Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who needs legs to dance?

I've got another "amazing kid" story. This is why I love my job.

This summer I met a beautiful young girl at a festival in western Kansas who was tooling around the fair grounds in a wheelchair. She had no legs below her knees.

As I started my show, I spotted her in the crowd, and she was bopping to the music as she sat in her chair. When it came time to choose kids to be in a band, she eagerly raised her hand. I couldn't pass her up. She wheeled up and took an instrument with the rest of the kids.

I was singing "Buggy Hop," which has a part that invites the kids to "hop, hop, hop" and "jump, jump, jump." I suddenly became really self-conscious about singing those lyrics since there was a kid right in front of me who clearly couldn't jump like the rest.

Fortunately, I couldn't have been more right. Indeed, she couldn't jump like the rest. She jumped better than the other kids. She grabbed the arm rests of her wheelchair and pushed down with all of her might, and she launched her little body right out of her seat. She doesn't need legs to dance!

I watched her the rest of the day at other performances, and she enthusiastically participated in all of them. Back in our "green room" tent, many of the other performers talked about how moved they were by her spirit.

Yesterday, I met this same girl again. I was playing at an elementary in Hays, Kansas, and I chose her to be in a band without realizing that she was the same girl, since I was in a town hours from where we first met. But she rolled up to me and smiled and asked, "Do you remember me?" Her twinkling eyes gave it away.

"How could I forget you?" I said. And, again, she rocked out to "Buggy Hop", and she danced better than all the rest. And I say that not just because she did it without legs, but because she had a huge grin on her face and lacked the self-consciousness that I could read on the faces of so many of the others. At age eight, she knows who she is, and she's proud of who she is.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sweet Smells of School

(This was published in the August issue of Leawood Lifestyle magazine.)

Every time I step into a school cafeteria (which is easily 100 times a year) the acrid smells of sour milk, baked mystery meat, and bleachy cleansers swirl into an unpleasant olfactory gumbo that assaults my brain’s limbic system, somewhere near the hippocampus. That’s the spot where smells trigger memories.

Instantly I’m hurled back to third grade. I’m sitting at the lunch table nibbling on a crumby peanut butter sandwich and an apple, while my friend Steve inhales a “real” lunch of potato chips, a Ho-ho, and a can of Cragmont Lemon-lime soda wrapped in foil. His mother must really love him.

Over in the corner stands George the janitor standing ready with his mop and bucket and a box of sawdust, just in case one of those nervous stomachs decides to heave back its lunch.

Ahh…the smells of school send my mind reeling. Each room and each hallway prompts its own cascade of memories.

Over in the dank and musty gym – the woody smell of the fl oor mixed with rubber and leather and perspiration-soaked cotton reminds me of the single glorious victory we had in five years of elementary and middle school basketball.

In the kindergarten room, the distinctive aroma of Play-Doh, and Elmer’s glue, and the dusty scent of construction paper takes me back to a time when I was five, and my classmates and I sat with our eyes riveted to a tiny black-and-white television screen as we watched Apollo 14 splash safely back to earth.

And in early afternoon, in almost every classroom, nostrils are shocked to attention by the unique clammy bouquet of a gaggle of sweaty students fresh from recess. I’d like to bottle that scent and market it to retired teachers as “Eau de Playground.”

And then there are memories that trigger smells, like purple-inked hand-outs duplicated on ditto machines. Cool and still slightly damp as they come off the silver cylinder – there wasn’t a kid in my class who didn’t kill a few brain cells sniffing that irresistible chemical odor.

But the most hope-filled smells of all come from the supply aisles at the back-to-school sales.

Every August I’d joyfully inhale a stack of brand new school supplies that held infinite promise. There’s nothing that reeks of hope as an unmarked Big Chief tablet and an unblemished Trapper Keeper, or a freshly sharpened #2 pencil and a soft pink eraser. I’d cram what could fi t into a sweet chemical-smelling plastic pencil bag with a zipper that still worked.

