Archive for April, 2013

Tick Article – Thermacell recommendation

April 29, 2013

Demazette article 4/28/13
Ticks the Season

We know spring is officially here now that we’ve pulled the first tick from our overalls.

Ticks do what ticks do. I get that, but I still find a tick’s nature to be highly uncivil, not to mention unsanitary. That’s why I get such great satisfaction when I grind a tick into goo against a rock with another rock.

My mother-in-law had a special hatred for ticks. She scraped pennies together so hard they made sparks, but there was always enough in her meager budget for a little natural gas tick extermination. She’d put the bloodsucking little arachnid in a teaspoon, ignite a burner on the old gas stove and hold it over the flame. First the legs shriveled, and then the thing would burst with a satisfying little pop. She always wore such a malicious expression when she did this.

I caught three ticks climbing on my overalls the opening day of turkey season. Of course, it’s the one I didn’t catch that bedeviled me. I found it Sunday, attached to my leg, and now I hope for the best. This is not an idle concern because I contracted Lyme disease about 10 years ago from a tick while turkey hunting at Lamine River Conservation Area in Missouri.

Literature says a tick has to be attached 10-13 hours to transmit Lyme disease. That’s a myth. The tick that gifted me was attached for only three or four hours.

About 10 days later, I had flu symptoms: achy joints, sniffles, fever and night sweats. They lasted a couple of days and then abated for a week or so before reappearing. This pattern continued for about a month. One day I was washing my hands in the washroom at my office. On the outside of my arm, just up from the wrist, was a bright bull’s-eye rash that glowed like neon in the fluorescent light. I called my doctor, who ordered me right over and put me on a massive 10-day dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

That knocked it out, but I am very wary of ticks. I’m tempted to say respectful of ticks, but that’s not right. I respect bears, snakes and snarling dogs. I don’t respect ticks. I hate them. I don’t respect cottonmouths, either. I hate them, too.

So, after opening day, I hung my overalls across the gate and sprayed them thoroughly with Permanone, a potent insect repellent. I have seen ticks crawl onto clothes treated with Permanone and die. A chemical that potent is too toxic to apply to bare skin. Always spray it on your hunting clothes and let it dry before wearing them. Spray your hunting boots, too, as well as your turkey hunting vest. I don’t spray it on my gloves because I don’t want it contacting my skin. I wear T-shirts and shorts or pants beneath my overalls, so there is always a barrier.

As the weather warms, mosquitoes also will become increasingly hazardous, especially now that West Nile virus appears to be our permanent companion in the Natural State. In my opinion, nothing keeps mosquitoes away better than a ThermaCell. It looks like a walkie-talkie, but it contains a small, butane-fired hotplate. A small citronella wafer slips over the hotplate. As the wafer warms, it emits fumes that repel mosquitoes and gnats. It works in minutes, and it works flawlessly. I have used it while hunting in southeast Arkansas, when mosquitoes hovered in clouds. They leave you alone when the Therma-Cell is running.

Even though you can buy ThermaCell holsters that clip or strap to your clothes, the device works better if you lay it flat because it disperses the repellent more evenly and in a broader column. Just don’t forget it when you leave, and secure it in a zippered vest pocket. Somewhere in a Grant County clearcut is a practically brand new ThermaCell that has spurned all my attempts to find it. Make sure you take an extra butane cartridge and enough wafers to see you through your hunting or fishing trip.

If you want an extra layer of protection against mosquitoes, I recommend OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent. The active ingredient is p-menthane-3,8-diol, and is said to be derived from the natural repellent found in eucalyptus plants.

It comes in spray or lotion. I prefer the lotion. It smells a little like Coppertone sunscreen. The spray works very well, too, but it is very pungent and very bitter.

Your total outlay for the ThermaCell, wafers and repellent is less than $40. It’s money well spent.

