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A Genuine Labor of Love

Mike Murphey
Mike Murphey Author Interview

We Never Knew Just What it Was shares the life story of the Chad Mitchell Trio. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Like many people my age, the Chad Mitchell Trio had a huge influence on me as a kid growing up in a small, conservative community during the 1960’s. More than any other music, folk music has been a significant historical influence in American history. It played a significant role in American life through the Great Depression, World War II, the post-war McCarthy blacklists, and the tumultuous ‘60’s. Because Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell both live in Spokane and were willing to cooperate, I jumped at the opportunity to tell their story and immerse myself once again in all that wonderful music. It was a genuine labor of love for me.

This was written with members Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell. What was the collaboration process like on this book?

Despite living only a couple of blocks apart, Mike and Chad don’t see each other a lot. During the summer of 2019, the probably spent more time together than when they were touring in the 60’s. We would meet together for interviews once a week, then I would talk to them separately each week as well.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the trio when writing this book?

The crux of the story is that these are two guys who have polar opposite personalities. Those differences led to Chad’s departure from The Trio in 1965, and John Denver’s emergence as Chad’s replacement. They didn’t speak for twenty years. Then a woman attempted to arrange a reunion appearance. They both said, essentially, I will if he will. Despite the animosity that led to their divorce, the one thing that was sacred to both of them was the quality of the music. On that day twenty years later at that awkward meeting, the woman who brought them together asked, “Do you think you remember the harmonies on Four Strong Winds? And it was as if they’d never been apart. The again shared their demand for excellence, and once again reveled in the music.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from their story?

I just hope this instill in us old Boomers a recollection of a time and place when for, so many of us, a dedication to social justice was instilled in a generation by three guys who sacrificed their commercial success to biting satire and social statements that radio and television refused to play.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Of all the groups to emerge during the folk era of the 1960’s, The Chad Mitchell Trio was unequivocally the best. Their complex harmonies, sense of comedic timing and stage presence were unique to the folk movement. They didn’t enjoy the commercial success of some other groups because their material made political and social statements that radio and television refused to air. They were wildly popular, though, on college campuses through America during this turbulent time and fostered political and social awareness among thousands of young men and women as they faced the tumultuous era ahead.
As Mike, Chad and Joe Frazier raced along a frantic treadmill of rehearsal, recording sessions, nightclub performances and concerts, Mike and Chad began to realize the demand for musical excellence was they only thing they had in common. Their personalities were and remain polar opposites.
When Chad left The Trio in 1965, to be replaced by John Denver, neither Mike nor Chad mourned the parting. Two years later, Joe’s demons caught up to him, forcing his dismissal.
When folk reunions became popular in the 80’s, fans and folk historians agreed that The Chad Mitchell Trio was the one group that would never take the stage again. Their schism was just too great.
They hadn’t spoken in twenty years.
Then came a call.
I will if he will.
Their mentor and music director Milt Okun worried the were making a mistake. They couldn’t possibly be as good as their fans remembered.
They were.
They kept their day jobs, and their distance. But once again, they had the music.
As their friend Tom Paxton noted, “Sometimes the only thing people have in common is musical talent. But if they have that one thing, they’d be fools not to use it.

We Never Knew Just What it Was …

We Never Knew Just What it Was ... The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio by [Mike Murphey, Mike Kobluk, Chad Mitchell, Tom Paxton]

We Never Knew Just What It Was: The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio by Mike Murphey is a stirring biography of the folk singing group written with help from Trio members Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell. It tells the candid story of the group’s early days in university and follows the trials and triumphs of their career through the 1960s to their contentious split. The story hangs on their unlikely reunion in 2007, which inspired Murphey – who was already a successful author – to write his first non-fiction book.

In his introduction, Murphey describes the book as “a story of missed opportunities, management mistakes, personal struggle, and sometimes bitter conflict.” It’s true that the group did experience these circumstances, and we can certainly see how those problems would have hampered their success. While there is little detail offered as to how the problems affected them as individuals readers will be moved by the early hopes and dreams of the singers and their dedication to their craft.

