Remembering Rosie

baby_jessica_dadToday would have been Rosie’s 42nd birthday. Jessica Rose Heritier was a Bicentennial Baby, born late in the evening on February 12th, 1976. I was right there in the delivery room with her mom, Marina, doing my best Lamaze coaching, and everything worked out beautifully. (Many thanks to my dear old friend Scott Shaver for sharing the photo at the right. Please click on any image for a larger view.)

Rosebud was the light of my life, and we were tight even before she was born. Marina told me that our baby would dance in  her womb whenever I sang and played in their presence. By the time she was two years old, her mom and I had gone our separate ways, but daughter and dad would always remain so very close. It’s uncanny how in synch she and I were, on so many levels. We loved so much of the same music and turned each other on to some of our favorite artists, songs and collections over the years. I sang Grateful Dead songs before she was born, but she took me to my first Dead show, a few months before Jerry left us. Our world views were practically identical; if anything, she was even more progressive than me. Likewise with our senses of humor, which were decidedly twisted. Rosie and I were the same kind o’ goofy.

My wife Kim and I bought Rosie her first guitar for Christmas when she was around 12 or 13. I showed her chords and chord progressions, and she got good enough to accompany herself when she sang. We played a gig together shortly after she graduated from high school, at a festival, no less, and we’d always sing and play together whenever we had the chance. The three videos included here were recorded with our great buddy, Phuntsok Lhasawa back in 2011, in Portland, Oregon, where she lived most of her adult life.

I have so many wonderful memories of our Rosebud, like the week she, Kim and I spent in Jamaica, celebrating her high school graduation, or times spent with her in Oberlin, Chattanooga, Key Largo, Conifer, Colorado and, of course, Portland. I will never forget the crazy fun five days we spent of Jam Cruise in 2012, but the memories that are perhaps most dear to me are the ones from the magnificent Rothbury festival in 2009. Rosie had tried to get Kim and I to go to the same festival in 2008, but we were never able to make that happen, so when she pitched the idea to us again the next year, we went all in, and had the time of our lives. It was literally a life-changing experience for me, walking around the expansive festival grounds all weekend, hearing so much great music and meeting so many wonderful people. I kept saying to myself, again and again, “Oh, yeah, this is who I am and this is what I do!” It didn’t happen right away but that festival experience gave me the impetus to get back into playing music, after a hiatus of more than 12 years.

When I did start playing again the next year, I didn’t dare let myself hope that it was for anything more than playing and singing with my daughter whenever we had the chance. But, one thing led to another, and not only did I eventually start to gig again, I recorded my first CD in 2011. Rosie was SO happy and excited about “In My Element,” and it only occurred to me later that, because she had been my inspiration to play again, I really did it all for her.

skunk_rosieRosie bought a house on the east side of Portland a few years ago, and quickly discovered that there was a large population of feral cats in the neighborhood. She was soon feeding and caring for all of them, taking five orphaned kittens into her own home to join her beloved Skunk (together on the left), whom she’d already lived with for several years. She became involved with the Multnomah County Animal Services Action Cat Team program, which provides trap-neuter-return assistance to apartment complexes with large numbers of feral cats, like the one right across the street from her new home. This would remain the central focus of her remaining time in this world, and I heard her refer to herself as a “crazy cat lady” on more than one occasion.

In late 2016, I caught wind of a major event that would be taking place the following summer, the Oregon Solar Eclipse Festival. After contacting Rosie and asking her if she might be interested in geo_rosie_selfieattending, she decided that this was too good to miss. So, we RVed out to the Big Summit Prairie with our show buddies, Phil Schneeman and Gray Campbell, and everyone had a grand time. It was on the day of the eclipse itself that she started experiencing symptoms of the cancer that would take her life three months later. The festival was epic, and our four-person crew was as cool as could be, but it was only after the fact that I realized that I would have gladly canceled going if only she had gotten the painful tumor on her leg checked out before, instead of after, we went.

