A little information about how the original songs came to be, what they are about and other (hopefully) interesting tidbits. A little insight into what the inspiration was. Some of the newer as yet unrecorded songs.
I was crossing the street and looked down and saw something glitter in the noonday sun.
I reached down and picked up a ring. My first thought was, “Hey, maybe it has some gold in it,” and I stuffed it into my pocket, thinking how I would spend the money.
Later that day I came home and was talking to my wife, when I remembered the ring in my pocket. I said “Look what I found.”
She looks it over for about 3 seconds and says, “You know what this is don’t you?”
“Yeah, it’s a ring,” says I matter of factly.
She says, “Duh, of course it’s a ring… but what kind of a ring?”
“It’s, a gold ring?” I said, not quite getting her drift.
“That’s not what I mean Robert. I mean it’s a wedding ring. You wouldn’t know about that cause you never got me one… Did you read the inscription?”
“Uh, no, I didn’t know it had an inscription.”
“Well it does. Read the inscription” she said, handing me back the ring. “Well?” she says.
“It says June 15th, 1993. Wow, that’s the same date as today, but a different year.” says I.
“You know what this means?” says my wife with a gleam in her eye.
“Uh, yeah, it’s an incredible coincidence” says I, proudly.
“Noooo, it means that the couple had a fight on their anniversary. She took off her ring, and threw it into the street, you walked by and picked it up, and showed it to me.” She starts to put the ring on her finger. “You never did give me a wedding ring if you remember. This one will do just fine, thanks”
MR. JELLY ROLL
All blues singers seem to have at least one really baudy, low down and dirty blues song.
I didn’t to have one so I set about to write one. I worked on it for 3 or 4 days, finally finishing the tune early in the morning.
I had a gig that afternoon at a women’s community residence in East New York, Brooklyn. Having just finished writing the song, I didn’t have the lyrics memorized, so I wrote them out on a big index card, grabbed my acoustic guitar and drove off to the gig.
In case you don’t know East New York, Brooklyn… it is without a doubt one of the roughest and most dangerous places in America. Loaded with burned out or otherwise abandoned buildings and vacant lots. The area was crawling with prostitutes, drug addicts and street hustlers. A women’s community residence is where ex drug addicts, ex convicts, and the mentally ill live until they are deemed fit to re-enter society. Some of these women hadn’t seen a man in a long, long time, let alone heard one sing a song like Mr Jelly Roll. I didn’t know what kind of a place my agent (Freddie Orange of Hospital Audiences Inc.), was sending me to, I just gladly accepted the gig as always, and called the facility for directions. I’ve performed in hundreds of mental institutions, nursing homes and rehab places of all kinds, but I wasn’t prepared at all for a women’s community residence. Uh uh.
I took out my guitar, and started to sing the tune reading the lyrics right off the card. Immediately the women started laughing and hooting and hollering and getting all excited. Some of them began jumping up and down and lifting their skirts up over their heads. I’m thinking, “Wow, what a reaction, this song must be a ‘hit’.
I mean it was only natural for me to think this because afterall, I had never seen a reaction like this except in film clips of the Beatles, or Elvis.
When I got home I called the guys in my band to tell them about this fantastic new song I wrote and the reaction it illicited in these women, still not quite grasping the situation there in East New York.
I practiced the hell out of that tune and memorized the lyric, and then a few days later we had a gig with the whole band in an upper Eastside club in Manhattan. We did a few tunes to warm the crowd up and then when I thought the time was right I launched into Mr. Jelly Roll giving it everything I had.
People were walking by totally oblivious of the band and the song. They talked with each other or sat glued to the television sets watching a basketball game. No reaction at all. I mean zilch. Nada. Zippo.
I began to get a bit depressed when it occurred to me, well maybe the women at the facility were a little… “lonely”…
BROKEN HEARTED MAN
When I was still living with my wife, she had a friend who was having problems with her boyfriend.
