Album Review – Wyldlife – “Out On Your Block”

Wyldlife - "Out On Your Block"

Yes, I know that I am going back in time for this one.  I was listening to the more recent release from Wildlife called “Year of the Snake” and even though that is a good record, my own mind said, “They had one I liked more…sometime in the past…when was that..?”  At which point I dug through a lot of old music info and realized it was “Out on Your Block.”  And no, I do not have any criticism of “Year of the Snake” to offer…but my personal opinion is that this 2017 release is just better….and the cover art is quite interesting.

If you are not familiar with Wyldlife I think they are best described as a punk / rock and roll cross with an edgy 80’s sound and style.  They play very well and put together solid songs that sometimes seem simple on your first listen but usually have a good bit of complexity running around in the background.  

This album kicks off with “Desperate Times” and this one has a nice, driving guitar that carries it along very well.  I think my only complaint is that the vocals are a  little bit too “screamy” at some points but it still sounds good.  That is followed up by “Teenage Heart” that has a definite 80’s beat and feel to it…and I mean that in a good way.  The lyrics even reflect that era as does the call-out chorus line.  I really like the bass work on this song also as it provides a great foundation for the music and peeks through at the just the right moments.  

The next song “Keepsakes” is one of my two favorites, both because it tells a simple but good story and also for its punchy delivery of the music.  The lyrics, such as “you were misery that I couldn’t figure out,” are compelling and stark.  That is followed up by “Deadbeat” which has really good guitar sound and even though this is a typical “youth / angst” type song, it is put together and played well.

Track five is “Bandida” which is a guitar and drum driven bopper that will get you jumping along with it if you are so inclined.  It provides a good lead in to “Contraband” which I would call an explosive song.   Building right up from a great drum intro this song has great nervous energy running though it accompanied by wailing and screeching guitar.  The taunting vocal delivery and the drop-out ending seal the deal – a great song. 

“Suburban” is the “meh” song for me on this album as it is a bit too squeaky and whiny for me.  It is followed by “120 Minutes” which is most notable for the guitar work at the 2:30 mark and “Cuffed” which has some very interesting lyrics, good bass lines and some atypical musical moments. 

Last up is “Get Loud” and this one is well worth the wait and another favorite of mine.   The best part of this song, and something that really adds to its overall quality, is that it does not come in super loud like you might expect.   It starts subtly with some swinging drums and guitar, the vocals creeping along and everything slowly building up to crash over briefly at 1:20.  It then holds before slowing down again.  This song is the longest at 4:07 and needs all of that room to develop fully and really shine.   There are a few lyrical gems in here also such as, “beneath the streetlights I wonder why I’m always chasing abuse.”  

Overall, a great album and enjoyable to listen to both for fun and for more serious musical appreciation. 

You can check out more of their music and information on their Bandcamp page https://wyldlife.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local music and art scene – community is powerful! 

Album Review – Romperayo e DJ Tudo + Sua Gente de Todo Lugar- “Rhythmic Emancipation” 

Romperayo e DJ Tudo + Sua Gente de Todo Lugar- “Rhythmic Emancipation”

We are going with some world sounds for this review and I am really pleased that I found this album when I was checking out the releases from the Names You Can Trust label out of Brooklyn, New York.  It may be outside of even the wide-ranging path I follow when listening but that is exactly what I love about exploring music.  There is so much out there, so many great rhythms, melodies, different textures, influences and cultures to experience.  I also often have my Joe Strummer moments and I can definitely see Joe sitting around listening to this record and enjoying some of the sounds.   

This starts off with “Los Mariguano Boys” and I really like the drum rhythms that lead off in this track.  It has a nice, pulsing beat to it that gives it some fun and flair.  That leads into the next song, “Guaracha Campesina Proletaria,” which is just as nice of a rapid tempo dance number as the name implies.  There is a really nice melody line in here, which I believe is delivered on guitar.  There are some subtle changes in tone that also lend some depth.   Right about the 1:30 mark some great horns kick in and catch your attention.  There has always been something about that combination that has peaked my interest and this selection is a great example of the reason for that feeling. 

