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Top-Rail News Flash! * 22 December 2019 Merry Christmas!

Howdy Top-Rail Bunch!

Merry Christmas to one and all! And thank you for your cards and letters. Here’s my toast to you. May you have a Happy New Year filled with lots family, friends, beer, and fried alligator! Ha! I trust that all of you had a pleasant and satisfying Thanksgiving. I know that I did. Joe is taking a break, so this Issue is all mine. And quite a few things have happened since the June Issue.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that on 6 October 2019 I posted my 1000th video on my YouTube Channel.. “Mike Johnson Art Vol. 2 “Some Early Oil Paintings” features some of my earliest works, good, bad, hmm… the earliest painting was in 1958, I believe. One constant thing was that I didn’t always use the appropriate mediums, ie; canvas, canvas board, special art papers, etc. I drew and painted on whatever was available at the time. Over the years I’ve scanned a great majority of my art into my system and saved them on an external hard drive. I have an Epson scanner/printer that has an 11” x 17” scanner bed and can print 13” x 19” images. I must confess that, in all honesty, back then I was kinda cheap! Money that I should have been spending on appropriate art supplies [which I did sometimes] was spent on beer, motorcycles, guns, belt buckles, and darkroom supplies. As of today, 22 December 2019 that number is now 1,031 videos, and counting.

Mike Johnson Art Vol. 2 “Some Early Oil Paintings”

My "38 Years of Music Productions" DVD has enjoyed modest sales and very favorable feedback. While there is a YouTube version on my Channel, the DVD contains separate Chapters that you can view individually at your leisure instead of trying to force yourself into watching the whole hour and a half video all at once. I also decided to extend our bonus offer to 1 January 2019. When you purchase the DVD from our Roughshod Records Web Store, we will include my latest CD released in June 2019, a two song Single featuring "Cockco Doodle Doo!" and Preposterous!" I think the former song might be somewhere, in some form, on my YouTube Channel.

Roughshod Records Web Store:


I received a surprising blast from the past on 8 October 2019 when my friend Sharon Marie sent me a digital copy of her mom’s new 2019 release, "Yodeling Blonde Bombshell" Volume 3, featuring Carolina Cotton, a very popular singer, yodeler, actress and radio celebrity during the 1940s and 1950s! Unfortunately, this marvelous entertainer passed away in June 1997 in Bakersfield, California.

While I never met Carolina, I do recall seeing a couple of her movies as a child because I was a huge fan of Western movies and the singing cowboys, and cowgirls. This release is chocked full of wonderful songs from the Western Swing era, with a couple of numbers in very fluent Spanish; “Cachita” and Farolita.” Some of my other favorites are Granma’s Old Arm Chair” “The Cowboy’s Life” “Sally Get Your Hoecake Done” and “Bless Your Heart.” This album definitely took me back to my childhood days when life was sometimes magical. In fact, Sharon gave me permission to post a video of me driving down the road and listening to her mom sing and yodel “The Cowboy’s Life.” I played her CD in the car for two weeks and it remains in my road rotating stack!

Quite a few of the songs feature an almost forgotten instrument, the Accordion, whose sound I've always liked. I was privileged to become friends with Sharon Marie, also the heir and producer of Carolina’s works, through our involvement with Bart Plantenga in 2005 when he was compiling yodeling songs for the “Rough Guide to Yodel” CD which was released in 2006 by the World Music Network in London, England. Besides Carolina and myself, my friend Janet McBride, the Yodeling Queen, was also on that CD, along with 12 others. Sharon and I have been email friends since then and have shared a wealth of music related stuff with each other. For more on the fantastic life of Carolina Cotton, please visit her website. Did you know that Carolina Cotton was part of the expedition to bring an actual pole to the North Pole?

Official Carolina Cotton web site.

Yodeling Blonde Bombshell - Carolina Cotton

Bart Plantenga is the author of two best-selling books on the history of yodeling, "Yodel-Ay-Ee-OOoo, The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World published by Rutledge in New York and Great Britain (2004) and "Yodel In HiFi" (2012) published by the University of Wisconsin Press. I'm in the second book, after having been contacted by Bart in 2005. I met Bart in 2005 after he invited me to participate in his yodel book lecture of his first yodel book at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York. Yodelers Randy Erwin and Lyn Books were also there, and we each gave a demonstration of our yodeling styles to a highly enthusiastic and engaging audience. This was my first public performance since 2003 when a cervical spinal cord compression incapacitated me. In layman's terms, three neck vertebrae collapsed on my spinal cord!