In his dedication to faithfully cataloging each step of the Trio’s career and each misfortune they faced, Murphey quickly summarizes the conflict. For example, in the early days, management was trying to cast Mitchell as the group leader with Kobluk and Frazier as backup singers and even set them up for their own television show on that basis. This had to have created the first stirrings of jealousy and resentment among the bandmates, but there is little reference to any hurt feelings. Rather, the details of discussions are delivered without indication of the individuals’ feelings. This focus on facts helps readers concentrate on the groups path through the business rather than get caught up in the melodrama. The characters of the singers are well documented, from the casually delinquent Mitchell to the quietly ambitious Kobluk and unassuming Frazier. Each one is interesting in their own right. I thought the reunion show forms the perfect coda to their career.

Author Mike Murphey writes from the perspective of a dedicated fan and delivers an interweaving life story through a complex business in an easy to understand and factual manner that will appeal to readers looking for a credible biography that does not stray from the subject matter.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B098PPYXS9

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Through A Lot of Adversity

Mike Shields
Mike Shields Author Interview

Life of a Lounge Lizard is the insightful and authentic memoir of your life on the road as a musician and things you learned along the way. Why was this an important book for you to write?

The era of the cover band in America is pretty much forgotten now. But it was a way of life back in the mid-60s through mid-80s. For entertainment, people of all ages, (i.e. twenty-one to fiftyish), went out to a club, hotel, or restaurant to watch and dance to a band. This was before home theatres and VCR tape players and it was the perfect time to earn a living as a musician. Nowadays, unless you’re famous, you’re lucky to have a gig or two a week. You need a Real job!

I appreciated how candid you were. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

I did not want any person mentioned in the book to have their feelings hurt by my words. I wanted to be honest but not vindictive.

What were some ideas that were important for you to explore in this book?

In addition to the whole cover band phenomenon as stated above, I wanted to show the reader that you can reinvent yourself as you go through life. Keeping a positive attitude gets you through a lot of adversity.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?

I think everyone should write their own life story. Each of us have had many life-defining experiences that would make for a very interesting memoir. It’s very important to leave “Little Memories of You.”

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon Music | YouTube

You get only one shot to make it big, right? For Mike Shields, that just wasn’t true. Seeking adventure, this rock star wannabe and club performer followed the music wherever it led him. In his teens, he scribbled down his first song and teamed up with some amateur musicians to create a garage band, and from there, he took his life on the road, moving from one band and performance to the next.He has performed over many musical decades, changing band names and members along the way, while looking up to inspirations such as the Beatles and Jethro Tull. With his honest, humorous, and down-to-earth style, Shields offers a compelling account of landing gigs, finding love, and watching life take many unexpected turns, from meeting and playing with music legends to living through historic events such as the assassination of JFK. He invites you to share in the most profound moments of his career and personal life, illustrating how music has been the unifying passion that has pushed him forward and helped him recover from tragedy and heartbreak.

Simply Spiffin!

Simply Spiffin! by [Terry Tumbler]

Spiff Tracey is one in a million. Case by case, he takes on the world. Fortunately for the world, Spiff outlives everyone and everything around him. His ability to continue to thrive well into the future is matched by none. Spiff also remains unmatched in his ability to investigate and bring the guilty to justice. When he is tasked with something quite different from all of his other cases to date, Spiff feels he is just the man for the job. Nothing is too difficult and nothing too challenging for a man of his means and vast experience.

Simply Spiffin!, by Terry Tumbler, is the third installment of the Carousels of Life series. Spiff Tracey, the book’s main character is virtually ageless and manages to bring his brand of investigative genius into every decade and every major world event. This futuristic tale smacks of science fiction while at the same time offering humor and bits of intrigue and drama. There is nothing Tumbler hasn’t thought of in book three of this series, and for a third in the series, I feel it can stand alone well.

It is always a breath of fresh air to come across humor in a book otherwise steeped in drama. Tumbler’s books have all of that and more. The bigger-than-life characters are well-developed and stand out against a backdrop of what can sometimes be overwhelmingly technical elements. Each new character is a treasure in Tumbler’s writing. It is not often that readers find themselves just as enamored with the supporting characters, but Tumbler manages to achieve just that effect.

One of the most unique aspects of Tumbler’s writing is the inclusion of song lyrics. There is nothing quite like Tumbler’s work. Nowhere else will readers be able to find the words to their favorite classic tunes woven throughout a work of engaging science fiction. It’s a special blend of music and mayhem and, as odd as it may sound, a nice fit. It’s a technique that is present in each of the works I have read by Tumbler and always makes me look forward to the next one.