“La Macumba” is the third selection and I believe the title references a folk religion although I admit I did not have time to look into it further before writing this post.   There is some nice vocal work at the beginning accompanied by the cowbell and then the horns come in to layer in a little mystery.  I really like the trumpets that you can find in the 1:30 to 1:55 range of this track.  The final song is “Encuentro” and I am still trying to work out the sound that lies  underneath the horns at the beginning.  The slower tempo of this arrangement  gives you a real sense of anticipation.  The military style drum beat leads some structure that plays off the horns in an odd but alluring way.   My only complaint here is that I feel this one runs just a little too long.

Overall I really enjoyed this album and the music is just right for a late evening get together or a mid-afternoon at the pool and beach.  There is also some nice artwork on the album cover.  

As I stated above, I picked this up via Names You Can Trust and you can check out their other releases at https://nyctrust.bandcamp.com.

As always, if you have the opportunity, please get out and support your local music and artists – community is powerful ! 

Album Review – Willie Waldman Project “Total Improv”

Willie Waldman Project - Total Improv
Willie Waldman Project – Total Improv

Album Review – Willie Waldman Project  “Total Improv” 

When I saw this pop up as a new release on Bandcamp about a month ago I was happy for two reasons:  one being that I have heard Willie and his assorted musicians in the past and loved it, and also…improv is a great way to experience music.  I have been listening to it for about a month now and offer my thoughts here:) 

First off, I like the cover art – there is something whimsical about, simple even but it still really portrays the idea of improv in an abstract way…if you ask me anyway!

The album kicks off with “Exodus” and hits you early on with some great guitar work and a simple but complimentary back beat.  It is an enjoyable song to listen to although it has an underlying nervous energy.  Right near the mid-point the music plays around with soaring toward the great heights of openness and then crashing back into a valley of horns and guitar.  Also some parts of it sound to me like a very loud, obnoxious train departing for some far-off land… and I mean that in a good way!

A great counter-point follows, with “Misty Night” coming across much more softly and lending you some cool down time after the charging sounds of “Exodus”.  There is some really great trumpet playing here also along with a catchy drum sound that I always think of as a “club beat.”  Listening to it evokes a scene of walking along a river in some urban setting, maybe a few water taxis rolling by as the bars close up around 3 am…the night is winding down and it’s been good one.   Even though “Exodus” is a close second-place, this song is my favorite on this album.  

Arriving next is “Carnival”, for me the only so-so song on this release.  It feels more all-over-the-place than it needs to (even for improv) and also is the longest song.  That may be a contributing factor in my opinion because some parts of it I really liked, such as the guitar that comes in around 2:40, but overall it just went on too long for me. 

The next song, “Lightspeed” has some extremely effective clarinet at the beginning that lends a throaty vibe to the music.  You can really pick out the separate instruments on this selection and I particularly liked the Tabula peeking through the background of the sound.  It is a chill tune, good for pondering or exploring the universe.   Even when it picks up the pace in some sections (starting around the two minute mark) it still maintains an underlying calmness from the bass guitar notes.  Groovy party music for the lounge after the warp drive is engaged 🙂 

Speaking of the Tabula, welcome it warmly at the opening of “Firestorm” as it lends a distinct Middle Eastern vibe that carries through the entire first half of this song.  About midway through the tone changes to something more experimental although the Tabula remains in place.  And then, with about two minute remaining, along comes a great collection of sounds and notes colliding to provide a dramatic, if somewhat unsettling section prior to a smooth exit on the trumpet. 

The final two pieces on this record are “The Loon,” and “Wood”.  While the first of these is light and airy, the final song is a very classic jam and a fitting end-piece to this fine release.  Every time I listen to “Wood” I can picture myself sitting around in a comfortable, familiar place with friends and collaborating in the way that these musicians do.  We might not hit is as well as these talented people…but it would be great fun!

I also want to note that throughout this record there is some really great bass guitar work that lends a solid foundation to the tracks.  It also takes a more prominent role on some songs (a fine example being “Wood”) and delivers great grooves.  “Total Improv” is an overall solid listen  that gave me (so far) a month of enjoyment with very regular listening.  The compositions are expansive and I found myself discovering nuances each time I played it.  I encourage you to check it out!

You can visit their Bandcamp page at https://williewaldmanproject.bandcamp.com to listen to this record and find out more about the band.  

Please remember to support your local musicians and artists, during these challenging times and always.  Community is powerful 🙂 

Album Review – The Tellways “Out To The Cosmos”

The Tellways - Out To The Cosmos
The Tellways – Out To The Cosmos

As I was casting about for new music this week I ended up looking toward Michigan and came upon the recent release by Detroit’s The Tellways which is titled Out To The Cosmos.  I gave it a listen and came away impressed by the composition of the music and the nice way that they weave Motown and R&B influences in with island sounds.   Soul and reggae music have always had a subtle equivalency to me and those parallels are evident within the music on this record.  