The Ken Burns Country Music series was released on DVD by Netflix on 22 October 2019 in an 8-disc set. I saw the first Chapter on TV, sort of. I was working on a project and the TV was just playing. I’m on the fence with what I saw so I won’t go into any details, yet. However I did place the series in my DVD mail-out Que and when I have some real time on my hands I’ll watch it. So, if you are a Netflix DVD subscriber, here’s your chance to watch each Chapter at your leisure. I only caught part of the first chapter because I was busy with a couple of projects. So, now the entire series is in my DVD Que.


Other happenings:

Heather Mae’s CD “Glimmer” is a no show! On 1 December 2018 I received an email from this local musician who was soliciting funds for her new CD project. My reaction was “cool” because I knew Heather to be a great musician and Sax player, with whom I had played a few times at the Sunday jams at the Old Firestation No.3 in Fairfax Virginia! So, after sending her a money order to help the cause, for which I would get an autographed CD and a digital download.

Heater Mae, Heather Mae? Do I know a Heather Mae? Something seemed off. After more digging, it turns out I had confused her with my fantastic Sax playing friend, Heather Haze, who wasn’t currently working on any new productions! Heather Mae, on the other, was someone I had merely filmed at an Old Firestation No.3 Sunday jam. Something I did quite often at music jams without necessarily knowing the performers personally. However, upon inquiring after the initial release date passed, she told me that it had been pushed to September 2019 and that I would certainly get my copy. this month I learned that she had raised about $27,000 for her CD project! But as of today, 22 December 2019 I still haven't received my copy, which was supposed to deliver in August 2019!

In August 2019, I was invited to join Singin’ Sam LaRosa and his significant other, Vicki, who went to take Linda out for a birthday lunch. Afterwards we returned to her retirement home where Sam and Vicki provided a little party with decorated cupcakes and drinks. I went down to visit Linda on Sunday 22 December 2019 and took her a tin of Christmas cookies and a photo of Brenda Weitzel & myself, and Sam & Vicki for her.

On 29 September 2019 I saw Brenda Weitzel and Bert Huser perform at the Electric Palm Restaurant, a popular waterfront hangout, in Woodbridge, Virginia. Lisa brought her mother Linda Caldwell up for the show which turned out to be somewhat of a ‘family’ [of musicians] reunion. Linda, retired, owned the Coffee House of Occoquan in Occoquan Virginia and hosted music events for over a decade. Sam and Vicki were also frequent patrons of Linda’s place. Even Bob and Sheila Everhart of the National Traditional Country Music Association performed there on a very blistering winter night in December 2009.

Local music friend Jeff Seidel has been recovering from hip replacement surgery in a motel, and is scheduled for another surgery to replace the other hip. He was declared to be “too” healthy for a Rehab Center so his health insurance company put him in a hotel! Still elusive as ever, Jeff pops up every now and then. Ha!

My semi-retired music friend, Rocky Guttmann is back on the music circuit again, adding Wegman’s Cafés to his lineup, and an occasional gig at Murphy’s in Old Town Alexandria. One down in the Richmond area where he lives, and one in the Hill Top Village Shopping Center in Alexandria, Virginia on Beulah Road. Maintenance on his national forest has caused him to temporarily step back into the limelight. But he loves it and his fans really missed him when he ‘retired’ to be home with the wife and grandkids. Just the other day he told me that he had ordered some additional copies of his Irish CD, “Rocky’s Road to Dublin.” For those of you who love Irish music, this is a must have!

I’ve been there several times and was rather impressed at the setup. It has a sizable café, a bar, and a children’s play area. Several years back I use to take my Uncle Gordon shopping at Wegman’s in Maryland but it didn’t have what the new ones have. My uncle was a big fan of my music and would regularly buy my new releases to give to his friends in Tucson. I would have to threaten him with a stick to accept freebies.

