“Save the Horses Farm”–The Search For A Deeper Connection by Clifford Davids

Lydia and Lucy, her blind rescue horse

Lydia gives some energetic loving to Lucy, her blind rescue horse at the farm

Just beyond the reach of Atlanta, at the end of a long and unpaved stretch of road in Cumming, GA, stands an old green farm house with a neighboring horse barn on 50 acres of prime land. This historic property is surrounded by stately white oak trees and towering long leaf pines, hardy sentinels that appear to provide a measure of safety and protection to the formerly victimized animals that live there. Some people call it the sanctuary of last resort, a hotel terminus at the end of the line. But they would be wrong, because a venerable spirit flourishes there, an energetic vitality that is nurtured by a group of fully dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.

There is one ancient thoroughbred who has lived at the farm for as long as anyone can remember, despite the long odds 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 crowd 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 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 Green Bay Packers football game; Arlo Guthrie released Alice’s Restaurant; and on Sunday, December 6th, more then 300,000 overly indulgent fans attended the Rolling Stones free concert at the Altamont Speedway. Four people died that tragic day, and many more were injured. Some claimed it was the death knell for the “Age of Aquarius”–a 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 Final 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 his studio recorded a new album every week, rarely taking any time off. He stayed busy as both a music producer and 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 in Georgia after making 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 presence 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–but still, he was not averse to a swift bullet to his victim’s 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 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

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 carefully saved all of his military records, news clippings, and photographs–perhaps he knew that one day they would provide the proof he would need to claim his long-deserved spot on the “AVG” flight roster as one of the true and original “Flying Tigers.”  —  Cliff Davids
Continue reading

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