Deems the Author

North American Post Listing of Deems' articles written
for the North American Post
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Influence August 15, 2019
Elevator July 12, 2019
Swizzle Sticks June 28, 2019
Love Story May 8, 2019
Numbers April 12, 2019
Media Explosion March 8, 2019
Mel February 19, 2019
I Like My Car February 16, 2019
Big Island Fun January 17, 2019

Influence

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, August 15, 2019

Back in grade school, middle school, and beyond, I was fortunate to have many role models such as Willie Mays, Elgin Baylor, and my dad amongst others. Musically, my early mentors were the likes of the great Oscar Peterson, Ramsey Lewis, and Cannonball Adderly, as well as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Temptations to name a few. Whenever you look at the truly accomplished people in their respective fields, we usually see them for what they are. I call them the superstars of their era. Neil De Gras Tyson idolized Carl Sagan who was a fan of Einstein and Newton. Tiger Woods had a photo of Jack Nicklaus in his bedroom as a child. Carlos Santana started out a Blues guitarist as he was weaned on Texas Blues as a young and upcoming musician. When he first settled in San Francisco, his band was called The Santana Blues Band. As he developed his own style of blending rock, blues, jazz, pop, and Latin rhythms, he became simply Santana.

Historians know that it is important to figure out where we came from. This way we can understand why the world is the way it is today. Being a music, science, and sports buff, I enjoy shows like Jeopardy, ESPN Sports Jeopardy, science shows about evolution, and the history of our universe. Everybody and everything has an origin that dictates the very essence of our past, present, & future. There is no escaping it.

Unbeknownst to many, both Ray Charles and James Brown shared some common influences. Louis Jordan who passed away in 1975 was a pioneering American musician, songwriter, and bandleader. He was a very successful entertainer who had at least 4 albums that sold over a million copies and is ranked number 5 on the all-time 20th century black recording artists by Billboard Magazine. Jordan was also a great singer and had a fine sense of humor. James Brown and Ray Charles have said on various occasions that they idolized Louis Jordan from a very early age and admired his accomplishments. I believe that somewhere someone has an algorithm that can calculate the number of youngsters that have been influenced by the likes of both Brown and Charles. This would be a very high number for sure.

Elevator

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, July 12, 2019

My late great mother-in-law, Masako Wakabayashi Yamamoto, lived with my wife and I for a few years until she moved in with her sister, Lily Ogishima. At the time, my wife Jean still worked full time and, being that most of my work is at night, it was my duty to take Masako to her various doctor, dental, & podiatrist appointments which I rather enjoyed, at least most of the time. Masako was always quite pleasant and appreciative of life in general and also loved to eat out. She was always happy to have lunch or dinner anywhere and she would consume just about anything with mucho gusto extraordinaire. When having a bowl of Vietnamese Pho' noodles, mom always ordered the large and ate it all. Masako made it look easy too.

There was this one day when her appointment was at Swedish Hospital on what we call 'Pill Hill' near Madison and Boren Avenues. As we drove into the basement car garage, Masako says to me, "I don't like these underground parking garages, you can get lost down here." I replied, "There is nothing to worry about, you're with me." We get to the elevator, go in, and hit the button for the lobby and nothing happened. The elevator did not move. After a few moments we got out and tried it again and again-no movement. The third time and fourth time the same thing transpired. About the 5th or 6th time I decided to take the stairs so I hopped out thinking that mom was right behind me. This time the elevator door quickly closed with Masako inside, I was left in the car garage, and away it went.

I spent the next full hour scouring the building looking for my lost mother-in-law asking at every station and reception desk. Eventually I went to doctor's office to tell them that she would be late for her appointment and there she was. Although she said she didn't know where the doctor's office was located, she not only found the correct location but had finished her exam. In the end, I should have known that she was much smarter than everyone gave her credit for. Moms are like that.

Swizzle Sticks

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, June 28, 2019

Over the last few decades a large number of Americans have become totally obsessed with collecting and saving mass amounts of stuff. I call it stuff for lack of a better word. It seems to me that the business of renting storage units wherein you store it, lock it up, and forget about it is a booming small business. Literally tens of thousands of homes coast to coast are packed out with who knows what. Some of the items are still in the box unopened and the owners don't even remember what is in the box let alone when and where it was purchased. You see these storage rentals everywhere and for good reason. Some are small lockers for tiny personal stuff and some are big enough to park a truck in there. Apparently we just cannot let go of merchandise or what the Dalai Lama would call worldly possessions. He also says that we humans should not become too attached to our material objects. I personally call this the American sickness. Perhaps some people think of their possessions as their legacy.

Somewhere in our basement I have boxes of match books that I picked up over the last half century at various nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants. They remind me of the venues that I performed at and fortunately the match books don't take up much space. The days of free match books have fallen by the wayside as smoking is prohibited in public places and it's bad for us anyways.