A few weeks after I returned home, Rosie’s condition was diagnosed as a lyposarcoma, a rare and very aggressive form of cancer. Marina immediately flew out to be with her, and arrangements were made to begin treatment at the Cancer Center for Healing in Irvine, CA, where both mainstream and alternative treatments for cancer are employed. Rosie had been in Irvine for a week when I joined her and Marina in early October. I treasured every second of the three weeks that I was with them, though we only had two or three of what I would judge to be good days for Rosebud, and it was horrifying to see her condition deteriorate so quickly. If I could have lifted her burden and taken it upon myself, I would have without hesitation, and I told her so on the day that I had to leave her and return home for a while. It was my intention to rejoin them in Mid-November, but her cancer was too much, and our darling Jessica Rose left this world on the morning of November 15th.

rosie_geo_cruiseIt’s so heartwarming for me to know how many people’s lives Rosie touched, and how so many loved her so dearly. We held a Celebration of her life in Portland on December 3rd, and many of her friends from all over the country came to remember her. The weather had been inclement for the three days that Kim and I had been in town, but as the celebration was about to begin, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and double rainbows appeared, as if they had been dispatched by Rosie herself, just to say, “Thanks for coming out, buddies!” There were many tears shed, but few of them were mine, as I was filled so much with the outpouring of love that everyone expressed for our girl. Later that night, there was a brilliant “super moon,” which made our celebration all the more special. (Many thanks to Jeanne Hart for the picture on the left.)

It’s now been almost three months since Rosie left us, and I miss her all the time, because I think about her all the time. There’s a huge hole in the lives of everyone who loved her, and I don’t know that I’ll ever fill the emptiness in my heart that comes from losing her. I’m mostly to the point where I can smile instead of tear up when I look at pictures and videos like those shown here or remember so fondly the many great moments and times we had together. But, sometimes the tears still come, and I expect that will always be the case.

I wish I could wish you a Happy 42nd Birthday, Rosebud. I will love you forever.


Croonin’ at Kuhnhenn’s Winter Solstice Celebration

Greetings, salutations and the very warmest Holiday Wishes to you all! It’s been a very good year of playing music for this old songster, and just when I thought I’d take a rest until 2017, I received an offer to play again that’s just too good to turn down. I’ll be performing this Friday and Saturday, December 16th and 17th, at Kuhnhenn Brewing’s Clinton Twp. Taproom, located at 36000 Groesbeck, Clinton Township, Michigan 48035.

huhnenn_winter_solsticeI had a ball playing Kuhnenn’s Oktoberfest the month before last, and I LOVE Kuhnhenn beers and ales, so you know that I’ll be in good spirits for both dates. On Friday, I’ll play from 5-7 PM and on Saturday, from 1-5 PM. There will be rare beers on tap, Holiday food specials, and even more music after my sets from my friends Reggie Smith & The After Party. The Taproom will also be collecting Holiday Hams and other food items to benefit Cass Community Social Services, and you’ll get a free gift with your donation as a token of their thanks.

It’s going to be a great weekend of festivities, so I hope you can make it on out and join in on the fun!



Upcoming Gigs

Playing MBTBTR Shelby in 2015Happy New Year, folks, I hope this message finds you all in good spirits and health! 2015 was a great year for music making, and I’m hoping 2016 will be all that and more. I have some fun gigs coming up in the next several weeks, so here’s the rundown on what’s in store.

It’s always fun to find a new venue to perform in, and a bonus when it’s in one of my favorite towns,Ann Arbor. I’m especially pleased to be making my first (musical) appearance at VinBar, Ann Arbor’s Unique Wine Bar, located at 111 W. Liberty on Thursday, January 21st. VinBar is a very cool little spot that features wines from three terrific Michigan wineries, Black Star Farms, Good Harbor Vineyards, and MAWBY. I play from 8-10 PM.
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A Funny Thing Happened at MAMA’s or I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Guitar to Sing

Last night, I went to hear two of my very favorite musicians, Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp aka Red Tail Ring, at one of the metro-Detroit area’s finest folk music venues, MAMA’s Coffeehouse, in Bloomfield Hills. For the uninitiated, Laurel and Michael, who reside in Kalamazoo, play old time Appalachian-styled country music, and they do it extremely well. I’ve written about them in previous blog entries; they are an inspiration to me, and whenever I hear them live, and I’ve heard them quite a few times over the past two-and-a-half years, I always leave their performance taking more with me than I’d brought. I very rarely miss them when they come anywhere within 75 miles, so I was quite excited to have them playing 15 minutes down the road from where we live.

