If I Were A Carpenter

Lets go to Luckenback Texas…

A couple of years ago we made it down to Willies 4th of July Picnic in Luckenbach, TX…

Willie Glancing at us Picnic in Luckenbach


Recently a recording of The Willie Nelson Blues Band surfaced and it reminded me of when we saw that formation at Willies 4th July Picnic in Lukenbach, TX.

It was a scorching hot day summers day and we were staying at a ranch somewhere near Austin.   As we headed into the show The Falc made an unannounced appearance, coming down from Colorado for a short but intense sojourn.

That was the first of many surprises in an very pivotally formational experience.

It was my first encounter with a bratwurst wrapped in a tortilla.   Something so simple and yet so brilliant.   It opened me up to a whole new understanding of what’s possible.

So here is a little gallery of the pictures that I have. Click on the images for a larger version…

Some cowgirl wanted to party with Christian and wear his hat.   Before long the chicks boyfriend ended up wearing the hat.

There are a couple things I remember from the day.   Cans of Shiner Bock and singing Happy Birthday to America.

There was a lot of boob flashing going on too.   I tried to get a picture and remember thinking no one back home is going to believe this.   But I couldn’t time it right, so the last picture is kind of random.

One Year Anniversary

Luke Harris, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi

That's me on the left, photographed with Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi. Unnamed Packers fan on the right.


Today marks the one year anniversary of meeting Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi back stage at a show.

I was on a trip in Omaha Nebraska for work.   I won the tickets in a contest on Twitter and they included before the show back stage passes.   It was a real treat getting to to meet the President and First Lady of the Blues, couldn’t have happened to a better guy!

Thankfully there was a professional photographer on hand to record the encounter. The ones taken with my phone turned out to be pictures of the floor.

Derek and his guitar tech

We were the last ones to come through, so we got some extra time to hang with them.   Even though this was the second time I met Derek and I had a good idea of what I wanted to tell them, I didn’t make much sense.

I tried to tell him something meaningful about how good he is and how I was blown away when I fist saw him 12 years ago and about how much better he is getting. But, you know…

The first time I met Derek was in 1997 I think at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins.   I followed him in to the bath room after the show.   Captive audience for a convo!   His dad was waiting at the door for him because he was still only 17 or 18.

That show was incredible and the club was half full.   I’ve been a huge fan of Derek’s even since.

I burned a bunch of CD’s for them. Some old Coltrane gigs, Taj Mahal and some others I thought he would be into.   He was looking forward to playing them in the bus.   Unfortunately I didn’t have much for Susan.   She said she was into Freddie King and Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

I met the Packers fan at the bar when I was waiting to go back stage.   I knew he deserved my extra back stage pass when he said something like “When I meet Derek I’m going to tell him to come play in Wisconsin”.

He had driven 9 hours to see the band.   And it blew his mind to go back stage.   I’m not sure how I found out that he was a Packers fan.   It might of been when I asked him who had done more for America, John Elway or Derek Trucks.   I think he said he was at that Super Bowl, the pinnacle moment in the NFL when John Elway hoisted the trophy.   Pretty sure he didn’t remember it that way though…

Midnight In Harlem

The show was really different as both Derek and Susan had just formed the band after breaking their separate solo groups.   Nearly every song was a either a new one for them or a new cover tune.   And it’s a band of all stars, plain and simple.    In every regard.

Susan Tedeschi sang A Woman’s Gotta Have It by Bobby Womack.   Not the greatest recording, but here it is:

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Derek Trucks played the most beautiful solo at the end of it.   Typically when he solos he just goes crazy and wails and it makes your jaw drop.

But on this one he was restrained and held back.   I don’t know what it was, the string of notes or how expressive he was but it just took my breath away.   And I still can’t get it out of my mind, even a year later.

Mostly because Derek was making it very clear to me that I needed to be taking better care of my wife!   She is the finest girl in North America, but after almost 10 year of marriage I wasn’t really showing her.

Our relationship is looking more like something out of a Neil Diamond & Barbara Streisand song:

So one year on things are in a much better place.   Really glad I thought it over before it was too late. I’m glad Derek convinced me, now let Bobby convince you:


My bag is sinking low, and I do believe its time…

Recently I was subjected to a prolonged experience that resulted in some mild self-loathing.

A song came along and did me a favor, rearranged a few things.   I invite you to assume a contemplative posture and mediate on this:

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The Allman Brothers Band doing The Weight with Susan Tedeschi and Chuck Leavell sitting in.   The brothers have covered this number a couple times.   This one is from the Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana on 5-5-2007.

Their treatment here resembles the Aretha Franklin cover, which featured Duane.   I like the laid back feel, it’s real greasy.   Chuck greasing the pocket like Barry Beckett and Derek sliding around like Duane Allaman.   Duane and Barry, may their souls rest in peace.

I love how they take it down and bring it back with the follow through.

Sending regards for everyone.

Jeff Austin on Beef

Ronnie McCoury, Drew Emmitt & Jeff Austin

At a recent show Jeff Austin, the world famous mandolin player, announced that he fed Ronnie McCoury his first beef sandwich.   At Portillo’s.

From where I stand in life I was completely overjoyed by the announcement.   But from where I stood in the crowd, in Chicago no less, it wasn’t too well received.   People booed, saying it should have been Al’s #1.

Personally, I’ve never been to Al’s #1.   Shocking, I know, but it’s the truth.   Cunn Toddingham swears by it and I respect his opinions.

