Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19, 1946 – Saxophonist Billy Blythe Born

Although he was known as William Jefferson Clinton for several years as a young man, as a famed member of the music industry, he would forever be known as Billy Blythe. William Blythe, Senior, Billy’s father, was a traveling salesman who died in a traffic accident just months before his son was born. The young widow and new mother, Virginia, made ends meet as a nurse. In 1950, she married Roger Clinton, a car dealer in nearby Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Clinton would prove a dominating force in Billy’s young life. He took his stepfather’s surname informally, though he refused to ever take it legally, one of many issues that arose between them. Clinton was a gambler and alcoholic, and he took out his struggles on Billy’s mother and younger half-brother, Roger, Jr. As Billy grew older, he stood up to his stepfather violently, and soon regular fights broke out in the Clinton household.

When Billy was sixteen, the same year Virginia divorced Clinton, he won first chair in saxophone in the Arkansas state band. This, he determined, would be his ticket out of his family’s struggles in Arkansas. Despite interests in being a doctor or even public servant, Billy focused on his music, dreaming of becoming a great like John Coltrane or Stan Getz. Upon graduation from high school, he moved to California and worked to establish a career.

If Billy lacked in talent, he more than made up for it in personality and his uncanny ability to make connections. He crossed paths with his idol Stan Getz several times as Getz won awards with his bossa nova style alongside talents such as Joao and Astrud Gilberto. Getz’s affair with Astrud broke their collaboration and created a turning point in Getz’s career. Billy, who would himself become infamous for his many affairs, worked his way into Getz’s circle and is often credited with turning the great saxophonist’s attention back toward cool jazz.

Working on albums with Getz and others, Billy’s true fame came when he burned his draft card and began his “Canadian Tour” after his name was announced for the Vietnam War effort. He eclipsed Getz and began playing peppier music in tune with the taste of his new, much younger fans. Although scandal would break out when it was discovered that Billy’s uncle had led a failed effort to get Billy into the Navy Reserve and thus wait out the war at home, Billy avoided any bad press in America by hopping the Atlantic and playing venues in Europe into the mid-1970s.

After Billy’s return during the Carter years, he continued to be loud in his politics, although it was the terms of Ronald Reagan that brought him to his height. The saxophone had become a widely popular instrument, and Billy’s concerts surpassed those of Kenny G and others. Billy proved to be a savvy businessman and was soon demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single appearance. Blythe Merchandising became a multi-million-dollar company, which transitioned into Blythe Entertainment as Billy’s personal fame dimmed.

Billy found that his smooth personality translated well into the backroom dealings of the music industry. Numerous stars of the nineties and new millennium owed their fame to his patronage, although later stories were told over how deep his take was, not to mention his routine encounters with interns. Billy’s name still often sprang into the news for a land investment scandal or the like, although his greatest legacy seemed to live on through his ongoing campaign for the legalization of marijuana, claiming, “I always inhale.”


In reality, according to his autobiography My Life, Clinton only threatened violent repercussions to protect his mother and half-brother. “I loved music and thought I could be very good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz. I was interested in medicine and thought I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in public service.” Clinton went to Georgetown on scholarship and became president of his class, the first of many successful campaigns, including President of the United States in 1992 and 1996.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Guest Post from Allen W. McDonnell: July 31, 1630 - Humiliating Tready of Madrid

 This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

As a result of the treaty, King Charles faced a new crisis: the claims of Sir Robert Heath to Cape Hatteras are now null and void and a number of wealthy Caribbean plantations owned by English colonists are no longer in English territory. Any troubles those colonists have with the Spanish became their own concern from then on. It was not long before they are pressured to leave by the Spanish, who want to take over their profitable trade.  Having no other legal recourse, they turn to King Charles who grants them land in 'North Virginia,' including what would have been Delaware and Maryland. The cash crops that do well in this region is not sugar cane, which had made them all wealthy, but indigo and tobacco.

Not realizing just how different the climate in New England is from that of England and Scotland, King Charles issued a new grant to Sir Robert Heath for New Scotland directly north of New England where Scots would be encouraged to colonize. As a result the first forts were built at Dundee, New Scotland, in 1635 on a truly excellent harbor discovered just south of the 45 degree parallel.