Earlier in the day, I had played an afternoon show at Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room-Shelby Township’s Second Birthday Bash, and had a fine time doing so. I had my playing out of the way, so I was ready to just sit and enjoy Red Tail Ring, but, as I was leaving to go to their show, my wife Kim asked if I was taking my guitar. I replied, “No, I’m not playing, why should I?” I drove over to Mama’s, and when I arrived, Jim Bizer, who manages the music and MC’s the shows, asked if I had brought a guitar. The format usually calls for a main act, an opening act, and at least two “open mic” performances to start things off. (I filled one of those open mic spots a few years ago, in what was my first important performance after having picked up playing again.) Well, for whatever reason, they had no one to fill those slots last night, and Jim wanted to know if I might be willing. The irony is not lost on me that just minutes before, Kim had asked if I’d be taking a guitar.
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Mackinac Island Songwriters Workshop 2014

Mackinac Island Songwriters Workshop LogoAbout a month or so ago, I got an event invitation through Facebook that intrigued me. I’d never heard of the Mackinac Island Songwriters Workshop before, and, as it turned out, that was because this would be the inaugural affair, to be held on the weekend of October 16-19, at the Murray Hotel on Mackinac Island. The workshop is the brainchild of Emmy Award-winning Michigan songwriters Pete Kehoe and Michelle Chenard, both of whom live in Petoskey, MI, and often work together. I had shared the stage with Pete at a “Songwriters in the Round” in Midland, MI about a year and a half ago, and met Michelle last summer, so I was familiar with their solid credentials.

While snooping around on the event page, I noticed that there was a contest being offered. All one had to do to be eligible to win a free, all-inclusive admission to the activities was to post a video of an original song. Remembering what a fine time I had at Above the Bridge Songwriters Weekend in 2013, I figured, what the hell, it’s worth a shot, so I posted Larry Wolf’s video of “In My Element,” recorded at Songwriters Anonymous Showcase in 2013.

Guess what? I won.
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A Eureka Moment at 51 North Brewery

51 North Brewery LogoI find it immensely gratifying that, more than two years after having gotten back into this crazy business called music, I pretty much always come away from a gig thinking, “That was fun!” Case in point: I had a great gig yesterday at 51 North Brewery, in Lake Orion, Michigan. It was an afternoon performance on their new patio; the weather was fine and the owner, Don Gindhart, was most accommodating and supportive. (That may have anything to do with the fact that he’s a musician too. He also picked up on beer references in my first two songs, “In My Element” and “I’m A Hop Head,” and delivered glasses of both his brown ale and IPA for points of reference.)

It had been a rough week leading up to this particular performance. Our basement, along with thousands of others in southeastern Michigan, was flooded by extremely heavy rains on August 11th, and my wife Kim and I have been busting butt with cleanup and disposal of ruined possessions in the days since. I’d only been able to allot what I refer to “maintenance” time for rehearsing; that is, keeping the guitar, harmonica and vocal skills in decent shape, without trying anything new or even giving much thought to some songwriting ideas that have been percolating for a while now. I was usually too tired to do much more after slogging up and down those basement stairs, and figured that would probably get me through the two sets alright.
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Giggin’ and Swiggin’ at Shady Lane Cellars

Blowing little secrets to the vines.A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of being the first performer in Shady Lane Cellars‘ Summer Music on the Patio series. I’ve been a fan of this fine Leelanau Peninsula winery since we first visited the estate back in November of 2009, so this gig was a special treat for me. The music series celebrates Shady Lane’s beautiful new tasting bar and patio, and I loved singing and playing to a sizable crowd of very appreciative listeners and Michigan wine lovers, with vineyards spread out all around.