The lead-off track is “Anxious” and it is a good listen with a slightly (and appropriately) nervous undertone, simple yet poignant message and some very nice horns 🙂 

The next song is “Keepin’ Me Up” and you can definitely hear those Motown influences within the music.  That call-back to soul and R&B was evident within the first minute and yet was still subtle enough to blend in well with the Caribbean rhythms.   

“Believe Them The First Time” has a slow, soothing flow to it and delivers a direct and simple message.  I really liked how the horns were woven in here also and the way they provided accents to the other instrumentation on this song.  I have listened several times and this remains my favorite on this album.

That is followed by “I Don’t Need To Tell You” and “Cool And Luke” which flow nicely within the album although I did not think they were especially notable other than the beginning to “Cool Hand Luke.”

When I read the title of the next track, “Space Force,” I was not sure what direction it was going to take…and I am still not 100% sure of its underlying intent.  Humor? Sarcasm? It remains a mystery to me but I did find the line, “we brought our own water,” to at least be quite funny.

“Tellway Stomp” is a feel good song celebrating the band’s sound and positive influence and is followed by “You’re Really Something (2020)”, another track where you can really hear the R&B vibes.  The next three songs (“Closer – 2020”, “Let Me In -2020” and “Friendly -2020”) are solid inclusions, with the middle track of the three being the standout.  It runs a close second-place for my favorite song on the album. 

The album closes out with “Bow To Your Sensei (2020)” which is a very good (mostly) instrumental track with solid composition that includes horns, and some great guitar and bass.  It feels a little heavy when listening but puts a nice finishing touch on “Out To The Cosmos” and sent me away feeling good 🙂 

Overall I really like this band and what they bring instrumentally and with their direct lyrics.  When you listen to this record is comes across mostly as a reggae / ska mix but you definitely find yourself with several pleasing,  “Wait, what was that?,” type moments.  And it will certainly get you feeling groovy and dancing! 

You can check out all of The Tellways music and info at their Bandcamp page https://thetellways.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local music scene, musicians and artists.  Community is powerful 🙂 

Album Review – The Arches “Abandoned”

The Arches just released  a new album called “Abandoned” – I checked it out and here are my thoughts 🙂 

First of all – that cover art is great and especially eye-catching to me as I am an “urban decay and abandoned industrial things” photographer myself.  Check out their Bandcamp page for a higher resolution photo – It is quite a stark image.  I also think there is a mysterious cat lurking in one of those upstairs portholes…or an extremely large rat…what you do think? 

anyway…

The set starts out with “Just Killing Time” which has a slight haunting quality to it, especially as the lyrical refrain “I know you’re no good, I know you’re no good for me,” floats over the music.  This is probably the most “pop” song on the album although I suspect The Arches may not be aiming for pop notoriety…it just struck me that way when I listened to it.  

There are some good drum beats on the next track “Rise UP” which gives it an “anthem you can dance to” feeling.  That song then bleeds over well into “Mikola.”  It is one of those great transitions that I always try to put into playlists I make…they just fit next to each other.  Now, I have no idea what that word means or what meaning it might have to the band…but do not look it up on Urban Dictionary if you are a PG-rated person! 

The next track, “Baby Face Assassin,” is a music-only number that really caught my attention.   It had me making up my own lyrics, albeit a simple “there’s a baby face assassin coming for me, and I think that it’s time to leave” as I closed my eyes and got a little lost in the composition.  

The next two songs were the toughest part of the record for me.  “Apocalypsing” really had me scratching my head a bit…although that usually means I missed the point so I suspect some of you out there will love it.  The following track “Stuck in a Loop” has a kind of eerie discordance inside of it running alongside a very pleasant keyboard melody.  It left me feeling just a little bit uneasy.

The album finishes up with “Time Will Tell’ (a dreamy atmospheric type song) and “Mikola Outro” which sends you on your way in a contemplative mood, possibly feeling slightly lost and thoughtful.  It had that effect on me anyway.    

