Hammering and Haggard

In the ‘Things that Work’ category and a blast from the past.

After more than a year I finally got around to installing our small instant hot water heater in the upstairs shower area. Since my brother-in-law’s arrival here a few months ago we have had two units. Formerly we had been hauling one device between Xico and Puerto.

Before Permanent Installation – A HOT Item!

The installation went smoothly – also in part thanks to my BIL’s arrival. He brought a very handy tool. One that has never been part of my arsenal of many tools (located in many places).

Tidy Installation replete with holes in block wall

A hammer drill, also known as a rotary drill, is truly an indispensable tool in Mexico. This device has the unique ability to hammer and drill carbide tip masonry bits into cement. A task as simple as hanging a picture can be quite frustrating here in Mexico. You see the ubiquitous concrete and block walls are not receptive to nail pricks – at all.

A small Tapcon screw device can be installed using a standard hand drill motor and bit (maybe) – but substantial holes absolutely require the hammer drill. If you are moving to Mexico don’t leave home and head here without it!

When I started writing this piece I was listening to Merle Haggard music. I had not dug out any of my collection of his huge catalog of music in a while. When I do listen to any of his music I am reminded of his great talent.

I have eclectic taste in music to say the least; I was in the music making business as my prime career venue for many years. The love of music may or may not be inherent, but for sure if you have that bug it never goes away.

A Confession – I like Country Music! I worked with some of the greats in that musical genre: Buck Owens, Glen Campell, Leon Russel. Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Kris Kristofferson, Wanda Jackson, and Jerry Reed just to name a few. It is hard to single out one great act from the many. However Merle Haggard certainly rates high on my list.

Haggard has as pure voice as any in his field. He has an incredible amount of product out there – and it is all good in my estimation.

Yes, I have a few excellent Merle stories to tell – but I think they are best saved to when he has left the planet (perhaps best when we both have left to bring it out ;-) One story I can tell goes back to the early 70’s.

At that time we at Capitol Records had recently built a remote recording console. I headed up much of the technical end as well as the ergonomic design of what was a pretty unique piece of gear in those days. A virtual maiden voyage for the console was a trip to Bakersfield from Hollywood. Merle Haggard was hosting a party for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys at his house (plantation might be a better descriptor).

I think the house was modeled after the mansion Tara from the film “Gone with the Wind”. Really!

The famous King of Western Swing Bob Wills was wheel chair bound and not in good health. He would live just a short time after this event. It was an honor to meet him and listen to Merle and the Texas Playboy’s band honor Wills that weekend. I actually saw Wills giving Merle a few tips on fiddle playing – (please indulge my nostalgia here).

King of Western Swing – Bob Wills

I cannot recall if any of those recordings made it to release. But I remember Merle playing some fine fiddle and recall my being wowed by his rich voice; as I am still to this day. I also continued my education on just how much cowboys love to party!

Haggard circa 2009

Merle who has been married five times was married to Bonnie Owens (Bucks former wife – oh those country boys!) at the time. She was a great talent as well and as I recall a very gracious hostess and generally kind person.

Well, a man’s gotta give up a lot to keep a woman satisfied
You gotta give ‘em everything you’ve got or they’ll kick you aside
It don’t take much they take ‘em home with ye
It takes a whole lot to keep ‘em there with ye
A man’s gotta give ‘em some ground to keep ‘em around.

Some lyrics from “Man’s Gotta Give Up A Lot” song by MERLE HAGGARD

We were set up in the garage with the recording equipment – recording ‘blind’ as the band was in the house somewhere. I believe Merle’s trains did track out to the garage however. A great lover of trains, full size and models alike,

Merle had track designed into his entire house! The track traveled from room to room. On this day the large scale trains, O Gauge I think, included flatbed railway cars loaded with cocktails that traveled throughout the casa waiting to be unloaded. CC water back or tequila sunrise delivered by rail ;-)

Merle Haggard is now a legend and still out there somewhere playing music – that is very cool!  Stay Tuned!

  • Kim G

    Hot water, hammer drills and Merle Haggard! Man, you’re not constrained by a topic! LOL… Keep it up!!!

    I recently replaced a water heater, though I bought the traditional big-tank variety. A bit disappointing, though. Water gets cool gradually, not suddenly as with most water heaters, so I keep having to adjust my shower temperature. I also just had some experience with those Topcon anchor bolts; great invention! But I had to drill holes in my concrete block garage walls without a hammer drill; my wrist had to do the hammering action. Fortunately didn’t have to drill more than six holes.

    Enjoy the weather! Here it’s snowing again.


    Kim G

    Boston, MA

    Where we like Willie Nelson and a few others, but generally lack country in our collection.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    You would like Pancho and Lefty which features both Willie and Merle ;-) Kind of a stretch yes (LOL) However I am often influenced by the music I am playing when writing – so they really do go hand in hand.

    The small water heater is marvelous. I would have one at any faucet that requires hot water – extremely efficient. I was surprised at the low price of my BIL’s hammer drill (Hitachi FDV 16VB2).