She came over to talk to my wife one night, and they spent a couple of hours in the kitchen talking. I heard a lot of crying and stuff, but every time I came into the kitchen to supposedly get something to eat from the fridge, they would just clam up like a couple of oysters. Later after her distraught friend left, I asked my wife what was going on. She told me the poor woman was having problems with her boyfriend. He’s been taking her for granted, stepping out on her, and mistreating her. And I’m thinking “Like wow, that would make a great song.”… I’m so sensitive sometimes it’s scary. Anyhooo, a few days later I finish writing the song, and played it for my wife, and she says it’s really good. So I say, “Hey, what about if we have the woman sing it?” My wife says, “Are you stark raving nuts? You’re not even supposed to know about her problems, what she said to me was private. Now you want to write a song about it and have her sing it? What the hell is with you?” Realizing she might be right, I went back and rewrote the song so that I could sing it. The song has yet to appear on one of our CDs, but it will someday. Hopefully soon.
FROM THE CD “DARKNESS… TO LIGHT”
TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT
A high energy shuffle that kicks the disc off with a bang. You’re going to see the one you love tonight, at long last. Opiates stain the brain, hormones flood the blood. What a natural high! Love, passion, anticipation… oh, and some good rockin’ blues.
ALL DRESSED UP NO PLACE TO GO
A rockin’ & rollin’ romp about loneliness, pain, and restlessness. If you’ve been burned by love bad enough, you may have had a few nights like this. I just hope you didn’t have to deal with it on New Year’s Eve, Christmas day, or your birthday. Anyway, maybe this song will help.
BORN WITH THESE BLUES
So, you think you had a bad day? Feel like you got up on the wrong side of the bed?
Well the poor guy in “Born With These Blues” came out of the wrong fallopian tube. I mean nothing has gone right for the poor shlub since day one. He has suffered from alcoholism, war trauma, chronic unemployment and the loss of the only person who ever really loved him, his dear old mother. He was a victim of child abuse,& homelessness. He also dropped out of school, and spent time in prison. His life makes the Elephant Man’s life look like a ticker tape parade. Maybe that’s stretching things a wee bit, but his life ain’t no bowl of fruit loops I can tell you that. To his credit, he doesn’t give up hope. No, he just goes right on hitting himself over the head, and shooting himself in the foot. I guess we all know someone a little like that, but come on, tell the truth, aren’t you a little bit like that yourself? I am. The main thing is, don’t let the blues get you down. Hey, that’s why the lyric is chock full of black humor, the melody is catchy, and the groove is upbeat, in stark contrast to the tragic story. It definitely puts a smile on my face.
A love song from a mere mortal to an angel who possesses physical beauty, spirituality, and wisdom.
This heavenly creature arouses the mortal’s earthly passions. The problem is, when you worship the ground someone walks on, it’s not so easy to tell the person how you feel or to even make an approach. There are problems in the Garden Of Eden. I know… oh how I know… Man, go for it already!… Of course it’s easier said then done. Still, where would civilization be if nobody took a chance on love? If you’re thinking, “We probably wouldn’t even be here,” then you are a winner! So, do our species a big favor and put a few moves on the lady. We’re all very proud of this track- the divine vocals, the miraculous instrumental passages , not to mention the biblical references in the lyric, all came out just… heavenly.
I AM WHAT I AM
This is a song about relationships, after the “honeymoon” is finally over.
Consider this: why would someone, who we’ll call the party of the first part, and who loves some other someone, who we’ll call the party of the second part, want to change that party of the second part in the first place? I mean gee, so the guy’s a little messy. It’s not like he was dissecting hippos on the dining room table. Nagging, threatening and complaining won’t make the problem go away, they just make things worse. Inevitably, a wedge is driven between the two parties, destroying the love the two parties had to begin with. Why do we do that?? I sure as hell don’t know. But I can tell you this, it ain’t marriage per se that causes lovers to break up, it’s living together. The solution is easy, get married, just don’t live together… I’m just kidding… I think
THE DEVIL BEASTS
This one is a chilling tale loosely based upon a real life experience.
What is a devil beast, and why are they bothering the guy in the song? And what powers do they possess? Is there a chance of escape? Is it possible to somehow fight them off? And while we’re at it, what kind of a nut writes a song like this anyhow? If you listen closely, you may come up with all the answers, although some of these mysteries may require Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction. Dig the lyric, the slide guitar, and the rhythm section… but first, bolt the door and hide under the bed.
RUFF ‘N’ TUFF
When I was living in France in ’82 & ’83, I used to play for tips on the trains in the Paris metro.
