960s and 1970s that then inspired the phenomenon of "Boy Bands" from the 1990s into the new millennium.

The 1960s Rock grew by expanding not only musically, but became socially relevant. The musicians of this generation forged ahead creating astonishing new sounds on their instruments that advanced their music to an extraordinary level of skill and commercial success. Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton established an exciting and unique sound born in part by R & B, early Rock, Country, Rockabilly, and the great Blues artists from the past and present that included Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and B. B. King.

The Rock Hall Background

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was founded on April 20, 1983, by Atlantic Records President, Ahmet Ertegun. Since The Rock Hall started, Atlantic (or Atco) Records represents 17% of the artists who have been inducted into The Rock Hall.

Following Atlantic Records, we have:
  •        Columbia Records, 12%
  •        Warner Bros., 11%
  •       Capitol Records, 10%
  •       RCA, 6%

The thousands of remaining record companies make up the remainder of those inducted into The Rock Hall.

Sadly, the continuation of bias, as well as the lack of credible criteria, for nominations still thrives. This is an acceptance of mediocrity perpetuated and immortalized by those too affected to be impartial.

It comes to mind that a comparison can be drawn between The Rock Hall and The Fight Game, or boxing. The similarities being that boxing has criteria for establishing the winner, but these criteria can also be subjective. At times, when put in the hands of those who have an agenda, the outcome is questionable, unfair, and not embraced by the public as a legitimate endeavor in spite of the extraordinary talent involved.  

This is how many now view THE ROCK HALL!