Category: Culture (page 1 of 4)

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band Start A Six Week Run At No. 1

Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” finally reaches No. 1 on Billboard this week in 1980. The album was actually released the last week in February, taking 8 weeks to secure the top spot as it overtook Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” You may not realize it, but “Against the Wind was Seger’s 11th album! The record spent six weeks at No. 1 and ended up being the only number-one album Seger has ever had. He released his first album, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, in 1969. That and the nine other albums the preceded “Against the Wind” generally garnered favorable reviews from critics. He was actually one of the top live acts in the Detroit, Michigan area and could reliably sell 50,000 to 100,000 albums to his regional fan base. He finally gained national attention with the back-to-back releases of “Live Bullet” and “Night Moves” in 1976, which were recorded with his Silver Bullet Band. The “Night Moves” album was his first to break into Billboard’s top ten. Robert “Bob” Seger actually got started in the Detroit music scene in 1961, when he was just 16 years old. His stints playing with several popular local cover bands helped provided him a preliminary fan base when he decided to go solo and start playing his own music. He performed and recorded under Bob Seger and the Last Heard and Bob Seger System until putting together the Silver Bullet Band in the 70s. Heavy touring in support of 1975’s “Beautiful Loser” garnered Seger a loyal grassroots following across the country, helping to cement the success of “Against the Wind” a few years later. Interestingly, the hit album was originally panned by a lot of critics that also counted themselves a long-time fans. Rock critic Dave Marsh, writing for Rolling Stone, said, “I’d like to say that this is not only the worst record Bob Seger has ever made, but an absolutely cowardly one as well.” Seger openly admits that he deliberately set out to write a number one record with “Against the Wind”, though. He dialed back the driving rock pulse, added some pop-music sensibilities, and successfully crafted an album that top 40 radio stations and listeners couldn’t resist. He released a handful of other albums throughout the 80s and 90s, but one of his best known hits probably came from the soundtrack of the 1987 Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack. “Shakedown” ended up earning Seger an Academy Award nomination, though interestingly enough, he actually wrote the song for fellow Detroit-native Glenn Fry, former frontman of The Eagles. Fry lost his voice right as the recording sessions were starting, so he called in Seger to take his place. Seger took an 11 year hiatus starting in 1995 to dedicate time to his wife and two children. The sabbatical was briefly interrupted in 2004 when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but little was heard from the famous rocker until he released “Face the Promise” in 2006. Seger’s music continues to be a mainstay of classic rock, but fans might be surprised at how difficult it is to get their hands on one of his records. He has only one album available in digital format – 2014’s “Ride Out.” On top of that, most of his albums aren’t even in print any longer. In fact, only six of his total 17 recordings are available to purchase on his own website. Used copies of his first seven albums start around $30, and go as high as $200, if you can find one. It is a bizarre circumstance considering re-releasing material in the latest formats is incredibly lucrative for both artists and labels. It’s hard to really know why he seems to have so little interest in perpetuating his musical legacy, but it’s been suggested that he just doesn’t want to deal with the business side, which he leaves entirely to the discretion of his long-time manager Edward Punch. And Punch argues that he is preserving Seger’s vision as a complete “album” artist, preferring not to have them streamed as singles. (Sources: NPR, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

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Under Armour Stock Is Down Over -50%… Is It Time to Consider?