Besides having collected a lot of art work from around the world my mom used to have a large glass full of drink sticks which my nieces and nephews would play with as little children. Emblazoned on each plastic swizzle stick was the name of the bar or hotel where she got them. Most of the venues were quite fancy of course. I credit mother with influencing my music career as she was an excellent musician and dancer. Looks like her love of memorabilia also rubbed off on me.

Love Story

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, May 8, 2019

My personal favorite Star Trek spinoff is the legendary series called Deep Space Nine. It was the first Star Trek story that did not take place on a starship but rather a distant lonely space station outpost at the far edge of the alpha quadrant where the United Federation of Planets is located. In this series the producer Rick Berman and his writers wanted a sci-fi drama wherein the cast had a wide variety of humanoid species and had to learn to get along with each other. In the original Star Trek and also The Next Generation the crews were all 'honky dory' so to speak. It seems that they just all got along far too easy.

The intro at the beginning of Deep Space Nine draws the viewers in with this singular trumpet line that sounds far away and alone. On earth in our real world we for the most part don't like to dwell on the vastness of deep space. The remoteness of the far away stars never enters into our daily lives but if you stop to think about it and try to comprehend how far it is to the nearest star it is practically unfathomable. Every planet, asteroid, and space ship is an extremely tiny blip in the overall scheme of the universe. Using our current technology it would literally take hundreds or thousands of years to reach our neighboring stars not to mention the far side of the galaxy. An outpost that is billions of miles from earth would be quite lonely indeed.

When the movie titled Love Story came out in 1970 the viewer statistics for Japanese women were quite amazing. I read one report that stated the average Nihonjin woman saw the popular tear jerking show an average of fifty times. It seems that Japanese people love sad stories. Traditionally and culturally speaking Japanese are taught to hold their emotions in and not make your feelings known to others. My thinking is that we all need outlets for our deepest feelings however it can be said that there is something beautiful and personal about the things we keep close to our heart.

Numbers

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, April 12, 2019

Language is the essential form of communication for all human cultures on our world and it could be said that numbers are a universal part of the many languages that exist on our planet. Various countries all have distinctly different words for the same items such as bread, tables, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs however the numerical systems of counting are basically the same wherever you go. Although we have a word and spelling for a number there is no confusion on the exact meaning. When you count money or hours there is no doubt about the amount as it should be an absolute especially for business purposes.

We need numbers for just about everything. One cannot get by without a social security number, a phone number, an address, or a bank account which are of course defined explicitly by you guessed it-numbers. There is a distinct number for you age, height, weight, blood sugar level, and blood pressure to boot. People that are into statistics, astronomy, real estate, sports betting, or just playing sports cannot participate without using numbers.

In 1961 the U of W Huskies defeated the Minnesota Gophers in the Rose Bowl 17 to 7. During the game the announcers stated that the state of California will surpass the state of New York as the most populated state in the country sometime during the upcoming year. The legendary song called Route 66 is actually based on the true story of the mass migration of Americans across the USA from the east coast to the west coast. Although it can be said that in geological terms a half of a century on a grand scale could be viewed as merely a few seconds it was an exciting time for those that relocated. Whenever we play the song I am reminded of this story and the audience seems to enjoy hearing these tales of our recent history.

Media Explosion

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, March 8, 2019

Back when cable TV first hit our homes their ads stated "get cable and avoid the commercials". That is quite a laugh these days and I find it somewhat disconcerting that we have to pay a chunk of dough each month to see a ton of ads. It is truly a love hate relationship as I love to watch sporting events, the travel channel, and science programs but you have to record the stuff so as to be able to fast forward the rude and obnoxious ads.

I remember when there were basically four stations. We had the choice of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. TV also went dead at night with no overnight shows to be seen at all. Now with cable you can get about a thousand channels and some are in Spanish, Japanese, or other languages. Of course there are also the premium channels, YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, and fake news to boot.

We used to have The Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl. Now there are over forty college football bowl games such as The Tax Slayer Bowl, The Raycom Media Camelia Bowl, The Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, and The DXL Frisco Bowl to name a few of the new obscure post season games. Television executives and advertisers are going hog wild trying to get more games on the national stage and sell more ads. Should we be glad to have all these watered down events? It's similar to having a great glass of stout lager and then adding a few gallons of tap water to make more.

There was another story last year in the Times Newspaper about a teenage girl who was asked if she would rather have a car or a new Iphone. She quickly stated that she would much rather be given a phone than the car. Her whole social life was tied to that cell phone and she could always get a ride from someone. Times have changed big time. Some people like to say "more is better" so I guess it's for the better.

