Friday, May 25, 2007

Don't bury the Hatchet!

It be time to salute my 2nd-favorite Southern Rock band of all-time whilst I track through them on the ol' CD player, Molly Hatchet.  Not unlike with Lynyrd Skynyrd, I was initially put-off by the band's macho biker-bar brawler image, but this band grew on me rather quickly during my freshman year in High School when their first two albums received heavy airplay on the mighty KY-102 circa 1979-80.

I have to admit I actually hated Hatchet's first hit song, "Dreams I'll Never See" initially (a complete overhaul of the Allman Bros.' song "Dreams"), but boy do I feel stupid now—this song is fucking great!  The rest of that first MH album rules too, with tracks like "Gator Country", "Bounty Hunter" and "The Price You Pay", and the second album was even better.  Flirtin' With Disaster was one of the finer sophomore efforts of any band, and Hatchet secured their place in history with tunes like the title track, "Whiskey Man" (not to be confused with The Who's song of the same name), "Jukin' City", "It's All Over Now" (also done by the Stones in 1964) and the "Free Bird"-like "Boogie No More", which nearly put Lynyrd Skynyrd's triple-lead guitar attack to shame.

Hatchet did indeed feature three pretty damn good guitarists—Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Steve Holland (no relation to me)—as well as lead singer Danny Joe Brown, whose distinctive growl was the band's trademark.  After Flirtin', Brown had issues with the band's management—"There were too many hands in the till," he once remarked—so he left Hatchet (who transparently blamed DJB's departure on his bout with diabetes) and was replaced by singer Jimmy Farrar for their next two albums, Beatin' The Odds and Take No Prisoners.  Nice guy and a decent singer—he would have fit in perfectly with say, Marshall Tucker Band—but Farrar was rather bland compared with his predecessor, although he did sing on one really cool song, 1981's "Bloody Reunion".  MH wisely brought Danny Joe back into the fold for 1983's No Guts...No Glory, which is my personal favorite Hatchet album.  I literally wore out the cassette copy I had of that one driving back-and-forth to college during the Fall of '83, and just loved tracks like "What's It Gonna Take?", "What Does It Matter?", "Ain't Even Close" and yet another "Free Bird" clone, "Fall Of The Peacemakers", which solemnly reflected on the deaths of John Lennon and John F. Kennedy, and featured splendid lead guitar work throughout.

Molly Hatchet even landed on MTV during this time with videos lifted from No Guts, as well as from the follow-up album, 1984's The Deed Is Done, which featured hits like "Satisfied Man" and "Stone In Your Heart".  A live album followed in 1985—Hatchet's final recording for Epic Records—and the band later resurfaced in 1989 on Capitol Records with the excellent, but sadly-overlooked Lightning Strikes Twice, featuring the humorous opening track "Take Miss Lucy Home" and a rather touching closing song called "Heart Of My Soul".  This was more or less the last hurrah for this band, even though they've recorded off and on since then, having endured numerous personnel changes over the years.  The current touring outfit that goes by the name Molly Hatchet contains no original members of the band, and seems more like a tribute band than anything else.  Singer Danny Joe Brown died in 2005 and guitarist Duane Roland passed away just shy of a year ago.  Rest in peace, gentlemen...

My All-Time Molly Hatchet Top 10:
1) "Boogie No More" (1979)
2) "Fall Of The Peacemakers" (1983)
3) "Flirtin' With Disaster" (1979)
4) "Bloody Reunion" (1981)
5) "What's It Gonna Take? (1983)
6) "Bounty Hunter" (1978)
7) "Heart Of My Soul" (1989)
8) "Jukin' City" (1979)
9) "Ain't Even Close" (1983)
10) "Dreams I'll Never See" (1978)

And while I'm at it,
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SOUTHERN ROCK BANDS:
1) Black Oak Arkansas
2) Molly Hatchet
3) Lynyrd Skynyrd
4) The Allman Brothers
5) .38 Special
6) Charlie Daniels Band
7) The Outlaws
8) Marshall Tucker Band
9) Ozark Mountain Daredevils
10) Blackfoot

Friday Night (Hi)Lights

DERF RULES!
I just love this guy's comic strips, and there ain't a damn thing I can say to top this one!  You have done well, Young Grasshopper...

TAKE YOUR TIME, FELLAS...
I saw an ad in the paper today about a band called 90 Minutes—"A tribute to the '90s".  I doubt they'll even need that much time to cover that which was good music during the wretched decade that gave us the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Dishwalla.  30 Minutes should easily suffice...