All About Pillows

April 13, 2013

Pillow of your dreams

No need to lose sleep about where to rest your head


Getting a good night’s sleep rests on a variety of factors — room temperature, peace and quiet, whether your partner snores — but none of those matter if you’re sleeping on a pillow whose better days are as faded as the pattern on its cover.
The nonprofit National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Bedroom Poll reveals that 91 percent of people believe the right pillow is the stuff of sweet dreams and restful nights. Chances are, most of us agree. When we lay our heads down to rest, we want them upon pillows so comfortable that we don’t even give them a second thought.
What type of pillow is the most comfortable? The answer lies with the individual, who must search for his ideal headrest in a vast and confusing pile of pillow types and materials — memory foam, anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic, down, feather, latex, polyester, buckwheat, contoured.
The variety of choices might make you want to hide your head under a pillow, if only you had the right one. Add to that trying to figure out when and how often you need to replace your pillow and you conjure up quite a headache. Recommendations range from every few months if you buy cheap pillows that lose their fluff quickly to every one or two years for more expensive models. If you need an orthopedic pillow for a back or neck problem, your doctor can make a recommendation of how often to replace it.
Dr. David Davila of the Baptist Health Sleep Center in Little Rock says you won’t know how well a pillow suits you until you sleep on it. He suggests starting a pillow quest by noting what appeals to you in terms of texture, scent, density and thickness. Think back to pillows at places where you’ve slept such as hotels and homes of friends and family, make a list of the most comfortable and try to find out the style and material of each.
While the right pillow can affect quality of sleep, Davila says he doesn’t tell his patients what pillow they should have because the best pillow for a person is the pillow he likes. For example, some people prefer squishy pillows while others want to sleep like a log on something nearly as hard.
Choosing a pillow can be a daunting task, but it helps to understand that unless you have a special consideration like a neck problem or a dust-mite allergy, all you have to do to begin pillow shopping is know your sleeping style and how much money you’re willing to spend. A polyester-filled pillow may cost as little as $12 up to $200, while a high-quality down pillow that has a long fluff life could cost anywhere from $60 to more than $200. Have your pillow custom-made and the price tag goes even higher.
Sleeping style more than price, however, probably will be your first consideration, according to, because how you sleep determines the type of pillow and filling you need. A person who sleeps on his back, for example, needs a thinner pillow so his head isn’t thrown too far forward, making him wake up with a stiff neck. A side sleeper needs a firm or contoured pillow to fill the hollow between the ear and outside shoulder. Stomach sleepers either should have a thin, flat pillow or none at all.
Then there are scrunchers, people who like to wad their pillow into a ball, the folders who want to fold their pillow into a desired thickness and the “Cloud Niners” who want a pillow that’s all puff and fluff.
How a pillow scrunches, folds, springs or holds its shape depends on its filling, for which there are two basic categories: natural and synthetic. Here’s a look at materials within those categories, based on information from the Better Sleep Council (bettersleep. org),,, and Prices are approximate and based on standard and queen pillow sizes.
Down — The soft under feathers of ducks and geese make wonderfully fluffy pillows because down holds its shape. The interlocking feathers also hold in warmth, which makes these pillows especially great during winter. Price: $30-$270
Feather/down combo — Most “feather” pillows actually contain feathers and down because down increases softness and fluffiness. The highest quality “feather” pillows contain more down than feathers, but a typical ratio is 25 percent down/75 percent feathers. Price: $30-$95
Wool and/or cotton — Both are dense and warm, but firm. They tend to pack down over time to become flat and hard. Price: around $50
Latex — Molded of soft foam, a natural latex pillow is made from the sap of rubber trees. Some companies mix natural latex with synthetic latex, so check the label if you want a pillow that’s all natural. Latex pillows are among the most durable and long-lasting — many hold their shape and firmness for up to five years. Price: $30 and up.
Buckwheat — Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls are firm, but also mold to the shape of your head and neck. Price: $20-$30
Memory foam —Dense foam that retains warmth, shaping itself to the contours of your head, neck and shoulders as you sleep. When you move, the foam will spring back to its original shape. Memory foam is often used for contoured pillows for people with neck or spine problems because it provides support and give where necessary. Memory foam pillows are rated by density, with a 3-pound pillow being softer than a 6-pound pillow. Price: $12-$160.
Gel memory foam — These typically have memory foam on one side and a gel-coated foam on the other to provide two sleeping surfaces. People who find traditional memory foam uncomfortably warm can use the cooler gel side, which retains less body heat. Price: $35-$70
Microfiber gel pillow — Made of polyester fibers that have been coated with a gel to extend their life and make them softer, these are supposed to be the synthetic equivalent of a down pillow. Price: $22-$70.
Polyester — Polyester fiber, often touted as a down alternative, is softer than other fill materials. It has the advantage of being machine washable, but pillows will lose their shape after a couple of washings. Polyester pillows are also the most common and least expensive pillows, with the type of covering (sateen, microfiber, cotton) figuring into the cost. Price: $6 to $60.
When pillow shopping, test firmness and resilience by placing pillows on a flat surface and pressing them with your palm until they are about half their original thickness. Firmer pillows need more pressure and the quicker a pillow returns to its original shape, the more resilient it is.
Sleep tight.