For discosure purposes I am personally long Under Armour (UAA) stocks and looking to add to my current position on another leg lower. I am down approximately -15% in my current position. The stock itself is down over -50% in the past 12-months, perhaps trending lower and is the single worst performer in the S&P 500. The company and its stock has come up in a lot of private conversations as of late and I thought it might be worth passing along what I know and what I’ve heard. To begin, the fundamentals have been extremely negative. The company had a huge Q4 earnings miss and dismal guidance for Q1. From the data I have seen, revenue rose by +12% annually to $1.3 billion, but that missed estimates by $100 million and was much lower than the +20% growth the company had been posting the past six-years. The setbacks are said to be due to more competitive pressure in the space from Adidas and others who have been winning some market share. There are also headwinds being created by inventory management expenses and currency complications. There’s some talk on the street they made a few big buying mistakes as they’ve tried to gain more market share in the more high-end and “professional fashion” athletic wear space. There’s also arguably been a few flops with a couple of their new shoe releases. This is important to understand, since Under Armour started growing aggressively their revenue streams have shifted a bit. Their apparel revenue now account for about 67% of its top line, footwear revenue now accounts for over +20%, and accessories revenue accounts for about 9%. This means Under Armour’s dependence on footwear has risen over the past few quarters, which is troubling because it’s forced the company to compete more aggressively against shoe giants like Nike and Adidas. Both of these companies have taken a much more proactive approach to defending their market share and in fact seem somewhat prepared to “do whatever it takes” to defend their turf. Margins in the footwear space are being pressured as the giants battle it out. Many now argue that for Under Armour to promote new products and find more growth they will have to continue boosting their sales and marketing expense. Rember they are already paying huge money for young super stars like the NBAs Steph Curry; NFLs Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall; MLB’s Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Buster Posey, Dee Gordon; Swimmer Michael Phelps; Tennis Andy Murray; Golfs Jordan Spieth,etc… There were also some big ripples across this group and amongst other influential professional athletes when CEO and fonder Kevin Plank called Donald Trump a “real asset to the country” during a February television interview, ultimately drawing some disagreement and harsh remarks from key partners in professional sports. I personally found it sad that the stock took a heavy hit on Planks comments in support of Trump, but in todays world of algorithmic trading it only takes few negative tweets or responses f ro m some of your high profile athletes endorsers to spark a wave of negative comments and sell pressure. Now the questions becomes can Under Armour stop the bleeding? I’m personally willing to bet in the long-run the stock will again find more favorable footing and is worthy of a longer-term look. Lets not forget Under Armour was founded by a feisty Kevin Plank. After finishing up college in 1996 as a so-so linebacker for the University of Maryland, he round up his savings of $17,000, which he made while selling roses, and started a business out of his grandmothers house. While playing sports through the years Plank had become frustrated by his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts’ and the inability to keep him dry and comfortable. He searched for a synthetic material that would wick the sweat from his body. He tried several prototypes before deciding on the one he wanted to use. He then asked his former teammates to try on the shirts, claiming that his alternative to a cotton T-shirt would help their on field performance. As his friends and acquaintances moved on to play professionally, he would send them T-shirts, requesting that they pass them out to other players in their locker rooms. Within just a few years his new company Under Armour was doing millions in sales. In 2003, Under Armour’s first television advertisement featured a football squad huddled around Plank’s former University of Maryland teammate Eric Ogbogu, shouting “we must protect this house”. The phrase became a sales slogan and battle cry for Under Armour. In 2010 the company’s revenues reached $1 billion. I’ve read so many research pieces on this stock the past few weeks my head is spinning. There are experts saying the stock is a “buy” and experts saying the stock is a “sell” with still more downside in it’s future. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m willing to make a small wager that a guy who started a multi-billion dollar business on a shoestring, that has since changed an entire industry, has a few more tricks up his sleeve and a whole lot of fight left in his soul. Yes, they have clearly stumbled and their “growth” is now in question, but in the long-haul I suspect their brand will remain popular amongst our nations youth. Hence the reason I like owning on the deeper breaks in valuation… As of this writing, Under Armour “A class” shares UAA were trading just above $19 per share. “C class shares” UA were trading just under $18 per share. I personally own the “Class A” UAA shares. As always make certain you clearly understand all the risk associated with any stock or option purchase and discuss your specific risk tolerance and strategy with your licensed advisor.

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What’s Your Auction Bidding Strategy?

My wife and I love attending auctions. In fact the kids make fun of us now, telling us we are getting old, because date night often consist of going to a local Kansas City auction on a Wednesday or Thursday night. Interestingly we’ve always liked attending auctions, just during some of the leaner years we clearly couldn’t bid as often or as high on an item of interest. Now a days we primarily attend art, antique, automobile or charity auctions. Occasionally we will hit a farm auction if the ground is of real interest and within proximity of our home base. It seems to both Michelle and I that auctions are starting to once again get more popular, as attendance seems to be on the rise. I ran across an article the other day that that made me think about my bidding style. “Are you a “stealth” bidder, who bids with a wink, a nod or a surreptitious wave? Or do you bid aggressively, hoping to scare off the competition? What’s your online bidding style? Are you a sniper or a squatter? Do you bid online using the same style of bidding that you use at a live auction? When you offer your own online auctions, can you tell where your price will end up by the type of bidders you are attracting? Like most everything else in our search for the truth, academia has thoroughly researched these topics and we’re going to have a look at some of their results. (Source: Antique Trader)

  • Auction Sniping – It’s the auction equivalent of military sniping. It’s the S.W.A.T. team of auction bidding. When the winning bid in your auction comes from “out of nowhere,” you have been sniped. Bidders never know when a sniper lurks in the background until, in the final few seconds of an auction, the sniper’s bid appears. Most snipers will use a stealth type style of bidding. Often times you are not even certain where the bid is coming from. Other bidders are rattled up and simply can’t respond fast enough to top the sniped bid. Providing that the sniped bid is the highest, it wins the auction suddenly and aggressively. If are bidding on a extremely rare or unique item that will not be available at other auctions or sales and multiple bidders ar entrusted, then snipe the auction. Set up the snipe with your maximum bid written down and then leave it alone. You’ll either win it or you won’t.

  • Auction Squatters – These are the opposite of auction snipers: They enter an auction early and take up residence until the bidding ends. Squatters bid early and often. They respond to competing aggressively, they let the crowd know immediately they want the item. Most squatters will use a loud and attention getting signal to bid. Studies make a strong case in favor of squatting, and claim that the strategy produces a “competition effect,” which can help drive others away. Unfortunately in if an item is extremely rare or highly unique the edge shifts to “snipping”. Bottom-line, if item seems less than unique and can be found at other auctions or sales, the edge seems to go to the squatter type style. If you decide to squat, be aggressive about it. Don’t bid the minimum amount; doing so just invites competition. Instead, bid a significant percentage of what you are ultimately willing to pay. Bid bigger early so it doesn’t allow others to get in the game and become personal, sort of like bluffing or raising the pot early in a poker game so as not to let others draw out and win the hand.

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A Little “Elvis” History

Elvis Presley is of course infamous for his music and movies that turned him into one of America’s biggest pop culture icons. Dubbed the “King of Rock ’n Roll”, Presley’s career was briefly interrupted in 1958 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He received the notice at Christmas time, which did not necessarily come as a shock. He’d been eligible for the draft for five years at that point. Military conscription was part of the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1951. Originally Congress passed the measure to supply the manpower needed to fight the Korean War, but it remained in effect after the war ended in 1953 due to U.S. concerns about its Cold War enemies. Under the act, all men between the ages of 18 and 26 were required to register. The minimum age for induction was 18 ½. For those drafted, the length of service was set at 24 months. Presley’s name was added to the eligibility registry on January 19, 1953. In the meantime, he graduated from high school, got his start with Sun Records and RCA, released numerous number one records, made his first movie and became a sensation on network television. He was one of the most popular entertainers in America when he was summoned to Kennedy Veterans Hospital in Memphis for a pre-induction physical on January 4, 1957. These examinations were critical in determining a young man’s physical and mental fitness for military service. Presley’s results classified him as 1-A, ready for immediate call-up. News soon leaked to the press and a nationwide debate ensued as to whether Elvis should be granted special treatment. Some argued that he be made part of the Special Services and spend his military stint traveling around entertaining troops. That plan was panned by critics as unfair special treatment. It turned out that the Special Services weren’t interested in Presley joining them anyway, unless it would help in their recruiting efforts. The military’s research showed that Presley’s basic appeal was to young girls, however, which the Army said was “outside our interest.” Presley’s official draft notice turned that Christmas into a very bittersweet event. This was the first holiday season he and his family were spending at Graceland, the mansion Presley had purchased just nine months before. He purchased Graceland on March 19, 1957 for $102,500. That’s pretty remarkable considering that Graceland is one of the most famous houses in the world and the second most visited house in all America, behind only the White House. At the time, it was a pretty isolated estate located miles outside the main urban area of Memphis. Its remoteness was welcome, as by that time, the Presley home in Memphis proper was drawing huge crowds of fans and journalists, which Elvis and his family found intrusive, and the neighbors found to be a nuisance. Officially, Graceland was where Elvis, his parents Vernon and Gladys, and his grandmother Minnie Mae lived, but unofficially, it was also the home/hotel/clubhouse for the entire “Memphis Mafia”—the ever-changing cast of childhood and newfound friends who surrounded Elvis. Obviously, the draft news put a damper on everyone’s holiday spirits and particularly Elvis’ feelings of pride and accomplishment. At the height of his popularity and with Hollywood contracts for eight more movies, Elvis naturally felt all of it might be lost when the army took him away for two years. Nevertheless, Presley reported for his induction on March 24, 1958, a day dubbed “black Monday” for his fans by the press. RCA producer Steve Sholes and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range had carefully prepared for his two-year hiatus. Armed with a substantial amount of unreleased material, they kept up a regular stream of successful releases. Presley returned to civilian life on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5. Between his induction and discharge, Presley had ten top-40 hits. RCA also generated four albums compiling old material during this period, most successfully Elvis’ Golden Records (1958), which hit number three on the LP chart. (Source: ElvisHistory, Wikipedia, Graceland.com)

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to the country. What is known about him is a little sketchy, with much of the history perhaps being embellished a bit over the years. The closest anyone can really date his place in history is the late 4th century. His birth place is believed to have been Scotland. According to the widely accepted story, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16. He was brought back to Ireland and enslaved for six years. It was during that time that he he converted to Christianity and “found God”. After six years in captivity, Patrick supposedly heard a voice telling him he would soon go home and that a ship was waiting for him. Patrick fled his masters and travelled to a port that was some two hundred miles away. He convinced a captain to take him along and is believed to have sailed to Britain. He reunited with his family and eventually became a priest and then a bishop. He returned to Ireland following a vision and started converting thousands of pagan Irish to Christianity. Most famously, it was during this period of time that Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. He is clearly Irelands most famous Saint. Keep in mind it wasn’t until early in the 17th century that Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian holiday or religious feast. The day actually commemorated Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating the heritage and culture of the Irish. It didn’t really become a public celebration until the 1900’s, when there was an organized military parade through the heart of Dublin. It was actually in the 1960’s the parade became more about “fun”, actually influenced and brought about by Americans. The American tradition of an often rowdy celebration was in turn reimported to Ireland and is now a four-day festival. The actual secular celebration is always held on March 17th and is now celebrated on every continent and is more a celebration of Irish culture in the form of parades, parties and festivals than it is its Christian heritage. You might not know it, but one of the longest-running and largest St Patrick’s Day parades in North America occurs each year in Montreal, whose city flag includes a shamrock in its lower-right quadrant. The annual celebration has been organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal since 1929 and the parade has actually been held annually without interruption since 1824. Below are a few of the celebrations held here at home:

  • Boston – St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston bring over 600,000 visitors to the city, which has a large Irish-American community. The city has one of the largest parades, which many veterans take part in, and events are held in the large number of Irish pubs in the city. The Irish Cultural Centre holds a celebration, and many events feature Irish food, such as corned beef.

  • New York – New York City is the place of the oldest civilian parade, which boasts over 150,000 participants. This may include veterans along with firefighters, policemen, and cultural clubs. It is led by New York’s 69th infantry regiment. Another city in New York state, Pearl River, has the second largest parade in the state with crowds of over 100,000. In Buffalo, there are two St. Patrick’s parades.

  • Scranton – This Pennsylvania city’s parade is one of the oldest and largest. Since 1862, this parade has been one of the most popular, with current celebrations attracting around 150,000.

  • Chicago – The Irish community makes up a large part of Chicago’s celebration. Chicago dyes the Chicago River green and holds the South Side Parade, which has actually had to be scaled back in recent years due to the celebration growing too large for the Irish groups that hold the parade.

  • New Orleans – This coastal city was the largest point of immigration for the Irish. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are typically held at the community or neighborhood level.

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