Welcome to the World and Music of Dan Roark

Welcome to the world and music of Dan Roark. I have lived here for a while now and it's not a bad place to live, really. Although on some level, it's probably just as well you're only visiting. But hang around as long as you like.

Here you can listen to my songs - and buy them if you wish - read my thoughts in posts on my blog, see my pictures, and find out when and where I am playing. 

You can also hear live versions of my songs on Reverbnation, as well as see videos of live performances. You can also see my videos on, and subscribe to, my YouTube channel

 

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Route 66 – The End of the Road 

Dan at Santa Monica Pier signThe morning after the show at Pig ‘n’ Whistle, Cameron and I rode the Hop-On, Hop-Off double decker bus to Santa Monica. After walking around the pier, we ate at Pier Burger. There is a sign on the pier that says “Santa Monica 66 End of the road.” It signals, of course, the end of Route 66.

People were going nuts, taking each other’s picture by the sign. Which I told Cameron I thought was pretty silly. If you had traveled from quite a distance actually following Route 66, then it would make sense. But just to take your picture in front of the end of line sign means nothing – it just proves you were on the pier.

Dan at Santa Monica with Namba Bag

Had my Namba Gear bag with me, of course.

That and you saw the Forest Gump movie. Then again, I saw a lot of people take pictures of some strange things that week. Like big bushes, weird trees, odd people, buildings that have no significance, and other various oddities.

Then I looked up from my burger, and another group was gathering to have their picture taken in front of the sign. I turned to Cameron and nodded at the crowd.

“Now that’s a group that has a legitimate reason for taking their picture under the sign!”

It was a group of older veterans, each carrying a large flag. The flagpoles were wrapped for a comfortable hand hold and they had braces of sorts on their shoulders. If I read what there was to read correctly, they had actually traveled the length of Route 66.

Cameron at Santa Monica Pier SignObviously, chances are they had not walked all the way, but that is an insignificant fact. Just the fact that they had traveled the distance, supporting fellow veterans and their country, earned them the right to take a picture under the sign signaling, literally, the end of the road. I said a quiet prayer for them as they congratulated each other and took pictures in celebration.

Some of the most memorable moments on a trip happen when you’re not really looking.

Peace be with you.


Playing at Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. 

Dan at Pig 'n' WhistleBefore I went to the ASCAP conference, I wanted to line up a place to play while I was in LA. While I was checking,  I found that it so happened that  the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd., a block from the hotel, had an open mic on Tuesday night.  Not having any kind of following in LA – other than fans on Reverbnation and Facebook – setting up a solo gig would have proved difficult. So an open mic was my best bet.

But it was good fortune that it was an open mic in a historical building. The Pig ‘n’ Whistle was founded in 1927, next to the Egyptian Theatre where the premiers of movies were shown.  You can imagine the movie stars and celebrities that ate there.  The restaurant  has been restored to its original glory. What is called Backstage or the Back Room is down a hall to the back of the restaurant. There was a bar, but it was only used for parties and special events.

Backstage is a funky little room with an even funkier stage. Which is a good thing. Again, you can imagine the private parties held back there over the years. Cameron and I got there before they had everything set up. I was one of the first people on the list. I prefer to go on after a couple of people or acts to get a feel for the crowd. I shouldn’t have been concerned.

When it came time to start, everyone in the room had to pay $3. Which was new for me. If Dan Roark at Pig'n' Whistle 2there is any charge at an open mic in the Dallas area, it is a request for a drink minimum. But it was also Hollywood  Blvd. – you don’t want just anybody wandering in and hanging out.  The McDonald’s has a security guard and police patrols drop around regularly.

The crowd was made up of mostly performers, although there were a few people there to listen. When the show began, the MC asked for the hands of those who wanted to play. I hesitated, to see how  it went. About three people raised their hands. They were the first three to play – with the order corresponding to the raising of hands. The next time around I raised my hand and played in the second batch of performers.

Dan at Pig 'n' Whistle 3It was an eclectic group of people and performers, to say the least. A man who sang cover tunes a capella – in stops and starts at times.  A girl playing her songs on a ukulele, and not too shabbily. A comedian who apparently calls into the Howard Stern show and had jokes that I’m surprised Stern would appreciate. One of those there to listen was a guy made up like Will Farrell in Semi-Pro. He had been out on Hollywood Blvd. near Grauman’s Chinese Theater, posing for pictures for tips.

When I played my songs, I told them I was from Dallas out for the ASCAP conference, and introduced the songs as I always do. I felt like the veteran of the group. I received a good reception from the audience. We listened to a few more performers after I played – including a blues player with an interesting style – before we headed back to the hotel.

It was a great way to end the first day in LA. It’s a more authentic trip when you get to mingle with local people as a traveler and performer. And the journey had just begun.

Peace be with you.


Flying to LA for ASCAP Conference 

Loews Hollywood Hotel

I had the pleasure of attending the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) conference in LA last week at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Things are just now getting back to normal enough that I can post about the trip and the conference. Our middle son, Cameron, went with me. The conference began on Wednesday evening with badge pick-up and opening networking reception. Cameron and I flew out on American Airlines from DFW Tuesday morning so I could show him a few things and see some sights.

We were all in our seats and ready to go at the departure time of 9:05. I was enjoying the fact that I had walked my guitar on without any problem and it was safely resting in the overhead bin. The plane had been started. We’re all thinking “here we go” and getting ready, when the pilot comes on the speakers.

“ Ladies and gentlemen, we have some liquid on the side of the plane. It’s probably just fluid that leaked when it was filled up, but we called the mechanics and they’re here to check on it so hopefully we’ll be taking off shortly.”

After a very pregnant pause, he came back on to tell us we would be changing planes. After we had all left the plane, we were sent to another gate. After we got there – some of us anyway – it was not long before they found us another plane. However, this was a considerably smaller plane. Cameron and I thought that some people would not be able to get on the plane, but there were empty seats on the plane when we took off. Some people, I’m sure, made other arrangements if they had connecting flights in LA.

The flight left without any further delays or problems. When we arrived in LA, we were just about to come in on the runway when the pilot suddenly jerked the nose up and hit the gas. We shot up and then headed out over the ocean. It wasn’t my first flight there so I was pretty sure I knew what he was doing.

Then he made a hard banking left. People were beginning to wonder if he was going to take us into the water. But he finally got turned around and told us that the air traffic controllers had switched runways on us at the last minute and we were circling around to try to land again. Which we actually did, thank God. We arrived at LAX almost exactly two hours late.

Cameron and I had a reservation for our GO Shuttle two hours earlier, so it didn’t take long to get on a shuttle. After the obligatory run back around through the airport to check for more passengers, we were on our way to the hotel. We checked in at the hotel and put our stuff in the room. Then we went to get something to eat before I played at Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd….

Peace be with you.

 


Stupid Legal Matters and Stretches 

There was a story the other day about a man that sued a Pizza Hut in Tennessee for serving an excessively hard crouton. Let’s take this step by step. You walk into a Pizza Hut and place your order, which, evidently, includes a salad – with croutons. You are eating the salad and at some point you have a crouton in your mouth.

Okay, you begin to bite down the crouton and your teeth feel distinct resistance. If you are above the age of say, five, you give up and throw the crouton away. And the man had dentures so he had some history in the matter. Some people  like to make a point of squeezing the most money possible out of an event that was, in part, their doing.

I shared that story concerning legal stretches to tell you this one. I don’t remember what car or truck I was driving, but regardless, it seems I over-filled the oil. Don’t ask me how – I’ve slept a few times since then. But whatever I had done caused smoke, quite forcefully, to come out of the exhaust pipe. If you are old enough to remember the DDT trucks spraying neighborhoods, it wasn’t quite that bad. Yet that didn’t keep me from feeling conspicuous as all hell.

My fears were not unfounded. A cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for – get this – excessive smoke. To make matters worse, I was going through Highland Park when I got the ticket. I worried about it until the court date finally came. I had no idea how much the fine could be for “excessive smoke.”

I arrived on the court date and found my way to the end of the line. This was not, I’m sorry to say, my first encounter with the court system. But it was my first encounter in Highland Park and I had long hair. So I had no idea what to expect.

I finally reached the head of the line. I walked up in front of the judge and stood waiting. He confirmed my name and so forth. Then he got to the charge. He asked if the arresting officer was present and was told no. “Excessive smoke,” he read from his sheet. He looked at me and asked, “what the hell is excessive smoke?”

“I don’t know, sir,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders, “ I think I overfilled my oil so the car was blowing smoke out of the exhaust pipe. I was going over to a friend’s house to try to fix it when I was pulled over and given a ticket for excessive smoke.”

“Pay the ten dollar court fee and we’ll call it even. Next case!”

To this day, I still don’t know what excessive smoke is – at least in regards to a traffic fine. Or what the fine would possibly be.

Peace be with you.


Hello Out There 

Dan at CUMC 3At my one man show at Christ UMC a couple of weeks ago, I played my newest song, Hello Out There, for the first time in public. Introducing the song, I explained that there were various members of church families that were on the autistic spectrum. I was not personally familiar with autism untill a few years ago. I noticed the symptoms in a few of the children, but did not know it was autism.

A college student at church was helping with the Autism center at UNT in Denton and facilitated a program at church with a director of an autism program who had autistic children. After that I began to realize how varied the autism spectrum is. If you do not know, the autistic spectrum stretches from those who are highly functioning to those who are low functioning. Those who are highly functioning need steady, but only slight, intervention by others. Those who are low functioning, on the other hand, need almost constant attention.

I have witnessed incidents at church over the years with some of the children. A few days after one particularly violent episode, I had a conversation with the child’s father. I asked him how the child was and he told me that he wished he could get inside the child’s head to know what the child was thinking. I kept thinking about that because, as a songwriter and author, that’s what I do – think about things.

I do not have any insight into an autistic person’s state of mind. But, having stuttered all my life, I know what it’s like to live in one’s own head. And that’s what led me to write the song, Hello Out There. It can be found here.

Peace be with you.

 

 

 

 

 


Thoughts on Entering a Lyric Contest 

20131103_132007I recently joined the Board of the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) after having been a member for several years. I am now the Lyric Contest Director, as well as helping out in other areas. I was given the entries to the recently completed contest (it is run quarterly). My job is to read all the lyrics and pass along to another member of the board the songs I think are worthy to be considered in the final judging. After reading the lyric contest entries, I have a few thoughts to pass along to those planning to enter a lyric/songwriting contest.

If you are just writing lyrics, find someone to write or play the melody. Make sure that it is a song, not just a poem. Granted, sometimes the line between the two is blurred. But even in those instances, one can tell the difference between a poem and song. Read it out loud.

If it sounds good to you, then have a few other people read your song. It is your choice to accept or reject suggestions or criticism. But if more than one person says the same thing, it would be prudent to follow their advice. If you read your song out loud and it sounds “sing-song-y,” you might want to work on it a little more.

At the very least – and I mean the very least – read your song several times before you submit your entry. Use spell checker and check the grammar. When I’m reading the song entries, I can forgive a misspelled word or single grammatical error. But if you misspell the same word in the chorus each time you type out the chorus, the song instantly goes in the rejection pile. It’s the same with the gramatical errors. If you are using slang purposely, or  are misspelling words to imitate an accent, use quotation marks. But make sure  it fits the song.

If you are going to take the time, make the effort, and spend the money, you might as well make it worth it. Present yourself and your song in as professional a manner as possible. A song should fit on one page, maybe one and a half. Certainly not more than two pages. You do not need to type out the chorus each time it occurs, if it is the same each time. Using 12 pt. type is quite sufficient – anything larger is unnecessary.

The first thing you should consider before submitting an entry is whether or not you have written an actual song. I do not have time to tell you how to write a song. There is so much already written on the subject, I do not need to. If you’re in the Dallas area, you could join the DSA and attend meetings. Every major city should have a songwriting association. Keep writing and learning as you go along.

Along the journey, when you decide to submit to a lyric or songwriting contest, you need to do four things. Make sure it is actually a decent song. Present yourself and your song professionally. Read it over carefully a couple of times before sending it. And follow the entry rules  to the letter.

Peace be with you.


New Year, New Shows, and Seeing Double 

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt

Sitting at my desk thinking about the last year and planning for the new year, I was looking forward to playing shows more often. Not to mention the upcoming music conferences. Such as the ASCAP Expo in April. Or the Songwriter Symposium hosted by the Austin Songwriters Group coming up in a couple of weeks. Which naturally caused me to relive last years symposium, in a fashion. Which led to recalling an interesting story I thought I would relate to you.

For a number of years, I have been attending the Theological School for the Laity at Perkins Theological Seminary at SMU for a weekend in early March. I took a few classes with Robert Hunt, a professor at Perkins. I have also been to other functions at Perkins and have seen and talked to Robert. He has preached in our church. He also gave a presentation at a meeting of the Religion Communicators Council of which I am a member.

Then at the symposium, I saw Robert and thought it was cool that he wrote songs as well as his theological works. I never heard his name at the symposium, but he seemed to know who I was. We are both a friendly sort of people – when we see people we give a knowing look, as if we are introducing ourselves with facial expressions. Which makes each of us seem as if we knew the other beforehand. But I had no doubt at the time that I knew him.

In October, I played a showcase at eSpiritu in Frisco. One of the other four songwriters was Robert – or so I thought. In the emails from the host, Ryan Michael Galloway, he said Richard Hunt was playing – along with Julie Jean White, myself, and Mudcat Reames. I thought he had Richard’s name wrong. When I arrived, I walked up to him and shook his hand. He said he was glad to see me again. While he was playing, his wife was standing at a table across the aisle from Cyndy and I taking pictures. I asked her if he was writing songs under the name of Richard.

“Yes, he’s a lawyer. Both of us are. And yes, he goes by Richard – his real name.”

Now I was thoroughly confused. Cyndy and I looked Richard up on the internet, since she had met Robert as well, and found our answer quickly. Julie Jean played after him. I went on after her. After my set, I walked up to him and asked if he had a brother.”

“Yes,” he said, with a smile and a nod, “a twin.”

“When I saw you at the symposium, I thought you were Robert.”

“That’s a common occurrence.” Another nod and smile.

I was just thankful I was not going stark raving bananas. Who would have thought I would meet twin brothers in basically unrelated areas of my life? I know quite a few sets of twins, but I met them together. I also know there are a lot of twins – more than you would think.

Have you ever met a set of twins, each at different times, not knowing they were twins? I would be interested to know. I don’t think I am the only one. Let us know in the comments.

Peace be with you.

P.S. This story reminded me of another story I heard years ago. Look for the next post.


Texas Nibbles or Trash or … 

Texas Nibbles It began years ago with the recipe on the Chex cereal boxes. Then everyone’s grandmother added their particular additional ingredients. It took on different identities: nibbles, trash, Texas trash, and others. Cyndy’s mom’s recipe is for Texas Nibbles. Our daughter, Jennifer, fixed several different varieties: no nuts, hot, not hot, really hot – you get the idea.

But the point is that – in any variety – the mix is addicting. It is the one thing left over that you don’t have to do anything for but grab a handful. No cutting a pie, no getting a plate dirty, no digging in the refrigerator. Just grab a handful. And it’s salty.

We give containers of mix to the family for Christmas. We also usually receive a container from Jennifer. Naturally, this year was no different. But some things have changed. We still go to my parents on Christmas. But we don’t have a big meal anymore. Mom is not able to cook and serve the meal any longer. Cyndy and I take the Thanksgiving dinner to them – just dropping off food for them and visiting a short while.

On Christmas day Mom and Dad buy snack trays and deli sandwiches. Cyndy, Conner, Cameron, J.D. and myself – often in more than one car – meet Jennifer, her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Kelley, at the grandparents house. This year, Chris’ daughter, Katherine, was able to join us. Rather than have the meal (usually brunch), we go straight to the gift exchange.

Then we all get our stockings from the grandparents, snack a while, and visit. Visiting is the most important part. It is the part that does not and should not change. The people may change slightly from year to year due to life’s circumstances. But the family fellowship does not change.

Our family is one that gets what they need throughout the year. We give gifts to each other all year. Christmas is not about the gifts. It is about celebrating Christ’s birth. And it is also about family – in all it’s facets.

But the one constant between Christmas and New Year’s in our family is the presence of Texas Nibbles. The mix goes quickly around Christmas and then slows down to a steady rate of consumption. The salty after the sweet. Just grab a little and go kind of thing.

I don’t know what Cyndy and I will be watching tonight while waiting on midnight. But I can tell you what we won’t be watching – the countdowns to midnight. I can, however, tell you one thing for certain. We will be eating Texas Nibbles from the bag I have stashed.

