Archive for February, 2019

Kentucky Fried Hard Work

February 11, 2019

In his autobiography Harland Sanders tried to sound like a dumb country boy, but he can’t disguise how smart a businessman he was for most of his adult life.  According to information I found on several websites, Colonel Sanders operated a ferry boat across the Ohio River as 1 of his early jobs.  Apparently, 1 mistaken source spawned this erroneous information.  I can find no actual evidence he ever operated this ferry boat.  Instead, he founded the company that built and ran this ferry boat from 1912 until 1942 when a bridge was built in the vicinity and put the ferry out of business.  That is much more impressive than just “operating” a ferry boat.  This was an amazing accomplishment, considering Colonel Sanders dropped out of school during the 7th grade because he hated algebra.  He admired Clarence Darrow–the famous lawyer who defended the teacher in the Scopes monkey trial–so he took a correspondence course in law.  Sanders never passed the BAR exam and may have never even taken the test, but he practiced law in his spare time, while working for the railroad.  He learned enough from the coarse to understand how to set up the ferry boat business.  There already was a ferry service in the area, but it was unreliable and in such poor condition it couldn’t be used for part of the year.  Local people never chose to establish a new ferry because it was mistakenly thought to be a grandfathered-in monopoly.  But Colonel Sanders carefully studied the local laws and determined this wasn’t true.  He established the company, sold stock to investors who purchased the boat, and took a fee of $22,000 (the equivalent of over $300,000 today).  He was still in his early 20s.

Image result for Harland Sanders

Photo of a middle-aged Harland Sanders with his children and grandchildren before he founded KFC.  He worked hard from the age of 10 until he died at the age of 90.

After reading about this incident I thought I might entitle this article “Kentucky Fried Smarts,” but then I read his entire autobiography and realized hard work was more important for Colonel Sanders’ success than smarts.  Colonel Sanders began work at the age of 10 when he cleared an acre for a farmer.  The farmer was not satisfied and fired him, and Sanders’ mother admonished him for his failure.  Her husband died when Harland was 5, and she was desperately poor, working in a cannery while sharecropping.  But she instilled a tough work ethic in Harland, and the next summer, he got another job working for a farmer and was proud he could keep up with the adults.  His mother remarried, and Harland left home at the age of 12 because his step-father was abusive.  He worked as a farm laborer and as a street car ticket clerk before a short stint in the U.S. Army.  He took care of army  mules in occupied Cuba (the army stayed there after the Spanish-American war to prop up a puppet dictator).  The army honorably discharged him, probably because they discovered he was underage.  Sanders worked for the railroads, sold insurance, and then took a job selling tires.  This last job led to his eventual fame.

The Michelin tire company closed their American factory and Harland had 1 last allotment of tires to sell.  He was forced to hitchhike after his last sale because a few days earlier a bridge collapsed under him, wrecking both family cars (he was towing his son’s car).  An oil company businessman picked him up and offered him a gas station to manage.  Harland took the job and worked harder than his competitors–opening up at 5 am (2 hours earlier than anyone else) and staying up until 9 pm fixing flat tires.  The depression and a drought that devastated local farmers killed this business, but he soon opened up another gas station and added a small restaurant for travelers.  This business expanded to include a larger restaurant and an hotel.  However, years later, a new highway was built bypassing this location, and at the age of 65 Harland knew this was the end.  He sold the business and decided to franchise the fried chicken recipe he’d perfected over the years.  Within 9 years there were hundreds of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, and a big corporation bought the business, though they continued to use Colonel Sanders as a spokesman until his death in 1980.

The best way to cook fried chicken is in an iron skillet, but Colonel Sanders realized this took too long.  Most customers didn’t want to wait for 40 minutes. If too much chicken was made in advance, it was wasted and he lost money.  He could fry them in deep fryers, but the chicken took on the flavor of onion rings or shrimp or whatever else had been in the fryer.  So Colonel Sanders developed a method of frying the chicken in a pressure cooker.  The chicken would cook rapidly, and there was no waste.

After Colonel Sanders sold his business he wasn’t happy with the way the big corporations cut corners.  They no longer made a cream gravy to go with the chicken, and there is not 11 herbs and spices in the breading any more.  An independent analysis found just flour, salt, black pepper, and monosodium glutamate.  The Chicago Tribune claims they may have found the original recipe.  The 11 herbs and spices may include salt, celery salt, garlic salt, black pepper, white pepper, paprika, mustard, oregano, basil, thyme, and ginger.  I have duplicated the modern day KFC in my home kitchen, but I have yet to try it with the original 11 herbs and spices.