Jeff was kind enough to weigh in on this age old debate, posted here without his permission:


And for further pleasure, here is Sam Bush sitting in with Yonder Mountain Strin Band at Teluride 2008.

“No Expectations”

Portillo’s Big Beef Italian Beef Sandwich

All the talk of Frankly Yours the other day gave me a hankering only a beef could cure.   With my friend Aldo in from Italy for a few days, a meeting to experience his countries namesake sandwich was obligatory.

While I can take credit for introducing Aldo to the sandwich, I can’t take credit for the heights their relationship has reached.   Only the allure of the Italian Beef is responsible for that.   Who can avoid it’s charm?

Waiting to order we were pondering the decision of ordering an extra sandwich to split.   There is no Italian Beef in Itlay and its a long time between his visits, so its understandable.

We went with Big Beef’s.

Portillos Big Beef

This is a Portillo's Big Beef

The stereotype of Portillo’s skimping on the beef is well founded.   Even with the Big Beef pictured here they failed to take the beef to the ends of the sandwich.   Its a big sandwich, but incomplete in my book.

Aldo Portillos Big Beef

This is a Big Beef

With that being said, this sandwich was very tasty.   I defiantly suggest going for the Big Beef next time you are at Portellies.

For a chain location Portillo’s should be commended for having high quality consistency over many locations.   It’s a challenge one-off Boutique Beef establishments don’t have to contend with.

It’s hard to overstate the impact Portillo’s has had on the personal lives of many and also on the greater Chicago Italian Beef landscape.      For many of us, including Ronnie McCoury, Portillo’s was the first beef we tasted.

They set a high standard that many others have had a hard time trying to attain.   And with locations everywhere in Chicago, Portillo’s is easy to frequent.

I’d like to thank Portillo’s for hosting and enabling what was all in all a great beef time with my good friend.

Good bye’s are always hard for me, emotionally.   This one was especially because it was hard to keep my greasy hands off his tailor made Italian suit during our embrace.

However, send offs are a lot more bearable when you know your companion has a fresh beef in the tank.

Frankly Yours Original – Schaumburg, IL

Frankly Yours

The man with a vision!

Whenever the Chicago socialite Todd Cunningham can fit me into his busy schedule, we try to rendezvous at Frankly Yours.   This fine Italian Beef venue has been the pebble in a pond, sending ripples from Chicago to Denver, and even all the way back to Italy.

It’s safe to say that if an establishment of this stature hadn’t been found and frequented by Todd, Terry and Cam, the Italian Beef sandwich wouldn’t be the Chicago icon it is today.

While its easy to admire Frankly Yours for its place in history, trying to pin down what sets it apart is quiet elusive.   The beef is out of this world.   The portions are substantial.   The peppers are hot, really hot.   The fries are great.   And they also have beer on tap.

Frankly Yours Italian Beef

Italian Beef with Hot Peppers - Perfectly Dipped

While our light conversation was enjoyable, a couple Leinie’s Red made it effortless to probe deeply the Toddinham psyche and thought process.

Ownership changed here a few years back.   While the interior signage changed, their focus on maintaining high quality and large portions is commendable.

With so many impostors out there making beef sandwiches, asking for a sandwich dipped can be a roll of the dice.   The sandwich can just disintegrate after the first or second bite.   Making it very hard to salvage.

The staff at Franly Yours have mastered the dipping process.   Taking into account not only dip depth and duration, but also the angle the sandwich takes as it plunges into the juice bath.   It results in a perfectly uniform juicy beef matched perfectly with the rolls they are using.

Franlky Yours Italian Combo

Italian Combo

It’s details like this that make Frankly Yours remarkable.

Todd went for the Combo Sandwich which he found unwieldy.   Before long it looked like Wheels had been handling it.

Even though he pulled it together he must have found it laborious because he soon broke a sweat.

All in all it was a great beef encounter.

Burrito: Hand-Held Format

Burrito Hand-Held Format

Burrito Hand-Held Format

Per my El Taco burrito indoctrination I typically take my burritos smothered.   Laying in a pool of green chile and a few dollops of salsa.   Same way they prepare them in heaven.

So when I show up at El Faro #4 that’s how I ordered my Carnitas burrito, smothered with green chile.   Of course there was a communication breakdown and what was referred to as “green salsa” showed up on the side.

I figured I would just unwrap and doctor the package up to my requirements.   However the only silverware at my disposal was the spoon in the green salsa.   I didn’t want to get too involved with a sloppy burrito while in work attire.   Although I don’t mind getting messy in work garb if its an Italian Beef Sandwich.

So I kept it as a hand-held and added the fix-in’s to each layer I ate off.   And I gotta say – it was outstanding.   El Faro really did a great job of this burrito.   It was hefty, rolled tightly, only a little lettuce and only a smidgen of sour cream.

The Carnitas was phenomenal.   They really walked that tight balance between the fried crispy sections and juicy moist sections.   And exploding with flavor, definitely working with him quality raw materials.

I will be going back to El Faro whenever I am in the area, maybe as soon as next week.   This place also has a full bar, not too common with these little taco / burrito places.   A beer and one of these burritos would be a perfect setup to a mid afternoon nap in the car.   Will have to hold off for that moment until it gets a little warmer outside.

It’s A New Day

The announcement of John Elway becoming the Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations marks a new era for the franchise and the NFL.

With the future of the Broncos looking brighter lets relive that moment from Super Bowl XXXII.   John Elway diving for first down: