Music: A bridge between generations

Last November I wrote about the recording Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakimoto. The post told the story of how Rich Osborn, of radio station KORD in Pasco, Washington, played the song from a Japanese album from 1961. That led to the song being released in the United States and becoming a hit. Mr. Osborn’s daughter, Mary, left a comment. In it, she said:

Dad always had extraordinary taste in music and one thing all of his kids remember with delight is walking into the house and seeing dad sitting in front of the hi-fi, listening intently. “Come here and listen to this!” he’d say…he has such admiration for the art and he helped us to admire it too.

Comment by Mary Osborn-Dixon
Rich Osborn Photo: longtailworld.blogspot.com

Mary’s comment reminded me how music brings people together. That does not mean that people of one generation will necessarily like everything of another generation, but there can be plenty of common ground.

My son told me of an experience he had while listening to Led Zeppelin with friends. His friends were amazed by one of Jimmy Page’s guitar licks. My son told them that it was a pentatonic scale — knowledge he knew from spending time plunking guitars with me. I think we both felt a sense of bonding that incident brought to us.

Another time I was playing a CD of rock songs from the ’70’s. While my son facetiously called the CD Cowbell Classics, he enjoyed it as much as I did.

My father used to listen to some diverse kinds of music. He was especially fond of Irish tunes from such artists as The Dubliners and songs such as Whiskey In The Jar.

Having a sip with the Dubliners

When my son was in high school he was listening to some contemporary music and I heard a song that sounded familiar.

…and another with Metalica.

My son has an appreciation for such traditional music that he got from his Grandfather. A few months ago he sent a video message. In it, he sang Rule, Britannia! in a marvellous tenor voice and dedicated it to my London-born wife, Fay.

My wife is a big fan of singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. Sometimes Fay is surprised by the fact that she knows the lyrics to the classic songs. She thinks she must have inherited an appreciation of that music from her mother.

It isn’t just those singers that Fay shared with her mother. There was a rock and roll group that released their first Extended Play record (a seven inch record with about four songs) in January, 1964. No, it wasn’t by those relatively clean cut lads from Liverpool, but rather by a collection of ruffians from London called the Rolling Stones. It wasn’t just “older” music being shared with a younger person, it was “younger music” being shared with an older person.

Liked by young and not so young alike. Photo: Decca Records

After my Mother passed away in February, 2007, my Father had a rough time of things. Amongst other mishaps, he fell and broke his arm in a restaurant parking lot. My Brother and I thought it might be best if my Father moved up to Washington State to live with my Brother. My Father agreed to that on a trial basis.

My Brother drove his one of his cars down to California, picked up my Father and drove back up to Washington in his car. It was arranged for a friend of my Sister-in-law to live in my parent’s house.

The trial lasted three months. My Father decided that he wanted to go back home. That is the area he knew. That is where his friends were. That is where his activities were. As I was available, it was decided that I would drive my Father back to California.

I flew down to Seattle from Vancouver and took the train over to Eastern Washington. I took some video on my way to Eastern Washington using a digital camera with a video mode. The image quality was not very good and it had no audio but it did give me a souvenir of the trip.

Old technology video of a special trip Video: Personal collection

I arrived late at night. My Father and I started on the long drive the next morning. As I recall, I did all the driving. We took longer than my brother would have taken, but he usually had FAA clearance for the trip when he drove.

The car had XM Radio in it (this was before the merger with Sirius). My Father graciously let me listen to the 60’s on Six. I would fill him in on all kinds of trivia about the music we heard. Somewhere in the middle of Oregon he asked if I would mind if he put on the Classic Country station that he liked to listen to. I said, “Fine.” It was his car, after all.

As we listened to the classic country music, I found myself filling him in on almost as much trivia about this old country music as I had about my music from the ’60’s. He seemed to take as much satisfaction in that as did I. He was thirty years older than I, but we still found a connection in the music.

I hoped to get lots of old family stories and information on that trip but that did not happen. In retrospect, the connection I had with my father through the music means more to me now than learning about family history would have.

Let’s raise a toast

Charles and Betty were on their honeymoon in 1932 in Phoenix, Arizona. In their hotel lobby, from a back room they heard a piano player play a song that the couple had never heard before. They immediately fell in love with it. The piano player said it was something he had written and the newlyweds asked him to write down the lyrics. The piano player obliged but did not write his name on the paper.