Tumbler has again handed readers a fantastic main character, a stand-out cast of supporting players, and a wonderful science fiction plot. Spiff Tracey, the private eye and world traveler, will invite readers in, but Tumbler’s unique brand of writing will keep them coming back for more.

Pages: 336 | ASIN:  B08Q9YKT6L

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The Paths That Light Us Up

Natasha Deen
Natasha Deen Author Interview

In the Key of Nira Ghani follows a young Guyanese girl who must balance her parents’ expectations and traditions while pursuing her own dreams. What was the inspiration for the setup to this heartwarming story?

The fun thing with being a writer is that we get to bring reality into fiction. The issue of balancing parental expectations with personal dreams is one (I think) a lot of us deal with—How do we choose the paths that light us up and at the same time, honor the elders that came before us?

There was a direct connection to the story idea, too. My parents really wanted me to be a lawyer (ha! I think it was because I was always arguing with them!), but law didn’t really do much for me.

We ended up compromising on psychology, and then I threw them for a curve when I decided to forgo my Master’s and head into writing. However, I was lucky and they were supportive!

Nira is a compelling character. What were some sources that informed her character development?

A lot Nira’s character creation came from the frustrations and joys I had growing up as well as the frustrations and joys my friends/family had growing up. I also pulled her personality from folks I met during school visits and library sessions.

That’s the thing I love about writing. We can find inspiration for characters and plots in our lives and from the world around us.

I felt like this story was authentic as well as compelling. Was there anything in this story from your own life?

Certainly Nira having to explain she’s from “Guyana not Ghana” and her being one of the only Kids of Color in her school was based on things that happened to me. And…it’s entirely possible the BBQ scene actually happened with my family. (Ha!)

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m really excited for the January 2021 release of my novel, Maria and the Plague: A Black Death Survival Story. It’s available for pre-order now and I hope readers will take heart and hope from Maria’s battle to survive the plague and protect her family.

Author Links: Twitter | Website | GoodReads

A Guyanese girl must find the balance between her parents’ “old world” expectations and traditions while pursuing her dream of being a great trumpeter in this contemporary, coming-of-age story, written by an #OwnVoices author.

Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira’s grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it’s now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion.

As if fighting with her parents weren’t bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie “Mac,” take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira’s much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily’s attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira’s trusted trumpet “George” remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama.

But it isn’t until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she’s not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible.

A relatable and timely contemporary, coming-of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani explores the social and cultural struggles of a teen in an immigrant household.

Fascinating Historic Intertwinements

Matthew Hodge
Matthew Hodge Author Interview

Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse explores the history of Disney and Jazz and how they’re related. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I thought this was an important book to write because I noticed through my personal studies and fascinations with Disney and jazz music that they had an incredible history together. Both worlds were vastly different, yet had decades of historic interactions that were inspiring, surprising, and even controversial at times. I describe it in the book as “two ships continually passing each other while sailing the same sea (or at times even crashing into each other).” I also noticed that although there were multiple books with specific sections highlighting these interactions, there was not one complete book that was entirely dedicated to these fascinating historic intertwinements. So, I decided to write one!

I loved all the bits of history and insider knowledge you provided. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

As a professor and scholarly writer, I put a lot of emphasis on research. All of my writings for various academic books and journals are heavily researched and well-cited. And although I wanted this book to be more of a casual entertaining read (as opposed to the more formal textbook-style writings I frequently publish) I wanted the book to be just as thoroughly researched — hence the 18 pages of referenced research listed at the end of the book. Additionally, I knew Disney had interesting histories with not just artists from the ‘pure’ jazz world, but also from musical worlds that I refer to in the book as “jazz adjacent”. I knew some music purists might argue my discussions of these artists and genres that aren’t on the surface ‘pure’ jazz, so I make the case in the book to explain and defend why these “jazz-adjacent” stories should be included in the book.

What is one thing that stands out in your mind as the best marriage of Disney and Jazz?

