University of Minnesota Marching Band in Rochester
What in the world brought me to this place? The other night Judy and I were at a University of Minnesota Marching Band concert at the Civic Center. It was a great concert, but it got me to thinking. Given my family history, why would I be at a music event?
Music, theater, and the arts were not part of my life growing up. Some families have pianos, fiddle, or record players to keep themselves entertained on long North Dakota winter evenings. Not us. The closest thing to a musical instrument my grandmother could play was the radio. It was on just for the news and weather.
As Judy and I were listening to the great band music I continued thinking about how I got to this place, liking music, but with no background and no ingrained talent for music. A number of things came to mind, and most of those interests continue to shape my life today.
One person I thank for my interest in the theater is the father of one of my first girlfriends. Patty’s dad was a professor at Jamestown College. He was quite the guy, and probably good for another post. Something about a TV remote control and a 1958 Rambler station wagon. Back to the story at hand.
Professor G approved of my dating his daughter, but he apparently thought I needed a little culture. He often gave Patty and me tickets to the Shakespeare series at the college. They were well done productions, and gave me a lifetime interest in the Bard. Every year Judy and I now go to at least one play at the Winona Great River Shakespeare Festival. That’s almost fifty years of seeing these plays, and I eagerly await next year’s festival.
That doesn’t explain how I got to a concert.
A couple of weeks ago the children’s choir sang in church. Their rendition of “Beautiful Savior” immediately took me back to a Sunday afternoon in Jamestown, North Dakota. Those of you who know me today might be surprised to hear that I was playing a Hammond console organ in the chapel of a nursing home accompanying my good friend Wes’ older sister Lynne T.
Guy, channeling Elvis
You may remember my love of music, as I talked in an earlier post about my record collection. Two of my best friends owned guitars and were learning to play them. Dances at the KC hall and other places filled our weekends, and Sundays in church I loved listening to the pipe organ. I loved music, and desperately wanted to develop whatever talent I had. Maybe I could buy something that would help?
There were two record shops in Jamestown. Marguerite’s, and a smaller one whose name escapes me now. Marguerite’s sold guitars, amps and instruments to every garage band in the state. There wasn’t a better place in town for the musician.
The little store sold Lowrey organs. (Mark remembers that the store was named Lowrey, too.) Little electric console jobs that sounded cheap, especially compared to the standard of the day, Hammond. The best part about them was that I could afford to rent one, according to the clerk. Soon enough, the delivery truck showed up at our house and I was learning to play the organ on my own. I didn’t have the money to afford lessons, nor did I have the sense to know they were necessary.
Listening to music has been one of my favorite activities ever since I discovered 45 RPM records in the early 1960s. The first record I ever bought (98 cents, plus 2 cents tax) was Nat King Cole singing Those Lazy Crazy-Hazy-Days Of Summer. Among the many record players over the years was the classic RCA changer. Scratchy sound. No bass. Prone to failure. Everything today’s digital music is not. That didn’t stop the music!
Some of the sixty-plus 45s we listen to in the car.
This summer I found my old stack of 45 RPM records in the attic and converted them all to MP3 so we could listen to them in the car and in the house. The old familiar scratch-scratch-scratch of music from the 45s brings back memories of John and me listening to those records in the basement of my house on fourth avenue in Jamestown, ND. How many of you old guys spent an hour trying to decipher the words to “Louie, Louie?”
Here’s a copy of Nat “King” Cole’s song. If you enjoy it, you might want to read about and listen to fifteen of the greatest songs of the Boomer Generation on the Next Avenue website.