The smell of school is in the air. Think of the possibilities!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

95 shows of summer!

(A parking lot jam
in Lincoln, NE, and, in NM, Willa sings for the first time in public!)

We are in the final wee
ks of our summer tour, and what a blast it's been! We're on target to do 95 shows in 92 days. So far we've driven thousands of miles and rocked with audiences in Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Just yesterday 481 (official count) showed up in Overland Park, KS, for a super boisterous celebration. No better way to beat the heat than to come inside and rock!

And we've still got more shows to go throughout Kansas and Missouri, and in Iowa. Be sure to check out the schedule at

Check out the fabulous video montage of a tour of the Oklahoma City libraries that I did with my band The Hiccups. It was shot by our faithful and talented roadie Casey Friedman. View it here.

Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Swim Like a Child!

(This is me serenading the youth of Salina.)

The Hiccups and I performed at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, KS, last weekend. It's a fabulous festival with world-class music (and us) and stunning art work from around the U.S. Very well-run event and a load of fun.

I met two guys from a band from Uganda at the hotel pool. One of them had never been swimming before, and he was bobbing around like a little kid -- splashing and laughing.

He said, "I have always seen pictures of people in swimming pools with smiles on their faces. Now, I know why. This is so wonderful -- better than I had imagined!"

Such child-like joy from an adult is priceless and contagious! It reminds me to keep living on wonder.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jiggle Jam 2010

The following is an excerpt from a note that my beautiful bride Jeni posted on Facebook about Jiggle Jam 2010. We're still basking in the glow of an amazing weekend. She summed it up quite welll...

"The day after Jiggle Jam was over, Jim and I took our daughters, Lyda and Willa back to Crown Center to play in the fountains. “Where did Jiggle Jam go,” Willa asked.

Jiggle Jam had come and gone. There was scarcely a sign that it had even been there at all. The tents were gone. Decorations and trash had all been removed. Not even a sign of confetti could be found near the stage!

I can confidently speak for all of the Jiggle Jam organizers on this one - Our third year of Jiggle Jam blew us all away. We witnessed so many beautiful things that inspired us to keep this thing going. We provided the environment for a rockin’ festival experience. All four different stages were filled with opportunities for audience participation. We saw so many families playing instruments, singing on stage and showing off their dance moves. But, it truly is the families and musicians who bring the atmosphere to life.

I personally had many moments of “goose bumps.” The first stage most people saw was our Workshop Stage (dedicated to Bongo Barry). Barry’s dear friend, Brandon Draper kicked off the festival with a drum circle. I could hear the pounding all the way from the Jam Stage. I knew we were off to a great start. Barry would have loved it!

Then I knew we had done something right when our biggest crowd sang along to "ABC Gospel" with
Choo Choo Soul. My favorite moment was dancing with Genevieve, DC and JJ board member, Amy Hilbrich Davis on stage with our kids during "Do Your Own Dance."

My face hurt from smiling during DC’s “Break-Dancing / Beat Box Workshop” on the Jiggle Stage. Not only are Genevieve and DC fabulous performers, you could tell they were genuinely having just as much fun as the children and adults. That energy spilled out into the audience. Moms, dads and children were inspired to bust a move in the middle of the dance floor.

StoneLion Puppets and Martin City Melodrama gave kids had the chance to be part of the puppetry and theater experience. The Jazz Storytellers exposed children to the sights, sounds and instruments that create jazz music. Terrance Simien and The Zydeco Experience allowed dozens of children to show off their love for Zydeco music during their performance (and almost everyone caught some groovy beads). Richard Renner helped spread humor and laughter to everyone he saw, either through the eyes of his Robot, or from up high on stilts.