Rocky Guttmann’s Website

Speaking of food markets, while searching for something or another on the internet I stumbled across the gator meat being sold at the Wal-Mart in Dumfries, Virginia. They also sell crawfish tails! Yep, I couldn’t believe my eyes, so the next day I drive down there and sure enough, it was true. They have fresh gator tails and seasoned and breaded nuggets, in one pound packages! The crawdads come in 12oz. packages.

Almost immediately some of my friends indicated that I no longer have to go to Florida to get my gator. They were met with a very swift response of “Don’t ruin my road trip!” I’m a retired long-distance trucker and still like to get out on the big road, the gator meat being only one factor for the Florida run. Besides, in Florida I was paying an average of $6 to $8 a pound, whereas Wal-Mart charges $13.44 a pound! They will be my emergency backup if I can’t get out of town, or as is currently happening, the Florida prices have spiked to about $15 a pound because of hurricane and storm caused damage. Now what does this have to do with music, you ask. It keeps me singing!

Fortunately, my music friends Barbara Dunn down in Santa Fe, Texas, and PJ Price down in Houston, Texas have been spared the wrath of Mother Nature as she raged through the state this year. My friends, Diane and Shane Gunnell are finally back up and running after their home and property was flooded by the river behind them down in North Carolina. I've been doing quite well since my June 2018 stroke, and the VA has been staying on top of things.


Murphy runs rampant at Roughshod Records:

Ever had one of those Murphy days when Murphy just runs rampant? Well I've had several over the past couple of months! I pushed the ‘play’ button on my 5-try Sony/Magnavox CD player and it took up residence inside the case for several months. Not to worry because it has a remote. I eventually pulled it apart to repair it. Couldn’t repair the plastic ligament so I melted the ‘play’ in place, and it’s now collecting dust until I decide to trash it. It plays well, but most people listen to music on their IPods and such.

My 5-tray Sony DVD/CD player suddenly decided that it was only going to read CDs, so I bought a single DVD player. Eventually I got tired of getting up the change discs so I bought another Sony 5-tray DVD/CD player and the DVDs are playing perfectly. I replaced the 5-tray [older] Sony/Magnavox with the [newer] Sony 5-tray player that now only plays CDs, and is a much better unit.

My 40” Samsung HDTV, that I bought brand new in January 2019, went south a month or so ago! I replaced it with a 40” LG HDTV in July of this year and returned it within a month because of programming issues. Turns out they were made basically for hotels and motels and wouldn’t program like the Samsung did. So the LG got swapped for another 40” Samsung HDTV which has ‘smart’ features. I turned off the ‘smart’ part because I don’t want the internet on my TV! That’s what I have 3 computers for! I bought a Roku Box when Netflix first launched its streaming service, and it allows me to watch movies and YouTube videos on my TV and subscribe to a massive volume of other streaming services, if I want, which I don’t. And no, Disney is not one of them!

My Teac Dual Cassette Deck Recorder that I use for demos and my Philips CDR765 Digital Audio CD Recorder also went south a couple of months ago. Fortunately, I had backup units and all I had to do was swap them out and rewire. Ha! It took me a whole day! Well, everything is up and running and working like they should. I plan on replacing the backup Classic Digital Audio CD Recorder with another Philips because it’s a much better and easier unit to use for mastering CDs.


YouTube’s Algorithms aren’t always accurate:

Around 6 October 2019 I received a YouTube message stating that Warner-Chappell, PEDL, and UMPG Publishing lodged a Copyright Claim stating that my video “James Adelsberger sorting out Me and My Sad Self” was using the melody of their song “God Is Love.” What the…! Of course I disputed their claim! Two days later I decided to locate and listen to their song and found it on YouTube. Don’t see any resemblance other than both songs have a fiddle in them. More importantly though, is that my song was written back in 1988 and released in 2008 by me, in 2014 by James, and again in 2017 by me. Their song, after an exhaustive search, revealed that it was written not so long ago, so if anything, their song was infringing on mine! YouTube contacted me to say that Warner-Chappell and the others had dropped their claim. Basically, those monitoring algorithms sometimes rely on snippets of data, thereby producing bogus claims. In this case, they tried to claim my whole song! My insistence that our songs were not the same also spared them a copyright from me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to defend my songs against YouTube claims and it probably won’t be the last. I just thank my mother, and my music mentor Jim Stanton, who always encouraged me to catalog my works. The end result is that I have two large music catalogs. One lists all the songs I written and co-written and are listed by title, writer[s], dates written and dates copyrighted. The other lists each release by title, artist[s], songwriter[s] producer, label, release date, ISRC numbers, BMI catalog number, and barcodes. I also have a music mail-out list dating back to March 1981 that shows everyone I’ve mailed my music to. The creation of the internet it has made it a lot easier to monitor my songs for illegal usage. Only a couple of times have I had to issue a take-down order.