Although there were times in history that these two worlds collided with friction and controversy (which this book does not shy away from discussing), the overwhelming thing that became evident through my research was how much affection was shared between the pioneering artists in the Disney and jazz (and jazz-adjacent) worlds. Some of the most successful and memorable Disney works were because of these musical artists, and many of these musical artists described their Disney partnerships as among their most creatively-fulfilling and personal favorite works. I found it inspiring how these two worlds consistently inspired each other.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

I hope readers take away a fresh way of looking at America’s history. Because these two worlds became quintessential entertainment for 20th-century America, their stories reflected the successes (and failures) of a nation. I describe them in the book as “two forever connected entertainment empires that helped define a country, to both its own people and to the rest of the world.” As readers learn entertaining and fascinating stories about the rise of Disney’s empire and significant music pioneers, I hope they take away a fresh perspective of American culture.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

What does a ‘King,’ a ‘Queen,’ a ‘Duke,’ and a talking mouse have in common? They are all part of the intricate tapestry that helped define American entertainment, built by two different, yet connected pioneering industries: jazz music and Disney.
Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse: A History of Jazz and Disney is a first of its kind. Award-winning composer, professor, and author Matthew Hodge offers this unique book as the first to entirely dedicate its pages to exploring the vast histories of these two worlds. While rising in popularity and importance during the same decades, jazz and Disney spent more than a century consistently intertwining in ways that are remarkable, inspiring, surprising, complicated, controversial, and everything in between.
Whether a jazz listener, a Disney lover, a fan of both, or unknowledgeable of either, this book will navigate readers through many fascinating stories. With nearly 300 significant jazz artists and Disney properties referenced in these pages, Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse guarantees to entertain and educate readers of all ages as they journey through America’s jazzy landscapes—sprinkled along the way with plenty of Disney magic.

One is one, or green grow the rushes oh

One is one, or green grow the rushes oh by [Ruth Finnegan. Oliver cain, Oliver Cain]

One is One or Green Grow the Rushes Oh, by Ruth Finnegan and illustrated by Oliver Cain, is a lovely written version of the age-old song. Each of the beautifully designed pages contains a verse in the style of a cumulative story. As I read the song lyrics, I was immediately reminded of the days when I read The House That Jack Built to my own children. The beauty and simplicity of the song in a story-like format are touching and quite effective as a text.

Finnegan, responsible for the concept of this wonderful book, includes a helpful explanation of the song’s history for any readers not familiar with the meaning of the lyrics. From its earliest origins to the various versions and interpretations of the text, Finnegan covers all aspects of the song thoroughly in a quick read.

I am giving One is One or Green Grow the Rushes Oh, by Ruth Finnegan and illustrated by Oliver Cain, 5 out of 5 stars. Never having heard the song and intrigued by the book’s title, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this thoughtfully crafted rendering of the song and its many versions. I highly recommend Finnegan and Cain’s work to anyone interested in poetry or music history.

Pages: 35 | ASIN: B07GV29ZJY

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Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse: A History of Jazz and Disney

If you are a fan of Disney and want to learn about Jazz music history then Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse is the book for you. Matthew Hodge sprinkles his story with all manner of delectable tidbits that people don’t know about Disney and Jazz. You can also learn about Tokyo Disney and the resorts worldwide, giving you a peek at some of the secrets and facts about the Disney organization that goes beyond just your home. In addition to that, you will learn the history behind your favorite movies as well! Are you in love with The Princess and the Frog Disney movie? In Matthew Hodge’s book you’ll learn about the creative directions that brought a new era to Disney movies and music!

I loved Disney when I was younger, so I was excited to read this book because I wanted to know the secrets behind the movies. It was also a way for me to realize that there were projects I had never heard of, which was impressive. I had never heard of the Happiest Millionaire, but I enjoyed learning about it and what it was inspired by. Earlier in my life, my favorite movie was the Emperor’s New Groove because it’s a redemption story, and honestly, Eartha Kitt was hilarious. I wanted to cry reading about her past and am glad that she could move past it.

People often reference ‘Disney magic’, well I think there is also such as thing as the magic of Jazz. Matthew Hodges is able to capture the magic in both of these things and bring them together in one sensational book that delivers intriguing facts with surprising bits of insider knowledge. I never realized these two, seemingly different, forms of entertainment shared so much history. With so many references to both Disney and Jazz there is literally something in here for everyone. Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse was one of the most surprising books I’ve read this year. I did not expect to be so fully entertained.

Pages: 190 | ISBN: 1683902688

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