As always,
Jim Cosgrove & The Hiccups got dozens of kids and parents up on stage to play percussion instruments during all three of their sets. Ralph’s World literally invited the entire audience up on the stage. Ralph has a great following in Kansas City. We had to close off the stage it was so full! The Sugar Free Allstars taught children some classic 70’s moves during “Disco Dance Party.” While The Jimmies got a cool mosh pit going during their beach ball extravaganza for “Cool To Be Uncool.” (one of our favorite songs.) Secret Agent 23 Skiddo, along with his lovely wife, daughter and amazing band members demonstrated how Hip Hop is a family celebration. Kansas City fell in love with this group.

Moms and dads enjoyed classic 80’s tunes during The Zeros’ flashback set, while hundreds of children were invited on stage during the show to have their hair styled in New Wave fashion! The Zeros’ concert was complete with confetti guns, bubbles and beach balls!

Everyone could see, feel and hear the sense of love and community among Kansas City families and musicians during Jim’s tribute to Bongo Barry. Special thanks to Funky Mama, The Doo-Dads, Dino O’Dell, Brandon Draper, Pat Conway, Dean Ottinger, Ernest James, Tim Whitmer and The La La’s for joining Jim Cosgrove & The Hiccups during “Bright Light” and Bongo Barry’s family-friendly version of “Kansas City.”

One of the best interactive additions this year was the
Garage Band Tent. It was a huge hit thanks to Keli and John Wenzel, Tye Murpy, and Pat Redd (Funky Munky Music). Imagine a tent set up like "Wayne's World," complete with keyboards, drums, guitars and even cow bells! Families and entertainers came in, plopped down on the couch and jammed to classic rock. Hundreds of children found that spark and discovered they CAN play an instrument!

It’s so beautiful to see a shared vision come to life and grow. Teams of volunteers and staff put in a lot of sweat and love to make this happen. Dave and Angee Simmons take great care of our staff and entertainers in one of the best hospitality rooms around! Amy Hilbrich Davis recruits her army of SEVEN children and darling husband to work the fest. Dan, Linda, Hanna, Amy, Erin Cosgrove make managing all three gates a family affair. The Cosgrove and Davis families define the true meaning of volunteerism!

Jiggle Jam is a family festival, created by families. And yet it’s a great challenge to experience it with our own children. None of us could do this without the help of friends and family who tend to our children while we work hard to make the festival run smoothly. Jim and I have
Mimi and Papa to thank. Plus, everyone can always count on my mom to provide Mimi’s Lollipops in the green room.

This note could go on and on if I continue to attempt to thank EVERYONE who makes Jiggle Jam possible. But, the glue that holds all of this together comes from our fabulous Board of Directors and Volunteers.
BIG THANKS TO: Keli "Super Glue" O'Neill Wenzel, Julie O'Neill, Pat O'Neill, Jennifer O’Neil, Jessica "Wonder Woman" Julich, Laren Mahoney, Shawn Sullivan Warner, Chris Campbell, Kate Migneron, Candy Tai, Barney "Bubble Machine" Walsh, Kate Migneron, Jana Soper, Paula Busser, Jeremy Roush, Jan Cichello, Kathy McGuire, Julie Beggren, Dan Leasure, Brendan Whisenant, and the entire security and cleaning crew at Crown Center for making the Jiggle Jam Family Experience everything it has become! I am ready for 2011!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Bottoms

A clean, dry bottom makes for a happy baby. And, it makes for happy parents.

Unfortunately, not all bottoms are happy. But thanks to two very cool moms, Jill Gaikowski and Melissa Larson, the world is becoming a much happier place – one bottom at a time.

As the founders of, they collect diapers to help struggling families in the Kansas City area. Since November, they’ve collected 36,700!

“I am collecting diapers as much as I can and getting them to those who need them,” Gaikowski said. “Our goal is to coordinate diaper drives that support low-income families through community partners.”

According to their website, disposable diapers are in high demand because:

1. Safety-net programs such as SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (women, infants, children) do NOT cover diapers.

2. Diaper companies do NOT make big donations to shelters or outreach programs.

3. Diapers are expensive and cost exponentially more at inner city convenience stores than they do at big box stores or online.