One time, I was heckled, and then threatened by a couple of morons as I was passing the cup. (Yes, there are morons everywhere, even in Paris). Due to a language barrier which made communication impossible, and a manpower disadvantage which made confrontation unwise, I tried to bluff my way out by blowing my stack and acting totally nuts. This is a talent that comes quite naturally to me. Finally, when a third Frenchman came to my assistance, the two morons got off the train and skedaddled. Stories like this are always funny afterwards. Sometimes one even inspires a song. This song was previously released in ’84 in Europe, but this version, previously released in ’96 in Europe, is much better. Rock ‘n’ Roll!
THE RECORD BIZ
When Irving Berlin wrote “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, it was a heartfelt tribute to the profession he dearly loved.
“The Record Biz” on the the other hand, is a liver venting, bile spewing roast of the profession I sometimes hate. I love the music very deeply of course, but the business end can be unfuckingbelievable at times. The greed, the lies, the back biting, the pettiness, the egos, the disappointments… the agents, the managers, the bar owners, the lawyers, the record companies… Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade places with anybody, but, a little money and some health insurance wouldn’t hurt. It’s a tough way to make a living. People didn’t think I should record “The Record Biz” because it might offend some big wig. Yeah maybe, but I doubt it, big wigs don’t listen to unsolicited material, right? Besides, I think it’s too funny to get steamed up about… hey, what am I laughing at, this is my life??
SANTA CLAUS LOST HIS CHRISTMAS LIST
How could this happen to dear, old St. Nick?
Will presents still be given to good boys and girls? Will Christmas have to be called off? Mystery, & high drama at the top of the world. This is the Robert Ross Band’s own special little Christmas gift “to kids from one to ninety-two” everywhere. We hope you enjoy this treat for many years to come. And yes, that is me on ‘fuzz’ vocals. We felt it added a cool, off-beat character to the tune. Be on the lookout for a children’s book sometime in the distant future.
COME ON LET’S ROCK
This one has a touch of that rollicking New Orleans groove.
A good rockin’ party song. The idea came to me at a mental institution on Halloween a few years ago… I was performing there, not residing there, thank you very much. Right in the middle of “Jailhouse Rock” I got this crazy idea for a song. Anyway, they sure did like me at that facility, one of the doctors even asked me to stay overnight.
I’ve been wanting to record this classic Slim Harpo tune for years.
We give it a high energy treatment, and utilize the old slide guitar. I like it. I think it’s one of the best cuts on the disc. I added this verse to the song: “I’m a killer bee, I pack a great big sting (repeat), when you see me buzzing baby, you’ll find out why they call me king”. I guess you’ve noticed by now that I like to tinker with the classics. I do it out of love for the music, and because it’s fun. Thanks Slim for the inspiration.
WHO YOU TRYING TO FOOL
The first of two extra, hidden tracks on this CD.
This one is about a salesman who comes to your house, like in the old days, and tries to sell you some god-forsaken-who-knows-what that you can’t use and don’t want. Hell, you don’t even know what the heck it is, and his explanations do not wash. And he won’t go away. This tune was lifted off an old vinyl LP we did in 1984 for an RCA subsidiary (Victoria Records) in France entitled “It’s Rough ‘n’ Tough”. Mark Dann thought it would be fun to record this one right off the LP itself, snap, crackle, and pop.
This rocker also appeared on “It’s Rough ‘n’ Tough”.
Hey maybe that wasn’t such a bad record afterall. Maybe that guy at Victoria Records should have spent more than 35 francs promoting the damn thing. The hook goes like this:
Don’t get caught red handed with the evidence
Don’t get caught red handed cause there’s no defense
If you’re caught red handed in the act of crime
Just be prepared to do the time
Don’t get caught red handed with the evidence
FROM THE CD “ROCKIN’ THE RAILS”
IF I HAD KNOWN
A song about partying too hardy, and too often for way too long.
The whole phrase…”If I had known that I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself” has been attributed to both Mickey Mantle and Eubie Blake.
Mantle, thought he would die young like all the other men in his family from one dread disease or another. Injuries and alcohol and late night parties kept him from a Ruthian career. Had he only taken better care of himself he might have broken Ruth’s home run record in 1961 along with Roger Maris, but he got injured and finished with ‘only’ 54 that year. Still, he managed to live a pretty long life, a lot longer then he had reason to expect considering his lifestyle and his gene pool.