Since our last visit, Shady Lane has changed hands, with Richard Fortune taking over proprietorship from Dr. Joseph O’Donnell, but happily, the positions as Winemaker and General Manager remain in the very capable hands of Adam Satchwell. If anything, the wines are even better than when we last stopped in to the tasting room that was once an old stone chicken coop, and we quite liked them then. Being the bubble-head that I am, my choice of libation to whet my whistle during my performance was obvious from the get-go, and it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Mmm, bubbles...2012 Shady Lane Cellars Leelanau Sparkling Riesling, 10.6% alc., $20: Medium straw color, with a fine, active bead. Nice “froth in the mouth” (I’m going to use that line in a song one day, I swear), with flavors not unlike a big, rich mélange of multi-colored apples. The scale on the back label says it’s semi-sweet, and I’d only bicker by calling it quite ripe, with some subtle mineral to offset the sugars nicely. It’s obviously Riesling, and the “ample bubbles” (same song?) kick the varietal character into overdrive, while the good acids take you off to a far out place, man.

This sparkler is delicious, and sipping on it while playing made my performance at Shady Lane even more enjoyable. I didn’t have it with food, and while it will certainly pair well with a wide assortment of culinary delights, my taste for spicy wants to drink this with some Thai or Indian dishes. Find this wine

I’m really looking forward to going back to play Shady Lane again, and Adam and I are already discussing when that might be. I’m also especially pleased to present this report as my first cross-blog on both our Gang of Pour site and my own eponymous blog. You might see some more of that down the road, as well.

Reporting from Day-twah,


Nor-East’r Post Script

Playin' the Main StageThe Nor-east’r Music & Art Festival of 2014 is now history, and speaking for myself, it exceeded all of my high expectations on every level. As reported previously, I had a great time at last year’s Nor-east’r, but I was there as an attendee, not a featured performer, and there’s a world of difference between the two perspectives. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED having the opportunity to hear really great music from the likes of The Ragbirds, Jill Jack, The Appleseed Collective, Annie & Rod Capps, The Potter’s Field, Dave BoutetteFloyd King and the Bushwackers and more. But having the opportunity to play both the Main Stage and The Parlor just propelled the experience into overdrive, and I’m still riding the natural high I got from all the creativity, wonderful friendships and positive vibrations that were abundant throughout the weekend. (Click images to enlarge. All photos by Andrew Rogers.)

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Nor-east’r Music & Art Festival 2014

Nor-east'r Music & Art Festival PosterLooking forward, one of the real highlights of my summer is undoubtedly going to be performing at the Nor-east’r Music & Art Festival, held on the weekend of June 13-15, at the Oscoda County Fairgrounds, in Mio, Michigan. Nor-east’r is one of the very finest of the regional festivals held in the state, and accordingly, presents some of the best musical acts in the Midwest. This year’s lineup includes the likes of Red Tail Ring, Jill Jack, The Appleseed Collective, Annie & Rod Capps, The RagbirdsThe Potter’s Field and a host of other fine performers shown on the poster to the right. (Click the image to enlarge.)

I attended Nor-east’r for the first time last year, and had a marvelous time. My dear friend, Shar Douglas, who has been going for the past several years with her father Bill, had been telling me that it was my kind of scene, so I joined them and she was so right on. While much of what I heard and enjoyed was more to the acoustic end of the roots music spectrum, there was also a liberal dose of electrifying plugged-in rhythm ‘n’ blues to get you up on your feet and dancing. A very mellow, laid-back attitude held sway throughout the entire weekend, and I made several new friends whom I am very much looking forward to seeing again in a few weeks.
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"In the best traditions of folk music, George’s songs evoke personal experiences and historical events, and George certainly has had some experiences, let me tell you. But the experiences of which he sings so truthfully here, while almost mundane when taken literally, are made to seem so much more meaningful, so much more heartfelt in his hands and within his voice. These arrangements are as near to the folk tradition as one could hope, are exactly all that’s necessary for each song, and when accompaniment and backing vocals are used, they feature David Mosher on several traditional instruments, as well as Bill Arnold on dobro, providing simple support to George’s already ample foundations." —Michael O'Brien, Open Mike


And George Heritier from Oak Park shared his clever songwriting, cool and entertaining lyrics and hot guitar/harmonica riffs. He got the best round of applause for the whole festival! I am a huge fan of acoustic blues and folk music and George is one of the best I have heard. I would make it a point to go see him ANY time he plays, it will be well worth the effort! —John P. Bayerl, PhD - SeMi