Elvis hated us.

Not the real Elvis.

An Elvis impersonator.

I had a band in the 1970s called Mixed Nuts.  The original name was Nick’s Nuts.

The problem was, a gangster guy who booked the band hated the name Nick’s Nuts.  He told us to change it, so we changed it to Nix Nuts.  He hated that name, too.  We changed it to Mixed Nuts. Gangster guy liked it; it fit.

We played cover songs, mostly Top 40 dance stuff – Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, Ohio Players, along with some jazz – Grover Washington, George Benson and Weather Report.

We played clubs in and around our hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.  We had some really good musicians in the band.  We sounded good.  We looked good, which is much more important than sounding good.  Only thing was – we were a little nuts.

Our keyboard player, Danny, was the nuttiest of the Nuts. He was the instigator.  He was a short, roly-poly guy, looked a lot like Danny DeVito.  Danny did some crazy things.

One of our first gigs was opening for an Elvis impersonator.  We used their equipment – drums, amps, and keyboards.  I’m guessing Elvis’ keyboard player wasn’t very good, because he had placed pieces of masking tape on each key of his keyboard.  He had written the notes of each key on each piece of tape – so the “C” key had “C” written on the tape, the “D” key had “D” written on it, and so forth, up and down the whole keyboard.

We opened the show for Fake Elvis, and played for about a half-hour.  Danny used the guy’s keyboard.  At the end of our show, Danny changed all the pieces of tape on the keyboard – so the “C” key was no longer “C”, and the “D” key was no longer “D”.

We left the stage.  People didn’t throw things at us, but the applause wasn’t deafening, either.  Elvis was waiting in the wings.  His band went onstage and the keyboard player started their intro, the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

All the notes were wrong, thanks to Danny.  The keyboard player looked down at his keys, and then over at Elvis.  Elvis gave him a dirty look.  The keyboard player started the intro again.  Nothing but wrong notes.  Elvis looked over at us, and we were smiling.

He was not.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the best night for Elvis and his band.  I don’t think the keyboard player hit one good note all night.  After the show, Elvis came looking for us.

But Mixed Nuts had left the building.

I liked the real Elvis a lot.  I’ve been to Graceland more than once.  Early Elvis is my favorite.  He was cool. His eating habits weren’t the best in the world.  A steady diet of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches can’t have a good impact on your body. But Elvis’ music had quite an impact on the world.

When Mixed Nuts played the Baltimore nightclub circuit, we started at 9 PM and played until 2 AM.  We did five 40-minute sets, 200 minutes of music.  We usually played the same club for a week.  Then, we’d head to a different club, play for a week.  We did that all-year long.

After a show, we’d all go out to eat.  Diners, Denny’s, Holiday Inns – anywhere that served food late at night.  Whenever The Nuts went out to eat, we’d arrive at the restaurant in our suit jackets and vests, and dress shirts and ties, shoes and socks, and – no pants. We were always so nonchalant about it, like it was completely normal.  We were nuts. Mixed Nuts.  We had a name to live up to.

A lot of the clubs we played were owned by Greeks – The Latin Casino, The Redwood Inn, Rhapsody, Hollywood Palace, and Club Venus.  The owners were all named John.  We gave them nicknames, so we could tell them apart…Uncle John.  Little John.  Big John.

We used to play the Hilton Hotel in a neighborhood called Pikesville.  It was one of the few clubs in Baltimore not owned by a Greek named John.  The Hilton club was run by a guy named Bill, who had a phosphorescent orange tan, fake black hair, and chain smoked cigarettes.

One night, The Nuts were at the Hilton doing our Big Finale, which was a song called “Birdland” by Weather Report.  It’s a lively little number, a song that we had a request to do.  The guy that requested it hit the dance floor as soon as we started the song.  He was all by himself, out there on the dance floor, doing a frantic little dance…

And then he died of a massive heart attack.  Right there in front of us, on the dance floor.  True story. We were scheduled to play the Hilton the following week.  But we didn’t.  Bill didn’t want us playing there anymore after the guy died.

It’s not like we killed him.

But it did give birth to the phrase “We knocked ‘em dead last night.”

Mixed Nuts broke up soon after.

Why?  Like I said, the guys in the band were really good musicians, and started getting some incredible offers…

The sax player got hired by Patti LaBelle. He started touring the world.

The guitar player got a gig with Dion and the Belmonts.  He started touring the world as well.

I got signed to Motown Records.  I took the drummer from Mixed Nuts with me to play on the album.  Who was the drummer?

Hit Man Howie Z.  We still play together in the Slim Man Band.

Four out of five Nuts went on to be pretty successful in the music biz.

And the fifth Nut, the nuttiest Nut?  Danny?

He got busted a few years later for selling marijuana.  The Feds found a lot of pot and a couple hundred thousand bucks stashed on his property. So I guess Danny was pretty successful, too, in his own way. Except the Feds confiscated the money.  And the weed.

Danny didn’t drink.  He didn’t use drugs.

But he did do a couple years in the Federal penitentiary.  When he got out of prison, he went back to Baltimore.

We’re still close friends.  He still plays music in and around the Baltimore area.  Jailhouse Rock!


When I was in Mixed Nuts, I didn’t cook very much.  But when I did, I usually made some Italian vegetarian dishes; tomato sauce, pesto, things like that. I didn’t eat a lot of red meat.

My Dad cooked a birthday dinner for me one year. He made this incredibly elaborate meal, and the main course was a leg of lamb with mustard sauce. My Dad had invited Danny. He loved Danny, thought he was ridiculously funny.

After this extravagant dinner, after all the courses had been served, Danny looked at my Dad and said,

“Good slop.”

Which my Dad thought was hilarious.

I still don’t eat a lot of red meat, but when I have carnivores over at Slim’s Shady Trailer Park, I’ll make lamb chops. This is my favorite red meat recipe.


1 pound lamb chops (I had 6, each about ¾ inch thick)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced (a generous teaspoon)

1 teaspoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for searing

1 tablespoon butter

Here we go…

Rinse off your lamb chops and pat them dry with paper towels.

Put the chopped rosemary and the minced garlic on a chopping board.

Even though they’re already chopped, chop ‘em up together for a minute.  These guys need to get to know each other.

Put the chopped rosemary and garlic in a small bowl.

Add a teaspoon of olive oil, mix it up.  Set aside.

Place the lamb chops on a large plate.

Rub a little of the rosemary/garlic/olive oil mixture on top of each lamb chop—only on one side!  Spread it around evenly, a thin layer.

Add a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Get a large sauté pan (I used a 10-inch pan).

Turn the heat to medium-high.

Add the 1 tablespoon of butter, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  When the butter starts to brown, add the lamb chops—spiced side down!

Cook for a couple minutes, as in 2 or 3.  Thinner pieces take less time, thicker ones, longer.

Using tongs, turn ‘em over. Swirl the olive oil and butter around in the bottom of the pan so you’re not placing the lamb chops in a dry pan.

Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Check them for doneness – at 2 or 3 minutes a side they should be medium rare.  If you like them well done, cook for a couple minutes more on each side.  If you like them rare, cook them less.

That’s it!!

Dish it up, make it look nice, add a sprig of rosemary, maybe a dollop of risotto, a couple baked asparagus spears, and…