Monday, March 17, 2014

He's Still In A V.U. "State Of Mind"

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones at Billy Joel's concert at the Bridgestone Area last Friday night (March 14) here in Nashville. After four decades in show business he still puts on one heck of a performance and he still has a voice as strong as ever.

But as for Joel himself, he was still remembering his last visit to Nashville in March, 2013. And, of course it has a Vanderbilt connection. It happened while he was answering questions from the audience during an appearance at Lankford Auditorium. Then came a question from a student named Michael Pollack and the rest was just magic.....

Joel told his Nashville audience at Bridgestone this time he wasn't taking any audience questions or allowing anyone to join him on-stage. Hey, who wants to be one-upped twice in Music City, right?

But heck I remember the first I ever saw Billy Joel in concert here in Nashville (he also remembers playing the Exit-In a few times back in the day). What I recall was when he was the "warm up" act for Olivia Newton John back in the mid-1970s down at Municipal Auditorium. My, how things have changed! Who evers remembers the warm-up act? But if you've ever seen Billy Joel, you'll never forget it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Hurry Back Lives!

At the corner of Elliston Place and Louise Avenue, it was a Nashville landmark (and a haven for Vanderbilt students while we were on campus during the 1960s and 70s). And it's soon coming back (at least the name) as a part of new bar to be located at the same location.

THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (March 11) has the scoop.....

This new development strikes a deep, personal chord for me. I worked at the old Hurry Back Market back in the day (thanks to Clark Thomas for the beautiful photo above). I was there every Saturday night for a couple of years while I was in high school (I attended the old Father Ryan just up the street on Elliston Place). I sacked all the beer, ice and groceries I could handle and we even sold the early edition of the SUNDAY TENNESSEAN. It showed up around 7 p.m. on Saturday nights. That was as high tech as we got in those days: the Sunday morning news on Saturday night!

I am also happy to hear they plan to re-install some walk-in freezers. It was my job a couple of times each shift to go back there to make sure the customers (mostly VU students) weren't stuffing their coats and pants pockets with beer, then walk out of the store and "forget" to pay.

Mr. John Rotier of Rotier's Restaurant was one of the Hurry Back owners and he gave me the job (he was a good friend of my Dad's). I am sure he would be pleased to see his old market so well remembered and that the new bar will pay "homage" to the Hurry Back in how the new owners will remodel the old building (which has been all manner of restaurants and even an ice cream parlor in the years since the original Hurry Back closed).

But one thing is for sure. Mr. Rotier was a Budweiser, Falstaff, PBR kind of guy. He wouldn't even recognize the names of the beers this new Hurry Back will sell. But that's how the world has changed (along with Nashville's ever emerging and nationally-acclaimed foodie scene). 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Tradition Continues

Behind a very strong pitching staff, The VandyBoys (otherwise known as the Vanderbilt baseball team) have recorded a strong start to their 2014 season with a 15-2 record so far (as of March 9) and a Number 3 national ranking (USA TODAY). The defending  Southeastern Conference champions have swept all four of their weekend series (against Long Beach State, Stanford, University of Illinois-Chicago and Wofford).

In fact, the Vanderbilt weekend pitchers (usually the aces on any college staff) have allowed just two runs or less in all 12 of their Friday-Sunday games.

But as strong as those pitching performances have been, they still aren't quite a good as a stretch of games for a Commodore staff back when we were on campus in the spring of 1971. Take a look at this recent History Corner article by Bill Traughber posted on the web site. It's nothing short of amazing .....

Building a nationally recognized baseball program under the leadership of the legendary Coach Larry "Smokey" Schmittou, the 1971 Commodores squad was building towards the school's first SEC baseball championship our senior year in 1973, followed by our second conference flag in 1974.

What's perhaps ironic about the "no-hit" accomplishments of the 1971 squad was that the team's best pitcher of that era, Jeff Peeples (who still owns several school records 40 years after he threw his last pitch for the Black & Gold), was not one of the hurlers who pitched a perfecto while in school.

As for this year's Commodore team, the biggest test so far comes this weekend (March 14-16) as the nationally-ranked (8th) LSU Tigers come to Hawkins Field to begin the SEC portion of the regular season. The VandyBoys swept the Tigers in Baton Rouge last season on the way to setting a SEC-record for wins. You can be sure the Boys from the Bayou will be looking for some revenge. Vandy will look to continue a tradition of excellence that current Coach Tim Corbin continues to nuture, Go Dores!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vanderbilt Research Discovers What's Better Than Mother's Chicken Soup

Let's face it.

