100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

January 28, 1983 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-01-28
Note:
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

w w w w

w w ww

IRW

IRW

mw IW

00o

'S

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..f.

...... .. .... .. .. :::":x ".":::::. :.-.ne: x::::vKKKK" %w::".:"f.":Yi .i: w: racr.KV ";:Y :."n :"":::::r ".v. ": ;v:::::::. w::.vr:. .":: N:. ::: "::. :"::::a::::::::.::::...:::::..::.;:.......::":::.v:r,;"};";ry;"; v,{ir, ; ";; ;"i:> :::. .....
.. . . . . ... .....:. :... . ............:... r..... r x ..::..r....:.:..............5.......... .. .. .................... ....
v.. ......rN f . ..... J.: ... .. .....t ..:.... ...n ...... ....................J..............................................:......... .. ........
." .... ..... ."K'JN .. ....... J..... ........ J..... .:....... f........... J........ ...................................
.... f. % ....v .. .. ..... h.. ... .......
R :........ .. .. f...". ...... .............. .............................................................r................................................................::::::

Johnson
gypped
The Path to Power
by Robert Caro
Alfred A. Knopf, 882 p.
By Martin J. Burke
A S ONE OF THAT minority of
Americans amused by neither the
personality nor the programs of Ronald
Reagan, I find it hard to comprehend
how colleagues and students, especially
the latter, can abhor his policies yet
find the man charming. While loath to
admit it, I yearn on occasion for the
simpler days of the 1960s when
despising the president and his
presidency was a respectable, en-
joyable, cathartic pastime.
-Back then, the problems facing
Americans were not the seemingly in-
tractable ones of economic decline and
nuclear destruction, but the readily
soluble ones of poverty and racial
discrimination. These ills could be
cured, would be cured - if only the war
was ended. Lyndon Johnson, who
promised to fulfill the New Deal, had
postponed delivery until he could find
victory over the Communist menace in
South East Asia. Vietnam was John-
son's war; we hated him as much as we
hated it. "Hey, Hey, L.B.J., how many
kids did you kill today?" Ronald
Reagan has not, to date, been the
recipient of such vituperation. He
might be a simple-minded fool, but
Lyndon Johnson was a prince of
darkness.
In retrospect, however, this view of
L.B.J. as the embodiment of all evil, the
man who turned the liberal dream into
a nightmare, appears to be inadequate,
if not unfair. Compared to the disman-
tling of the American social welfare
system carried out by our genial 40th
chief executive, Johnson's unfinished
Great Society looks very good. Head
Start has improved the life chances of
the educationally disadvantaged; food
stamps have, until recently, improved
the diets of millions of Americans while
disposing of agricultural surplus.
Perhaps the Johnson years, with the
exception of Vietnam, were not so bad
after all. Perhaps Lyndon Johnson is in
need of reassessment.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert
Caro's projected three-volume
biography, promises to provide the
basis for such a revision. Caro, author
of a Pulitzer Prize winning political
biography, The Power Broker : Robert
Moses and the Fall of New York, has
published the first volume of the
trilogy. In 'The Path to Power, Caro
chronicles the first thirty-three years of
the Johnson story, from his birth in 1908
to his defeat, in a race for the U.S.
Senate in 1941. Despite the wealth of in-
formation and detail in this 768-page
narrative, the L.B.J. who emerges
from the book bears a strong resem-
blance to the malevolent Texan of Viet-
nam-era caricatures. Caro's Johnson is
a dishonest, manipulative man, con-
cerned only with the accumulation of
power. It is not a flattering portrait.

The unifying element in Caro's
negative appraisal is Johnson's relen-
tless ambition, his need to stand out. As
a young boy this was easy. He was the
proud, boastful son of Sam Ealy John-
son, a dealer in real estate as well as a
member of the Texas legislature. In
Austin, a state capital where graft was
endemic, "Mr. Sam" carried on the old
Populist cause of protecting "the
people" from the predatory "interests'.
He had the reputation of "a man who
could not be bought"."
This honesty did not bring financial
security, however, and the elder John-
son left politics to take over the family
ranch on the Pedernales River. There
his fate was similar to that of thousands
of other farmers in the Texas Hill Coun-
try, a land of great beauty but little
rain. He went broke. Once numbered
among the respectable folk, Sam and
Rebekah Baines Johnson were soon
living "on the bottom of the heap". The
family adjusted to the privations of
poverty, except for their eldest son.
Lyndon could not stand the
humiliation of Sam's failure. The son of