Will Mayflower ever be the same after the Exxon spill?

April 11, 2013
(From the Arkansas Times)
It’s all fun and games until the world’s richest corporation spills 200,000 gallons of goop in your backyard.

Two weeks ago, it might have been hard to imagine sleepy Mayflower, population 1,631, at the center of a growing international debate over corporate influence, the multi-billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline project and the environment. That was before ExxonMobil’s Pegasus Pipeline burst in the backyard of a middle-class house in the Northwoods subdivision there on March 29. Though the site around the breach was soon clamped down tight, video and photographs taken just after the rupture show a black horror emerging from behind houses and pouring over perfect lawns before snaking down the gutters of Starlite Drive like something out of a nightmare. An Exxon spokesperson said the current estimate is that 5,000 barrels of Wabasca heavy crude — or 210,000 gallons — spilled from the breach.

From there, at least some of the crude went into the storm drains and ditches, crossed under Interstate 40, and drained into a sensitive wetland area and a picturesque, nameless cove, lined with fishing cabins, that lies south of Highway 89. That cove connects to the main body of Lake Conway through a series of culverts. Those culverts were quickly blocked with plywood and gravel — before, officials say, oil contaminated the lake — but they can’t stay blocked forever.

Families in 22 homes in the subdivision had to evacuate to area motels; by Monday, 10 days after the spill, Exxon said four families could return, but the state Department of Health recommended that they wait until air quality tests confirmed it was safe. Residents Kathryn Chunn and Kimla Green of 38 Ledrick Circle have filed a class-action lawsuit against Exxon to recover the loss in the value of their property.

At this early stage of the game, real answers to what’s going on in Mayflower would be hard to come by, even if a mega-corporation wasn’t on the ground in full damage control mode, and local and county officials hadn’t largely ceded jurisdiction to them, with workers and Faulkner County deputies barring the public and media from the scene. The emerging picture, though — a picture that includes wildlife coated in oil, devastated ecosystems in ExxonMobil’s “restricted areas,” residents who say they are sick, and the still-ticking time bomb on the shores of Central Arkansas’s primary water source, Lake Maumelle, where the Pegasus Pipeline comes within 600 feet of the shoreline — might be even uglier than a neighborhood coated in crude.

Even a week after the spill, the smell of crude oil lingers near the cove area east of I-40, a turpentine/diesel stench that makes your head go a little swimmy if you breathe it too long. Residents we talked to say it was much worse right after the spill happened, but it still makes you wonder how the hive of more than 600 ExxonMobil responders who’ve been working there 24/7 since the pipeline rupture, rushing around in hardhats and hazmat suits and working at night in a swamp lit by tall, powerful lights, can stand it, especially given that many of them we saw weren’t wearing respirators.

Howard “Duck” Sentney lives near Dam Road, which divides the cove from Lake Conway. A former Army survival instructor who has lived on Lake Conway for more than a decade, Sentney said the smell of oil was almost unbearable soon after the breach.

“The first thing we smelled was like natural gas,” Sentney said. “My nose was burning, my eyes were burning, it gave me a scratchy throat. Then all of a sudden Friday evening, the smell penetrated into the house. … Friday evening and Saturday evening, it was bad. Sunday evening, we had a cookout and Sunday night it ran us off the porch.”

As we spoke, a helicopter was flying slow circles over the cove. It was probably owned by ExxonMobil or someone working for the company, since on April 1, the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a NOTAM, or Notice to Airmen, which placed a five-nautical-mile flight restriction around the Mayflower site. All aircraft flying below 1,000 feet, the NOTAM said, were prohibited from entering the area unless given permission by Tom Suhrhoff, an aviation advisor with ExxonMobil. The ban came after KARK-TV sent a helicopter to capture aerial footage of the spill. Many critics of the response immediately seized on the NOTAM as an ExxonMobil effort to create a “media blackout” of the site, but the company has denied that anything other than air safety over the spill was the goal. The FAA ban was lifted April 5.