Happy New Year! Peace be with you!


Out of the Mouths of Babes at Christmas 

Rashad and Kaleigh Okay, maybe not babes exactly, but children nonetheless. The girl, Kaleigh, is my friend’s daughter. The boy, Rashad, is Kaleigh’s nephew. I took the picture when Cyndy and I were watching Kaleigh and Rashad for Randy and Kelly. Rashad is now about five or six. Randy came by today and had Rashad with him. He just dropped by to pick up Disc Golf brochures, so he ran in without Rashad.

When he was leaving, Randy asked me to come out to the car so Rashad would know who I was. Randy had asked him on the way over if he remembered me, and Rashad wasn’t exactly sure. He’s been over quite a few times since the picture was taken, by the way. When we reached the car, Randy knocked on the window and Rashad popped his head up and saw me. He squealed, then jumped in the back seat and kept squealing at me and grinning.

“Now he remembers who you are,” Randy said, laughing.

I said goodbye and went back in the house. Not long after the phone rang. I assume Randy was going Dennis to Valwood to Josey, because of the number of churches within the two blocks of Valwood. Either way, I answered the phone.

“You should hear Rashad,” Randy said. “The things that kids say. Rashad would say, wow, look at that cross. Look at that church. There sure are a lot of churches.”

“Look at that church!”

“Do you like church and churches?” Randy asked.

“Yes.”

“What do you like most about church?”

“There’s a lot of Jesus stuff in church. And Jesus is my Lord!”

That is when the true spirit of Christmas shines through.

Peace be with you.


The Pissed Off Goose Imitating Johnny Mathis 

Dan at Angelas 12-15-'14 I played Monday night at Angela’s at the Crosswalk in downtown Plano. I had a cold for several days previous. But I felt fairly well – although not completely. While my sons, Cameron and J.D., and I were driving to Angela’s, I developed a tickle in my throat. Which is not all that uncommon. Especially if one is playing and singing all the time during the constantly changing weather of a Texas winter.

Which is when I usually get a cold – when the weather changes. Some people think I mean literally every time the weather changes. But that is not what I – or people like me – mean. We mean certain times when the weather changes. In my case, I mean when the weather changes like it has recently – hot then cold, warm then cold, hot then cold. If the temperature had gotten down to freezing or lower, I would have been screwed.

As it was, I thought I was getting off kind of easy this year – while knocking on wood and crossing my fingers. I was drinking plenty of water before my time to play and took my water with me when my time came. Unfortunately the stage area is just inside the front door and the front of the restaurant is all glass. There was a draft with people walking in and out the door.

The crowd was rather loud, so I was singing and playing louder trying to hear myself. The situation made me sweat, as the cold and the tickle were on my mind as well. But, except for the tickle, I felt fine. When we got home, the tickle faded a bit. I didn’t feel too bad when I went to bed.

When I woke up, my nose was stopped up, my mouth was dry and I had a “jaw ache.” I took some head medicine and went to church to take pictures of the troops coming to pick up the toys we had collected for soldiers’ children. If I talked too much, I sounded like a pissed off goose. So naturally, I kept on talking . All three boys still live at home, so not talking is seldom an option.

As the afternoon turned into evening, I began to sound like a pissed off goose trying to imitate Johnny Mathis. I don’t stutter as much as I used to. But I still don’t appreciate jokes about it. Yet that doesn’t mean I cannot see the humor if it is by me at myself. And sounding like a pissed off goose that is imitating Johnny Mathis and stutters – even I have to think that is vaguely humorous.

Which is why I do not try Dragon software with which the computer follows your vocal commands. I cannot imagine what it would look like if I stuttered. I have tried to imagine, but I really don’t want to know. It would pain me to think that all these years of public speaking and mental adjustment was all for anything close to naught. I usually don’t have a problem when I have a guitar in my hand, but carrying a guitar around and whipping it out when I talk would be more than a little awkward. While waiting around in a fast food place, it would really suck.

But I seriously digress. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it – not as much as I did living it, which was minimal. However, I would like to say that when I played my set, I did really well. Then things went south. So, looking back on it now, I leave you with these words of wisdom.

If we cannot find humor in ourselves, we are not looking hard enough. And try to stay away from drafts.

Peace be with you.


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