18 February 2014

Book Review Riff

Off My Rocker: One Man’s Tasty, Twisted, Star-Studded Quest For Everlasting Music     by Kenny Weissberg, Sandra Jonas Publishing House (2014)

An aimless young Otis Redding fan crisscrosses the United States in an effort to quench his thirst for music.  Got it.  A music critic forms a band called Kenny & The Kritix in order to challenge himself and silence his subjects.  Ok.   An award-winning radio disc jockey becomes a famous concert promoter at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay.  Check.  Drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll?  Oh-yeah. 

Woodstock, divas, drama and “Extortion Chuck Berry Style”.  It’s all there in San Diego-based author Kenny Weissberg’s memoir Off My Rocker: One Man’s Tasty, Twisted, Star-Studded Quest For Everlasting Music.    

If you’re like me, your reading adventure will begin with a double take of the jacket illustration.  Bruce Springsteen!?  Hold it.  Ben Stiller as Bruce Springsteen?  No, but in the image Weissberg is a dead ringer for Stiller who would be an excellent choice to play the lead in a feature film adaptation. 

Stiller is quirky enough to handle the comedy and brave enough to display the kind of intimate nuances Weissberg details in his personal relationships.   
The tenderest of those is a cannabis-aided proclamation of love for Helen Redman, an artist and married mother of two who eventually became his wife.  The account is endearing and real.  No overwriting to make the experience something more than it was.  Just a sweet story about soul mates who find the courage to acknowledge their love for each other. 
Gut level honesty is what makes Weissberg’s book even more attractive.  From the stalker-like attempt to meet his radio role model Jonathan Schwartz, to the in-studio interview with a wine-swigging Gram Parsons (Parsons was accompanied by a then unknown backup singer named Emmylou Harris that day), Weissberg tells the stories in a compelling, average-Joe-from-Jersey voice that invites readers to turn the page.

Where there’s page-turning honesty there’s bound to be hilarity.  The 65-year-old Newark native also devotes a brief chapter to James Brown in which he recalls one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard about Brown’s famously conked (permed) hair.  It’s laugh out loud funny and I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall during that exchange.

In his quest for everlasting music, San Diego’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll son allows you to tap into his passion and float along on the perpetually flowing stream of once in a lifetime adventures.  He doesn't try to win you over with gimmicks and the straight-ahead first-person narrative speaks with an understated tone to deliver the message. 

This self-described “magnet for crazy” may have begun his tasty, twisted star-studded journey as an aimless young Otis Redding fan, but once he set out on the path, he was driven by nothing more than an insatiable appetite for music.

Off his rocker?  Definitely.

Rating:  4 out of 5 guitars

Author Photo:  Ellen Weissberg Gould
Jacket Illustration:  Sandra Jonas Publishing House/Hans Teensma/Bill Warren

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