I write songs from beginning to end. My melodies and lyrics are almost always in sync with each other. I don’t use ‘beats’ or borrow snippets from other writers’ songs to create mine. When I have a problem completing a song, I create a demo of it just like I do my completed ones, shelve it, and come back to it later. Often when I’m rehearsing or working on some of my other incomplete songs, ideas will spring up to finish some of the incomplete ones. I have over 135 demo tapes containing as many as 20 songs on them, along with corresponding numbered and dated catalog.

Clicking the links below to compare the two songs. For those who don’t get it, my song was written and released many years before theirs was written!

"God is Love" written by Bill & Miss Dee Gaskin


James Adelsberger sorting out “Me and My Sad Self”

During the past year I’ve been asked a few of times why I haven’t added any new releases to my CD Baby site. Simple. A few years back I caught CD Baby stealing my SoundExchange royalties! Their excuse was that they saw that I had ‘unclaimed’ royalties in the SoundExchange account and decided, without my consent or knowledge, to collect them on my behalf! For an administration fee, of course! I discovered this while I was checking on my next CD Baby payout. I also noticed that CD Baby had deceptively and fraudulently placed SoundExchange in their Digital Distribution section as a digital download & CD sales site, like iTunes, Amazon, and other streaming sites! I immediately confronted CD Baby and told them to cease & desist, and return my royalties and warned them that placing SoundExchange in their Digital Distribution platform was fraudulent! I really jumped on SoundExchange and blasted them for turning over my royalties without question, and most specifically asking why I had unclaimed royalties in my account, since I’ve been a SoundExchange member long before I ever put any music on CD Baby! CD Baby returned my money to SoundExchange and they in turn, deposited the money into my checking account. Neither have answered my request to show me the contracts between the two of them authorizing such exchanges, and CD Baby removed the SoundExchange option from their Digital Distribution section.

For the uninformed, SoundExchange is [sic] a royalty collection agency that was authorized by Congress to collect royalties for recording artists and copyright owners from online radio stations and certain streaming platforms. I joined them when they first formed, quit, and re-joined again. Their initial launch was dysfunctional and riddled with problems. Most notable was they were constantly losing members’ data, their site would freeze, and every time they upgraded their platform, the data would disappear and would have to be resubmitted! Frankly, I have always been leery of any entity that wants to collect my royalties for me!

Taylor Swift was making a lot of noise recently regarding her music catalog and her song rights. Music industry people in the know basically ignored her because they knew that she was misleading the general public by trying to play the victim. So, what did she claim, and was it legitimate? Basically, no. Remember, songs and master recordings are two different animals and one must know the difference and who controls those rights.

1. Taylor claimed that her former record label Big Machine cheated her out of her music catalog by refusing to sell it to her and then backtracked to say they sold it without giving her a chance to buy it. False! They offered her a chance to buy it and she refused!

2. Record labels own the master recordings. It’s a standard music industry practice. The masters are their bread and butter, and they are under no legal obligation to sell an artist's catalog to the artist.

3. Taylor also complained that Big machine was blocking her from using her masters on an upcoming TV show. She doesn’t own them so she can’t use them! The Music Venue generally obtains the appropriate licenses from the rights owner.

4. Taylor claimed that she was being blocked from singing some of those songs live. She can sing her heart out as long as the Music Venue obtains the appropriate licenses from the rights owner.

Taylor Swift was signed to Big Machine at the tender age of 15. I'm guessing, as is so often the case with newcomers, particularly young newcomers, that she, nor her parents, fully understood the terms of her recording contract, probably didn't read it thoroughly, or simply just didn't care, because the potential for making a lot of money dulled their senses. You have to know the rules and how the game is played in the shark infested waters of the music industry, or you'll get eaten alive!

