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 were both Navy reservists at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, GA. Please begin by describing how you became an A-7 attack pilot aboard the USS Oriskany in the last year of the Vietnam War.
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
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 LA; 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 ecstatic 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
Jimmy Johnson with Ronee Blakley
Jimmy Johnson brags that back in the day when the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was firing on all cylinders, they recorded a new album every week. He stayed busy as both a music producer and sound engineer, but he was also the versatile guitar player for their now 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 very well, recalling her powerful drive and enormous talent. We also talked about his younger brother Earl Johnson, an engineer who tragically lost his life in the same plane crash. Continue reading
Jimmy at Earl’s graduation from Auburn
Jimmy Johnson has scaled musical heights of heroic proportions. He was the killer guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka “The Swampers”), as well as 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 long and storied musical career: the Swampers’ indelible discography is awe inspiring in its length, depth and breadth, moving effortlessly from rhythm & blues to rock and roll – from folk to disco – from blue eyed soul to classic country and beyond.
Critics and musicologists alike sing the group’s infinite praises, attempting to define the vision that allowed them to shine so intensely. Almost five Continue reading
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 securing his coveted spot on the All-America hit list as one of the most unpredictable and depraved rampage killers of his generation.
He never had a chance to display the courtroom swagger of a Ted Bundy, or dine out with the savage voracity of a Jeffrey Dahmer. But he did possess a monumental cruelty, one that favored the intimate feel of a nylon stocking as it slowly tightened around a woman’s neck. Still, he was not averse to the coldly plunging knife, or even a swift bullet to the back of his victim’s head. Continue reading