4. Cloth is NOT an option. Laundromats do NOT allow the washing of cloth diapers. Many low-income families don’t own a washing machine. Licensed daycare centers (esp. free or subsidized) do not accept cloth diapers. Parents must provide disposable diapers.

5. If a family can’t afford diapers, a baby will spend extended periods of time, sometimes days at a time, in the same soiled diaper. This increases the risk of numerous health problems, including diaper rash and may be linked to an increased rate of hepatitis. Not to mention an unhappy baby!

6. Unhappy babies are crying babies. Crying babies are more likely to be abused by an already stressed out caregiver.

This Saturday, you can help families in need by bringing a donation of diapers or wipes to my free concert. There will be door prizes and giveaways, too. Here are the details:

Mr. Stinky Feet Concert
Saturday, April 24
10 a.m.
Cedar Ridge Christian Church Gymnasium
8839 Lackman Rd., Lenexa, KS 66219
(Check out my show dates and details here)

If you can’t make it on Saturday, you can bring diaper, wipe, and ointment donations to any one of my shows from now until I'm too old to sing. Or, you can drop them off in collection bins at these locations:

Deanna Rose Farmstead
Paradise Park
Wonderscope Children's Museum
The Learning Tree (Leawood and Prairie Village)
Children's Orchard (Lee's Summit, Olathe, and Kansas City)
TITLE Boxing Club

We thank you! And all those tiny bottoms thank you!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

California diary

I just flew in this afternoon from LA to KC. I had a window seat. I love window seats for this reason: The world looks amazing from 30 thousand feet! And this is one beautiful country.

We took off over the pounding Pacific surf and doubled back over the rolling Hollywood hills, which gave way to snow-capped Sierras...which gave way to forsaken salt flats... which gave way to the lonely high desert... which gave way to rugged (and Grand) canyons and mesas... which gave way to the majestic Rockies... which gave way to the patchwork quilt of the nation's bread basket... which gave way to rolling pastures along the banks of the Missouri... which gave way to HOME!

For the past twelve days I've been in Southern California having a blast as always, and missing my girls. I slept in a big stucco Wigwam, addressed a conference for early childhood educators, performed some shows, recorded a new CD, and met some beautiful people. It's so good to be are some snippets from my stay:

In Alhambra I met a homeless man named Chief Weeping Tree who gave me the coolest gift I got all week. After I slipped him a contribution, he recited for me his poem titled "Silent Plight." The first line is this: "Oh my, how more poor grow hungry every day where the fields weep for woe..." He thanked me by saying how much I had blessed him, when it was he who had done the blessing.


I spent an hour in the laundromat talking with Roberto, an out-of-work carpenter in his late 50s. He told me how he visits the casinos 3-4 times a week and through much patience and calculation, he works the system of free points, free play, and free buffets to actually make a small profit. After my clothes dried and I was packed up, I gave Roberto a dollar and asked him play Keno for me next time and to email me if he wins. He said he'd have his son contact me, because his son knows computers..

If you ever need a dose of reality, don't turn on the TV, go to the laundromat!


When I asked a group of school kids the other day where they can find rhythm, a little voice shouted out, "Target!" And, of course, he was correct. Rhythm -- wherever you are, there it is.


As I was loading in my equipment for a school assembly in Fullerton, I was instructed by faculty members not to use the word "kid" or any derivative of the forbidden word. They had me so paranoid that I slipped -- twice! Poor kids will be scarred -- whoops there I go again!


Some deranged old dude tried to pick a fight with me the other day at Griffith Park Observatory. (The same spot -- oddly enough -- where in "Rebel Without a Cause," Buzz challenges James Dean's character to a fight.) I was on the phone and gazing out at the Hollywood sign when he came up to me and grumbled that I was staring at him, which was "rude" and "provoking." Agreed. I told him I was only provoking the Hollywood sign. Now, move along.