Overall, this is an interesting record which delivers a variety of emotions as you listen to it.  It clocks in at a tight and well-composed twenty-one minutes.  On their Bandcamp site for this album The Arches comment that, “There is beauty in loss and abandonment, in everything.” These songs delivered a sense of that beauty while also leaving me just a little bit uneasy.  

You can check out more on The Arches and buy this album and other music at their Bandcamp page https://the-arches.bandcamp.com/music

Support your local music and artists  – community is powerful 🙂 

Slim Dunlap …good sounds here :)

Yes, I know that I am late to the news on this one but I just had the opportunity to listen to the recent release “Thank you, Dancers!” from the Slim Dunlap Band. This epic was recorded April 27, 2002 at the Turf Club (and as you folks know…I do love the Turf Club 🙂 and really presents a good feeling of what it was like to see Slim and the band in concert. A nice, easy familiar feeling that makes you feel good. Go somewhere and listen to this music – it’s on Bandcamp and I am certain other places also. If you want a place to start check out Breeder’s Cannonball or Busted Up.

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 85)

The next morning Leo was not feeling much better but had pretty much given up on complaining to the jail personnel.  On the 18th U.S Marshals came to get him and moved him over to their holding cell at the federal building in downtown Minneapolis.  They did think he looked ill enough to call for a doctor though and Leo received some medical attention prior to his preliminary hearing on October 19th.  After that he was transported back to the Hennepin County jail to await his next court appearance.  He did not eat anything on the 20th and by that evening, when he met with his lawyer, his skin was noticeably grey.  The attorney was concerned and offered to arrange for some medical treatment but Leo had other things to discuss.

l humbert hearing
l humbert hearing

“Have you talked to my wife?” he asked in a soft, low voice.

“I tried, I really did.  But she isn’t at the house and it looks like most of the things inside are gone.  I peeked in a few windows when no one answered, ya know?  Looked cleared out and the neighbors said a moving truck was there a few days ago.”

“No notes or nothing?”

“Nothing Leo.  And I tried your sister but, well, quite frankly she doesn’t want anything to do with you.  You sure about not wanting a doctor?  I can get one in here.  You look like hell.”

“Ah, it’s too late,” Leo replied with a feeble wave of his hand, “not much time left I don’t think.  We need to talk about that guy I told you about, that bomb-maker.  You gotta help find him and bring him in. Here’s a few,”

“Listen,” the lawyer interjected, “I know you are fired up about finding this guy.  Right now, let’s just try to get you into a medical ward, ok?  I think we need to focus on your case and getting you better also.”

“It don’t matter about me right now, I gotta make sure someone gets that guy.”

“I’ll be back in touch Leo, right now I have to go see another client,” the lawyer replied and quickly gathered up papers into his briefcase. 

“It ain’t gonna be ok I tell ya,” Leo muttered, “you gotta get this info from me now.”

“I’ll get it next time, ok?”

Then the man was gone and the jail guards took Leo back to his cell where he collapsed into his hard bunk and fell asleep.  He did not line up for the morning roll call on the 21st and a guard found him semi-alert in his bed.  They left him lying there through breakfast and then, when he did not want to get up to go to lunch, forcibly carried him from his cell to the meal line.  Munching his way slowly through a ham sandwich Leo sat alone at the edge of a table.  They also had to carry him back to his cell when meal time was over and the guard who closed his cell door turned back to speak to him.

“You’re making this all harder than it needs to be Humbert,” the guard said, “you ain’t gonna make any friends here if we have to carry you to every damn meal.”

Leo sighed first, then replied, “I’m sick, you know that right.  It’s pretty damn obvious if you look at me.  Maybe one of you should finally get me a doctor.”

“I heard about you complaining about being sick and I’ll agree you look it.  I thought they were getting you one?  That should’a happened already.”

“Well, it didn’t,” Leo answered, “and I doubt it will.  I don’t think anyone here is listening.”

The guard ambled away without a reply to that and Leo drifted off to sleep.  He did get himself up for dinner and although he did not eat much that seemed to make the guards happy.  He made a phone call that evening attempting to reach his lawyer and wrote a short note that was later found in his cell.  The contents of that note have never been revealed although it is thought to have been directed to his attorney.  On the 22nd Leo continued to comply with getting himself up for meals and tried several more times to reach his lawyer.  After the evening meal he played two hands of cribbage in the common area and then went back to his cell.