Throughout our lives, including while we were together at Vanderbilt over 40 years ago, there were times when we needed that mother's touch (maybe her special chicken soup) to get us over the rough spots in life when we were sick or down. Or maybe we just needed some help to further our growth and development.

Now research from Vanderbilt's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital has found that kind of maternal support can make all the difference for premature babies beginning in their earliest days of life. And before it's chicken soup, it can be just a mother's voice that can make it happen.

Click the link below to read and see more about this fascinating research.....

On another cold winter's day this is a story that can warm your heart and make you proud you graduated from a University with such a fabulous, world class medical center.

Mom's calling! Soup's on!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


One of the great legacies of Vanderbilt University and its students (and something which began just a few years before we arrived on campus) is the annual IMPACT Symposium. Always attracting a world-class caliber of speakers, usually public  figures coming straight out of the daily news headlines, IMPACT represents the "campus as an open forum" idea first championed by Chancellor Alexander Heard when he arrived at Vanderbilt in the early 1960s. But the key distinction for IMPACT is that, it is, and always has been, a student-run organization and event.

This year IMPACT is 50 years old. Here's a look back at its distinguished history, which is still being written as the 2014 IMPACT Symposium was held this month (March) with another distinguished roster of well-known speakers.....

Particularly in its early years back in the 1960s, IMPACT was no stranger to controversy for its choice of speakers. Here's a more detailed look back at two years in particular (1967 & 1968) when the speaker series made news and stayed in the headlines both before and after any speeches were given.....

The controversy over IMPACT speakers continued when we were at Vanderbilt. Our freshman year in the Spring of 1970, Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington was most unhappy that controversial Chicago 7 lawyer, William Kunstler (above) was set to speak (along with conservative columnist James Kilpatrick). But, as always, despite pressures, the students and Chancellor Heard stood their ground and maintained Vanderbilt as an open forum.

Ironically, while I covered the Kunstler IMPACT speech while working for WRVU, I have more vivid memories of another visit and speech he made at Underwood Auditorium in the spring of 1975. By this time I was working for WLAC-TV, Channel 5. We had our new electronic video cameras that night and it helped give us a scoop.

The latest craze at the time was "pieing" people, i.e., coming up out of nowhere and hitting a speaker in the face or head with a pie (preferably with cream or custard of some sort on the top). Sure enough, that's what happened. Because we had video tape, we were able to "roll" throughout Kunstler's address and captured the entire incident. Because the other TV stations were using more expensive (and limited) film they did not get the pieing except for its aftermath.

Despite the mess, Kunstler took the prank in good spirits, tasting what was left on the top of his head, pronouncing it tasted good, then leaving it there while he finished his address. Not exactly an IMPACT moment, but one of my first scoops as a TV reporter,and one the station later used in a promotional video to tout the advantages of this new style of "electronic news gathering " (or ENG).

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Vanderbilt Sports Went To The Dogs

Everyone knows that Vanderbilt's mascot is Mr. Commodore (see above), even though the present student wearing that costume at home athletic contests looks a bit different (younger) these days.

Believe it or not, there was a time a few years right before we entered the University in the Fall of 1969 and continuing for part of our freshman year, Vanderbilt's official mascot (at least recognized by one major student group) were a couple of basset hounds. It began back in 1964 and involved a on-field confrontation between one of the dogs (owned by a student) and a UT mascot (a Tennessee Walking Horse).

But 44 years ago this month (February, 1970) the bassset hounds were suddenly gone and a story in THE HUSTLER blamed their exit for the slump of the Vanderbilt basketball team which was on its way to posting a losing record for the first time after years of winning at least 20 games each season and being nationally ranked.

Here's the story from  which explains it all...

It took all four years we were in school for the VU basketball program to get back to the 20-win level which we did our senior season (20-6). The very next year (1973-74) Vanderbilt won the SEC and went to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. Who knew it would take that long to get over "going to the dogs!!??"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Much More Than A Football Facility

You may have heard Vanderbilt has built an new indoor practice facility for its football program.

It's true but the new (and now expanded) Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center is much much more than that.

Take a look at this VUCast video released earlier in February. It's quite impressive to say the least and it's not just for athletes, but all students and even alumni.....

And as to how all this compares to when we were in school 40-plus years ago?

