Month: December 2020

For The Old Times

In late 1977 I was attending California State University, Sacramento. I was a Communications major and was involved in the university radio station, KERS. The station started in 1970 and was a “full power” station, not a 10 watt wonder as many high schools and colleges had. In 1977, its effective radiated power was 5400 watts with the antenna on the roof of the theater building on campus. The studios were in the same building.

KERS was in the process of becoming a higher power public radio station affiliated with NPR, National Public Radio. To that end, the university hired a professional manager. Gone was the free form music programming of mainly rock music. In it’s place was soul music during the day, a two hour news/public affairs block, and jazz at night. I usually ran the news/public affairs block and often did a jazz show although not on a regular basis. I was pretty much the voice of the station, doing most of the promotional announcements.

I spent many hours on one of these at KERS Photo: Universal Audio/studioelectronics.biz

I don’t know who suggested it, but for New Year’s eve the station manager allowed us to do an oldies program starting at 8 PM. My friend Bill Hudson (I forgot what air name he used) would do the first two hours. Bill was ten years older than I was and was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. He did from the early days of rock and roll through 1962.

I came on at 10 PM, going year by year playing a number of songs from each year from 1963 to 1968 to take me up to midnight. I played some big hits and some obscure stuff. The manager told me I could go as long as I wanted as long as I ended on the top of an hour. Of course I was going to go as long as I could. That meant that I was going to usher in the new year on the air. I stayed on until 4 AM.

As I was planning on going after midnight, I had to do something to usher in 1978. What would be more appropriate than the staple of New Years, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne. I went out and bought an album just so I could play that tune. Lombardo first played the song on the radio for the New Year of 1930. His New Year’s broadcast ran for many years.

I bought an album just for this.

I used the Guy Lombardo album one more time a few years later for a commercial at a radio station where I worked. I “accidentally” forgot to bring the album home again.

The words of the song were said to have come from a poem by Robert Burns of Scotland written in 1788. Burns, however, said the poem came from “from an old man’s singing.” The words are about two old friend talking about their long friendship and the good times they have had over the years. Today, we use the first two verses to celebrate the new year.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely Ill buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But weve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And theres a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o thine!
And well take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne? 

The poem was used with several tunes, finally being paired with the tune we know know today in 1799. Interestingly, the melody fits Asian styles of music.

The melody is used in Japan as a school graduation song as a way of saying goodbye.

A Japanese graduation song.

It has been used, off and on, as a national anthem known in both North and South Korea.

Korea hoping for unity.

However you know the song, may you have a joyous New Year.

Music of Christmas Past

There is something about Christmas that brings me back to Christmases long past and memories of loved ones long gone.

For years my mother would use tempera paint and do a Christmas-themed picture in a large front window of wherever we lived at the time. Her inspiration would come from either a Christmas card that she liked or even from the cover she liked from an album of Christmas music. I have long thought of doing the same thing but I don’t have enough confidence in my artwork to even try.

A sample of my mother’s Christmas artwork from 1961, Staten Island, New York.

Every year my mother would bring out her Christmas albums. One of the albums she played was by the Robert Shaw Chorale. I was always moved by the gospel sounding Mary Had a Baby. I looked forward to hearing it every year.

Our copy had a different cover, but this is one of two Robert Shaw Chorale Christmas records that we had.

This is the other Robert Shaw Chorale album but with the same type of label as the above record. I found the labels to be works of art.

Robert Shaw Choral Christmas label.

Another album my family had was the somewhat bizarre ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians and Glee Club. The title cut was the one I remember most.

Fred Waring blending styles in 1955.

As years went by my mother would start listening to Christmas music on the radio. In the early 1970’s, San Francisco had two commercial classical music radio stations on the FM dial, KDFC and KKHI, with the latter being my mother’s preferred station. Every year on Christmas Day KKHI would play an eclectic selection of Christmas music. The only thing about the music was that it had to reflect the meaning of the day and be heartfelt. I don’t recall any “We’re expected to record some Christmas music so here it is” stuff. They may have played some secular music, but I doubt they would have played Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The music had to reflect the feeling of the day as I recall. While it might be an exaggeration, it seemed that if Led Zeppelin had recorded a Christmas song, KKHI would have played it on December 25.

One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs was Nat King Cole’s version of the 1945 Robert Wells/ Mel Torme’s composition, The Christmas Song.

Nat King Cole’s original 1946 recording.

For years I only knew Cole’s 1961 stereo rerecording of the song. In the mid 1980’s, my friend Mad Man Moskowitz played his old 78 of the song. To me it is the definitive recording. I don’t think anyone else should even try.

Whether your memories of Christmases past be happy or bittersweet, may this Christmas be a good one and bring a smile to your face in future years.

Merry Christmas.