Sanders, Harland

Life as I have known it has been finger lickin’ good

Creation House 1974


The Mutual Influence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles

February 4, 2019

Bob Dylan first met the Beatles in New York during 1964.  He visited them in their hotel room and brought them some marijuana.  It was the first time Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr ever tried marijuana, though John Lennon and George Harrison had previously smoked lesser quality pot.  More importantly, however, was the exposure they had to each other’s music.  The mutual influence of each produced some of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time, and their creations then influenced rock for decades.  Without the mutual influence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, there probably would not have been the ballad rock of the 1970s, the glamor rock of the 1980s, and the grunge rock of the 1990s.

Bob Dylan began performing as a folk rock and blues singer, and he had moderate early success with such songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind, and the comical “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”  Ed Sullivan wouldn’t let Bob play the latter song on his show, so his appearance was canceled.  They were afraid the John Birch Society would sue over being referred to as Nazis in the song.  Bob was a great lyricist, capable of writing a wide variety of songs, and other groups had big hits with songs he wrote.  The Beatles had incredible early success with their syrupy, popular rock songs. The quality of both musical acts dramatically improved after they heard each other’s work.  Bob Dylan started incorporating more energetic rock and roll into his music, while the Beatles began writing more meaningful lyrics than just “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah” or “I want to hold your hand.”

Bob Dylan introduced the electric guitar to his live act, shocking fans of his acoustic guitar-oriented folk songs.  At a controversial concert in New Port, Rhode Island fans booed, and 1 famous folk singer went looking for an axe to cut the cord.  Nevertheless, Bob ignored the crowd’s reaction and continued to include an electric part of his show.  Folk music fans thought his hard rock was too “commercial” (as if it was a crime to make money). During the next few years he created some of the finest albums of his career including Bring it on Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding. Blonde on Blonde is my favorite Dylan album and I play it over and over.  Meanwhile, the Beatles created Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, and my all time favorite–Abby Road. 

This is 1 of the songs folk music snobs booed during Dylan’s concerts of the late 1960s.

This Beatles song is an ode to marijuana which half of the band first smoked with Bob Dylan.  This song was influenced by the Motown sound and Stevie Wonder.

The Beatles broke up in 1970, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney continued to enjoy success through the 1970s when ballad rock became a staple of top 40 music.  Bob Dylan still performs today and regularly recorded new albums for decades after the Beatles broke up.  His albums of the 1970s were uneven–some were almost great, others not so good.  I think he recorded 1 album just to screw his manager.  In 1964 Bob Dylan stupidly didn’t read the contract he signed with Albert Grossman (his shady manager).  He had given 50% of his song royalties to Grossman for 10 years, and this was outrageously unfair. To get revenge Bob recorded a double album of cover songs he didn’t write, so Grossman would get no royalties.  The ironically titled Self Portrait is rated 1 of the worst rock albums of all time.  Other Bob Dylan albums recorded during the 1970s were much better, but he often didn’t choose the best songs he created in these sessions for the albums.  On some he left off the 3 best songs, though they would later be released in his bootleg series albums.

Bob continued to fill stadiums during the 1970s, but the gospel singers he kept around as back-up vocals (and to satisfy his sexual urges) influenced him to convert from Judaism to Christianity.  He became a kind of obnoxious born again Christian and he performed nothing but Christian rock at his concerts.  This turned off a lot of fans, and concert sales suffered.  Some of the Christian rock is actually good (“You gotta serve somebody” is a great song”), but his career success declined.  He has since mellowed out.  He revived his career by playing small theaters and by making better, less religiously-oriented albums.  His concerts included a mix of his popular and obscure songs.  I really admire the way he always played whatever he wanted to play regardless of the audience reaction.

Music created today is terrible compared to that based on the mutual influence of the Beatles and Bob Dylan.  Rap (which 1 loosely could refer to as music) and corporate-sanitized country dominate today’s popular music.  Almost all modern country music sounds the same–there is absolutely no innovation.  And pop songs with electronic mouth organ crap seem to make young people happy.  Modern acts just don’t create good music any more because they are too distant from their roots.


Sounes, Howard

Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan

Grove Press 2011