Well, memories fade a bit over time, but there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to any of this in our day. Throwing frisbees on Alumni Lawn? Sneaking into old Wesley Gym (other than games, Memorial Gym was usually off limits to students)? Weight machines? Indoor squash or racquetball? Swimming in old Memorial? Well, maybe sometimes.

Of course a few of us (who worked at  WRVU) played a game similar to handball using the front of Neely Auditorium. But one or two too many broken windows (tennis balls can be hard) made Plant Ops and Vanderbilt Police take a dim view of such activities.

They probably wouldn't have liked Moon Ball either, played with a tennis ball and cafeteria trays from Rand, then utlizing the ability to run down a batted ball before it stopped rolling (on the Honor Code) in the dark, at night....sober.

Yeah right, what were we thinking?


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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Good Ship Lollypop" Has Sailed For The Final Time

The greatest child star ever produced by Hollywood, Shirley Temple Black has died at age 85. The darling of the Depression years, she sang and danced her way to the top becoming the most popular movie star on the silver screen from 1935 to 1939. Clark Gable and other adult stars were but a distant second.

Shirley Temple did not make the transition to become an adult actress but her stardom continued for our generation because a number of her movies became a staple of programming on late 1950s and 60s TV. By the time we got to Vanderbilt in the late '60s and early '70s, Shirley Temple was not a movie star we talked about much. But you can bet all of us saw her movies as kids a lot. Just say the words "The Good Ship Lollipop" and back come the memories.......

Or how about her dancing on the screen with stars like Buddy Ebsen, George Murphy, Jack Haley, even Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Her dancing with a black man was still breaking down barriers even in our day....

Shirley Temple dolls are still prized collectables even today and she did not just fade awayin her later years, making a successful second career in public service as a diplomat at the United Nations, Chief of Protocol at the White House and as Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

I am sure how my grandchildren would relate to her movies today. there so much electronics and animation in today's films and videos. And not all of Shirley Temple's movies are in color (many are black & white although available in full on YouTube).  Maybe I'll give it try and see, especially for my precocious grand daughter Libby. I have a sneaking suspicion, she'll like it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Professor Emeritus Harry Howe Ransom Has Passed Away

Another of the long-time Vanderbilt faculty members from our days on campus has passed away. Professor Emeritus Harry Howe Ransom died January 28, 2014 here in Nashville at the age of 91.

A Nashville native and a 1943 graduate of VU, he served under General George Patton during World War II and was a newspaper reporter with THE NASHVILLE BANNER briefly after the war. He then received a Doctorate from Princeton and held teaching positions at that school along with Vassar, Michigan State and Harvard before coming to Vanderbilt and the Political Science Department in 1961. He was Chairman of the Department during the period we were in school (1969 to 1974). During that time,  he was credited with taking steps to hire more women to the Political Science faculty.

Ransom was known for many years as one of the most renowned scholars in the world on the American intelligence community. He is remembered in his obituary that appeared in THE TENNESSEAN (February 4) as "a true gentleman of academia."

During his 26 years on the faculty, he served as Chair of the Faculty Senate and he directed the Vanderbilt-in-England program. He retired in 1987.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy A. Ransom, founder and former Director of the Margaret Cunninggim Women's Center at Vanderbilt as well as a daughter, Katie and a son, William. A memorial service is planned on Saturday, March 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the First Universalist Church in Nashville. Contributions in his honor may be made to that church or to Alive Hospice.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beatlemania 50 Years Later

It was 50 years ago this week that our lives were changed. The Beatles came to America! Already a mania in their home country (Great Britain), the Four Lads from Liverpool (John, Paul, George & Ringo) were also headed up the charts in this country with a number of major rock & roll hits.

When they arrived in New York City (February 7, 1964) over 4,0000 teenagers (mostly young girls) showed up to overwhelm the police and some 200 journalists who were on hand. Here's what it looked and sounded like in the newsreels at the movies. As you can hear, the narrator was not exactly all that impressed.......

The highlight of the Beatles' first three week U.S. tour came on Sunday night, February 9, 1964. That's when 73 million people (about 40% of the U.S. population at the time) tuned in to watch the group perform on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW on the CBS Television Network.