Sentney said his sinuses have been acting up and he’s had a sore throat since the spill. As a homeowner, he wonders how the spill will affect the property values on homes along Dam Road. An avid fisherman, he wonders if it will be OK to eat the fish from Lake Conway in coming years. “It’s a big question,” he said. “I fish quite a bit out there and we eat a lot of fish. So, is it going to be safe? … Personally, I think Exxon is not going to tell us the truth. They’ve got more money than we’ve got.”

Sentney’s fears about the future quality of the lake are shared by biologist Dr. Ben Cash, a herpetology specialist at the University of Central Arkansas who has taken on the job of cleaning snakes that have been rescued from the marsh that feeds the cove. (Wildlife Response Services, hired by Exxon to clean the dozens of mallards, teal, coot, beavers, muskrats, raccoons, turtles, nutria, grebes, squirrels and ducks too coated to identify in a facility in Sherwood, draws the line at snakes; it’s delivered cottonmouths, water and mud snakes to Game and Fish to take to Cash.) “We know from other events like this that there is wildlife that moves back into the degraded habitat,” picking up contaminants and spreading them, Cash said. Also, he said, “there may not be black crude” in Lake Conway, but the naphthalene in the crude will leach into the cove’s water, which can’t be fully blocked from the lake.

Today, the focus is on clean-up. “What will be important,” Cash said, is what kind of shape the area is in “two years from now.”

Ryan Senia has lived on North Starlite, a few houses away from where the breach occurred, since 2009. He said his house was actually listed for sale on the day of the pipeline rupture, but he’s since taken down the listing.

Senia said he was at work in Little Rock when he got a text message about the spill from a friend and rushed to Mayflower to find his neighborhood already blocked off. He was able to get in to his house from 10 a.m. to noon March 30, the day after the spill. Oil had run up his driveway and seeped into the edge of his lawn.

Like the press and public, Senia was warned away by local authorities acting under the instructions of Exxon. “When I came out, there was a police officer there and he said, ‘If you don’t have everything you need right now, if you leave, you can’t come back.’ ” He said he tried to go back to his house with a journalist in tow on April 1, but was turned away by sheriff’s deputies. “It’s easier to get onto a military base than it is to get into that neighborhood right now,” he said.

Senia, who claims the neighborhood’s proximity to the oil pipeline was not disclosed to him when he bought his house, said he thinks no one will want to buy a home in the Northwoods subdivision for a very long time. He estimated that half the neighbors he’s talked to said they want to move out.

“Even if not a single drop of oil got on my property, because my address is on that street, I just think no one is going to buy that house now,” he said. “Even if I’m not personally scared of contamination, a buyer might be unless there is someone to document the cleanup process, and know that everything was removed.”

Since the spill, Senia’s been educating himself about pipeline safety. He said he hopes other residents will talk to reporters who are trying to cover the spill.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the Northwoods subdivision on April 3, and called the scene “very disturbing.”

“The people in the surrounding communities are very concerned about what this will do to their health and property values,” McDaniel said. “I still remain with more questions than answers. I have yet to be told what the opinion of the company is with regard to the cause of the rupture to begin with. I’ve yet to be told when their last inspection was. I’ve yet to be told when they first identified that section of pipeline as having some integrity questions.”

McDaniel, like many others who have visited the site, said he came away with a headache that lingered into the next day, which he credited to the fumes there. He said his thanks and sympathies go out to both the homeowners who have been displaced, and to the cleanup workers.

McDaniel had told members of the media that they could “tag along” as he took his tour of the neighborhood. Ninety seconds into the tour, however, Faulkner County sheriff’s deputies appeared and told reporters they would have to leave. One of the reporters who was there, KUAR’s Michael Hibblen, said that reporters were threatened with arrest if they didn’t comply. Hibblen has audio of at least part of the encounter with deputies.

In the audio segment, a voice Hibblen identified as that of Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson directs media members to stand near a yellow pole. Thirty seconds later, however, another voice says: “You all have to go. Sorry. Exxon media, uh, Mobil has changed their minds. You have to leave.”

