“The Bold and Complicated Life of Lyman W. Keele, Jr., First Officer aboard Southern Airways Flight 242” – my interview with 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 Lyman W.  Keele, Jr. and the events surrounding his death after the April 4, 1977 crash of Southern Airways Flight 242. You worked together at Southern, and you were both reservists at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, GA. But first, please describe how you became an A-7 attack pilot aboard the USS Oriskany in the final months 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

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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 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 ecstatic fans attended the Rolling Stones free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. Four people died that on tragic day, and countless others were injured. Some critics claim 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

Jimmy Johnson brags that back in the day, back when the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was firing on all cylinders, he recorded a new album every week. Jimmy stayed in demand as both a music producer and sound engineer, but he was also the versatile guitarist for the sound studio’s legendary house band, famously called “The Swampers.” I contacted him recently, and we spoke about Annette Snell, the R&B singer who died in the Southern 242 plane crash on April 4, 1977, just hours after completing her first recording session at his studio. Johnson remembered her quite well, and recalled her powerful drive and enormous talent. We also spoke about his accomplished younger brother Earl, an engineer 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 Olympian musical heights. He was the guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka “The Swampers”), as well as a member of two legendary hit factories: Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Al, and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in nearby Sheffield. Johnson has had a long and storied recording career – the Swampers’ indelible discography is awe inspiring in its length, depth, and breadth, tracing an arc from rhythm & blues to rock and roll; from crunchy folk to soaring disco; from blue eyed soul to classic country ballads and beyond.

Critics and musicologists alike sing the group’s infinite praises, attempting 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 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

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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 classic 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, including a scene in a seedy Brazilian night club filled with German soldiers after his dangerous trans-Atlantic crossing. It is the defining record of his perilous journey, and the beginning of his heroic tale. 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

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

The following interview 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 Crysler, this interview paints the colorful portrait of a high-flying 27-year-old WWII fighter pilot who had just returned home on furlough. He later went on to become a USAF Command Pilot and a dedicated family man. He spoke openly about his war exploits, and he never forgot about his service with the 1st American Volunteer Group, otherwise known as the legendary “Flying Tigers.” After he died, he gave his service records to his son Ron. Perhaps he knew they would provide the proof he might need one day to claim his rightful spot on their roster.
Continue reading

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