BOO—RED STRIPE BEER ADS!
Have you seen any of these dreadful commercials?  Do they make you want to run out and buy their beer?  Not me...

I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS...
Can you believe it was 30 years ago today that the original Star Wars was unleashed to the masses?  30 bloody years, already?  Somehow, I can't help but feel just a tad old now.  A little trivia for you, btw—the above phrase in bold was uttered by a different character in all six of the Star Wars flicks.  With us, The Force has been, says Master Yoda...

TRULY HONORABLE?
Anyone catch the 2nd-annual "VH-1 Rock Honors" show last night?  If not, relax—it'll air again on VH-1 Classic about as often as Rosie O'Donnell, Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin says something stupid, so don't worry.  Great concept, actually—it's sort of a slap in the face to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame in that they mostly salute great bands who've been snubbed by said institution so far—last year's honorees included Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Kiss and Queen (although Queen's already in the HOF)—and this time they had a rather eclectic mix:  Heart, Genesis, Ozzy Osbourne and ZZ Top (also already in the HOF).  The show featured live performances by each band, but in best "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" tradition, the event was taped a few weeks back at the Mandalay Bay casino arena in Vegas, along with "tribute" performances by bands like Alice In Chains and other current nobodies, plus introductions by Hollywood types like Billy Bob Thornton, Cameron Diaz and Robin Williams, et al.

Don't mean to bitch too much, but I'd much rather see more live performances from the groups being honored, and less of all this ancillary crap VH-1 insists on airing.  And couldn't they at least find a more credible emcee for the damn thing?  This year's event was hosted by one Bam Margera, that venerable skateboard personality famous for appearing in Jackass-The Movie—a guy who isn't even old enough (born 1979) to remember when Ozzy bit the head off the canary, let alone remember when Ann Wilson was thin.  Last year's hostess, Jaime Pressly, wasn't much better—she ain't even old enough to remember when Kiss took off the make-up or when Def Leppard's Rick Allen still had two arms.  Hell, they had Mark Goodman from the old MTV days doing backstage interviews throughout—he'd make a more appropriate host than those other 20-something twits.  Nice try, VH-1, but methinks you can do better...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Whole lotta bloggin' goin' on...

JUST CHILL, HERM!I’m beginning to wonder if Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards truly is the right man for the job.  When the team first hired him, I was excited by his track record of getting a mediocre franchise like the Jets to the playoffs more than once, but after just one season here in K.C., I’m a bit dismayed at how easily he gets riled up by our local media.  He caused a fairly big stink yesterday during the team’s O.T.A.’s by accusing a local radio sports talk host of calling him a liar (based on what another player told him) regarding the whole Trent Green situation, even though Edwards himself hadn’t even listened to the tape of the show, during which the host in question did NOT call Edwards a liar, or anything of the sort.  Then in the same conversation, Herm went on to say, “This (the Trent Green saga) is not a distraction in any stretch of the imagination.”  Uhhh, Herm, it obviously IS a distraction, if you’re getting your panties all in a wad over it!  And frankly, he and Pres/GM Carl Peterson are fair game to be questioned for the way they’ve handled this Trent Green thing, too.

He also said, “Are you kidding me?  It’s the offseason.”  Precisely the point, Herm—we’re still over two months away from training camp, and you’re letting the Kansas City sports media get to you before Memorial Day?  Hell, he’s already coached in the biggest media hotbed in the world (New York) and he played in what has to be the roughest sports market in terms of abuse heaped on someone by both the media and fans alike (Philadelphia)—you’d think our little Midwestern metropolis would be a breeze for him to handle, and I find it troubling that he’s so thinned-skinned over petty stuff like this.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either—Herm has this annoying habit when he’s in front of the media of getting all defensive over little stuff, then he starts pontificating about himself and what he believes in, and I honestly believe he just likes to hear himself talk smack.  You get a lot of this “I’m a man,” (yes, we can see that, Herm) and “I was hired to coach,” (yes, we know, Herm) and “I’m here to coach players,” (right—we get that, Herm), and it just turns into a big mumble-jumble of jive-ass double-talk to me.  Don’t get me wrong:  I think he means well, and Herman Edwards has the potential to be a really great coach in the NFL, if he doesn’t allow his fragile ego to be his own downfall...

