Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reelin' and Rockin' in the Heartland: Busseybootlegger!

I’m pretty sure that the first instant replay in rock and roll history occurs in the movie “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.” After weeks of rehearsal the birthday concert begins. While the band is wailing, Chuck Berry moves back and whispers something to Keith Richards who squeezes his lips shut and shakes his head “no!” Chuck laughs. There’s a moment of musical mayhem when Chuck momentarily changes keys, but then he goes back to the mike and the show continues. Later the replay is shown, with color commentary by Richards. He explains that after all the rehearsals, Chuck immediately comes back and says they’re going to change keys. Richards says no.

But that’s color commentary, after the fact.

For a new first, let’s travel to Bussey Park, in Bussey, Iowa, for the early bird July 4 concert, where, for the first time in rock and roll history, we get actual real time play by play commentary of a rock and roll performance.

I think at one point we hear “I’m going to hide under my chair!” (Could that be Marilyn?)

Later someone asks “Was the original this long?”  (Is that the banker, or the guy who took a break from bailing hay?)

The comments make it clear they are delighted to see their friend, neighbor and family member on stage singing the songs he loves.  It's exactly what rock 'n' roll is about. 

It's folk music-- of the people, by the people, and for the people: perfect for the Fourth of July.  And it's the most American of all songs, "Johnny B. Goode," in what looks like one of the most American of places, Bussey, Iowa.

Google Maps tells me that Bussey is a town about 6 blocks high and 6 blocks wide located somewhere west of Givin, south of Harvey, and north of Lovilia.  The City Park is uptown.

But here’s what I really know about Bussey:

It’s the home of Busseybootleger.

If you’ve ever gone to’ve probably seen posts by Busseybootlegger. If you’ve ever posted there yourself, you’ve probably been greeted by Busseybootlegger, a/k/a Doug, or Doug Spaur, to be precise-- a man obviously devoted to his wife, Marilyn, but also clearly vexed by that vixen in the Yellow Cab, Nadine.

When I tentatively started this blog, one of the first people I told was Doug Spaur—not because I knew him—I’d never met or corresponded with the man-- but because I KNEW him.

I could tell from 2000 miles away that Busseybootlegger was a man smitten with the same bug I had. (Not Nadine.  Although, dang-- the girl moves like a wayward summer breeze!) 

No-- I knew from 2000 miles that Busseybootlegger was another true believer: a superfan of my hero, Chuck Berry.  A brother in fanaticism.

What I especially love about Busseybootlegger, at least from the posts, is his attitude-- or maybe the lack thereof. I’ve never seen a negative or cynical word from him.  When a newcomer arrives he hails the arrival.  When the website shut down, he kept it going almost single-handed.  When he answered some questions for me below I had to remove explanation points to save gigibytes on my hard drive. He exudes optimism and an umblemished love for Chuck Berry.

After I wrote something about my quickie cross country visit to Blueberry Hill in the winter of 2009 Busseybootlegger said that he was going, too. Since then he’s made the pilgrimage several times—but unlike me, he thinks to bring a camera, and take pictures. If you read this blog, you’ve seen some of them—but there are dozens more: great shots of Chuck Berry and his band on stage, and great shots of Chuck Berry’s fans enjoying the moment.  (One day one of the best of them arrived in an envelope from Bussey.  Dang!  Next time I go to BBH myself, I'm going to try to get it signed.)  And the pictures-- always accompanied by set lists and enthusiastic descriptions of the evening. 

Then there are the videos. I’ve given up trying to find interesting new videos of Chuck Berry on youtube. There’s no point. All I have to do is open my e-mail, and I’ll find something new and rare that Busseybootlegger has sent me. I say that he’s optimistic, but in some ways he’s like an evil pupteteer, pulling strings and making me post video after video after video. I can’t help it. Whenever I decide to shut this thing down, three more arrive, and up they go. Chuck in Italy. Chuck in Canada. Chuck on Ukelele.  I've told Doug that he's got to send a bio-- he's got to go onto the masthead of this website. 

But the best video came today—Busseybootlegger as Chuck, Captain’s hat and all, duckwalking, scooting, doing splits, and making his neighbors happy.

All I can say is: we need to get the fellow a guitar.

And thanks!

Here is Doug on stage. (It made my day this morning.)

And here are a few words with the man.  (All the pictures are from Doug and Marilyn.)

How did you first become addicted to Chuck Berry, and what is it that got you?