Eubie Blake, who lived to be 100, was a great piano player and successful composer who wrote the song I’m Just Wild About Harry and other old classics from the early days of the century. One night on The Tonight Show he was asked by Johnny Carson how it feels to be 100 years old and he answered, “If I had known that I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
I thought it would make a great song title.
I had a car that no mechanic on Earth could fix.
It was only 7 years old when I got it, but it was breaking down all the time. A car should last longer then that, that’s a ripoff. And the mechanics I tried didn’t seem to know their business either. The same damn problems over and over and… The beast was draining me dry. It was a gas guzzling, oil burning, water boiling, smoke belching, money sucking, gut wrenching, corroded heap of rusty nuts and bolts. It was obsolete in its own time. It was over-sized (who could park a boat in Manhattan?). It was overpriced (when it was new). And, it was a perfect example of overrated American engineering. Do the words “lemon”, or “junkyard” mean anything at all to ya?? Why did I keep it?? Well, maybe it couldn’t go far but at least it was a place I could go with my girlfriend after a movie.
WHITE BOY LOST IN THE BLUES
My band and I had worked a certain club in Greenwich Village (in Manhattan, you know?) a few times, and I thought we went over pretty well with the crowd.
However, the club owner, a guy from the Middle East, was giving me the run around, and not returning my calls. I had thought he liked me, and the music, and gave him the benefit of the doubt, and so I just kept on calling him.
One day when I called, he picked up the phone. I said hello, and asked for a gig.
The guy said, “I’m sorry Robert, but frankly, white guys just don’t sing the blues as well as black guys.”
“Oh I see,” said I. “Well, tell me, does this also mean that all black guys make better basketball players then all white guys?”
I never really expected this, but to my complete surprise, the guy said, “Yes, absolutely.”
So I said, “Does this also mean that all white guys make better rocket scientists then all black guys???”
The man said, “Yes, absolutely.” (I am not making this up, I swear to God this is exactly how the conversation went.)
I was totally floored, but I calmly said. “Sir, you come from a foreign country. You know nothing about American ways or American customs. You know nothing about American music, and on top of that… you are a racist.”
He said defensively, “Look, Robert, I really don’t want to get personal about this.”
I shoot back, “Look, my friend, when you tell me that I can’t do something as well as somebody else just because of the color of my skin… That is getting very personal.”
Needless to say, I don’t work that joint anymore, although I keep trying every few years. I told this story to a couple of the guys working there, and they just didn’t care one way or the other. Hey, I understand, a gig is a gig is a gig. Still it is pretty sad to think that so many wonderful black people have had to suffer with this kind of crap all these years. Well, really, ever since the cotton and tobacco plantation owners began raiding the African countryside looking for “cheap” labor. I just didn’t think I would find anyone in NYC, in the 1990s, ignorant and moronic enough to come out and admit to being such an utter and complete “BIGOT !!”
Another story related to
“White Boy Lost In The Blues”
The band was playing in some little town somewhere in New Jersey one night. We just finished a smoking set and a guy came up to me and said “You guys are really something. Where are you all from, Texas?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Okay, I know, you’re from Chicago right?”
I said, “Noooo.”
“Alright, I know, you’re from Mississippi then right?”
“Three strikes you’re out. We’re from New York.”
He said, “New York? Then where’d you learn to play the blues like that?”
I said, “Hey, listen, if you can’t get the blues in those cold, hard, mean, city streets full of junkies, pimps, hookers, muggers and gun toting racists… you ain’t never getting the blues, no way, no how, and no where.”
MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME
“When I was younger I was awful shy
Let lots of good stuff just pass me by
Now I am older but I’m still in my prime
Got to make up for lost time
Make up for lost time
Make up for lost time
Wish me luck, don’t ask me why
I gotta make up for lost time”
Missed opportunities. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. It’s not too late to take action today on those regrets of yesterday. Let your hair down and have a natural ball.
KING OF THE JUNGLE
The king of the jungle is in charge at all times.
He is to be respected and feared for his insatiable appetite, his strength, his claws, his sharp teeth and large, powerful jaws. Look out, he may be coming after you. They changed the name and made this one into a Disney movie, maybe you’ve seen it. Hardy har har.
Usually associated with the saxophone,
this Earle Hagan instrumental was the theme song to the Mike Hammer television show. It certainly reeks of mystery and suspense. It has a haunting quality. The words eerie and chilling also come to mind after hearing the first few notes of the melody. The title alone conjures up colorful images and plots.