EAT STEAK! EAT STEAK!
In a rather delicious irony, I just noticed that ├╝ber-vegetarian/animal rights activist Paul McCartney resides alphabetically in my CD collection right next to none other than Meat Loaf!  Oh well, if it’ll make Sir Paul feel any better, I have amended my “Still Pissed At Yoko” bumper sticker to read “Still Pissed At Heather”…

SUE ME, SUE YOU BLUES—THE CONTINUING SAGA
Seems that the father of late Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock is suing everyone he can think of that might have even remotely contributed to his son’s death last month, including Mike Shannon’s Restaurant (where Josh tied one on), the tow truck driver whose truck Hancock plowed into whilst he was driving more than a little intoxicated, and even the poor soul who had the unmitigated gall to have a stalled car on the highway.  Yet another example of people who can’t quite bring themselves to accept responsibility for their own actions (or in this case, a fallen family member’s actions), so their solution is to sue everyone and try to make a buck off the whole thing.  According to Mr. Hancock's lawyer, "It's understood that for the entire 3½ hours that Josh Hancock was there that he was handed drinks...It's our understanding that from the moment Josh Hancock entered Mike Shannon's that night that he was never without a drink."  Hmmm, and I suppose the people at Mike Shannon's conspired to get the guy drunk—and that he never ASKED for any of those drinks that were "handed" to him, huh?  Yeah, right...

Hey, Papa Hancock—with all due respect to the painful loss you and your family have suffered—did it ever occur to you that your son might have been just a little involved in his own demise?  Based on what we now know, it’s pretty obvious that your son had a drinking problem prior to that night and I doubt seriously that Josh was dragged kicking and screaming into Mike Shannon’s in the first place.  And I suppose the marijuana that was found in Josh's vehicle was also just "handed" to him, huh?  Do you plan to sue the local drug dealers, too?  If anything, the tow truck driver and the motorists who shared I-64 with Josh that night should be suing YOU and your son's estate, Mr. Hancock, for his negligence in putting them in danger by being a stupid fuck and driving drunk off his ass.  

Actually, I hope to hell you win this lawsuit, Mr. Hancock—it'll make things so much easier for me to sue the credit card people for putting me so deep in debt!  While I'm at it, maybe I'll sue Wendy's for making me fat, too.  As A. Bunker once said, "Let's hear it for the legal profession, Little Girl." [Insert Bronx cheer here]

JUST TAKE ME NOW, I’VE TRULY SEEN IT ALL…
Not that I needed any further proof that "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist “Church” congregation are all several fries shy of the proverbial Happy Meal of Life, but it seems that his merry band of hate-mongers actually picketed Jerry Falwell’s funeral the other day because they think he was “a friend of gays.”  Huh?!?  Did I miss a memo somewhere along the line?  Other than Phelps himself, was Jerry Falwell not America's penultimate gay basher—the Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods of homophobia, all rolled into one?  And yet, these Neolithic dipshits claim he was gay-friendly?  Someone needs to explain this one to me like I’m a three-year-old.  And to think I found that whole Tinky-Winky thing with Falwell to be ludicrous…
 It’s walking/talking feces like Phelps and his congregation (which is comprised mostly of his extended family, some of whom may well be their own fathers, for all we know) that make me truly wish that birth control was retroactive.  I'm embarrassed to be in the same species with these mongoloids.  For the uninitiated out there, these churlish and warped individuals apparently have nothing better to do with their miserable fucking lives but to spread hatred and vitriol by picketing funerals of not only gay people, but those of U.S. soldiers who died while indirectly defending their right to picket said funerals, all because they claim our country harbors homosexuals.  Hell, they even picketed Billy Graham’s crusade here at Arrowhead Stadium a couple years back (see pic)—evidently that ol’ anti-Semitic homophobe Rev. Billy G. is an infidel in the eyes of these whackos!  As screwy as these losers are, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they picket each other's funerals when a member of their own flock dies…

Far be it for a card-carrying agnostic like me to defend organized religion, but Phelps and Co. give legitmate Christianity a bad name.  What I find especially disturbing is how they involve their children in all this ugliness (see pic again)—it’s a subtle form of child abuse, when you get right down to it.  I would be truly impressed if religious leaders out there—the Baptists in particular—would loudly denounce this S.O.B. by saying, “Okay, we may not condone homosexuality, but this is NOT what we’re about.”  I’m also curious where Phelps and his family get the money to enable them to travel to all these funerals they protest at.  Topeka, KS (their home base) to Lynchburg, VA is a two-day road trip by car, for example, and they constantly travel coast-to-coast to spread their venom.  I also wonder just how much these "people" truly have to hate themselves in order to be so hateful toward others.

