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

Altamont Speedway

Altamont Speedway on Dec. 6, 1969

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 had their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show; John Lennon was offered the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar; Vince Lombardi coached his last football game; Arlo Guthrie released Alice’s Restaurant; and on Sunday, December 6th, more then 300,000 over-indulgent fans attended the infamous Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway. Four people died that tragic day, and many more were injured. Some said it was the death knell for the “Age of Aquarius”–a vicious knockout blow to the myth of rock and 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

Even at 71-years-old, Jimmy Johnson is not one to rest on his hard earned laurels. He told me that back in the day–back when his Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was firing on all cylinders–they would record one album per week, rarely taking any time off. It was a breakneck pace, and as the guitarist for their house band “The Swampers,” in addition to being a producer and engineer, he clearly relished being right in the thick of it. He’s been in the business for five decades now, but his need to create remains. We spoke recently about his life and times in the musical trenches, as well as the untimely death of his younger brother Earl, and vocalist Annette Snell, in the tragic crash of Southern Airway Flight 242 on April 4, 1977. 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 is the killer guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, (a.k.a. The Swampers), and he was 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: Newly Found Photographs 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 in the backseat of an unmarked sheriff’s sedan in Georgia as he vainly made his final bid for freedom. He failed spectacularly, taking three bullets to the chest, but not before he had safely 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 polish and decorum in the courtroom like a Ted Bundy, nor did he dine out with the savage, flesh eating voracity of a Jeffrey Dahmer. His was a more immediate cruelty, one that favored the close, intimate feel of a nylon stocking as it tightened around a woman’s neck–and yet he was not averse to a swift bullet to the head, or the plunging knife. Continue reading

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A Rough And Perilous WWII Journey To India On 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 diary buried neatly in the bottom of 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 Brazilian night club jammed with 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

Maj. Gen Claire Chennault, commander of the "Flying Tigers"

Claire Chennault, commander  of the “Flying Tigers”

This article about James Crysler appeared in the January 28, 1944 edition of the “Curtiss Wright-er,” the newsletter for the Curtiss-Wright Corp., maker of the legendary P-40 Warhawk. Although I never had a chance to meet the man himself, this tightly-charged interview paints the portrait of a high-flying 27-year-old WWII fighter pilot who had just returned home on furlough. As he matured he became a dedicated family man who rarely mentioned the war or his adventures with the 1st American Volunteer Group (“AVG”), famously known as the “Flying Tigers.” But he was very careful to save all of his military records, news clippings, and photographs. Perhaps he knew that one day they would provide the proof he would need to finally claim his long-deserved spot on their flight roster as one of the true and original “Flying Tigers.” — Cliff Davids Continue reading

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A Former Navy Pilot Sets The Record Straight About His Father And The “Flying Tigers”–by Clifford Davids

Ron Crysler

LTJG Ron Crysler (ca. 1971)

It’s funny how some stories just come knocking on your door. Ron Crysler played a small but significant role during the aftermath of the 1977 crash of Southern Airways Flight 242, a story I covered in depth for this blog. Directly after the accident, he calmly guided the distraught young wife of co-pilot Lyman W. Keele, Jr. into the ER at Kennestone Hospital to help identify her husband’s body. Three days later, he was one of the six pall-bearers present at Keele’s funeral. When I finally tracked him down, he told me he was a history buff and wanted to help out with my Flight 242 Oral History Project. So we ended up meeting at his spacious home on the outskirts of Atlanta for an interview. Continue reading

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