At 6:52 pm jail guard Henry Willis, who had been working there for nine years, announced that he was going on his break a few minutes early.  Due to another guard having left sick a few hours earlier, and no replacement being available, this left just one guard on-duty at the front desk area of the jail.  That guard, Jerry Timmons, had only been working there for three months, having just come off his probationary period of employment.  

“Yeah sure thing Henry, I’ll keep the place in shape for ya,” he replied to Willis’ announcement.  

Ten minutes later a man entered through the side door, a way that official persons, deputies and medical staff usually used to access the jail.  The man, past middle-age and about six feet tall displaying wisps of  sandy blonde hair under a large brim fedora, walked up to the desk and announced he was a doctor.

“Ah, hello.  I don’t recall seeing any orders up about a medical visit,” Timmons replied.  “You sure you’re in the right place?” 

“I am,” the man replied and then stood silently, green eyes blinking back at the guard.

“Ok, well, I’ll look again.  Who are you here to see?”

“Some sick prisoner obviously, I think they said his name was Homberg.”

Timmons was looking through the daily log book and other papers but thought he recognized the name.  “Humbert?  Leo Humbert?”

“Yeah, sounds right,” the man replied while glancing at his pocket watch.  “How about you let me in to see him before any more of my night gets wasted?”

“I still don’t see it here, you know, the order for a medical on Humbert.  It’s always in here.”

“Ok kid, no offense, but I come here all the time.  I don’t recognize you, so maybe you’re new.  But they sent me to see this guy so let’s just get it over with, ok?  It’s probably damn indigestion anyways.”

Timmons glanced down at the orders book again, up at the doctor, over to the door and then back at the doctor.  The man had a resigned, nonchalant look on his face and did not raise any of the young guards suspicions.  After several more seconds Timmons let him in, forgetting to have the doctor sign the official visitor log. 

“I’ll walk you down doctor, just hang on until my partner gets back, ok?”

“What’s the cell number?  I can just walk down there and ask him a few questions.  Like I said, it’s probably indigestion.”

“Well, yeah, it’s 104.”

The doctor walked off at a brisk pace once Timmons opened the interior cell walkway door for him and was surprisingly back at the same gate about two minutes later, rapping his knuckles again the bars.  Timmons hurried over to let him back through to the secured area.

“That was very fast doctor.  Is he ok?”

“Oh yes, he’s just fine.  Quite a faker.  I’m going to return to my own dinner now if that’s ok with you,” the doctor replied, gesturing toward the secured exit door.

“Of course, yes sir.  Hope you have a good night,” Timmons replied cheerfully and unlocked the door.  

Ten minutes later Henry Willis returned, realized something unusual had taken place in his absence and rushed down to Leo’s cell.  He found him lying on the floor, gasping for breath and with his eyes starting to roll back into his head.  He opened the cell and went in to attempt to help but when he leaned down Leo grabbed his shirt and hissed into his ear.

“Remember that hotel fire, 1940, it was murder, look up the clock-maker. Find him.” 

After that declaration Leo become unresponsive and he died a few hours later at the hospital.  The official cause of death was never released although allusions to it being related to diabetic shock were made in the press and by jail authorities. 

Leo Humbert, a historical curiosity and a bit on an enigma,  was buried on October 26, 1967 at Sunset Memorial Park.   Amanda faded into historical obscurity and Stanley Bittenhopper was never caught or heard from again. 

The End.

For those of you who want to know, this is the article that started this long journey along with a few other documents relating to the story of Leo Humbert’s life. 

l humbert final article
l humbert final article
L Humbert FBI 1
L Humbert FBI 1
L Humbert FBI 2
L Humbert FBI 2
L Humbert fingerprints
L Humbert fingerprints
L Humbert intake 1
L Humbert intake 1
L Humbert intake 2
L Humbert intake 2
L Humbert early record listing
L Humbert early record listing
L Humbert early MBCA
L Humbert early MBCA
L Humbert prison card
L Humbert prison card

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 81)

The time period from his loss of the King Company job and the start of 1966 were filled with longer and longer absences from home, an increase in diabetic symptoms and attacks, more crime and a return to his womanizing ways.  He did maintain his cover while back in St. Anthony with Amanda and Sharon, getting right back into the groove of home life for the limited amount of time he spent with them.  He read his newspapers, went to church, worked at his role as a father and purchased gifts for Amanda.  He did still frequent the Gay 90’s club where he was a popular regular and as one former manager put it, “he loved that place and we loved him.”  When he was not with his family in Minnesota he had his other side on full display as he frequented clubs in many cities, had a large cache of girlfriends and spent his days plotting crimes.  When he did pull off a job, he was increasingly direct and stern when committing those acts, not suffering fools or any attempts by victims to deviate from his instructions.  He did not kill anyone but several people suffered pistol-whipping or gut punches after he judged them to be non-complaint.   