skills in handling people. Here were
men who mattered-men with access to
power. He engineered his election to
the speakership of the "Little
Congress," an almost moribund social
club cum debating society for
congessional aides and transformed it
into a testing ground for represen-
tatives' positions on upcoming issues.
The press loved the idea and Johnson
insured that he was the recipient of
most of the publicity.
Thanks to Kleberg's preference for
spending the day at the golf course and
not on the Hill, Johnson was able to ef-
fectively run the office himself. He
delighted in getting the federal
bureaucracy to work for the benefit of
the 14th's constituents, especially the
myriad of programs that were being in-
troduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In pursuit of his plans to win a seat in
Congress of his own, Johnson worked
constantly on ingratiating himself with
the House Democratic leadership and
the New Dealers. He became the
protege of his father's old companion in
the Texas legislature, Sam Rayburn.

terests"; Lyndon was a young man who
had been "bought." Paradoxically,
Johnson continued to champion the
people" as he fought to bring such New
Deal benefits as rural electrification to
the Hill Country. Limited by his "good
guys" and "bad guys" approach, Caro
is unable to explain how Johnson, his
reactionary backers, and the
passionately pro-Roosevelt voters of
Texas reconciled Johnson's cham-
pioning of two sides in a contest Caro
argues was fundamental to Texas
politics. His only appeal is to the utter
stupidity of the voting public, the
unlimited greed of the fat cats, and
L.B.J's demonic powers of persuasion.
As a purportedly historical analysis of
American politics, this will not do.
The Paths to Power fails to meet its
promise due to a fundamental misun-
derstanding on Caro's part of his task
as a biographer. Caro was, and
remains, an investigative reporter. He
seeks to do to Johnson and America
what he did to Robert Moses and New
York City--to expose the utter
debasement of the political process and
place the blame with evil men. This
neo-muckraking makes for a good
morality play but not for a balanced
assessment of the biographer's subject.
Caro need not be an L.B.J. partisan--
Johnson made sure he had plenty of
those during his life--yet he need not be
a hanging judge either. His study of
Johnson is far too polemical in its
assault on Johnson and his career.
Caro fails, too, at a central task for
the political biographer, creating
plausible actors for the historical
drama. His characters are, at best, two
dimensional and at worst crude stick
figures. Long-suffering Lady Bird,
upright Sam Rayburn, rapacious Her-
man Brown, and the villain of the piece,
conniving, unprincipled Lyndon, are
suited for second rate fiction, not for
first-rate scholarship.
The work is closer to Dreiser's The
Financier or Abraham Cahan's David
Levinsky in its tale of greed and
debasement than it is to such careful
studies of political leadership as Dumas
Malone's Jefferson or Sidney Fine's
Frank Murphy. Caro would benefit
from a closer study of how the genre
should be handled.
The book would benefit as well from a
better job of editing. In his 768 pages
Caro constantly diverges from John-
son's path to give a history of Texas, an
unoriginal evaluation of the New Deal,
and biographical information on every
character he introduces, whether
major or minor. The pages go on and
on and on as Caro is determined to put
every note card taken in the process of
researching the study into print. The
potential reader is hereby warned to set
aside a large chunk of time for the
work. I would rather not contemplate
the size of the two volumes yet to come.
The Path to Power does have one,
unintended, benefit. In beginning to
discount the legacy of Johnson's years
as a major force in American politics,
Caro does what today should be the im-
possible. His Lyndon Johnson makes
Ronald Reagan look good. It is a
dubious achielvement.
Martin Burke is a doctoral can-
didate in the program in American
Culture.