I've also never understood these "God-fearing Christians", either—I don't get the concept of worshipping a deity you're afraid of.  And, I'm fairly confident that if there really is a God, He wouldn't send a messenger like Fred Phelps to spread His word.  In the words of Twisted Sister, "If that's your best, your best won't do..."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talk is Cheap!

I'm currently in a bit of a lull in my A-Z CD trek, as in between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Paul McCartney, there ain't a whole lot of pure Rock to track thru with the likes of Madonna, the Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow (oh, shut up!) and Johnny Mathis, so I'll take care of some old business and jabber about a longtime favorite band of mine that I neglected to discuss back when I played them a couple months ago, the pride of Rockford, Illinois: Cheap Trick. Yet another outstanding band that's been snubbed by the Crock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, C.T. is not only a fan favorite, but for the most part also highly praised by the critics for their body of work.  I would submit that their output is every bit as prolific and relevant as that of Blondie and the Pretenders—both decent groups, but both rather overrated in my book—yet they're in the Hall already.  To HOF people, I hereby quote the great prophet Mike Damone in Fast Times At Ridgemont High:  "Can you honestly tell me you forgot?  Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?"  Evidently, they have...

Not unlike with Journey, I actually prefer Cheap Trick's "B-stuff" over their big hits.  "Dream Police", "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me" are all great songs, and "The Flame" may well be the greatest power-ballad of all-time, but there is so much more good stuff to behold here.  Songs like "Never Had A Lot To Lose" (the story of my life), "He's A Whore", "Clock Strikes Ten", "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)" and "Tonight It's You" are frequent flyers on my CD player.  "Stiff Competition" is another favorite, with the line "I screw you/you screw me/they screw us/here we go again..." (words to live by), as is the overlooked power chord-laden "All Wound Up" from 1988's Lap of Luxury. AND, apart from Elton John's "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself", C.T.'s "Auf Wiedersehen" has to be the funniest song ever written about suicide.  Their cover versions of "Day Tripper", "Ain't That A Shame" and "Don't Be Cruel" certainly don't suck either...

As dandy as their records are, seeing Cheap Trick live in concert is a bit of a crapshoot.  Some nights they are the greatest Rock 'N' Roll band in the world, and other nights, they just phone it in, and I've witnessed both extremes.  I saw them in 1988 as part of what might have been the strangest triple bill ever concocted—the Moody Blues, Cheap Trick and Glass Tiger (remember them?)—and Trick was the superior band that night.  Then a few years later, I saw them open for R.E.O. Speedwagon, and they half-heartedly played nine songs and left.  It depends on what night you catch them as to what you get, I suppose.

Musicianship-wise, this band is top-notch.  Tom Petersson is my second-favorite living bass player (just behind Rush's Geddy Lee), and anyone with the balls to play a 12-string bass is alright in my book—even Entwistle never played more than eight strings at a time.  Brad Carlson—aka Bun E. Carlos—is as solid a drummer as you'll find anywhere, Robin Zander is an underrated vocalist, and there ain't no denying what a great guitarist Rick Nielsen is—it's a shame that his Pee Wee Herman-ish persona detracts from that sometimes.  Then again, I love the quote I once read back in the '70s about the band where someone said, "Two of them look like Rock stars, and the other two look like wrecked trucks!"

My All-Time Cheap Trick Top 10
1) "All Wound Up" (1988)
2) "Still Competition" (1978)
3) "He's A Whore" (1976)
4) "Never Had A Lot To Lose" (1988)
5) "She's Tight" (1982)
6) "Tonight It's You" (1985)
7) "Auf Wiedersehen" (1978)
8) "Clock Strikes Ten" [Live] (1979)
9) "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)" (1979)
10) "Stop This Game" (1980)

"Let's play some ol' Honk!"