    It has a cord and I can agree with some of the criticisms found on Amazon’s review of this particular drill motor – but for the price and just occasional use – it is a good product.

    Here in Puerto at noon where the weather is GREAT as usual. Listening to Jamie Mcullum and thinking about getting a Stomp Box when I am in the United States next.

  • http://honduras-gumbo.com/ Laurie Matherne

    I am surprised that you like country music. I like Johnny Cash. My uncle used to work with Kris Kristofferson who took time off from the music industry and was working in the oil fields. My uncle and Kris were known as beer drinking buddies for awhile. That’s my sole connection to the music business. I wish you would write more about your music days.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Laurie – I really like nearly all musical genres. It is hard not to smile at a lot of the country music lyrics – if nothing else ;-) I have plenty of stories – Stay Tuned!

  • barbara eckrote

    LOVE Merle. Think i have most of his cds, which I especially play in the car on the wide open roads to the border cranked up with the Bose speakers, singing at the top of my voice…..as long as I’m alone in the car! Pure heaven. Love Jerry Reed too but don’t have ANY of his work and Leon Russell. Most people would never believe that I love country music. I’m in Tx and for the first time in a long time, bought to CDs, A Willie one with two disks – every song great (mostly oldies) and a Patsy Cline of her famous songs. Oh my. pure listening joy~

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Babs – You mention some terrific artists. Patsy Cline and Merle win the best female and male vocalists in that esteemed group. IMHO

  • Francisco

    Enjoyed this post…I spent a whole summer listening to Leon Russell. I’ll never tire of his music. Willie is also great, and I always liked Ronnie Milsaps voice. Country is not my favorite genre, but there’s no doubt, talent shines no matter the style.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Francisco – “……I spent a whole summer listening to Leon Russell” Probably few can make that claim – interesting. Never considered a favorite musical genre – too broad to have a favorite in my case – I like some of them all and probably partial to no one.

  • john paul

    I hear your brother in law is a real bully, the psychopath that you mistook me to be. Oh well, after breathing his crap for months i can see how you misplaced that stuff on me.

  • Richard

    Looks like you did a real fine job on the instant water heater. I am glad the hammer drill worked well.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Used your hammer drill again today – we now have a shutoff valve that works better than the switched one on the shower head – cool! Gracias

  • mexicantrailrunner

    I love me a good Haggard story, got a couple of them myself. You’ve certainly caused me to wax nostalgic about an old-time corner of my life in Tahoe and Nashville. Willie, Waylon, and the boys (oooh, I had it bad for Jody Payne!), John Cash, Earl Ball, Merle (a genuine country gentleman), Snake, and yes, Bonnie Owens, Willie’s sister on piano, ah – too many to name. Those were some good times and those old cowboys DO know how to party.

    Decided to see what Leon was up to the other day and googled him, yikes, wish I hadn’t.

    My latest music addiction, and the reason I’m posting this comment, is Rodriguez. John, do you know him? Are you familiar with him? Someone gave me the docu that won this years docu of the year at the awards and I’ve been head over heels ever since. WHAT A STORY, WHAT A GUY, WHAT MUSIC! Brings to mind a cross between Dylan and Springsteen. Check it out, get the docu, he’s on youtube if all else fails. You gonna like this guy, I predict it! Muchos saludos! Marilyn

  • mexicantrailrunner

    Just googled, Willie and Bobbi are 80 and 81! Dios mio. Thanks for the memories, music man.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Sure I know of Sixto – believe I ran into him in the late 60′s – but for sure I know of “Searching for Sugar Man” I have the soundtrack – ;-)

    Now Earl Ball – there’s a blast from the past. He seemed so mild mannered and just not likely to fit in – then his playing wow! I really liked Earl back in those days and hadn’t thought about him for years – thanks for that ;-)

    Who are you?

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Thank you for stirring my brain with Earl Ball ;-)

  • mexicantrailrunner

    John, you really knew Earl??? I went with him, met him in Tahoe, at the time they were touring all the time and we kept in touch, he brought me to Nashville for a summer, lots of fun and I met everyone, relationship didn’t last much longer than that year I had commitments in CA and they were on the road. He was a nice guy and he SURE could boogie woogie. Did you ever meet his Cajun friend Jo-El Sonneir? Earl was promoting Jo-El at the time. Who are you? :D Think we could get Sixto to come to MX for a concert? Guad?

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    I knew Earl very well for a time – he was a fixture on a lot of Country music sessions at Capitol Records (where I worked for more than 10 years). Earl was indeed a Country Gentleman – Merle – well as I wrote will have to leave that for another time ;-0

    Jo-El Sonneir – do not recall that name.

  • mexicantrailrunner

    What about getting Rodriguez down to MX? He is touring again, sort of light-weight, but has a few dates lined up. . . I ‘liked’ his page on FB, maybe I’ll suggest it there. He posts a video every day or so on the page. Fun, talking about these old guys. So much talent running around. You must have seen it all! M

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    I will checkout his FB page(s) – thanks.