Now comes the interesting revelation. Out of curiosity I checked out Taylor Swift’s BMI song catalog. Before you get your panties in a wad, the BMI Song Catalog is accessible to the general public, though music people are the ones most likely to use it because this is just one of a number of sources that music users go to when looking to cover songs by specific writers and music publishers. Taylor has a total of 134 songs that have been recorded and released registered with BMI. Of those, she wrote 48 songs by herself and shares publishing rights with up to 2 other publishers, this is excluding her own Taylor Swift publishing. The remaining 85 songs in her catalog were co-written, in some instances, with as many as 4 co-writers, and the publishing was shared with as many as 7 other music publishers, again, excluding her own Taylor Swift publishing.

The bottom line is that legally, Taylor Swift does not totally own any of those songs that she wrote and/or co-wrote, and cannot freely use them without permission from her co-writers and co-publishers! Now that she’s signed a deal Universal that allows her to own her future master recordings, she should zip it and move on!

In wrapping up this Issue, I have to revisit BMI Live, the program that pays their affiliated songwriters when they perform their songs at a licensed Music Venue. For decades songwriters were not being paid when they performed their own songs. Around 2005, I came up with an idea that could make that happen and pitched it to BMI. It involved a playlist that the writers would take to their gigs on which they would enter the titles of their songs they would perform. The playlist would also include the place and date of the performance, and a signature line for the Music Venue owner to verify the performance, and the writer would submit it to BMI in a timely fashion. BMI never acknowledged receipt and sat on it for years and then one day BMI Live was born! I recognized it instantly and confronted them. Of course they disavowed any knowledge of my proposal and went silent when I sent them extra copies of it along with the postal date and receipt. I didn't pursue it because at least they were now paying the writers and not continuing to use that money for other projects. I have been receiving royalties from BMI for my live performances of my songs ever since! Are you listening?

The preceding paragraph is a clue on what to expect in the January 2020 Top-Rail News Flash. First, I must admit that I've been struggling with getting this Issue out since the last one this past June. Not that I didn't have anything to say, but every time I worked on it, I would allow myself to get distracted by some other project. Then it finally dawned on me that I simply didn't want to do it! Why, I still don't know. Until I read the 15 December 2019 Issue of Bob Everhart's online Monday Tradition Magazine. It was a typically good information filled Issue until I got to the section regarding the Discovery Channel seeking direct licensing with film score composers and him seeming to imply that somehow this would save them from BMI who was collecting their royalties and not paying them! So I knew right then that I had to finish this Issue so that I could address the Discovery Channel matter in my January 2019 Issue.


Here is a direct quote from Bob's opening statement in his 15 December 2019 Tradition magazine...

"The Discovery Channel has announced it is seeking 'direct source licenses' with composers of background music used on the many and various programs that Discovery creates. This action would effectively eliminate the need for ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, music licensing agencies who collect the money on the composers behalf, and of course keep a nice tidy sum for doing so, but never give a penny to the composers they represent if that same composer performs his original music 'live.'..."

When something doesn't sound right, I do my own research. And what I discovered was much more sinister and actually threatens the livelihood of future background music composers. I'm going to be generous and surmise that Bob was mislead by someone, or that he probably didn't do his own research. My Top-Rail Chatter was devoted to the Independents like you and I, and one of its main focuses was on providing accurate information on how the music industry works and your place at the table.

James Adelsberger was a very talented musician in his own right before I signed him. Not only was he in several bands and orchestras, he also composed classical and jazz music and composed scores for local film students' video and film projects. He also writes notated music from the simplest lead sheet to full orchestrations. In fact, my first major project in 2020 will be wrapping up and publishing his music book. It had been placed on the back-burner several times because of other priorities. James did the scores almost two years ago and it's my job to format, publish, and print it. The book contains notated music from the songs that James recorded for his 2-song Single "Back Home Again" (2012)and his CD 13-song CD album "Old Time Country Songs Are They Really Dead and Gone?" (2014) This video contains a score that I had him do for an old 8mm film I shot on a Mountain Man canoeing trip with my Boy Scout Troop back in 1978. And, I allowed him to keep full ownership of the composition.

Troop 380 Mountain Man Canoe Trip: June 1978 South Fork, Shenandoah River


Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry, Merry Christmas! And don’t forget to put out the fire in the fireplace so Santa won’t burn his buns! See ya next year!


Vaya con Dios!

Mike Johnson and Roughshod Records



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