About Michael O'Neill

Showcasing a new collection with a previously un-released Townes Van Zandt song as the title track, this singer/songwriter with a “roots-rock” history and a soulful ease carries his listener into a time and place reminiscent of steel strings, guitar heroes, and great story-tellers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. One of 13 children, he got started in music early. At the age of 24, he cut his teeth opening his first tour for a then-unknown band called U2.

By the time the tour ended in Los Angeles, O'Neill found himself signed with legendary manager Don Arden, (father of Sharon Osbourne). O'Neill put together a band that featured a young John Shanks, (now superstar producer of Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Vertical Horizon, etc.), Kenny Gradney (Little Feat), and jazz saxophonist, Boney James.

He spent the better part of the next ten years touring with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and penning songs with Bob Weir, Steve Cropper (Booker T. and The MG's), and Jason Scheff (Chicago).

Part country crooner, part haggard storyteller, O'Neill makes a noise that is refreshingly classic.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Outlaw From Tennessee - the man who killed Robert Ford, Ed O'Kelley

Nashville, TN and surrounding areas have been hit by a flood that has not received enough National press coverage. Please text 'REDCROSS' to 90999 to donate $10 to disaster relief for victims of Nashville flood.

Jesse James was a hero to many Southerners so Robert Ford, the man who betrayed and killed him, had many enemies. Ford and his brother, Charley, joined the James Gang in 1882 and lived with him for a time. Ford shot him in the back of the head for a cash reward and moved on.

In 1892, while Ford was opening his tent saloon in Colorado, his luck in escaping retaliation ran out. A Tennessean named Ed O'Kelley was drinking in his bar one morning. Ford recognized him as a man who had sworn revenge for Jesse James' death years before. He tried to have him arrested on false charges of stealing a gold ring to get him out of the way. Instead, O'Kelley was released and returned, angry with a shotgun. "Hello Bob," he greeted and, as Ford turned around, he shot and killed him instantly.

O'Kelley had migrated to Colorado from Missouri. He was marshal of Bachelor City and deputy sheriff of Hinsdale County. More known for his horrific temper than upholding the law, he was also known as "Red". He was rumored to have shot a man in Pueblo, Co. because he'd stepped on his toes by accident.

O'Kelley never came out and said exactly why he shot Ford. Most agreed that he had vowed retribution at the time of Jesse's death. Some also said an infamous con man, Soapy Smith had told him he'd be famous if he did, a hero to everyone. He had known the James family when in Missouri, though whether or not he spent a short time as a member of the gang is disputed. His family's website says he was married to a relative of the Younger's.

After shooting Ford, he was convicted of murder a few months later and sentenced to life in prison. Most say he was surprised to be penalized, that he really had thought he'd be a hero. He was, to some. He was released after ten years due to health issues. Friends from Missouri had helped him gain a pardon.

He then moved to Oklahoma City, where rumors soon spread that he was a dangerous man. These are supposed to have been instigated and fueled by an old friend of Ford's, Otto Ewing, who ran a gambling house. Some said Ewing had been there when Ford died.

In 1903, after only a year away from prison, O'Kelley was arrested as a 'suspicious character'. After his release, he began making open threats against the officer who had arrested him. He was again arrested, in a known criminal hangout, in 1904. Again, he threatened retribution.

In 1904, he intercepted his arch nemesis, Officer Joe Burnett, while he was walking his beat. O'Kelley drew a revolver and the two fought. None of his bullets hit Burnett, but when he ran out of ammo, still bent on revenge, he bit off pieces of the policeman's ears. One of O'Kelley's friends arrived and shot at the policeman but also missed. Ultimately, a railroad baggage man grabbed O'Kelley's hand and freed Burnett's gun hand. Burnett then shot and killed the man who'd killed Robert Ford.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Elizabeth "Hoodoo" Brown

Mrs. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hoodoo Brown, a widow living in Leadville, Colorado in the 1880s, was known for practicing the 'black arts'. In fact, it was often said that bad luck and death followed her wherever she went. Her husband, Hoodoo Brown, was a gambler like the man who ran the Dodge City Gang but it isn't certain that he was the notorious outlaw.

The pair travelled, gambling, conning and likely robbing to support themselves. During a high stakes poker game one night in Buena Vista, an argument erupted that Hoodoo and another gambler, "Curly" Frank, decided to settle with their six-shooters. Both were mortally wounded. They were, certainly unhappily, buried in the same grave.

Elizabeth returned to Leadville, where she worked as a prostitute and conjure woman. She's said to have drank heavily and to have been most unpleasant when she did.

“There was a time in the history of Leadville when Mrs. Brown was one of the reigning belles of Leadville’s Tenderloin District,” a Leadville paper reads. “Lizzie wore as fine dresses and big sparklers as any dame of the row.”

By 1885 rumors that she was in league with the Devil were rampant and she was accused of wrecking havoc with her witchcraft on more than one occasion. One
man went so far as to chop her black cat in half to break a spell. It's said that was the only time one of her spells was broken.

She lived in Leadville until her death in 1901 and was buried in an umarked grave in St. Joseph's cemetary.

For more: “Mining, Mayhem and Other Carbonate Excitements—Tales From a Silver Camp Called Leadville.” by Roger Pretti

Hoodoo Brown

Hoodoo Brown was a man from Missouri named Hyman Neill who had left home on a frieght train as a teenager. He led an adventureous life and was among other things, a buffalo hunter, gambler, con-artist and conjure-man.

Following what seems to have been a mostly good time running an opera company in Mexico with a friend, he drifted to the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. He soon ruled the place, already notorious as the most lawless in the West. By 1879, by means natural and/or supernatural but none of them honest, Hoodoo was Justice of the Peace, Mayor and Coroner of the place.

He recruited the baddest of the bad and soon commanded a formidable band of outlaws who enforced law and committed crimes as they saw fit. The group, known as the Dodge City Gang, included men with some of the most colorful names in the West like "Mysterious Dave Mather" and "Dirty Dave" Rudebaugh. Acting as Hoodoo's Coroner’s Jury, they decided which murders, including ones they committed, were homicide and which self-defense. Rudebaugh later rode with Billy the Kid and is said to have been the only man he ever feared. Other gang member, Joshua Webb, owned a saloon with Doc Holiday at one time and rode with Bat Masterson.

They were obviously and rampantly corrupt. Not only that, but at least one of them turned to the 'black arts' when the broad range of other methods at his disposal failed. Hoodoo's trickery must have been fairly successful and fairly frequent, considering his nickname.

Ultimately, the gang was run out of town. Hoodoo left for Houston but was arrested and jailed upon arrival for the robbery and killing of a Vegas deputy. The deputy's widow came to see him soon after his arrest. "The meeting between the pair is said to have been affecting in the extreme, and rather more affectionate than would be expected under the circumstances." (Parsons Sun)

Another newspaper, the Parsons Eclipse, added "The offense committed at Las Vegas, as near as we can gather the facts relating to it, was murder and robbery, and the circumstances connected with the arrest here would indicate that the lesser crime of seduction and adultery was connected with it."

Hoodoo hired two local attorneys and was released. The Chicago Times soon reported, that Brown and the widow who had visited him "have been skylarking through some of the interior towns of Kansas ever since."

Descendants say the pair had one son and moved to Torreon, Mexico. When he died, relatives brought his son and his body back to Missouri.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Black Bart, Outlaw Poet

Left at the scene of a stagecoach robbery, August 3, 1877:

"I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tred,
You fine-haired sons of bitches."

- Black Bart, 1877

Left at the scene of a stagecoach robbery, July 25, 1878:

"Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I'll try it on,
My condition can't be worse;
And if there's money in that box
'Tis munny in my purse."

- Black Bart Po8

Black Bart, (Charles Earl Boles), was born in 1829 and was last seen on February 28, 1888. An Englishman by birth, his family emigrated to New York when he was two and by 1849 he and a cousin joined a California Gold Rush. Though he married soon after and raised a family of four in Illinois, he was to become one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers of the 1870s and 1880s. After service in the Civil War he had an incident with Wells, Fargo employees, around August, 1871. A letter swearing vengance on them was the last his wife heard of him. He became an outlaw and was soon as well known for his daring image and poetry as for his daring robberies.

He robbed his first stage in July, 1875. Victims described him as unusually polite and well-mannered. They said his voice was deep and resonant and that he asked that the driver, "Please throw down the box." In future robberies, it was noted that he was always considerate and didn't curse and that he disguised himself, covering his body with sacks and linen.

Boles based his persona on a dime western serial character, Black Bart. Black Bart dressed, of course, in black and had wild black hair and an unruly beard. He robbed Wells Fargo stagecoaches, striking terror in the hearts of all who encountered him. Boles said later that the idea of assuming the name came to him after writing his first poem and once signed, the persona was assigned to him from that point forward.

As Black Bart, he successfully robbed stagecoaches across Northern California. He was shot in a robbery in 1883 and fled the scene. He left his glasses and a handkerchief behind, among other personal items. Keeping $500 in gold coins, he buried his shotgun in a hollow tree. The stage driver in this last robbery, Reason McConnell, wrote a manuscript detailing his version of the events 20 years later.

The Wells Fargo Detective who investigated the robbery, James B. Hume was said to have looked enough like Boles to be his twin. He tracked him down by the laundry mark on the handkerchief he'd left behind at the scene. At first, Boles denied that he was the notorious outlaw but eventually admitted to the robberies committed before 1879, it is speculated because he thought the statute of limitations had run out on these. He gave a false name when booked, but police found his real identity in a Bible among his possessions.

"The police report following his arrest stated that Black Bart was "a person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances, and was extremely proper and polite in behavior. Eschews profanity." (Wikkipedia)

Wells Fargo only pressed charges against Boles for his last robbery. In 1888, after 4 years in San Quinten, when he was released for good behavior, it's said that his health had visably deteriorated. When reporters asked if he was going to rob any more stage coaches he replied, "No, gentlemen, I'm through with crime." When another asked if he planned on writing any more poetry. He laughed, "Now, didn't you hear me say that I am through with crime?"