I have always loved his music. As a child my first taste was his only number one seller – “My Ding-a-Ling,” backed by “Johnny B. Goode.” the greatest Rock & Roll song ever. I was probably 9 years old, give or take, and wore out both sides equally, playing it over and over on a little 45 rpm record player thrown up on the bed mattress. You know the kind that looked like a little typewriter suitcase and the lid folded open? All the while I was singing along with Chuck, I wondered what my mom thought when she was within earshot!!?? Chuck once said of “Ding-a-Ling - "This was wrote with the tiny tot in mind – it’s the adults that had a problem with it." And so goes it with me-- its nothing dirty to me, just " Silver bells hangin' on a string - the cutest little song you ever seen." From there I got more 45's: “School Days,” “Rock & Roll Music,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “No Particular Place to Go” from the ‘Oldies” section at the store. Then came my only album - the soundtrack to "American Hot Wax" with “Reelin'& Rockin'.” Chuck boogied in the kitchen & boogied in the hall.... I was a teenager by then, oh man!! Back then you didn't have Youtube or cable television, VHS, or DVD's that you could pop in and see Chuck anytime you wanted, so the only time you might catch Chuck was on TV during a late night movie or during fundraiser week for the Iowa Public Television Channel when they would show “American Hot Wax” or “Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll.” Those movies were always a special treat. I remember watching in amazement seeing him on Saturday Night Live and the Grammy Show, you know the one with Michael Jackson in the audience with Brooke Shields and Webster. I never was one to go to live concerts but in the late 1990's I thought I want to see some of these guys that made this great music I love - rock & roll, you know they’re not getting any younger! I saw Little Richard; then "The Killer" Jerry Lee at the Iowa State Fair annual Rock & Roll Reunion. I remember telling a guy there beside me, the person I REALLY want to see is Chuck Berry"!! He told me Chuck played at the fair a couple years ago - Darn!! So I waited, then in mid August of 2002 at Tama, Iowa, the thing that got me "hooked" happened. From front row seats I saw CHUCK BERRY LIVE!!!!! Chuck was just shy of 76 years old. Now in my mind I had an image of what this 76 yr old was going to be like and was wishing I'd seen him 10 years earlier. I figured he'd shuffle on stage, slumped shoulders, all stoved up, no scoot, and mumble some songs like a 76 year old should. Was I mistaken! He "leaped" onto the stage like a person at least 25 years younger!!! At that very moment I got tears in my eyes for I knew I was in for something special. It was a perfect concert, Chuck came out and absolutely Rock & Rolled us the first 3 songs - If I remember right- “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” with his legs flapping, then “School Day,” with Chuck telling us to "Repeat After Me"!! And then it happened - Chuck said - "Can you hear us"? Are we coming through loud and clear? With your permission then, we'd like to open our Show!!!!!” And with that we got “Let it Rock!!” He sang “Nadine” that night and a blues song or two, “Johnny B.” and he told us to "Sing Children Sing!!!” and “Reelin' and Rockin'” with “House Lights.” "Do you want me to leave"??? NOOOO - "Do you want me to stay"?? YEEEESSSS!!!!! So to make a long story short-- I've loved Chuck's music since childhood, and there is no one - I mean no one that compares to him live!

Tell us about the show in Bussey Park

It is our annual 4th of July celebration, its been going on close to 130 years now. Our little town of 400 people comes to life this one time of year, like Chuck's lyrics – “many people come from miles around!!” We have a huge parade and carnival rides in the park and entertainment on the stage and a big fireworks display that is let off directly across the road from my parents’ house. I've had a front row seat for them all my life!! Every thing got bumped up a day being’s the 4th is on Sunday this year. The show was the evening before during the annual Bussey Fireman's Pulled Pork Supper. I got my friend Paul Gott and his Band "Rabbit Trax" lined up for the gig this year and they let me come up and sing one with them. It was one big Chuck Berry medley with full versions of “Nadine” and “Let It Rock,” a couple verses of “Roll Over Beethoven,” ending with a complete “Johnny B. Goode” all rolled into one. My voice had had it by the time it was over!!

You do understand that whenever you send me a video, it goes up, right?

Peter, please spare the world, I'm horrible......

(Editor’s note: not possible. And as you’ve seen, he’s wonderful.  Made my 3rd of July!)

Who did the play by play commentary on "Johnny B. Goode?"

My wife was taping. Also my mom, my banker and his wife, who are also my neighbors, and another good friend that stopped baling hay to come see me.

Just where (or what) in tarnation is this Bussey business?

It's my hometown, Bussey, Iowa! I'm very proud of it and never want to leave. I've lived here my whole life. Now if we could pack the whole town up and put it about 10 minutes outside of Wentzville, that might be an option.

And speaking of Bussey business, what business are you in? Bootlegged tapes? Videos? White Lightnin'?

I used to make homemade wine. That’s where the name comes from. I do like seeing footage of Chuck I've never seen though. Thank the Lord for the Chuck Berry website, Youtube and Ebay!!

What do you do for a living?

I have 17 years in at the Vermeer I’m currently running a laser that cuts parts out of steel. I welded for them for over 14 years. Things were slow at work because of the economy so I took on a second job last fall working for the City of Bussey - mowing, cutting brush, weed eating, reading water meters and such-- general handyman, so I'm working well over 70 hours a week!!

You once mentioned something about purchasing a guitar on the forum. Did you do it? And how's that going?

No, I'm still looking and wishing. In my mind I've failed before I have ever tried. It so amazes me people that can play a musical instrument, whatever it is.

When's your next trip to see Chuck?

I'm trying to finagle another Blueberry Hill trip maybe in August or September. It all depends on the ok from Marilyn, my wife. I want to go every April. That’s my birthday month.   I keep hoping maybe Chuck will play in Iowa somewhere.

(Go, Doug, Go!)


Anonymous said...

Hi Doug, it's nice to have the chance to know more about you. I wish I could spend a fourth of July in Bussey Park! Thanks Peter, this blog is becoming a place where the fans become family :-) I feel part of it.

Peter said...

Carmelo-- This blog is about the influence of Chuck Berry, but not primarily on musicians; it's about his influence on US. We're like the people in Close Encounters who've been touched or chosen and carve the Devil's Tower with their mashed potatoes. They know it's important. They can't help themselves.

Anonymous said...

Carmelo, I wish you and your Band could play at our little towns celebration - You would Reel & Rock Bussey for sure!! You would have to make sure to bring along your Bass player - Dr. Evil - he is really cool!!
Tulane, here's another subliminal message from the bootlegger - Give Peter Kaleta's story a "bump" to the top of your blog -its a good one. By the way - Where have you been Peter??
CB Forum ID - Busseybootlegger

Peter said...

Doug-- It wasn't subliminal; it was ESP. I was thinking about doing that the other day. Here it comes.

Anonymous said...

Doug, I'm here reading the great story about You :-)