Queen Mary suffered an infection after the birth of her second child, the Princess Mary, and dies December 1, 1631. The sympathy generated for King Charles was substantial, and his decision to marry an young English noble woman of Anglican faith relieved most of the fears his nobles have about a secret cabal of Catholics trying to over turn the protestant reformation in England.

Queen Anne had ambitions for her own children. Her older step-child Charles was raised as a devout Anglican and was invested as Prince of Wales with all the honors and responsibilities on his 10th birthday in 1640. Under Anne's influence, the Princess Mary was not only raised as a devout Anglican but was made Duchess of New England in 1646 on her 15th birthday.

Charles I and Queen Anne had many children whom Anne insisted on naming in what she considered truly English royal name fashion. Her seven sons were Alfred, Edmund, Edgar, Harold, Stephen, Richard and William. Her four daughters were named Anne, Elizabeth, Imogene and Olivia.

Queen Anne had a profound influence over King Charles, encouraging him to sponsor many more colonial settlements in North America, though Charles insisted on placing them all north of the 36 degree treaty line with Spain. As a result, by the time he died at the advanced age of 60, New England and New Scotland have substantial populations.

When Charles II was invested with the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1660, his sister Duchess Mary of New England moved her household to Boston. Though very small by English or even Scottish standards, her patronage soon created a thriving upper class set of establishments, like the Boston Opera house, and her palace on Nob Hill is beautiful and elegant, designed by an English architect and built by immigrant craftsmen.

Though Charles II was deemed by most to be a successful monarch, he was much more interested in the fleshpots than the day to day running of the kingdoms; he left that to his bureaucracy while he enjoyed the good life. Unfortunately his wife was unable to provide him an heir, though several stillborn children did result from the marriage. When Charles II passed in 1685 at the relatively young age of 54 from heart failure, he was hardly missed by the general public.

His half-brother Alfred inherited the throne because he had no legitimate children, but his reign was fairly short, lasting only until 1689 when he died from a bad fall off of his horse while fox hunting. Unlike his half-brother, King Alfred had several legitimate children with his wife, and by that time several grandchildren as well to carry on the line. His eldest son, Richard, became king in 1689 and pledged to carry on the 'New Colony' project King Alfred had begun in far southern South America.

Reasoning that Spain is much too strong for England to challenge successfully and that the easy to settle land near the cost of New England and New Scotland has already been distributed King Alfred had sent an expedition to explore and claim lands south of the 36 degree latitude in South America. The expedition had mapped the coast starting at 36 degrees south and discovered the Falkland islands quite by accident on its return journey having come back to London just a month before King Alfred hunting accident.

An excellent harbor had been discovered at 38 degrees 45 minutes south on the coast. and a small garrison had been left behind in a hastily assembled fort to make the English claim more secure. King Richard IV spent lavishly to support the colony, renamed New Wales, and the village Fort Alfred in honor of his father's ambitions. The land around Fort Alfred turned out to be very fertile and convincing colonists to move in with land grants was not difficult. Soon satellite colonies farther and farther south along the coast are planted, though, after about 150 miles, farming became predominantly ranching instead of crop oriented.

In that 150 mile swath of New Wales, grain farms prospered alongside legumes and scattered tobacco and indigo farms, reversing the order in North America. The farther south a farm is, the colder the winters and the harder it is to grow some crops, to the point that at the further reaches like the Falkland Islands are dominated by sheep ranching and fishing rather than field crops.

Meanwhile in North America, Duchess Mary of New England passed away in 1695, passing the duchy to her grandson Henry, her oldest son James having predeceased her. Like his cousin King Richard, Duke Henry was ambitious and wants to see his duchy prosper. In his case, he encouraged settlers to expand his borders north to the Saint Lawrence river valley and west to the coast of Lake Ontario. With a solid population base due to the high number of immigrants sponsored by King Charles I and the bureaucracy continuing those practices during the reign of Charles II, it was not long before the entire Saint Lawrence valley and western end of Lake Ontario's shoreline were settled with good New Englander pioneers hacking down the forests and planting English villages all across the landscape.

Author's Note: in reality England renounced supporting the rebels of the Spanish Netherlands and the Protestants in Germany.
The unfair Treaty of Madrid was signed between Spain and England, ending war between the two powers. A late addition to the treaty required England to relinquish all claims to territory in America further from the pole than the 36th parallel. The latitude was chosen because it was believed to be the center of the Strait of Gibraltar at the time of the negotiations though it is actually somewhat closer to the European side.

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