Spent most of my day Sunday listening to my Lynyrd Skynyrd CD collection, and each time I do so, they sound just a little better to me.  For a long time, I was pretty ambivalent about Skynyrd—I liked some of their stuff, and of course, "Free Bird" is monumental, but I was rather turned-off by the brawling biker-bar mentality that the band projected for so long.  But, when I looked a little deeper and learned more about the group, I discovered there was a lot more to them than I realized, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, especially.  Far from the arrogant macho gun-toting redneck I pictured him to be, R.V.Z. was rather a fairly ordinary guy who actually shunned the limelight and disdained being famous—just as the song "Don’t Ask Me No Questions" says—and he seemed like the kind of guy you’d love to sit down and have a few beers with and just shoot the shit.  He was well spoken and a better wordsmith than I initially gave him credit for, and it’s not so hard to see why Ronnie was so well respected by his Southern Rock peers.

The rest of the band was full of characters too, like late bassist Leon Wilkeson, known as "The Mad Hatter" for his humorous onstage headgear, and a very underrated lead guitar player, the late Allen Collins.  The addition of the late Steve Gaines on guitar in '76 gave Skynyrd a much-needed shot in the arm following a couple so-so albums, and he brought a new dimension to the band on what I think was their best album, Street Survivors.  You can hear him prominently on tracks like "That Smell" and "I Know A Little", and that’s him sharing vocals with Van Zant on "You Got That Right", and he seemed to breathe new life into the band and they were on the upswing again until that fateful day, October 20, 1977.  During that time, I was just starting to embrace Album Rock radio after basically growing up on Top 40 stations, and I just happened to be tuned in to the old KY-102 that night when the DJ—I want to say it was Ray Sherman—broke the terrible news.  I also clearly remember the next night and Walter Cronkite’s fairly infamous gaffe, "Three members of the Rock group Len-yerd Skin-yerd died yesterday…" on the "CBS Evening News".  Unquestionably, it was one of the worst tragedies in Rock history...

I do have a couple lingering issues with Lynyrd Skynyrd, though, namely the way keyboardist Billy Powell embellished the plane crash aftermath story on VH-1’s "Behind The Music" when he claimed that Ronnie Van Zant "didn’t have a mark on him" (not true—he died from massive head injuries) and that background singer Cassie Gaines "died in my arms, and in Artimus Pyle’s arms" and that her neck was slit from one side to the other (again, neither claim is true—it would have been impossible for her to die in drummer Artimus Pyle’s arms, since he left the scene to summon help, nor was her neck slit).  I also think it was very low-rent of the band to basically throw Pyle under the bus several years ago when he was wrongly-accused of doing inappropriate things with an underage girl—they basically wanted no more to do with him when the allegations came out and kicked him out of the band, although he was later cleared of the charges but his reputation was ruined—not cool!  Pretty disappointing for a band that prides itself on being like a family, too.  I also have a problem with Van Zant’s widow, Judy, who owns and controls the band’s interests, for selling out and putting their music on TV ads to help Col. Sanders sell chicken.  Thanks to this, I now can’t hear the intro to "Sweet Home Alabama" without also hearing that annoying beedle-beedle-beedle sound effect that KFC dubbed over it.

My Lynyrd Skynyrd Top-10 of All-Time:
1) "Free Bird" (1973)
2) "Call Me The Breeze" (1974)
3) "That Smell" (1977)
4) "You Got That Right" (1977)
5) "Gimme Three Steps" (1973)
6) "Tuesday’s Gone" (1973)
7) "Saturday Night Special" (1975)
8) "Don’t Ask Me No Questions" (1974)
9) "The Needle And The Spoon" (1975)
10) "What’s Your Name?" (1977)

Monday, May 21, 2007

And now a word...

...from our sponsors. Don't fuck with da ferret!


















Come to think of it, he does look like a little European film director, but for some reason, he doesn't really look like this guy...

Meet the new Ballpark--Same as the old Ballpark

Well, not quite the same, but these are the latest renderings of the upcoming renovation of Kauffman Stadium, and I'm very impressed.  The changes are mostly confined to the concourses and the outfield area, yet the essence of the ballpark will be largely maintained.  The changes will be implemented in stages over the next three off-seasons, and completed in time for the 2010 season.  There are more renderings at the Royals official website.  ANDMLB announced that K.C. has been awarded the All-Star Game sometime between 2010 and 2014Sweet!

I heard on the radio today that the Chiefs will announce their official plans for the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium in another month or so...


Oh, by the way, to those of you that are still bitching because you ain't getting your new downtown ballpark in K.C.get over it!!  WE the people voted to insure that two of the coolest sports stadiums on the planet will remain on the planet!  I said this a year ago following the vote, and I'll say it again:  We don't need no stinking new stadiums!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another blog, another Sunday...