In late December of 1965 Leo was hospitalized in Montana after a severe diabetic incident and did not get released until ten days later.  When he was finally out he walked away from the hospital feeling uncertain of his future.  Beneath his tough demeanor even Leo knew that this last incident was a dire sign and that he may not have much longer to live.  Although he never had followed medical advice very well he had thought he was getting along well enough with his combination of partial compliance with doctor’s instructions, home-made remedies and general tough-guy refusal to be sick.  He was not so sure anymore about his immortality and quickly spun into a depression.  Eventually he made his way back to St. Anthony and although he never told Amanda the details of his hospital stay, she could tell that he had been sick and was not doing very well.  It was in January of 1966, while home with his family, that Leo met Tracy King one night at the Gay 90’s.  He was still feeling low and a bit depressed and they quickly started dating.  

The relationship accelerated quickly, much past the point Leo usually stoped at with his girlfriends and in May of 1966 he agreed to take her with him on his next trip.  He had already staked out a possible bank robbery in New Mexico which is where they headed.  The job was successful and that night Leo, flush with cash and with crime fueling his good spirits, got caught up in the mood and agreed to marry Tracy.  He thought better of that by the next morning and realized he was in a bit of a situation. He had to admit to himself that he did have deeper feelings for her than was usual and also that he enjoyed her company quite a bit.  She was young and full of energy, thought him to be quite the dashing gentleman and fit in well when they went out to clubs and dinner.  Deciding that he wanted to make her happy, Leo paid a man in Albuquerque to pretend he was a minister, after which he took Tracy to a park where that man performed the ceremony. 

Immediately after that they traveled to Denver, Colorado as Tracy stated she wanted to move there because she had family in the nearby area.  Leo set her up in an apartment and gave her some additional money for living expenses.  Telling her that he would be on the road quite often but would ensure that she was well-taken care of, he then departed and was back in St. Anthony by early June.  As he whiled away some time in his domestic role Leo came to realize that he had complicated his life quite a bit and that his expenses were going to go up considerably.  Having to maintain two residences, juggle his relationships and make time for everyone, along with plotting and committing enough crime to pay for it all, was going to be a challenge.  Leo felt certain that he was going to be able to make it work.  He did well for almost a year and although he was not getting rich from crime he did manage to make enough to keep both his Minnesota and Colorado lives rolling along smoothly.  

1967 Buick Skylark

1967 Buick Skylark

On May 1, 1967 Leo was in Carson City, Nevada and involved in a car theft scheme that he had set up.  In an unusual move for him there were some other players involved in this caper, mostly because it had expanded rapidly and Leo needed experienced car thieves to keep up with the demands of the chop shop he was working with at the time.  One of these men, Charlie Kittle, who had just joined up with the car-theft crew had also known Leo in the 1920’s back in Bakersfield.  A comment by Charlie one cold afternoon stunned Leo and brought some old feelings and memories back up to the surface.  The two of them were hanging out at the chop shop after Charlie had turned over a Buick Skylark he had taken from a grocery store parking lot.  

“What brought ya out here to Carson City anyway?” Leo asked.

“Hell, I was running from a botched job in Atlanta.  Big mess really, on a safe cracking gig.  Damn explosives malfunctioned and almost took the building down.  Two guys killed right there.  I ran for it but the noise had drawn a crowd out in the street.  Musta’ been twenty folks that saw me clear as day.  This is about a far away as I could get.”

“Sounds like one hell of a mess indeed,” Leo replied as he lit a cigarette.

“No kidding.  Your old buddy was to blame for it, too.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, you know, that wacko clock-maker you hung out with in Bakersfield back in the day.  It was his job. He’s the one that lit up that building.”