Mel

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, February 19, 2019

The late, great Cedric James was a dear friend and colleague. His real name was Mel Odom but he changed his moniker to mark his career as a lifetime disc jockey. Mel was also a dynamic masters of ceremonies for concerts, a promoter and a music aficionado to the max. Cedric the DJ was extremely talented as an "on the air personality" and had an incredible sense of how to smoothly sequence the song order to make a flowing transition between the music selections. At times, he was also his own worst enemy. Cedric was very strong minded and seem to make a habit of telling his bosses at the various radio stations what they should be playing.

There were actually times when he would deviate f rom the corporately controlled pre-determined play lists and play whatever he thought was cool. This was of course deemed un-cool by his superiors.

I met Mel before the rise of the Smooth Jazz format and hired him to do national radio promotion for my company J-Town Records. Before the internet was built, the "bible" of the music advertising industry was a printed book called Standard Rate and Data. It was the size of a large telephone book and listed every radio station in the United States. The SRDS book is only available online now. Along with the address and phone numbers, they stated the musical format of each station.

Mel and I would meticulously go through the book and find all the jazz stations. We would then physically package 33 1/3 vinyl albums complete wi th photos, cover letters, and promotional materials and mail them to all the jazz stations coast to coast, which numbered in the hundreds. We would then call each and every station and send follow up letters to the program directors and music directors. It was an arduous task but being young and full of spit and vinegar we were determined to change the world.

Amazingly it turned out that just about every station we contacted loved the sound of my records and invariably ended up playing my music. The so called "Wall Street Journal" of the music industry was a company and publication called R & R or Records and Radio. The fact of my records attaining national airplay led to my albums charting well on R & R. Records & Radio has since been bought out by a global firm called VNU.

Mel had the gift of gab and would always tell the radio people, "You should be playing Deems," and they always responded to him. It was an exciting time for us, and I will always remember Mel for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and salesmanship.

I Like My Car

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, February 16, 2019

Jay Leno used to say that the best time of day for him was when he was driving to work to host The Tonight Show. He loves his job, his cars, and loves driving around town too. As I was driving to a gig today after a rare week off, I remembered the coolness of cruising in my ride.

One year while playing a double bill concert in Florida at The Morikami Museum, the other featured group was New York Taiko. At the time, I believe there was only one taiko drum group in New York City; there are at least three now as well as a plethora of others across the country. Apparently out of the dozen or so members of the drum group it turned out that only a couple of them had a valid driver's license. It struck me as odd because virtually everyone in Washington, Oregon, and California as well as the south and Midwest that is old enough has a license to drive an automobile. This knowledge gave me some insight as to the lifestyle of people in the big cities such as New York, Tokyo, or others that have upwards of ten million or more. Most of the residents of these overpopulated urban settings use public transportation and don't own a car or truck like we do.

My brother Marcus and I wrote a tune called 'I Like My Car' which was basically a funky groove tune and it has not been recorded yet. The vibe of the song is one of fun and freedom which a vehicle can provide for the drivers and passengers. Although the majority of residents in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties constantly complain about the terrible traffic and congestion on our roads, I still Like My Car. Of course, it is fun to drive fast for the adrenaline effect but the feeling of having the time, means, and the gas to go places is something that should be cherished and enjoyed whenever possible. Many folks worldwide will never know this experience.

Big Island Fun

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, January 17, 2019

The annual East Hawaii Jazz & Blues Festival starts on the last Sunday of October in the city of Hilo and for the attendees, it is a weeklong party of immeasurable enjoyment. Like many fundraisers, this wildly successful event has a humble beginning. I believe it was some seven years ago my Hawaii band of David Yamasaki, Owen Matsui, and Steve Bader played a house party for a group of friends that were very interested in helping the retired military personnel on that lived on the island. The following year, there was a small event held in a downtown Hilo night spot and in the last five years the event has been using The Nani Mau Gardens with spectacular success.

There are currently two stages with professional sound which alternate featuring continuous bands all day during the opening of the festival. Foods, beverages, dancing, smiling, and great music are the order of the day. Besides playing drums for my show and others Mr. Steven Bader who attended college, lived, and worked in Washington State for some twenty two years is the man with the plan. Steve has been booking all the entertainment, scheduling, contacting vendors, arranging hotel stays, hiring sound crews, finding sponsors, promoting ticket sales, and paying all these people amongst other chores like making a living and putting his kids through college.

It is an amazing accomplishment to come out of basically nowhere and create an extraordinary event that has virtually the entire community behind the concept. The opening salvo on Sunday is followed by a week of live jazz and blues throughout town at a variety of venues culminating with a Friday night concert featuring the music festival all-stars.

Steve Bader and his committee have put in a ton of hours to make this festival a reality. It's a good thing he is able to get a few more playing engagements on the drums. He definitely deserves the gigs and it is just like he planned it.