“The Faulkner County deputies started telling us ‘ExxonMobil doesn’t want you here and you have to leave.’ ” Hibblen said. He said the deputies became “more agitated” after reporters began asking to speak to someone in charge, and the deputies then told them they had “ten seconds to leave” or they would be arrested. Hibblen said he’d already turned his tape recorder off by the time reporters were threatened with arrest.

“It did raise the question of who is running the show,” Hibblen said.

Hibblen returned to the neighborhood for a media tour held by ExxonMobil on Sunday, April 7 (the Arkansas Times didn’t receive a notice of the tour), but said it was “disturbing” that the press wasn’t given a tour of the spill site for nine days.

McDaniel said that during his tour on April 3, he and their staff were there “doing our jobs,” so he didn’t get involved when the press was removed from the site. “I was not told why the press was turned away,” McDaniel said. “We were asked by the press if they could tag along with us, but we told the press that they were on their own for credentials, and whatever they go to do on a normal day, they should be able to do.”

McDaniel has issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil, requiring them to preserve and produce documents related to the Mayflower spill and the subsequent response. Exxon’s deadline to produce documents was Wednesday. McDaniel, who said private and public litigation over the Mayflower spill is “inevitable,” said he believed the company would comply and meet the deadline.

“I’d like to think that we’re not going to start out litigating with a motion to compel compliance with a subpoena,” he said.

A community meeting on Sunday, April 7, at the Faulkner County Library sponsored by the Sierra Club was well attended, with almost a hundred people there to share their concerns and ideas on how to make a grass-roots stand going forward. There weren’t many good things said about ExxonMobil or their response in Mayflower.

One of those in attendance was Tony Dawson, who was there with his wife, Charity, and their son, Camden. A resident of the Dawson Cove subdivision, which lies across I-40 from the spill site, Dawson said he and his daughter have had sore throats since the spill.

Dawson’s father, Delbert, is a homebuilder, and built most of the houses in Dawson Cove. Tony Dawson said he built his family’s “dream home” there with the help of his father, choosing the site because of the animals that come through the area.

“The wildlife comes right there to drink that water,” he said. “Now they’re not going to be there. That’s what we bought that for. We have deer coming down there, we’ve got turkey, beaver, raccoons. Everything comes down through there. Now it’s going to be gone.”

Dawson said he came to the community meeting because he’s worried about what the spill will do to the lake, the local environment and property values in the area. He said he lost his trust in ExxonMobil early in the process, following a meeting between residents and response officials the night after the spill.

“Let me put it this way,” Dawson said. “At the community meeting they had that Saturday, they guaranteed us that it wasn’t in the cove — guaranteed us. Sat right there, a panel of four … Guaranteed it wasn’t in the cove, and they’d stopped it before it got to the cove. When we got back to the house, my neighbor went out into the woods, and there was oil out there. He said it was 250 feet behind his house. That Sunday, me and my wife got dressed in our boots and we went out there and got pictures of it.”

Dawson said that it doesn’t seem feasible to him that the oil can be contained in the cove area and kept out of the lake. He said that the last time it rained, he saw workers pumping water over Highway 89 into Lake Conway to keep the cove from overflowing. Having come to live in the area because of the natural beauty, he believes the next phase in the woods behind his house will have to involve clearing the trees so ExxonMobil workers can excavate oil-soaked dirt. He fears that process has already started nearby.

“They’ve already cleared a space on Interstate Drive that’s 200 feet wide,” he said. “It’s a mess.”

One of those trying to get the word out about Mayflower is Eric Moll with, which Moll said is a “sustained, direct-action campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Proposed by oil company TransCanada, the 36-inch Keystone XL pipeline would run more than 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada, to refineries near the Texas/Louisiana border, pushing 800,000 barrels per day of heavy diluted bitumen from Canada’s “tar sands” region to the Gulf of Mexico. The project has become an environmental and political football, with critics of Keystone XL saying that construction will disrupt sensitive areas, increase the possibility of a catastrophic spill, as well as boost the supply of tar sands oil, which the National Wildlife Federation calls “one of the most polluting and carbon-intensive fuels in the world.”

