Thursday, July 17, 2014

2 Steel Girls from NBC's The Voice need your help!!

I first met Allison Steel in February at my first fundraiser Phil's Jam for FSHD. That night she gave me a copy of their first CD. I listened to it several times and was blown away. I still listen to it. "Forward" has become one of my all-time favorite songs.

We also had the pleasure of seeing them perform live at Puckett's in Columbia a few months back. I was so impressed!! that night I became a full-fledged fan of the 2 Steel Girls.

Last Sunday Allison, Krystal, Aaron and Todd Steel honored me by performing at my fundraiser, Phil's Jam for FSHD. They blew me away again. They just keep getting better and better. I had several people tell me after the event that 2 Steel Girls were their favorite of the entire evening. When they sang "Forward" and dedicated it to me...I have to admit I shed a tear.

So I am asking my family, friends and readers to do me a personal favor and help 2 Steel Girls get funding for their next CD. Click on the Kickstarter link below. We need the 2 Steel Girls in Country music. We need their talent, their style and their spirit. They are the real deal.

It's really simple to sign up for Kickstarter and pledge your support. I have backed a few projects and it really makes you feel like you are making a difference.

Please help them get to the next level!!

Love and peace,


Friday, July 11, 2014

Phil's Jam for FSHD in 1 day!!!

Phil's Jam for FSHD was an idea I have had in my head for a long time. Why not gather some amazing talent, put on a great show and raise money for FSHD research all at the same time? With the help of Wild Wing Café and my family. I was finally able to make it happen back in February. The 2nd Phil's Jam for FSHD is in 1 day and I couldn't be more excited.

Here is the talent line up so far:
Singer/Songwriter Harlan Pease. Boston native that really knows how to write a song and play a guitar. Heck of a nice guy too!

Singer/Songwriter CT Robinson. He's a little bit rockabilly, a little bit country and a whole lot talented. He's also my Cousin.

Singer/Songwriter Dani Flowers. Her lyrics will move you. She's a blend of Dolly, Patty Lovelace with some Lee Ann Womack thrown in.

Singer/Songwriter Aubrie Sellers. She has a retro country blues vibe that is really great. So much fun to watch, which is the mark of a true entertainer. And she is also a great songwriter.

Singer/Songwriter Anna Johnson. I'm in awe of this girl's songwriting, arrangements and singing. She has such emotion and passion wrapped up in her lyrics. Plus my Grandson Gavin loves her CD. That's a huge vote.

Singer Maureen Murphy and Seygo. This group's high-energy, Rhythm and Blues sound will win you over right away. I've seen them live and was totally impressed. This is a really talented group of people.

Vocal Duo 2 Steel Girls did very well on Team Blake of the NBC TV show The Voice. Since then they have been playing shows all over the country. I am so honored to have them join the cause. They really know what they are doing.

Last but certainly not least, vocal group Loving Mary.  When you lock four accomplished songwriters in a room, magic tends to happen. Born one night out of that magic was the band Loving Mary. Rebecca Lynn Howard, Suzie McNeil, Elisha Hoffman and Marti Frederiksen fuse their talents and experiences together into four-piece harmonies that dip from Americana to Country with a spin of Alternative.

I would say that I am thrilled to have such a line up. Don't miss this show!!

See you Sunday at Wild Wing Café in Franklin, TN. The music starts at 2:20pm and goes all day. Here's a link to the event page. Follow me on Twitter at @philbennett or @philsjamforfshd.

Peace, joy and great music,


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life with FSHD...Thirty-something and concerned.

I have recently been posting about what it is like living with FSHD or fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy. I would like to continue this theme. I have already blogged about my teen years and my twenties.

My thirties were fairly uneventful when it comes to FSHD. My muscles were still fairly strong and I could still be as active as I wanted to be. I did start noticing weakness in my legs. Stairs had become more of a challenge and a hand rail became my best friend. I remember when I was in college and I was working at a convenience store. I was walking across the parking lot to go home and dropped something on the way to the car. I squatted down to pick it up. Unfortunately, it was a major struggle to get back up. I didn't realize my leg muscles had gotten to that point. That's when I started to think about the future. What if it gets worse? What if...? I couldn't think about that.

Even though I was noticing weakness and feeling vulnerable for the first time in my life, music was still bringing joy to my life. But lugging around a truckload of drums and sound equipment was getting much harder. I knew there would come a day when carrying my drums would be a thing of the past. I started really trying to learn the guitar, because they are much lighter than a drum set. Guitar has become a central part of my life since then. So some good was coming out of all of this.

In my mind back then I knew that if I stayed positive and didn't worry about what the future looked like, good things would happen for me. I still hold those beliefs today. I stay focused, positive, happy and live each day as much as I can. I'll post more later about my forties up to present day.

Until then, keep peace in your heart and a smile on your face.

P.S. I used the FSH Society logo for this post because it was about this time in my life where someone out there just like me was founding this charity. Thanks to organizations like the FSH Society, we will have a cure soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Phil's Jam for FSHD...

My next fundraiser will be stellar! I am lucky enough to have the following performers:

Loving Mary, featuring Rebecca Lynn Howard, Suzie McNeil, Elisha Hoffman and Marti Frederiksen.

2 Steel Girls is a Mother-Daughter duo that was on Team Blake on NBC's show, The Voice.

Anna Johnson Band is one of my favorites. What a great sound.

Maureen Murphy, probably the best R&B singer I have ever heard.

Aubrie Sellers is an amazing young talent. Her list of credits includes singing on Maranda Lambert's last album.

Harlan Pease is one of my favorite songwriters. He is also an amazing guitar player.

This show will be July 13th and start at 3:00pm and go until the last song has been sung. The Wild Wing Café in Franklin, TN will be donating a generous portion of their sales from that day to my cause. All proceeds go to the FSH Society, which funds research for a treatment or a cure for Fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy or FSHD.

Contact me at for more information.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The awesomeness of Maureen Murphy...

In a perfect world, Maureen Murphy would be a household name, but as we all know the world isn't perfect. Fortunately for me, I was browsing a few music sites one night and clicked play on a Maureen Murphy link. That single click had brought so much joy into my life.

Maureen is as bluesy and soulful as any artist in the world. She manages to grab your attention from the very first note. I recently asked Maureen about her first time singing in public.

 "It was my Freshman year of high school. I was 14. We had a talent show for all the students, parents and teachers called "Freshman Night Live". We were able to pick our talent, so I decided to sing. The very first song I performed was a song called "All In Your Mind" originally recorded by Mariah Carey. I remember being very still on the stage, not sure what to expect and moments before the performance having butterflies. As the instrumental track played through the PA and mic in my hand, I started singing and remember it being a transforming moment. I was never the same. I felt a rush. I loved everything about that moment. I felt whole. It was powerful. After the performance the audience went wild."

I'm sure that was a transforming moment for the audience as well. I know the times I have heard Maureen sing, I left transformed. She sings from the Soul. That is the only way to put it. Maureen spoke of that first performance.

"I didn't expect the emotional connection exchange between me and the audience. I've been singing from that honest place every since", she said. In my opinion, that is what separates Maureen from the other singers in the world. When you go to hear her sing, it is like she is singing just for you. It is so intimate, passionate, fearless and honest. I knew I would have a hard time picking the right words to describe a Maureen Murphy performance, but at least I tried.

Her voice has allowed her to sing background vocals with Phish on their forthcoming album Fuego due Summer 2014. She has sang with Will Hoge at the Ryman and with the Zac Brown Band and Gregg Allman for the CMA Awards November 2011. These are highlights in her career according to Maureen.

One of the highlights in my life was having her perform at Phil's Jam for FSHD in February. I felt honored to have her be a part of it all. After she sang, the only thing I could say was, I love you! I think she thought I was crazy, but at that moment, after that performance...that's all I felt was love and joy. Maureen will also be performing at Phil's Jam for FSHD on July 13th. I will try to be more composed next time.

Maureen's current venture is an experience called SEYGO. I wrote about SEYGO in an earlier post after being blown away by the experience. I must recommend you go experience this as well.

I asked Maureen what her musical influences were and she gave me the best answer. She said, "Truth, love & life." Another reason I just love Maureen. She has really enriched my world. Thank you!!!

Until we meet again,


Monday, May 26, 2014

I'll remember you...

When I wrote this song, I was still mourning the loss of my Father. I post it every Memorial Day in hopes that someone finds comfort in the lyrics. It is a simple song and at the time it summed up exactly what I was feeling.

"And if by Gods' amazing grace, as I go to leave this place and I finally see your face...I'll remember you."

Bless you all and happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Anna Johnson Band has something special.

I was surfing Facebook one afternoon and came across a link featuring the Anna Johnson Band. I clicked on the link and immediately started to be drawn in. I found myself being pulled in by her wonderful vocals, lyrics and the harmony of the band.

As with anything that grabs my attention, I started searching to learn anything I could about Anna and her band. Since then I have become friends with Anna and her husband David. How inspiring to find a young couple following their dreams in Nashville while raising their little girl.

We recently attended Anna's CD release event here in Nashville. Her new CD "Here" is such a great example of music that is written well and composed in a way that keeps you interested. "Thief" is one of the songs on the album that really shows Anna's talent for telling a story without spelling it out word for word. She has an indescribable way of pulling you into the story. As a fellow songwriter, I appreciate this skill very much.

I recently spoke with Anna and asked her about her musical journey. She said her first guitar was her Dad's as she was raised up in a musical family. Her first song was written at a young age. After finally mustering the courage to play her new song for her parents she told me, " I was really shy about music at that point, but was really encouraged and reassured when they reacted positively to my writing. It was the start of something special, and I really had no idea."

She still has a shyness about her music, but it speaks for itself really. After they performed at my fundraiser, Phil's Jam for FSHD, I had so many people come up to me and say how flawless and wonderful their set was. I too was blown away at how perfect their sound was.

Out of High School, she won a full scholarship to McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN where she continued to hone her songwriting craft. The band Queen selected her as the winning recipient of the Queen Songwriting Scholarship after they heard her original song "Flowers on Monday." I included a link of her song, "Someday" with lyrics that sums up what Anna is all about. "Someday her dreams will come true, someday she'll sing them for you, someday you'll want to go too."

I believe in your dreams Anna. Keep up the good work.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Living with FSHD. Twenty-something and changing.

After years of denial or hoping FSHD would simply go away, I feel it is important to share my story now. I started by telling you my experiences of living with FSHD during my teen years. Now I want to share the next decade with you.

I read stories all the time from people who are in their twenties and are really starting to notice changes in their muscles. For me, my twenties were fairly normal. I was noticing some weakness in my shoulder muscles, but I was able to function as a normal adult. I was more concerned with making a living and supporting my new family than worrying about FSHD.

I was lucky that my maternal Uncle and Grandfather both were affected by FSHD (even though we didn't know what it was called back then). I did spend a lot of time going to Doctors to find out what I actually had. I figured if we can find out what was causing this, we can fix it...right? Wrong! After going to many Doctors and Chiropractors, I finally was sent to the MDA clinic for several rounds of neurological tests. It was not a good feeling to have Doctors call other Doctors in to look at you because they had never seen anything like this. I was obviously a freak of nature, or at least I felt like one.

Remember, this all occurred in the 1980's. The FSH Society was not even founded yet. The MDA clinic was the only resource for people like me. Doctors at that time knew very little about FSHD, its symptoms or its causes. But finally, after many painful tests, they were able to tell me I had a form of muscular dystrophy, sent me home with a bunch of literature and wished me the best. Basically that was all they could do. At least I knew what I had...right? At least I had a family history, so I knew I was not going to shrivel up and die right away. But I was still scared.

So my twenties were spent worrying about other things, once I learned I had muscular dystrophy and there was nothing anyone could do to fix me. I worked, played with my new daughter, enjoyed my twenties and tried not to worry about the future. I played music, started to learn the guitar and was a drummer in a Country band. I had learned how to hide my symptoms from others. At least at this point in my life I could hide the fact that I was a freak of nature. I was finally able to tell my family that what my Grandpa, Uncle and I have is a form of muscular dystrophy. At least I found that out in my twenties.

So like I wrote earlier, my twenties were spent growing up, trying to be a normal adult and learning to be a Father. I was lucky I had an Uncle 12 years older than me so I could at least gauge what I would be dealing with in the future. I knew that sometime down the road, my life would change. But until then, I had a life to live.

I hope you enjoy my writing about my life with FSHD. Feel free to drop me a line sometime at

Love and peace,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New vocal group Loving Mary to perform at Phil's Jam for FSHD!

Loving Mary to perform at Phil's Jam for FSHD!

Sunday, July 13th is the date for my next fundraiser, Phil's Jam for FSHD. I am very excited to announce that the new vocal group, Loving Mary, will be sharing their new music with us at the Wild Wing Café in Franklin, TN. More details coming soon. In the meantime, read about this amazing new group.

When you lock four accomplished songwriters in a room magic tends to happen. Born one night out of that magic was the band Loving Mary. Rebecca Lynn Howard, Suzie McNeil, Elisha Hoffman and Marti Frederiksen fuse their talents and experiences together into four-piece harmonies that dip from Americana to Country with a spin of Rock-n-Roll. Loving Mary is the coming together of four respected artists who have paved their way through the music industry, behind the scenes and on stage.
Rebecca Lynn Howard is a two-time Grammy Award winner originally from Kentucky. Rebecca’s songs have been recorded by Maritna McBride, Trisha Yearwood and Juliana Hough. Her voice and lyrics won over critics and fans alike with her smash hit "Forgive." The song garnered Rebecca ACM award nominations for Best New Female Vocalist and Song of the Year. 
Suzie McNeil was the last woman standing on CBS’s Rockstar: INXS competition show. She has since released four albums in Canada, collaborated with Pink, INXS and Steven Tyler, and had the honor of singing at the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies. Along the way she has won multiple awards and nominations including a Juno Award.
Elisha Hoffman is a songwriter/producer who has worked with everyone from American Bang and Decypher Down to Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain. Elisha’s song "Race You to the Bottom," performed by New Medicine hit the top #15 Billboard Radio Hit. He has also had the pleasure of watching Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund sing his song "Give in to Me" on the big screen in the feature film "Country Strong."
Marti Frederiksen has written and produced some of the major hits of the past two decades including, but not only, "Jaded" by Aerosmith, "Undo It" by Carrie Underwood, "Sorry" by Buckcherry, "Love Remains the Same" by Gavin Rossdale. Marti sang lead vocals for the fictional band, Stillwater in the major motion picture, Almost Famous. He has collaborated with a wide variety of artists like Neil Diamond, Faith Hill, Motley Crue, Pink, Eminem and so many more.

I am so excited that Loving Mary will be performing. I'll have more details soon, but for now...MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
Peace and happiness to all,

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Joel Shewmake singing "Family Man"

Quote of the year...

“Be not the judges of men, but love your brothers and sisters, and find ways to reach out to them in common goals and aspirations. Where there is love in common, the divisions of creed will melt away and reveal the true nature of man’s eternal destiny -- one of unity in purpose, to be perfect as the Father is perfect."

Author Brilliant but Unknown


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"Ashokan Farewell" by Jay Ungar

"The Third Day" a short story by my daughter Cagney Bennett

"The Third Day"

It was raining outside.

The raindrops covered everything as though they were cleaning, washing away the sin of the earth. He came to my door. The rain had covered him like a blanket. It hid his tears, his grief. But I could see.

We didn't speak. I stood in my doorway and him on the porch and we looked at each other. I don't know when, but I started to cry. Sobbing, for the entire world to see. I wanted to make him understand. I just stood there and watched him. He nodded and slowly put out his hand. I reached mine across the threshold, to grab him and pull him to me. He was gone.

I can't sleep.

I keep all the lights on and sit on my bed. When I close my eyes, I see the same scene. Playing over and over in my head. My mother tries to comfort me, but she doesn't understand. She can't comprehend the guilt I am feeling. She tells me,

"You need to move on. It's not healthy to be so upset over something like this. It happens. And you've got to keep living. Just remember the good things."

I don't answer her when she tells me this. I pretend not to hear. I stare at her, letting her glimpse my pain. Finally she gets exhausted over this battle and leaves me in my grief.

And it's only the first day.

The next day my mother tells me I have to go to school. Being with my friends will make me feel better. I go to my first class and I feel that all eyes are on me. Even if it isn't true. My friends give me sympathetic looks and hugs all day. Those comforting throw-away words are said in my direction through out the day. I don't listen.

At the end of the day, my best friend grabs my arm and pulls me aside.

"You look like crap. Seriously, I don't mean to be blunt but, wow, I'm seriously worried. Do you need someone to talk to? I'm here to listen. I bet you have a lot of stuff to get off your chest." I tell her I don't want to talk about it.

"Here's another alternative. Try writing. It'll help, I swear. But I want you to call me and talk whenever you want. OK?"
I nod in her direction and start to walk away.

"Wait! I gotta know, will you go?"

I don't answer. I just keep walking.

Luckily the house is empty when I get home. I go upstairs to my room. Lying on my bed is a picture that I've never seen before. It is me and him talking with our heads bent towards each other. His arm is around me, pulling me closer. And I'm smiling contently. Where did this picture come from? I feel tears in my eyes start to fall. Can't think about it. Don't think. Please don't think.

I drop the picture on the bed and go take a shower. I turn the water as hot as it will go. Perhaps in hope of scalding me. Let my pain be compared to his.

After my shower, I go back to my room and put the picture under my bed. I sit on my bed for a while and then get a notebook.

Dear you, You took my heart and I want it back. How dare you hurt me like you did...Dear you,I miss you. I love you. I'm sorry. I want to hold you once more...Dear you, One day I hope you receive this letter. I want you to understand the pain. How much I ache for you. I can't even write the anguish I feel. Why can't we be together? I miss everything...

I throw the notebook across the room in disgust. There was no hope in letting out my hurt by writing. I'm not ready for it. I fall back on the bed and wearily close my eyes. Sometime later, my mother comes into my roomand covers me up, but I don't try to fully wake up. Let me sleep in my dark abyss.

And it's only the second day.

When I wake the next morning, it is raining. I have an intense feeling of déjà vu. My mother comes in with two pink roses.

"Do you know what you're going to wear? I have a couple ideas. I thought you could take these roses. You can do whatever you want with them. Do you want me to come with you? I'd be happy to."

I shake my head and thank her for the roses. She gives me a hug, causing my tears to start again. After she leaves, I attempt to find something to wear. The clothes blur together and finally I grab something black and put it on. With my hair up in a bun, I don't look like the girl I used to be. Pain has etched lines in my face and the black dress makes me look paler than I already am.

As I leave the room, for some reason, I grab the picture from under the bed and take it with me.

I am standing in front of the box. The only thing that remains of him on this earth is this box. I watched it be lowered into the ground.

"Dear you, "I say quietly, "You are the earth and the sky to me. You are the air that I breathe. You brought my cold heart to life with your love. Not a day will go by that I will forget your smile, your touch, your words. I will never stop saying praise to God for bringing you to me. I've lost my other half.Good-bye.Love, me"

I set the pink roses and the picture of us on the coffin. I let myself cry one last time. Then I walk away.

And it's only the third day.