I HAD A WOODPECKER THIS MORNING...
On my bird feeder, that is!  Cute little bugger, too.  It's amazing to listen to birds chowing down on bird foodthey make almost the same exact sound as Rice Krispies floating in milk...

COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE TRUE!
As I scan the current beisbol standings, I can't help but note that the Kansas Shitty Royals (for whom winning is a hobby rather than a serious pursuit) have the one more win than the defending champeen St. Louie Cardinals.  True, the Cards have four games in hand with the Royals, buuuut there's still something most definitely wrong with this picture!

UNCLEAR OF THE CONCEPT, YET AGAIN?
I've seen a shitload of TV ads this weekend about law enforcement types who are cracking down on folks not wearing seat belts.  A noble effort, to be sure, but call me stupidwhy are they tipping their collective hands (and wasting a shitload of money too) with this worthless "Click It Or Ticket" TV campaign?  Seems to me that the element of surprise would be far more effective in nailing folks for not buckling up...

BUMPER STICKER OF THE WEEK
"Blind faith in bad leaders is NOT patriotism!"  Amen, brother, amen!  On the same car was a bumper sticker that read "Irate Moderate on boardWhat happened to my country?"  I tend to relate to that attitude...

THE TRUTH HURTS
Kudos from me to staff writer David Martin of our local K.C. alternative paper The Pitch for his feature on the city of Raytown's paranoid efforts to keep Wal-Mart from closing its existing Raytown store and building a new one outside the city limits.  Even though I'm a lifelong Raytown resident (apart from the nine months I lived in St. Joseph whilst toiling in the radio toilet at KKJO), I was not the least bit offended by the following line submitted by Mr. Martin:  "With a downtown that even Greensburg tornado victims might find depressing, Raytown is spending its resources on Highway 350, the auto slum that hastened the central business district's death spiral."  Absolutely fucking accurate, Mr. Martin!  There was a point last summer when I was ready to start up a new charitythe W.W.F.R. Fund (Weed Whackers For Raytown)because the city was apparently unable to keep up with the grass growing between the cracks of its own sidewalks!

I don't mind telling you, folks, I'm more than a tad embarrassed to admit I live in Raytown these days, and our backward-ass redneck reputation isn't undeserved.  The big problem is the Baptists own half of the damn city, and these people are hellbent on making sure that Raytown should remain like Mayberry forever, and that we should party like it's 1959 instead of becoming a fairly modern suburb like our thriving neighbors to the east, Lee's Summit and Blue Springs.  I'm amazed that I can even buy beer in this Puritanical excuse of a suburb...

It was 50 years ago today...

...that the Ruskin Heights tornado hit the southern reaches of the Kansas City area at approx. 7:48 on that Monday night.  It was the deadliest and most destructive tornado ever to hit the K.C. metro area, killing 39 people, injuring over 500, and causing massive property damage all along its 71-mile path, and was on a par in terms of intensity with the recent Greensburg, KS tornado that pretty much wiped out that entire town.  I've long had a fascination about the Ruskin tornado, ever since reading a lengthy account of it in The Kansas City Star on its 20th anniversary in 1977.  Have I really aged 30 years already?  But I digress...

What's really scary to think about is this tornado could have been far worse if it had struck at the same time on the night before or the night after, because the Ruskin High School gymasium would have been full of people on either night during graduation activitiesthe Baccalaureate ceremony took place on Sunday night, and the Commencement would have taken place on Tuesday at that same hour.  As you can see by what was left of the gym (the arches in the upper right of the above photo), the death toll would have most assuredly been infinitely higher.  The other pic here creepilybut quite accuratelydescribes the aftermath.  In another odd coincidence, local KCMO-Channel 5 TV viewers were interrupted by storm bulletins both during "I Love Lucy" at 7:00, and another CBS show called "December Bride" at 7:30 which ironically featured a character named Lily Ruskin.  Too weird...

Interestingly enough, the house I currently live in (built in 1954) was in the path of that tornado at one point, but it veered about a mile east of here and crossed through what is now known as Knobtown and headed in the direction of Blue Springs before finally lifting for good after being on the ground for over two hoursa rarity for any tornado.

There is an excellent website that commemorates the tragedy and provides more background and history than I'm able to here.  Considering the many major tornadoes that have struck throughout what's known as "Tornado Alley" since 1957, it's amazing that the Kansas City area hasn't been hit with something far worse than what hit 50 years ago tonight.  We're really lucky in that respect, I think...