We met Moll on Friday of last week at the spillway on Bell Slough, a state Game and Fish property less than a mile south of the spill site. Nearby, a flock of buzzards ignored us, feasting on something unrecognizable. Moll and three friends had driven over from East Texas a few days before. Since then they had been canvassing the area, knocking on doors, talking to residents about their health issues, and shooting photos and video to upload to the web. The day after we talked to him, Moll and several activists slipped into the cove area near I-40 and shot photos and video of a lake of gooey black goop, a flat bottom boat floating on top of it, that stretched away into the marsh scrub. One person who was there dipped his hand in, and it came out completely black with oil.

“A lot of the people who are right near the spill, even closer than some of those who were evacuated, didn’t even get told about it and they are very sick,” Moll claimed. “Some of them haven’t even been able to talk to us because they can’t come outside. We’re going around today talking to people, going door-to-door.”

Though ExxonMobil says that what spilled in Mayflower is conventional “heavy oil” (see sidebar), Moll contends it’s the same kind of bitumen-heavy material that will flow through the Keystone XL pipeline. He said Mayflower should be a wake-up call for those who are on the fence or have never heard about Keystone XL.

“This stuff is not crude oil,” he said. “It’s a lot more dangerous than crude oil. It’s harder to clean up. Crude oil floats so you can scrape it off the top of water or get it with a boom. Dilbit — diluted bitumen, or tar sands — sinks, so it can never really be cleaned up. We’re seeing from the Kalamazoo River spill of 2010 that it still isn’t cleaned up. People are still sick. People are still getting sick.”

Annie Dill, a college student from Little Rock (disclosure: Dill is a student in the author’s Fiction Writing class at UALR), was there when the photos of the marsh standing full of oil were taken last Saturday. She said the group had been given permission to walk into the area by the person who owned the property, but the property owner had warned them beforehand that having permission hadn’t kept others from being run off by ExxonMobil workers. Dill called the sight of the wetland full of oil “horrifying,”

“We were like: ‘Oh my God. This is supposed to be marshland,’ ” she said. “It smelled so bad.” Earlier on Saturday, Dill and others found a mallard near Dam Road, its feathers and head matted with crude. Dill said when they called the ExxonMobil hotline to request someone pick up the duck so it could be cleaned, they were told it would be 24 hours before someone could respond. Dill said that after they called Arkansas Game and Fish and the HAWK wildlife rescue group in Russellville, a wildlife specialist with ExxonMobil eventually did come and pick up the duck, placing it in a plastic bin in a car trunk before driving away.

To read more about Wabasca heavy crude, click here.

To read more about ExxonMobil’s Pegasus Pipeline, click here.

Beatles Unplugged

April 6, 2013

Philip Martin posted this on his blog. I shared it on Facebook, but I thought I’d put a link to it on my blog too. It’s a kick to hear these songs before they went in the studio and turned George Martin loose on them.

The Beatles Unplugged on Philip Martin’s Blog (Blood Dirt and Angels)

Ten of the Best American Composers

April 4, 2013

This is an article that appeared in American Profile by Audrey Hingley – March 26, 2013

America’s musical heritage includes composers who wrote some of the nation’s most enduring songs. Here’s a look at 10 of the best.

Burt Bacharach, 1928-

Known for unusual chord progressions and changing meters, Bacharach compositions have been sung by The Beatles (“Baby, It’s You”), B.J. Thomas (“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”) and The Carpenters (“Close to You”). Born in Kansas City, Mo., Bacharach, 84, with lyricist Hal David, wrote dozens of hits for Dionne Warwick during the 1960s and ’70s, including “Walk on By,” “I Say A Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”

“He has this incredible knack for capturing phrases of the English language musically,” says Chris Sampson, songwriting professor and associate dean at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, which bestowed Bacharach its Legacy Award in 2006.

Irving Berlin, 1888-1989

A Russian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, Berlin left home at 14 to sing in New York City’s Bowery saloons following his father’s death. At 23, the self-taught composer catapulted to fame with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

During his nearly 60-year career, Berlin wrote about 1,500 songs, 18 movie scores and 19 Broadway shows. “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “God Bless America” and “White Christmas” are among his most popular and enduring tunes.

Composer George Gershwin pronounced Berlin “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.”

George M. Cohan, 1878-1942

Creator of the World War I march “Over There,” Cohan began performing in his family’s vaudeville act as a child. He went on to compose 50 Broadway musicals and more than 500 songs, including “Give My Regards To Broadway,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

A native of Providence, R.I., Cohan—like Berlin—connected with people while capturing the essence of American culture, says Albert Harrison, music department chairman at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.