…to be continued

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A Burning Cold Morning (Part 80)

As that year moved into spring Leo felt that he definitely needed to get some additional money stashed away to ensure that he could properly provide for his growing family.  This marked a period of time in which very slowly but steadily his time and attention were more focused on the planning and commission of crimes.  Although he still stuck mostly with bank robberies there were some occasions when he returned to stealing cars or grifting.  He ran a few fake jewelry schemes in Nevada and New Mexico, including one in which he narrowly escaped capture in Reno.  He had been running that operation under an alias of course but the close call did scare him enough that he mostly stuck with banks and cars after he managed his getaway from the police.  Leo, when home, played the part of father in a forced but kind way, trying to interact with Sharon especially when she was playing outside in the yard or at the park.  That seemed to be much more comfortable for him than other parental tasks such as teaching life skills, reading stories or enforcing discipline.  He and Amanda continued with a strained, lukewarm relationship and Leo spent most of his free time pouring over out-of-town newspapers.  He often would leaf through eight or more of these every day, seemingly skimming the pages in a manner that made no sense to his wife.  She questioned him about it a couple of times but his non-responsive answers made it clear he was not interested in discussing it with her.  As it seemed harmless enough she just figured he was restless to be back on the road or was looking for information to help him with sales opportunities while he traveled.  

As the end of 1962 approached, Leo’s performance for King Manufacturing had hit a low point.  Internal documents reveal that the executives in the company had been aware of the decline going back to at least 1957.  It seems as though they had held several meetings to discuss Leo’s roles with the company and the possibility of firing him had come up first in 1959.  That time he was saved mostly by his prior reputation, although he was confronted with the issue and made aware for the first time about the company’s concerns.  He turned things around starting after that meeting and lasting through the fall of 1960 when things began again to decline.  There were some highs and lows in his performance after that, seemingly always just enough to head off another confrontation.  However, by November of 1962 the company general manager had seen enough and called Leo back to Flint for a meeting.  He arrived over an hour late blaming an issue with his vehicle.  As always, Leo was sharply dressed and still exuded confidence and charisma. 

His issues were of course caused by the criminal activities which were taking up more and more of his time.  Bank robbery had become an extremely risky thing to do as law enforcement tactics had evolved as had bank technology and security.  Leo found himself having to do more extensive planning and surveillance than ever before to ensure success, all of which took him away from his real job of selling for King Company.   The general manager started the meeting with an abrupt statement.

“Right now Leo, you are basically here to convince me not to fire you.”

Leo blinked back in reply, took a deep breath and replied, “You know, after all this time, that’s a bit of an unfair way to jump on me.”

“Yes, well that may seem so, but the issues with your productivity really have to be faced by you and quite frankly, by us.  You have been with us a long time, eighteen years in fact, and there were some great times in there.  Your record as a sales manager back then and for many years, really top-notch stuff Leo.  That’s not now though, and your previous success has well, basically it is why you still have a job right now.  But you’ve burned up all of that goodwill and consideration.  These last years have been several variations of poor or awful and we need to move on.  Look at this report on your productivity.”  He slid a few sheets of paper across the large wooden desk toward Leo. “Your run is done, maybe you can find another start at something else, get your fire going again like back in the day with us.”

The GM steepled his fingers together as he finished speaking, peering at Leo over the top of his reading glasses.  Leo looked down at the top page of the reports, saying nothing and not picking them up.  Several tense seconds clicked by on the wall clock behind the desk, the GM continuing to stare at him.  Finally, Leo looked up and delivered a very impassioned response, citing a long litany of good deeds done for the company mixed in among details about the increasingly difficult sales scene in the United States.  He went on for over ten minutes and finally the GM gave in and stated, “exactly one more chance Humbert, just this last one.  Go out and save your career and you better start at it right now.”

Nothing came of that chance as Leo was much too involved in casing a bank in Billings, Montana to spend much time selling. On March 3, 1963 the GM called him at his hotel and stated he needed to see Leo again back in Flint.  When Leo told him that he was working a “hot sale” and could not return immediately, the GM replied that Leo needed to be sitting in his office on March 6th or he would be terminated.  That day passed without Leo showing up and so ended his career at King Manufacturing. 

He did not inform his family about losing that job and continued to act as if he was still a traveling sales manager.  It was now necessary for all of his income to be made from crime as he had no intention of trying to arrange another legitimate career.  This actually made him happier as he had grown increasingly frustrated with the normal business and work world.  The seven year period where he had been devolving slowly back into his old lifestyle had made him realize that it was the only situation with which he was actually content.  It was high stress, dangerous and exciting, all things which he felt suited him perfectly.  

…to be continued