It's an event I am pretty sure almost everyone of us in our generation watched that night and remember to this day. Here it is to enjoy again (both performances during that hour-long show) plus some bonus footage of the Boys out on the town in NYC at what appears to be the Peppermint Lounge. Just click below and scroll down......,the-ed-sullivan-show-first-appearance,qp8rul.html

What happened that night was repeated the next two Sunday nights (February 16 & 23, 1964)with Beatles performances on The Sullivan show. The second appearance (on remote from Miami) pulled in another 70 million viewers all by itself. While we in the VU Centennial Class (1973) were only 12 or 13 years old at the time, being a part of Beatlemania and the resulting British Invasion of rock groups to the American pop charts likely became a part of our everyday lives in what we bought (Beatle records), what we listened to (on the radio and on our high-fi set) as well as how we dressed and wore our hair. Indeed, it continued to shape our culture in some ways even while we were all together on campus (1969-1973) and in the years since.

At the time in early 1964 the long hair and clothes (Nehru jackets) were considered pretty out there, especially by adults. Now looking back, the hair seems rather short and the clothes somewhat dressed up (at least by later fashions of the groups we liked in the late '60s and early '70s and beyond).

It all began 50 years ago this week. Who can believe it's been half a century. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where Old Kissam Once Stood

Have you wondered what it looks like inside those new residential halls being built on campus where the old Kissam Quadrangle once stood?

Here's a YouTube video Vanderbilt has just posted and I must say these new upper class living quarters (for sophomores, juniors and seniors) are very, very nice and are a great compliment to the freshman Commons built a few years ago on the back side of the Peabody campus...

Now it will be some months yet before these new dorms are in use. I am sure they will look a little different once the students (and the resident faculty members) move in and it's gets that "lived-in" look. But as compared to what we had back in the day in old Kissam or Branscomb or McGill or even the Towers, all I can say is : Get Jealous Early! These are very, very nice!

Of course, our room and board costs (and tuition) were a good bit lower back then, even if we (and/or our parents) thought it was expensive at the time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Beginning A New Decade

As we brought our lava lamps back to the dorms for the second semester of our freshman year at Vanderbilt in January, 1970, the number one hits of that first month of the new decade reflected our movies and our weather (it seemed to me it rained quite a bit during our winter months at VU). The end of January, 1970 also reflected the beginning of a pop music sensation that only grew in the years to come.

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was a box office sensation at the movies. It also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head",written by Hal David and Bert Bacharach, was sung by B.J. Thomas on both the silver screen and in the Number One pop hit that topped the Billboard charts for 4 consecutive weeks in January, 1970...the first number one song of the new decade of the '70s. The recording also spent seven weeks on top of the adult contemporary charts!

But the film and record performances were not the same. The screen version, seen and heard at the link below, had a seperate instrumental break where Paul Newman (one of the major stars of the movie) did some bicycle stunts. The movie version of the song is also different because B.J. Thomas recorded it while still recovering from laryngitis which made his voice a bit raspier than in the record version. Listen closely.....

According to Wikipedia (for what it's worth) both Ray Stevens and Bob Dylan were offered the chance to record the song for the film but declined. B.J. Thomas recorded the pop hit here in Nashville, the beginning of so many frequent vists here he told THE TENNESSEAN (January 12, 2014) "We feel like Nashville is our hometown too." One of his most recent trips was for a party to celebrate "Raindrops" being introduced into the Grammy Hall of Fame this year. In 2008, Thomas' recording was ranked the 85th biggest song on Billboard's Top 100 All-Time Top Songs...

On January 31, 1970, B.J. Thomas gave up a month's run at the top of the pop charts for "I Want You Back", the first of four consecutive Number One hits by the Jackson 5 (followed by "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There").  "I Want You Back" was the first Jackson 5 hit released by Motown and spent four weeks of its own as Number One. It's ranked 121st on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 9th on the magazine's list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs since 1963.....

Of course what the Jackson 5 is best remembered for today is as the lauching pad for its youngest member, Michael Jackson to become the ultimate "King of Pop" whose solo career made him perhaps the most popular entertainer in the world before his untimely death. This is the number one song that began that rise to the top in January, 1970......

As you might expect, "I Want You Back" was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame back in 1999.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dr. John Compton Has Passed!

Another of the wonderful professors from our days at Vanderbilt, Dr. John Compton has died.

According to his death notice in today's TENNESESSEAN (January 21), he joined the newly formed Philosophy Department at the University in 1952 and began 46 years of teaching as well as serving as Department Chairman for many years.  I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Compton as my teacher in a couple of classes and I fully agree with his obituary which states that he was "known for his infectious exberance and ability to connect with students."