Duke Ellington, 1899-1974

Born in Washington, D.C., Edward “Duke” Ellington began taking piano lessons at age 7. By 18, he and his band were playing for high-society functions in and around the nation’s capital.

When Ellington moved to Harlem in his 20s, he began attracting crowds at the Cotton Club, a celebrated jazz nightclub, and fame followed. He composed most of his band’s music, writing thousands of songs including “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and “Mood Indigo” and film scores for Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Paris Blues (1961).

“Some would be surprised to know at the end of his life he wrote sacred music and tried to incorporate the worship experience with jazz,” Harrison says. “I think he was doing it as an end-of-life statement. He got lukewarm reviews but said it was the most important thing he’d ever done.”

Stephen Foster, 1826-1864

The Father of American Music was born in Pennsylvania and wrote more than 200 songs, including two state songs (Kentucky’s “My Old Kentucky Home” and Florida’s “Old Folks At Home”) and popular tunes such as “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Camptown Races.”

“Foster is regarded as the first professional American songwriter,” Sampson says. “I still see his music regularly performed in chorale ensembles.”

Foster earned little money with his songs because copyright laws of the era provided limited protection. When he died in New York City at age 37, he was sick and impoverished. His worn leather wallet contained 38 cents in Civil War script, three pennies and a penciled scrap of paper that read, “Dear friends and gentle hearts.”

George Gershwin, 1898-1937

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born son of Russian immigrants, Gershwin left school at 15 to work as a “song plugger” (a pianist who demonstrated songs) and was 20 when singer Al Jolson made his song “Swanee” a hit.

Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924), a symphonic jazz composition, has been featured in numerous films. Among his collaborations with elder brother and lyricist Ira are Funny Face (1927) and Porgy and Bess (1935), a primarily black opera that initially failed commercially. Gershwin maintained it would be regarded as his greatest work, and today it’s among the 20th century’s top operas.

Scott Joplin, 1867-1917

The Texas-born King of Ragtime wrote some 60 original compositions, including piano instrumentals, marches, waltzes and two operas.

A childhood tutor introduced Joplin to classical music. By the 1880s, Joplin was an itinerant musician. With limited opportunities for black pianists, he played red-light districts for years. His “Maple Leaf Rag” was the musical genre’s first big hit in 1899, and his 1902 “The Entertainer” is another ragtime classic.

The 1973 film The Sting, featuring Joplin music adapted by composer Marvin Hamlisch, generated new appreciation for his work.

Cole Porter, 1891-1964

A native of Peru, Ind., Porter wrote his first song at age 10 and went on to create 23 Broadway shows, including Anything Goes (1934), Kiss Me Kate (1948) and Can-Can (1953). Hit songs include “You’re The Top” and “Night and Day.”

Witty lyrics, catchy melodies, double entendres and clever rhymes characterized his work.  “Don’t Fence Me In,” written for an unproduced 1934 movie, became a hit when Roy Rogers sang it in the 1944 film Hollywood Canteen.

Richard Rodgers, 1902-1979

Rodgers was the first music composer to win top awards for television, recording, movies and Broadway (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), along with a Pulitzer Prize.

Born in New York City, Rodgers began playing piano at 6 and met lyricist Lorenz Hart at 17. Their collaboration produced hit songs and show tunes such as “Blue Moon,” “My Funny Valentine” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.” After Hart’s death, Rodgers worked with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, composing scores for Oklahoma! (1943), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951) and The Sound
of Music (1959).

“Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Edelweiss” are enduring standards among Rodgers’ 900 songs and 43 Broadway musical scores.

John Philip Sousa, 1854-1932

Known as the March King, Sousa composed 136 military-style marches, 15 operettas and 70 songs, including “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (1896), designated the U.S. national march in 1987, and “Semper Fidelis” (1888), later enshrined as the U.S. Marine Corps’ official march.

The Washington, D.C.-born Sousa began his music education at age 6, and was enlisted at 13 as an apprentice by his U.S. Marine Band trombonist father. Sousa later headed the Marine Band for 12 years before forming his own band.

“Sousa’s programs were like a musical potpourri,” Harrison says. “He built on a classical tradition with Americana mixed into it.”

In 1893, Sousa helped design the sousaphone, a large brass tuba-like instrument.