Nardela
rock
By Joe Hoppe
G C OMEBODY'S A doctor, some-
body's a nurse, well Steve Nar-
della plays music." That's what the
man said, and that's what the man
does. And that's all he does.
Steve Nardella, 34, has earned his
living playing music for "years and
years," as he says, beginning not too
long after he moved to Ann Arbor from
Providence, Rhode Island in 1972. He
was originally lured intoA2 by the '71
Blues Festival. He liked what he saw so
he came back and stayed. And hasn't
had a "legit" job since.
The music Nardella plays is the
music he grew up with: country, rock
and roll, rhythm and blues, and
rockabilly. The main men he listened to
and therefore his big influences, were
Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Little
Walter, and Marty Robbins. Those are
the men off the top of his head, but there
are a lot more.
Nardella's got an old Little Richard
album cover tacked up on his wall; a
little farther over is a Dion and the
Belmonts sleeve. "Six to seven hun-
dred" 45s are stacked in foot-high piles
on a round table over in the corner.
They're originals: Elvis, Carl Perkins,
Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry - all the
guys you would expect and more. "I've
got so many people that I dig - it's kind
of hard to name the ones I really dig,"
says Nardella.
In his earlier years in Ann Arbor,
Nardella played with George Bedard
(now of the Bonnevilles) in a couple of
rock/rhythm and blues bands, The
Vipers, and later the Silvertones. He's
toured the west in a warm-up group for
local boy-made-good Commander Cody
(remember "Hot Rod Lincoln"?). Nar-
della has been around Ann Arbor's
music scene for a while.
"Rockabilly's not a new thing for
me," says Nardella. "It's not
something I just started doing because
it's a fad." And while he does use the
term, Nardella is quick to say that his
music is a lot more than rockabilly. "I
don't like to be classified as a
rockabilly," he says. "If I was to call
myself a rockabilly, it would be saying
that that's all I do - and that's not all I
do." His band also does a lot of old rock
and roll, and some blues.
Nardella has been playing guitar and
harmonica and singing for his own band
since the late '70s. The band's current
make-up is the famous "Mr. B", Mark
Braun, on piano; Andy Conlin on
drums; and Keith Herber playing the
upright string bass. Braun and Conlin
have been with Nardella a couple of
years, Herber a couple of months. The
band plays around Ann Arbor a lot, and
gets around to Chicago, Detroit,
Kalamazoo, Toledo, Indianapolis...
Since Nardella has always played
r&b/rock and roll, and that kind of
music hasn't always been terribly
popular, he hasn't always been able to
get jobs. "I went through problems, all
those things, but when I wasn't doing

I

Steve Naldella: Local musician does good

Lyndon Baines Johnson: Presidential power

a man who could not pay his debtys
would never "be somebody" in the
world of Johnson City. Lyndon had to
get out.
The path traced by Caro took Johnson
first to San Marcos, the campus of
Southwest Texas State Teachers
College. At that humble institution,
Johnson found his calling--not as a
teacher, but as a politician. Caro
argues Johnson possessed a unique
ability to persuade others to do his bid-
ding, a talent that flourished at San
Marcos and marked his entire career.
Toward older, powerful men, he was an
obsequious flatterer--a brown-nose par
excellence--who gained favors and
special attention. Johnson coupled a
genius for political maneuvering to a
relentless drive to get ahead. He cared
little for principles. His was a per-
sonality well suited for advancement in
political circles. All he needed was a
chance.
Johnson graduated in August, 1930, a
time not promising for a young man on
the move. His deference to important
men served him well though, and he
was given a position teaching high
school in Houston and was soon
recommended as private secretary to
the newly elected representative for the
14th District, Richard Kleberg. John-
son gladly left Texas and teaching for
Washington and Congress.
The House Office Building was an ex-
cellent place for Johnson to perfect his

Caro devotes a chapter to a short
biography of Rayburn, a man very
similar to Sam Johnson in his devotion
to principles and his implacable op-
position to the slightest hint of corrup-
tion.
When Roosevelt created the National
Youth Administration in 1935, Johnson,
at age twenty-six, was named state
director for Texas. The trip form
Washington to Austin and back to
Washington was a short one. Johnson
returned to the Hill in 1937, thanks in
part to the voters of the 10th District
and in far greater part to the construc-
tion firm of Brown and Root. Johnson
had found the factor that would make
him a "somebody"--money. In the
most effective section of The Path to
Power Caro argues that Johnson
became the conduit for a new, corrup-
ting force in national politics: the
millions of dollars of the "newly rich
Texas independent oilmen"and the
"sulphur and gas and defense barons of
the Southwest." This money funded not
only L.B.J.'s career but was used by
him to keep the Horse in the hands of
the Democrats in 1940. The im-
plications of Johnson's control of
unlimited financial resources for
American politics are to be brought out
in the subsequent volumes.
By 1941 L.B.J. had avoided his
father's fate. He was a man with power
soon to be a man of wealth. Unlike Sam
Ealy, he stood for the cause of the "in-