He never returned to his wife, Mary but did write to her once released from prison. In his letter, he said that he was tired of having Wells Fargo on his trail, that he felt demoralized and that he just wanted to get away from everybody. In February, 1888, Black Bart vanished.

A man believed to be a copycat thief robbed a Wells Fargo stage a few months later. He left a poem that read:

"So here I've stood while wind and rain
Have set the trees a-sobbin,'
And risked my life for that damned box,
That wasn't worth the robbin."

Rumor had it that Wells Fargo then paid Black Bart to keep away from their coaches, but the rumors were, of course, denied.

What became of him was never known. Some said he died quietly in New York City. Others said he'd gone off to seek his fortune in Montana or Nevada. In the summer of 1888 an unidentified stagecoach robber some believe to have been Black Bart was killed near Virginia City, Nevada. It is surprising that he wasn't identified, however, if that was indeed who he was.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pearl Hart

Born in Ontario in 1871, Pearl Hart was known for her beauty and brilliance. She left an abussive marriage at 22, ultimately winding up in Phoenix, Arizona. Her husband followed her there and the pair briefly reconciled but their problems resurfaced. He left for the Spanish American War and Pearl, living as a prostitute, became depressed and attempted suicide a number of times or came close to doing so. Friends interfered, thankfully, each time.

She teamed up with a miner named Joe Boot and the pair moved to Globe, Arizona, where they unsuccessfully worked on a claim. In part due to this and in part because she received word from Canada that her mother was dying, the pair turned outlaw. They first robbed men who thought they were soliciting sex from Pearl but instead found they'd solicited a heavy blow to the head by Boot & empty pockets upon waking. They soon turned to the more lucrative prospect of robbing stagecoaches.

Though she cut her hair and dressed like a man, Pearl was too good looking for the disguise to be but so convincing. Pearl, feeling somewhat bad, returned a dollar to each, "to eat on...". They got lost during their escape and a Sheriff's posse soon found them.

Pearl was released by a jury who believed her tale of desperately needing the money to see her dying mother. The case received a huge ammount of attention in the press and she was particularly lauded for her statement that, "She would never consent to be tried under a law she or her sex had no voice in making, or to which a woman had no power under the law to give her consent."

She escaped once, with help from a fellow inmate who had fallen in love with her. The pair fled to New Mexico but were ultimately aprehended by a U.S. Marshall. She was sentanced to 5 years in Yuma Territorial Prison. The press continued to focus a great deal of attention on her case.

She was the only woman ever sent there and soon became pregnant. She may have, as many female convicts in England did, done this on purpose to get out of prison. It achieved the result, intentional or no and she was released early, pardoned and told to leave the state. (Probably helped her situation that the only two men who had been alone with her were a preacher and the Governor of Arizona at the time.)

After a brief time travelling and committing petty crimes, she joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for a little while. Ultimately, she is believed to have returned to Arizona, married a rancher and lived to be 90.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Lyrics of Townes Van Zandt

Townes was, I think, a poet first and kick-ass musician second; though undoubtedly some would disagree. His guitar skills almost make me disagree. However, when I look at songs like this, I can't help but insist that it's the poet that shone through most when he was speaking his mind. Here's how he looked at a game of 5 card stud:

Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
(Townes Van Zandt)

Well, the wicked King of Clubs awoke; it was to his Queen he turned,
His lips were laughin' as they spoke; his eyes like bullets burned.
"The sun's upon a gamblin' day." His Queen smiled low and blissfully.
"Let's make some wretched fool to pay." Plain it was she did agree.

He sent his deuce down into diamond, his four to heart, and his trey to spade,
Three kings with their legions come and preparations soon were made.
They voted Club the day's commander. Give him an army, face, and number;
All but the outlaw Jack of Diamonds and the aces in the sky.

Well, he give his sevens first instruction: "Spirit me a game of stud
Stakes unscarred by limitation 'tween a man named Gold and a man named Mudd."
And Club filled Gold with greedy vapors 'till his long green eyes did glow.
Mudd was left with the sighs and trembles, watchin' his hard earned money go.

Flushes fell on Gold like water; tens they paired and paired again,
But the aces only flew through heaven and the diamomand friend.
The diamond Queen saw Mudd's ordeal; began to think of her long lost son,
Fell to her knees with a mother's mercy; Prayed to the angels, everyone.

The diamond queen, she prayed and prayed and the diamond angel filled Mudd's hole
Then the wicked King of Clubs himself fell face down in front of Gold.
Now three kings come to Club's command, but the angels from the sky did ride;
Three kings up on the streets of gold; three fireballs on the muddy side.

The club Queen heard her husband's call, but Lord, that Queen of Diamond's joy
When the outlaw in the heavenly hall turned out to be her wanderin' boy.
Now Mudd, he checked, and Gold bet all; Mudd he raised, and Gold did call
And his smile just melted off his face when Mudd turned over that Diamond Ace.

Now here's what this story's told: You feel like Mudd, you'll end up Gold;
Feel like lost, you'll end up found, so Amigo, lay them raises down.