Twenty or so years later, Dave, a student at Stanford, and his friend Bob were driving down highway 99 from Stanford to Los Angeles. Dave thought he would stop by and see his girlfriend Katie in Fresno. Katie was not home at the moment, so her mother, Betty, thought she would entertain the two young men by playing the song she first heard on her honeymoon over twenty years before. The two men loved it.

A couple of years later, Dave, Dave Guard, and Bob, Bob Shane, got together with their friend Nick Reynolds and formed the Kingston Trio. Their first album, The Kingston Trio, was released in 1958. One of the songs on that album was Scotch and Soda — the song first heard by Charles and Betty in 1932. Bob Shane’s voice lent itself to the song so he had the honor of singing it. Since the piano player did not write his name on the paper with the lyrics, Dave Guard took credit as the composer although the group tried for years to find the original composer. It was released as a single in 1962 but the single did not sell that well — after all, it had been on an album for four years at that point. The song proved to be one of the Trio’s most loved songs.

I don’t know what happened to Katie. Betty lived until 1986. Charles lived until 2004.

Among other siblings, Katie had a younger brother, Tom. Tom liked to play baseball. He played it rather well, as Charles and Betty — Seaver’s — youngest child helped the New York Mets win the World Series in 1969. Tom passed away this week at age 75.

What you know and what you don’t know

Years ago I had an opportunity to fill in at a Big-Band radio station in San Francisco. I was excited about being on a high-powered radio station in the big city. The problem was that I really did not know the music. At one point I played something by the Glen Miller Orchestra. Before the song ended I practised how to say the name of Miller’s vocalist/saxophone player, Tex Beneke. I said to myself several times, BEN-eck-key, BEN-eck-key, BEN-eck-key. I turned the microphone on and said Ben-ECK-key. A listener called up. “You’re a young kid, ain’t ya.”

A few years later I was listening to an oldies station in Seattle. The song “Dirty Water” played. The announcer came on and said it was by the STAND-dills. I was incredulous. How could anybody working at a large market station not know the that the song was by the Stand-DELLS? Then I remembered that Sunday evening in San Francisco thirteen years before.

Sometimes when you are young and just starting out, you are not going to be as smooth as you would like. You need to be easy on yourself — and just as easy on others.

I love music trivia quizzes, especially about music from the ’60’s. However, many times it is clear that the people who make some of those quizzes do not really know what they are talking about. I would think, though, that someone who takes the time to make such a quiz and post it on line would research to make sure their answers are correct. There are two quiz questions from over the years that really got my hackles up.

One question went something like this:

In what City does Bobby Bare want to sleep tonight?

A. Detroit City

B. Abilene

C. (A third city)

D. (Some other city)

I could eliminate two of the choices right away. Of the other two, I knew that George Hamilton IV had a version of Abilene and was not aware that Bobby Bare had a version.

That left Detroit City, but anyone who had ever heard the song knew that Bobby Bare wanted to be almost anywhere but Detroit City. Any song that starts out with “I wanna go home. I wanna go home. Lord how I wanna go home” tells you the person singing the song is someone the Chamber of Commerce wants to keep out of sight.

So unless the question really meant “Where is Bobby Bare stuck but is hoping he does not have insomnia tonight?” then Detroit City was not a good answer to the question. I chose Abilene hoping that Bobby Bare did have a version that I was not aware of.

I was wrong. I guess the person who wrote the quiz had never really heard the song, or it had been so long that he forgot what it was about.

Another question that bothered me was this one:

Which of these is the official (emphasis mine) name of a Beatles album?

A. Red Album

B. Blue Album

C. Green Album

D. White Album

E. None of the above.

In 1968, the Beatles released a two record album. It had an all-white cover on the outside (except for maybe some small black print here and there) with the name of the album embossed on the front cover. While the album is commonly referred to as The White Album, the name embossed on the front simply said The Beatles. I choose E, None of the above.

They said I was wrong and that the answer was D. They made an incorrect assumption.

I am sure I will make some mistakes from time to time here. I try and verify what I write, but sometimes I go by memory if I am unable to verify. Feel free to let me know if I get something wrong.