well enough I'd just blame myself. I'd
say 'you've got to get better.' Being
without has always made me try har-
der. If you're good, you should be able
to make it. This is America." He laughs
at that, kind of sarcastically, but
looking at him, you think deep down he
believes in this. He doesn't want to talk
about his "struggles down the road to
rock superstardom."
Nardella is sincere - about his
music, about himself. Music is his only
business.
"I'm going to play music until I die,,"
says Nardella. "I'll be doing it one way
or another. That's all I ever want to do.
I don't have any other interests. It's
just a matter of how successful or un-
successful I am."
Nardella has been successful so far.
He pays the bills. He hasn't been forced
to make a living at something he
doesn't enjoy. The only person he has to
take care of is himself. He does that;
lives in a decent apartment, has a TV
and lots of records, a stereo, Elvis
biographies by the bed. "Quite ob-
viously I'm not getting rich, but the
main thing is that I'm doing what I
want to do and I'm happy. I hate to
sound like a dumb philosophical idiot,
but, like that's all there is."
Nardella has had some commercial
success, too. He has a big Ann Arbor
following, gigs around a fairly large
area in the midwest, and in 1980 came
out with "It's All Rock and Roll," an LP
on the local Blind Pig label that you can
get at local record shops. The album got
good review in Billboard, The San
Francisco Chronicle, and Record
World. According to the reviews, Nar-
della's own "C'mon Baby" and his
covers of Chuck Berry's "Promised
Land" and Elvis:' "Mystery Train" are
exceptionally cool.
Nardella and his band have also
warmed up for some big name groups.
They got lots of stuff thrown at them in
Cobo Hall when they warmed up for
Jeff Beck. Nardella played in front of
Chuck Berry at Meadow Brook near
Detroit this summer. This spring he
warmed up for popular rockabilly
Robert Gordon.

Nardella spent most of the summer
on the East Coast. He was headquar-
tered at his native Providence, R.I., but
played a fair amount of cities, including
Boston. Mr. B. came along.
Nardella is a lot like Robert Gordon.
They have pretty much the same roots,
like the same kind of music, cover the
same peoples' songs. Nardella,
however, is a little more bluesy. Both
are fairly authentic - having style in-
stead of fashion, less electric than
George Thorogood, more subdued than
the Stray Cats in their selected images.
But Robert Gordon has made it "big
time." Famed '50s guitarist Link Wray
("Rumble," "Rawhide") plays with
Gordon's band sometimes and has
written songs for him. So has
Springsteen ("Fire").
"I've got more going for me than he
has," says Nardella of Gordon. "I'm a
musician besides a singer. I play more
than one instrument. I'm a ban-
dleader." Nardella also says he has
more energy than Gordon.
Nardella just needs the exposure.
Right now he's doing all hiw own
booking and has no manager - he wan-
ts a good one. Steve Nardella's
manager has to have experience, know-
how, and a lot of talent. He (or she)
doesn't have to be Colonel Tom Parker,
but close. "It's probably the only thing
that's holding me back from being
more successful that I am right now,"
says Nardella. Doing it yourself is dif-
ficult. "I manage to scrape up gigs, but
I'm not a real business manager."
Robert Gordon has a good manager.
Living in New York City and knowing a
lot of people hasn't hurt either. "Talent
doesn't have much to do with it,
really." says Nardella.
Nardella doesn't dislike Gordon, but
the man is no Elvis, no Carl Perkins,
not as good as Nardella himself either.
"I like Robert," says Nardella. "He
tries to be a really good singer. There's
not to many people around nowadays
that really try to sing. I like his act.
He's got the spirit. He really has the
spirit. Just look at him; he looks per-
fect."
"The spirit," according to Nardella,

is "being
and breat
along wit
music yo
image. I
uniform i
Myself, Ic
image -
don't feel
look the mT
And he
Nardella 1
"She's toq
is what he
he doesn't
della wea
Levi's, ar
kind of r
Dean trac
guitar slu
important
ment: "R
become a
Even the
coast this
to A2. Th
cerned wi
about bus
enjoy livir
Nardell
that big.
big, cultur
I don't 1i
living in a
is a happy
In the
money, Na
with anoth
more ori
writing m
there's th
where old
been popu
more rece
to.
For nov
town. He'
not as ha
always, he
guitar and
as his sing
than I eve
musically
Steve '
music. He
he's not cc

12 Weekend/January 28, 1983_

5

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan