“The Bold, Complicated Life of Lyman W. Keele, Jr.”–as told by Delta Airlines Captain Ron Crysler (ret.)

Lyman W. Keele, Jr. with his wife Cathleen

Ensign Lyman W. Keele, Jr. with his wife Cathleen

CD: Ron, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about your good friend Lyman W.  Keele, Jr. and the events surrounding his death after the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242. You worked together at Southern, and you both flew out of Dobbins Air Force Base. To start, please describe to me how you became an A-7 attack pilot aboard the USS Oriskany during the last year of the war in Vietnam.

RC:  “I finished four years at Auburn in August of 1968, and the day I graduated I took a bus to Pensacola, Florida. So I graduated on Saturday, and by Monday I had started flight school in Pensacola. It took me six weeks to finish my primary training on T-34’s at Saufley Field–these are Continue reading

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“The Rolling Stones: Exclusive Photographs taken during the recording of Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, and You Gotta Move” –by Clifford Davids

The crowd at Altamont Speedway

The fans at Altamont Speedway

December of 1969 was a fitting end to a turbulent decade in American history: the Black Panthers were under attack in L.A.; The Jackson 5 made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show; John Lennon was offered the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar; Arlo Guthrie released Alice’s Restaurant; and on Sunday, December the 6th, more then 300,000 overly indulgent fans attended the Rolling Stones free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. Four people died that on tragic day, and countless more were injured. Some critics claimed it was the final death knell for the “Age of Aquarius”–a total knockout blow to the abiding myth of rock & roll innocence. Continue reading

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“A Conversation with Jimmy Johnson about Annette Snell’s Last Recording Session at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio” –by Clifford Davids

Jimmy Johnson with Ronee Blakley

Jimmy Johnson with Ronee Blakley

Back in the day when the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was firing on all cylinders, co-founder Jimmy Johnson bragged that they recorded a new album every week, rarely taking any time off. He stayed busy as both a music producer and sound engineer, but he was also the versatile guitar player for their legendary house band known as “The Swampers.” I caught up with him recently, and we spoke about Annette Snell, the R&B singer who died in a terrible plane crash on April 4, 1977, just hours after completing her first recording session at MSSS. Johnson remembered her well, recalling her enormous drive and big talent. We also talked about his younger brother Earl, who  tragically lost his life in the same plane crash. Continue reading

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“From Muscle Shoals, Alabama to New Hope, Georgia: The Long Odyssey of Jimmy Johnson”–by Clifford Davids

Jimmy at Earl's graduation from Auburn

Jimmy at Earl’s graduation from Auburn

Jimmy Johnson has scaled musical heights that most musicians can only dream about. He was the killer guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka “The Swampers”), and he was also an integral part of two legendary hit factories: Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in nearby Sheffield. Johnson has had a storied career–the Swampers’ indelible discography is awe inspiring in its length, depth and breadth, boldly stretching from R&B to rock and roll, from folk, to soul, to country, and beyond.

Critics and musicologists alike sing the group’s infinite praises, trying to define the vision that allowed them to shine so brightly. Almost five  Continue reading

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Capturing Paul John Knowles: Exclusive Photographs From The Arrest Of “The Casanova Killer”–by Clifford Davids

Paul John Knowles

Paul John Knowles

Paul John Knowles was a nasty piece of work. He met his violent end on December 18, 1974, sprawled across the backseat of a sheriff’s sedan after making his final bid for freedom. He failed spectacularly, taking three bullets to the chest, but not before he had secured his coveted spot on the All-America hit list as one of the most twisted and unpredictable rampage killers of his generation. He never had a chance to display his swagger and charisma in the courtroom like a Ted Bundy, nor did he dine out with the savage voracity of a Jeffrey Dahmer. His was a more immediate cruelty, one that favored the intimate feel of a nylon stocking as it tightened around a woman’s neck. Still, he was not averse to the coldly plunging knife, or a swift bullet to his victim’s head. Continue reading

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A Rough And Perilous WWII Journey To China Aboard The “Yokahama Express”–by Clifford Davids

Lt. C. James Crysler

Lt. C. James Crysler

I found the few surviving pages of C. James Crysler’s WWII journal buried in a wooden trunk in his son’s basement–a choice man cave filled with old carpentry tools, hunting gear, a huge flat screen TV, one partially restored 8mm film projector, and a collection of military records and combat medals earned by both father and son in two American wars fought three decades apart. There are only 11 handwritten pages left in his war-diary, but it reads like the perfect Hollywood script for a young Jimmy Stewart: the improbable delivery of a new B-25 bomber from Florida to India by a freshly-minted pilot and his crew, complete with scenes from a seedy Brazilian night club jammed full of German soldiers to a dangerous trans-Atlantic crossing. It is a record of his perilous journey, and the very beginning of his amazing tale. — Cliff Davids Continue reading

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“The Long Walk To China”–How C. James Crysler Joined The Legendary Flying Tigers–by Clifford Davids

Claire Chennault, commander  of the "Flying Tigers"

Maj. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, Commander of the “Flying Tigers”

The interview below with C. James Crysler first appeared in the January 28, 1944 edition of the “Curtiss Wright-er,” the newsletter for the Curtiss-Wright Corp., maker of the rugged P-40 Warhawk. Although I never met the man himself, this tightly-charged interview paints the portrait of a high-flying 27-year-old WWII fighter pilot who had just returned back home on furlough. He went on to become a career Air Force officer and a dedicated family man who rarely mentioned the war, but he was proud of his service with the 1st American Volunteer Group (“AVG”), famously known as the “Flying Tigers.”  He carefully saved all of his military records–perhaps he knew they would provide the proof he might need one day to claim his spot on the “AVG” roster as one of the true “Flying Tigers.”
Continue reading

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