His wonderful teaching was recognized during his career as he won both the Chancellor's Cup and the Sarratt Prize for excellence in teaching. He assumed professor emeritus status in 1998 but remained active (as he did while teaching)  as a "determined civil rights activist" and "to champion social justice and environmental causes. "

Here is the full obituary which includes the interesting fact that his father (Arthur Holly Compton) was a Nobel Prize winner in Physics.....

Dr. Compton was 85 years old. May he rest in peace.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Vanderbilt's difficult (but fortunately brief) nightmare, in first being deserted by its football coach, then finding a new (and perhaps even better one), is over.

The new coach, hired after less than a week's national search, has a background (Stanford) that should fit very well at VU and allow the program to continue the great succees of the past three seasons (annual bowl games, back-to-back 9-win seasons and end-of-year national rankings).

Welcome, Derek Mason! Onward and Upward! Here are the details from ESPN....

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn

Following one of the most difficult weeks ever in Vanderbilt athletic history, which included the desertion of our head football coach and the dismissal from the squad of the leading scorer on an already depleted VU men's basketball team, leave it to the Vandy women to provide a much-needed and appreciated lift for  Black & Gold fans.

The Lady Dores's nationally televised (ESPN) upset Sunday afternoon of the #8 Tennessee Lady Vols (74-63)  was the second conquest of the Orange in their last three meetings in Memorial Gym. Is this is perhaps an indication of how this long, one-sided rivalry might be turning in the games and years to come?

Regardless, for Vanderbilt fans nothing sucks like the Big Orange and no victory is sweeter than defeating UT especially in a sport they have dominanted for so many years (even if it's an area of competition that didn't even exist on the varsity level until a few years after we graduated).

Here are the game highlights, which included a crowd of nearly 10,000 fans which was loudly for Vanderbilt especially as the Dores rallied in the second half to prevail.....

Vanderbilt guards Kristina Foggie (seen above) and Jasmine Lister (photo below) sparked the victory over UT with 22 and 21 points respectively. The women's team also defeated Auburn on the road last Thursday making its 21 straight over the Lady Tigers. Lister had 23 points in that win with her work in both games garnering her the SEC's and ESPN's National Player of the Week....

The Vanderbilt women have also vaulted back into the national rankings this week, coming in at #24 in the Associated Press poll and #15 in the all-important RPI numbers (used to some degree for NCAA Tournament seedings). The ESPN poll is due out later in the week while the rest of a rugged SEC regular season still awaits for Vandy. Then comes the post-season with the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Big Dance looming, including the national Final Four being held in downtown Nashville this coming April, just a few short miles from the Vanderbilt campus. What a trip that would be.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Another Record-Setting Season in Football

Behind a record setting performance by Wide Receiver and COMPASS Bowl MVP Jordan Mathews, the Vanderbilt Commodores won their second straight post-season game, tallying 17 unanwered
points in the 4th quarter to defeat the Houston Cougars 41-24 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, January 4.

The win was also a school record because it marked the Dores' second consecutive year with 9 wins and its third straight bowl appearance. Here's a writeup and highlights from ESPN which televised the game nationally.....

The game had its highs and lows with the Black & Gold racing out to a 24-0 halftime lead only to see Houston rally to tie the score at 24 going into the fourth quarter, Then Vanderbilt, behind a strong running game and increased defensive pressure added two touchdowns (plus a field goal) and two interceptions to salt the victory away.

All of this puts the Vandy football program in a positive position unseen in modern times (post the early 1900s). In fact it has put the program in a national spotlight with its head coach James Franklin being rumored for almost every major colllege and pro coaching vacncy around....

We should know about Coach Franklin's status one way or another in the next week or so (maybe sooner). Hopefully, it will not be a repeat of the history that began our senior year and occurred again less than two years later.

That's when a young, outgoing, agressive new football coach, Steve Sloan was hired by VU in early 1973. He's energized the program and the fan base, doing so in some ways not seen since Franklin came to Nashville three years ago.

During his two seasons on West End, Sloan sparked the Dores to a 7-3-2 record in 1974 along with only its second bowl berth ever (a 6-6 tie against Texas Tech in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta) before deciding to take the head coaching job with the Rdd Raiders. It was a crushing experience in some ways for the Vanderbilt football program since Sloan at first announced he was staying at Vandy before changing his mind less than 24 hours later (a move he later said he regretted).