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Sign up to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Guinness.
Sign up to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Guinness.

Take the pledge to party with Guinness this St. Paddy's Day

It's not quite March yet, but it's never too early to starting making plans for St. Patrick's Day.

This year, and Guinness have partnered to get you in to the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration ever - and into the Guinness Book of World Records. readers can help make history by simply logging on to and taking the pledge to ring in their holiday with a pint o' Guinness. Use code MILW and sign up, then enjoy St. Patrick's Day at your favorite Irish hot spot (responsibly, of course).

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires charm Turner Hall

Charles Bradley has the type of golden voice that seems almost exclusive to his generation. While Bradley is a good singer, his strong suit is his ability to howl. In his show Friday night at Turner Hall Ballroom, Bradley evoked memories of James Brown not only with this soulful voice, but also with his ability to move around the stage.

Bradley was backed up by a seven-member outfit known as his Extraordinaires. They kicked off the set with two instrumental jams that only built the anticipation for Bradley to emerge on stage. Once he did, Bradley displayed an incredible amount of energy, making it hard to believe that he's in his early 60s. During almost all of his songs, he found a moment to step away from the stand and show off some of his moves. He also occasionally displayed some well-honed tricks with the microphone stand. The most impressive one he repeated was where he'd start to knock the stand down but at the last second, yank the cord back up, returning the stand to an upright position and the microphone to his hand. At the conclusion of each song, Bradley bowed to the adoring crowd. Often times this act was preceded by Bradley flapping his arms in slow-motion to build up to the bow.

It was clear that the audience's appreciation for Bradley's efforts had an impact on the performer. In between songs, he repeatedly declared how much he loved the crowd and how he felt their support. "Don't make a grown man cry," he implored half-jokingly. The way he was working the stage, any of those tears would've blended right in with the sweat on his face.

After Bradley had entertained with yet another fast-paced song, he took a brief intermission. During this time, the Extraordinaires once again played an instrumental tune that kept spirits high while awaiting Bradley's return. When he came back after being reintroduced, they launched into a fabulous cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," which appears on Bradley's debut album, "No Time For Dreaming."


The Oil Tasters, with Richard LaValliere (center).
The Oil Tasters, with Richard LaValliere (center).

LaValliere was a true original

I remember anxiously looking out the window of my parents house watching for someone named "Richard" to arrive. He was driving in from Madison, and I knew very little of him other than the brief but promising conversation we had the day before regarding an ad I had placed in a free local magazine: "16-year-old girl looking to start a band. Into Patti Smith, The Rolling Stones, etc. No hippies."

A dull beat-up van slowly pulled into the driveway and an interesting looking skinny man wearing a beret and walking with a distinctive bounce in his step approached the front door. Richard politely introduced himself to me and my parents. My mind began to race. His intellect and sophistication were immediately evident. What had I done? I was in way over my head. I had been in bands with a few of my school friends, but Richard was a completely different animal.

Wait 'til he finds out I can't sing and play the piano at the same time. I bet he thinks my home permanent is really lame. I need braces. Oh my God he's 25 years old. I bet he has his own apartment and everything!!!!! But Richard put me at ease and we went down to the basement, where my piano was, and started working on songs.

For the entire summer, Richard drove from Madison to Brown Deer on an almost daily basis ‚Äď to the point where I was wondering if I was ever going to have any time off. I had two more years of high school left, and summer was a precious commodity before the doom laden return to class.

But we had fun working on songs by The Yardbirds, Roy Orbison, The Stones and ‚Äď "Boom Boom Boom Boom, knock me offa' my feet" ‚Äď I was knocked off my feet by his booming voice, constantly moving stick legs and that swing in his bass playing. After practice we would ride around in his van on an absurd random search for other band members. Richard would see an elderly woman walking down the street, roll down his window and ask her if she played the drums.



Fire up, Tweet your "cheap date" story and win

Time Warner Cable wants to warm your heart with its free virtual Cupid Fire. And to do so, through Feb. 15, it is promoting its virtual fireplace set to romantic music on channel 411. 

So, if you want to stoke the flames at home simply select "Romantic Fireplace" under channel 411's Virtual category.  Or, watch a preview below. 

Want to check out a real fireplace?  And, one of Milwaukee's favorite bar fireplaces?  Time Warner Cable Wisconsin also wants to help.

If you're on Twitter, follow the cable company at @TWCable_WIS and Tweet about you best "cheap date." 

The winning idea will earn a $100 gift card to dine and drink at County Clare Pub/Restaurant.

Happy Valentine's Day, Milwaukee.