Wednesday, June 07, 2006

~ Special Welcome to Summer Edition, 2006! ~

Interview with Publisher Michael Buffalo Smith - Tamar Alexia Fleishman

South Carolina's Michael Buffalo Smith first started meeting rock stars while bagging groceries as a kid. Smith earned his degree in theater from the University of South Carolina. Then, he spent time working at newspapers and radio stations in Atlanta, Charlotte and NYC. He was a partner in Edge magazine, which combined celebrity interviews with humor columns. Now, he is the heart and soul of Gritz magazine.

What are your latest projects?
Ha, ha! A long list. Since I've taken Gritz electronic, there's more in it. I'm also looking to put out some paperback books, "The Best of Gritz". I'm writing books, like "Carolina Dreams". I'm also writing my memoirs, called "Prisoner of Southern Rock".

How did you decide to start Gritz magazine?
1998, I was in the hospital and I nearly died. I decided to start a newsletter on the Internet. It was called, "Hot Grits". In 2001, I was in print. I had columns by The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels. But the print editions became expensive.

So, you used to be in print, now you are strictly online.
What was your circulation then and now? When I was in print, I had 6,000 subscribers. Now, I have over a million unique visitors to the site every month. It's free. I have archived features and as time permits, I'm pulling out even more stuff from the print editions. I have interviews with people like Peter Frampton.

How has being online changed the nature of the publication?

Sending the print version overseas was costing a fortune! Now that I'm online, Sony Records is advertising. Also, I have varied interests and I'm able to put those online. Now we have articles about Bluegrass, Country, Blues, 60's and San Francisco rock. We had an interview with Buddy Miles, who played with Jimmy Hendrix. We have CD reviews, movies, thousands of pages.

We live in an ipod world and yet, radio stations are getting more formulaic. What gives?
I think they're gonna go under. I listen to Sirius on their Outlaw Country station. I've been talking to them about setting up a radio station. I have a weekly program at .

What new developments do you see for your magazine in the future?
It'll be bigger and better, multimedia. There will be Gritz downloads, where you can buy individual songs. I have a CD for sale there, called "Home Grown, Hand Picked".

Being a Colonel at the Kentucky Derby - Tamar Alexia Fleishman
A couple of years ago, I was named a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. However, this was my first year attending the "Running of the Roses," as Derby was traditionally called. To sit with the Colonels at Derby, you have to participate in the Colonels' Good Works Program throughout the year -- and then, you are invited to buy tickets to the event. I was honored when the Colonels' Ambassador Glen Bastin invited me and I made up my mind to go.

As reported earlier, I had a hat custom made for me at Fleur de Paris in New Orleans, where many belles of the past have ordered their chapeaux. I got out my string of pearls and Robbie had his gold-enamel cuff links to match my ensemble. With garment bags and hat boxes, we made the 10 hour road trip from Baltimore to Louisville, stopping overnight in Lexington.

Lexington is about an hour and a half east of Louisville; if we had come any closer that first night, we would have been dealing with "special Derby rate" hotel prices and mandatory 3-day stays.Parking is available either at the Cardinals' Stadium or the Fairgrounds, with a $10 round-trip shuttle bus. The stadium is the better place to park, because you can either walk or take the bus there, while the Fairgrounds is too far to walk. After the Derby, there were thousands of people lined up to take the shuttle bus, so it's nice to have the option. (Or, don't be like we were, betting the last of your singles away, so you can take a cab to your car afterwards!)So, you arrive at Churchill Downs, which has recently experienced a $130 million renovation. It is beautiful! And certainly, you couldn't be any safer; police of all stripes, from Kentucky State Police to US Mint Police are out in full force. While I didn't have any beauty emergencies (and I'm pretty grateful for that), I understand that Target was hosting a Beauty Aid tent.

