Come Back Rickey
Driving Mary’s Equinox comes with an added pleasure for me. It has a feature I very much enjoy, satellite radio. I will have to say previous vehicles we owned offered the feature, but we never thought we needed so many stations. Kind of like TV cable, hundreds of channels to select from. If you are like me that number could be reduced to a dozen if they let me pick them. Seems like a waste of air waves, at least to me. My car radio in the sixties could only pick up WETZ and WWVA. They seemed good enough back then.
Painful as it is for me to admit, I have changed my appreciation of new things over the years, and Satellite radio is one them. Why, you may ask? Well, I can tune in the sixties channel and hear music of my generation. No disrespect to any other music, but in my opinion music became great in the fifties and continued into the sixties and seventy’s. After that it had its moments, but it never gained the greatness of my generation’s music.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to some of today’s music, except hip-hop and rap. I am sorry, but those are not music to me. Can you imagine Elvis doing a hip-hop rap song? Try and pretend to hear him singing, Jail House Rock as a rap song. It just don’t work. And another thing, when I sometimes understand the words to the songs of Hip-Hop and Rap I don’t want to hear those words expressed out loud coming over my radio speakers. In fifty years, they’ll not be playing those songs, but they will still be playing the Beetles, Rolling Stones and John Horton. You remember John? He made famous the songs that told stories, Sink the Bismarck, North to Alaska and Johnny Rebel.
Why, all the fuss on my part about music? I guess because music use to have words I like to listen too. Today the songs on my truck radio, are often just noise I listen to as I drive. Sometimes I find an oldies station on my radio, but you see I don’t have satellite radio in my truck. In Mary’s Equinox I can turn on the sixties and listen to singers like Ricky Nelson.
I grew up watching Ricky Nelson and his family on TV. They lived in a world where Ozzie struggled to always have the answer to the family’s problems. In the end, often Harriet would help him find them and let him think he had done it all on his own. And if things really got to be problematic, Ricky would break out into a song. You could not help but to smile and enjoy the family’s problems and Ricky’s songs.
Time pasted and Ricky grew up and the show went off the air. He continued to sing, but his songs became tied to the past. The world around him and each of us changed, we grew up and that time of innocence dissolved into a time of war in South East Asia. Songs of protest and changing mode in America started filling the air waves of our radios. Ricky got lost in the noise. That noise became so great that in 1985 his songs ended in flames in an airplane crash. Instantly there were reports of drugs being involved. It is a shame he died and whatever caused the crash I felt an end had come in my era’s generations of music. But, the satellite radio in Mary’s vehicle can bring back the music of Ricky at least for a song.
My barber Pete, normally has music playing on his computer when I visit. I asked him to select the Walter Brennan channel, or at least that’s what I call it. You do know who Water Brennan was? He was an old character actor who played in a popular television series, The Real McCoy’s. They were supposed to be from Smokey Corner, West Virginia and moved to California to farm.
Walter also played in several westerns. My favorite, My Darling Clementine. He was joined with several other movie greats, Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Ward Bond and Linda Darnell.
He played the part of Ike Clanton, not a nice guy. Clanton stole Wyatt Earp’s cattle in the movie. Earp was played by Henry Fonda. At the end of the movie Ike and his boys were gun down in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
As much as I like Walter as an actor, I also enjoyed his music. You may remember he made a couple of albums in the early sixties, Dutchman’s Gold and Mama Sang, were just a couple of the songs he was known for. Neither reached the top ten, but were popular on the radio. As Pete cut my hair, Walter came on the radio and sang my favorite song, Old Rivers. It is a ballad about an old farmer plowing his fields with a mule named Midnight. When I listen, I can see in my mind a man who has worked the land all his life. Never had much, but an old mule and a house with a porch that was cool in the summer and a warm fireplace in the winter. I know the story is just part of a song, but I know somewhere in our country’s past there was a man like Old River who worked his land and may have had a mule named Midnight. No matter how many times I’ve heard that song, it somehow takes me back to a time when songs often told a story. A story worth hearing.
Another singer on Walter’s station was Burl Ives. He sang, A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down and Funny Way of Laughing. It is unlikely that anyone has not heard his most famous song, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. He is the voice of the snowman and sings the title song for the long running Christmas special.
Why do I mention these singers and their songs? Because, they were in a since rappers of their day. They often spoke the words in a rhythmic tone with a melody. Balladeers told stories in their songs and you wanted to listen to the words. A lesson Rappers of today should learn.
I realize my opinions are dated in time, but that is okay. I still can tune in the sixties channel, when Mary lets me. So, the next time you turn on the satellite oldies station and hear Ricky Nelson singing, Travelin’ Man, maybe you will remember when music was great and you could just listen to the words and sing along. A time when Ricky and Walter sang their songs and we did not have to pay a monthly fee to hear them.
I miss those songs and the people who sang them. But, for a few moments when I close my eyes and hear the gentle hum of the hair trimmer, I drift back in time and listen to the great balladeers. A time when Walter tells me about, Old Rivers and Midnight. And Ricky sings of a Travelin’ Man as if I were listening once again to WETZ Through the Lens.