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Catfish Journal
Issue #3, May 8, 2005



The Catfish Institute of String-Twanging Technology
& Tales from the Road: Kauai, Hawaii.


Where are your shoes?We’re having a fantastic spring here in the midwest; it will be the first one in our new place, so I’m trying my hand at a little modest gardening. I planted a few flowers and put in a small vegetable garden. I was pretty proud of myself, tomatoes in, little lettuces and beans sprouting...but much to my consternation, I had to plant the whole thing again, twice, as our nine month old puppy dog, Lily, seems to find great delight in the games “Dig a Hole to China” as well as “Chomp the Rabbit” and “Eat the Bird,” and the more socially acceptable “Sit,” “Down,” “Fetch the Stick” and “Get that Frisbee.”  Doggone goofy dog!

We just celebrated our 17th Anniversary on May 6th. It's hard to believe it all of those years have flown by so quickly, but more than ever I feel like the luckiest man on the planet being married to my beautiful wife Penny. She is the greatest person I've ever met and I feel truly, infinitely blessed. 

Penny and I survived another great adventure to the East, had a fun time in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and my debut concert in New York City. I’ve toured out east quite a few times, but this was my first show in the Big Apple, at the fantastic Makor, right by Central Park.

The drive into New York City was quite an adventure in itself. We were constantly assailed by New York cabbies at every turn. I had to curb my urges to honk my horn and make gesticulating anatomically-oriented gestures...I wanted to get into the spirit of things, after all. Here in the Midwest we don't honk unless it's a dire emergency. That would be considered rude. I should have done it; the very first street we drove on after coming through the Lincoln Tunnel was (and this is true) named "Dire."

I did my first guitar workshop in New York City at Acoustic Sessions. That was great fun; we made a mighty racket with nearly a dozen National guitars twanging away at the same time...howling cats running all over the city...a big thanks to Woody Mann and Trevor Laurence and Kate, and extra special thanks to my good buddy Howard Monaghan for helping put it all together for me.

It’s been a busy season too for acoustic blues guitar lovers with more private lessons and workshops happening here at our home and nearby in Iowa City. It’s quickly becoming the “Catfish Institute of String-Twanging Technology” of my dreams and I’m having a solid gas doing it.

If you’re interested in coming to our neck of the woods for some intensive individual slide and fingerpicking guitar instruction, or in purchasing a new National, wherever you may live, please do feel free to email or call me here at 319-338-3614 anytime.

I can help steer you in the right direction and also get you the best deal National allows on any new model of National Reso-Phonic Guitar. They’re making some fantastic new innovations faithful to the spirit and sound of the original Nationals invented by John Dopyera way back in 1927.  I love these guitars.

A guitar that’s been gaining a big following is the Reso-Rocket, a stunning looking and sounding new single cone metal guitar with cool grill-type soundports (similar to a tricone’s soundports instead of the traditional f-holes of most single cone Nationals) and a cutaway. The sound is louder and more powerful than most any other single cone National and is developing a very well-deserved avid following. I’ve played several of them and they’ve been consistently excellent and are ultra-groovy guitars!

National has also just introduced a new mandolin with a fantastic look and sound, with a single cone and walnut body; it’s a real beauty that has knocked out traditional mandolinists with it’s power and clarity.

Coming up this summer will be more fun at the “ranch” and some midwestern gigs not too far from home. The October/November UK Tour is filling up with dates and looks to be the biggest and best ever.  The dates should be posted soon on this website.

Projects in the works include an all new solo album on a variety of instruments including the Baritones, acoustic guitars, my National 12-String and other guitars. Also, hopefully a new tab/music book, perhaps part two of Guitar Gems...

Looking Back...
Tales of The Road:
Kauai, Hawaii

Back in 1999 I got a call out of the blue from a big blues fan originally from Marshalltown, Iowa, but residing in Kauai, the most beautiful of all of the Hawaiian Islands. Everybody called him O’Man. O’Man and his wife Noreen were planning a housewarming party on Poipu Beach and wanted to have some of his favorite music from home: real, downhome delta blues.

So, he hired Al Blake and Kirk “Eli” Fletcher from the Los Angeles area and me. In the old days, Al Blake used to play with the late, great legendary Hollywood Fats, and is a very tasty and gifted singer, guitarist and harp player. Eli is an excellent blues guitarist and singer in his own right and was accompanying Al on guitar.

I couldn’t believe it, I’d never met or heard of O’Man before, and here he was very generously offering to fly me and Penny to Kauai, put us up in our own condo by the beach, providing us with a van, feeding us, and saying to just stay as long as we liked and enjoy...And, paying a handsome fee as well, all just to play the one night on the beach at Poipu. Now I knew why he was called O’Man, cause that’s what I said, “Oh, man!!!”

It was October of 1999 when we arrived at the airport in Lihue, O’Man and his wife Noreen were there, covering us in kisses and fresh, fragrant leis. Then they took us to our condomunium, a deluxe house big enough for a family of twelve. The island was indescribably beautiful; a true paradise with white sandy beaches, palm trees, waterfalls, coconuts, papayas everywhere. The island had pineapple and coffee plantations, mountains, jungle, bright colorful flowers everywhere. Surfers were riding the waves, and vacationers were laying in the sun, snorkeling and having parties on the beach. We absolutely fell in love with it and had a fantastic week exploring the island, swimming, body surfing and absorbing the “Aloha Spirit” of Kauai.

O’Man introduced us to a buddy of his named Miles, a native of Kauai and the head lifeguard of Poipu Beach. The first thing Miles did was very touching. He took off his official golden lifeguard shirt and gave it to me, literally giving me the shirt off his back! “Just don’t wear it on the beach,” he laughed, “Or you might have to save someone’s life.” He gave Penny a gift of a little bird that he somehow origamied from a palm frond.

O’Man also gave us the gift of music, CDs of the legendary Iz, Cyril Pahinui, and a host of other slack key Hawaiian guitarists. He took us out to dinner to sumptuous meals of Ono and other freshly caught seafood that was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.

The week or so we were there floated by as if in a dream. When the day of the beach party came, local women went up into the mountains early in the morning and gathered exotic jungle flowers to decorate the pavillion. A massive spread was laid out of traditonal Hawaiian island fare, there was a pig roast, and lots of beer, and we played music well into the night as we watched the sun go down on the Pacific Ocean.

When we finally returned home to Iowa City, the Aloha glow continued. I was absolutely convinced that Kauai was where I wanted to live forever.  I started telling people, “We’re moving to the Hawaii!” But, after a few weeks, unfortunately, reality set in, though I was fighting it all the way. It was just too long of a commute to my work in the rest of the world.

I’ll never forget that very special time in Kauai and want to thank Mike O’Toole (aka O’Man) and Noreen for their unexpected kindness and generosity. We’ve been the best of buddies since then and Penny and I keep that Aloha fire burning in our hearts. I still have it in my mind to return and to learn how to surf one day.  We love our home here in Iowa, but I still dream about that beach at Poipu and much of my wardrobe has palm trees on it just to remind me.

Aloha for now.    yours truly,   Catfish & Penny


Catfish Journal Archive:
This is Catfish Keith's personal newsletter first published in February 2005.
Fish Tail Newsletter Archive:
This is a magazine-style newsletter started when this website was first lauched in 1998.

 Home Page

New! Catfish Journal

Bio & Press

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