The Colonels' luncheon is held in the Derby Museum, all tented off for the day. Once you step in, it's like your own private world. Although I couldn't ask for more beautiful weather, it was nice to have some shade and fans to keep cool and fresh, like a sugared tea cake. I saw so many gorgeous hats and outfits. Even the most wild ladies' hats took on an elegance in these surroundings. The gentlemen all had on either luxurious jackets or pastel suits. We had our own betting window, so it was not necessary to stand in line. Also, there were televisions placed at every angle, so everyone sitting at the round tables could keep tabs on things. Our table included a very friendly couple from Lexington who used to work with Hendricks Motor Sports.

The menu was pretty tasty Southern fare, including salad with bacon, pecans and blue cheese; pork bbq, poached salmon, broccoli casserole and potatoes au gratin. Certainly, one of the highlights was the Derby pie. If you've never had it, think of pecan pie, but with chocolate chunks. They almost ran out very early, but my very kind wait person hunted a slice up for me. Also, lunch would not be complete without a couple of mint juleps, right? Right! So, for those of you who've never had one, a julep is basically made with Kentucky bourbon, simple syrup, fresh mint and crushed ice. There are all kinds of variations on this theme, but you've got the idea.

After an awards presentation honoring among others, the oldest living Derby jockey (who was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel right there and then), I entered a ladies' hat contest. There was some very stiff competition and alas, I did not win. It was just like beauty pageant days; you had to introduce yourself and where you were from, speak a little as to the origins of your hat and do a turnabout.

We also had grandstand seats, so after buying a load of souvenirs (including a racing cookbook) from the Derby Museum, we headed out into the sunshine. Of course, everyone is all moved when it's time to stand for the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home". My betting strategy is usually based on horse names that appeal to me, which sometimes works, but not this day. A school teacher sitting right in front of me turned a $1 bet into $6,500 with her winning trifecta ticket.

Interview with Web Designer to the Stars, Bruce Wall - Tamar Alexia Fleishman
Bruce Wall is both a musician and a techy. Since he was a kid, he was a guitarist in bands and he was involved with computers professionally since the pre-Windows days. As a fan, he used to prowl around Lynyrd Skynyrd's web site, checking out the latest news and ordering tickets. But the site had so many problems, he posted a comment on their chat board. That comment changed his life.Within a day, he got "over 100" e-mails from other fans, urging him to start his own site. Then, he got e-mails from members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and also, the Marshall Tucker Band. Wall decided to create a site that would be a community, like a small town. So, he started His small town has succeeded: "It is a community now. For a lot of homebound people, we're like their family. We have gatherings all over the country."

He is also partner in an online radio station, The radio station allows him to integrate live interviews and unreleased CD's into his entertainment format. He is also in charge of

Soon, he was contacted to create or revamp the sites for The Renegades, Jimmy Van Zant, John Corbett and many others. He also helps with music and video for web broadcasts.Wall is very clear about what he and the stars like to see in a web site. "I like it very easy to navigate. The current trend is to be very flashy and have a lot of Flash, but it looks too busy. I interact with a LOT of the people. There is still a large percentage of the population using dial-up. With lots of Flash, most people don't care for it. It's frustrating and takes too long to load. With all these effects, it's like a movie with no plot." Also, he notes, that the extra effects mean extra dollars. Celebrities appreciate a bargain just like anyone else.With the increased interaction on web sites, it's become tough to monitor the chat rooms. That's why Wall will either enlist fans to moderate the forums or not have them at all. "Most artists and entertainers don't want it anyway," Wall points out. "I get out of the baby-sitting as fast as I can!" Wall laughs.

Wall travels to music festivals and concerts around the country. Recently, he was on guitar tuning duty for George McCorkle and The Renegades. The Marshall Tucker Band, even though he had practically sliced off his thumb that week in an accident. This road warrior's favorite fast food on the go? Sonic and also, Cracker Barrel's fried okra.

Coming soon to The Cyber Scene: Podcasts of Rob McNurlin and The Beatnik Cowboys' road tour! Rob McNurlin, cowboy troubadour extraordinaire, is taking his crazy Beatnik Cowboys on the old U.S. Route 66, for The Far Out West tour. For the ultimate in reality shows, Rob promises to let us hear "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" straight from the road. What happens when you put four musicians in a van for three weeks? Tune in and find out! If you are going to be in the Southwest this month, check out Rob's website for show dates.