Some of my first memories of music
were from listening to Dad and Mom play their 78 records
on their console player in the living room in La Salina
back in the mid-`40s. They loved Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra,
Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and others such as
the Sons of the Pioneers who sang Cowboy tunes such as "Cool
Clear Water "and then there were the musicals, with
Oklahoma being the one that has always stayed with me over
On our summer vacations back in the
States while taking one of our many family rides through
the beautiful green countryside where the sweet odor of
cut clover hung in the air and the endless rows of tall
stocks of green corn marched off across the nearby fields,
Dad would sing a tune from Oklahoma – "…corn
is as high as an elephant's eye…." And he would
end with "OOOOOKKKKLLLLAAAHOOOMMMMAAAAA…."
And we would all laugh. He and Mom would then flick their
cigarette ashes out the car windows (Pre AC) and they would
swoop back into our eyes.
I still love the old songs and now
have a collection of CDs with the music.
There always was music in the house.
Dad had made an arrangement with the May Company in New
York to mail us records, books and magazines (Boy's Life
was one) once a month. My brother and sister(Bill and Cris)
and I looked forward to them. We also brought records back
with us upon returning from Vacation.
Then there were the 33 LPs which
had a much better sound Dad's record player had a switch
on it which allowed you to play either 78's or 33's and
on every vacation Dad bought new records for the family.
I recall an incident upon returning from vacation at the
Maracaibo airport the customs agents were very tough. That
was when the dictator Perez Hemenez was being threatened
with overthrow. Dad had a number of 78's with us and the
custom's agents played each of the records. They were looking
for inflammatory messages which could be played over a radio.
One of Dad's records had a tune titled "Chew Tobacco
Rag" and when that tune played, the custom's official
who had a chaw in his mouth stopped listening to any more
records. That reminds me, the Venezuelan government at that
time used to censor any incoming news magazines and I recall
the Time magazine we received with articles cut out by the
censors if they had anything to do with Venezuelan news.
(Overseas issues of Time magazine at that time cost 26 cents
a copy and were printed on a very thin paper similar to
onion skin paper to reduce the Air Postage)
I used to play Dad's old time jazz
records over and over and laugh at the lyrics and the music.
I thought they were so funny.
Before I left to go to High School
in Georgia I used to take Dad's Zenith Shortwave radio up
on the dike in Tia Juana and listen to the popular music
that I could pick up on Miami AM radio stations. I would
sit there for hours with the faint breeze coming off the
lake listening to the music and watching the Catatumbo lighting
flash on the mountains across the lake.
Now, when I arrived in Georgia for
high school in 1957, the first thing I did when I had free
time was to go to the local drug store and listen to the
music being played on the juke box. I had never experienced
such a thing before. That was when I really learned about
45 rpm records. All the new music was being introduced after
Elvis Presley made his debut. There were many new popular
Dad and Mom gave me my first AM /Shortwave
Radio the Christmas before and I strung at least a 50 foot
antenna out my dorm window and into the nearby pecan trees
and I would listen to the bee-bob and early rock-`n-roll
music. If there was a tune I liked then I would save up
from my meager allowance and buy the 45 at the local music
By the end of the school year I had
a collection that I took back to Venezuela with me and I
became "POPULAR" for the first time.
Over my high school years I accumulated
a large collection of 45's and I would be invited to many
house dance parties because the kids wanted to listen and
dance to my records. I was very very "POPULAR".
I loved the Blues in High School
as the school was in the heart of Georgia it was impossible
not to get a black radio station. I used to listen to the
music on the weekends when the rest of the boarding students
went home and none of the white kids would know that I liked
the music – B.B. King was my favorite black singer
and I bought his 45's. When I brought my records to a dance
I would slip on one of the Blues records and ask one of
the pretty girls to dance with me. Usually I ended up dancing
and them standing as they could not dance to that kind of
music. The only girl who could that I knew was Shari Norsworthy
who could really move to the music.
I loved the dances under the homes
on stilts. The parents would be up stairs and they never
came down to check on the kids. We used to congregate in
the maid's room and smooch in the dark and smoke cigarettes.
Some of us would bring a bottle of rum and we could pour
the rum into a half empty coke bottle and slowly but surely
get tight. What a delight!!
About that time the "Doing the
Bop" was the in thing and the girls used to wear those
long pleated cotton dresses and they loved to twirl as they
danced to the music and the dresses would whirl around them.
Randy Lanciault was a good dancer and had all the right
steps and moves down pat. He worked at his dancing. Many
of the girls, including Franca Vettor liked to dance with
Slow dancing was great because you
could pull the girls in close and put your face into their
hair – one of the few times you could – no matter
how damn hot and humid it was – unless you were going
steady which few of us did as we had grown up together and
were like family in many respects.
I remember when I bought my first
pair of black Wejin loafers. They were so cool, because
you could stick a dime or in my case a real in the tongue
of the shoe and look cool in a pair of jeans or kaki slacks
and T-shirt. Looking cool was very important, especially
at the dances. Occasionally there were teen dances at the
club. I didn't particularly like them because the parents
used to stand around looking at us as we danced and I felt
like I was performing for their entertainment. When I was
in Tia Juana, we did not have live band music, it was records
or if there was a band, then it was a Trinidadian steel
drum band or a native band playing Venezuelan music which
I also loved to dance to.
Then there was the time for love
found and then lost love when I waited until my parents
went on their afternoon rides after Dad came home from work,
when I would put on the "love lost" records and
sit around listening to them feeling totally sorry for myself
until I wore the damn records out. This lasted one whole
summer after I broke up with my first girl friend –
more like her father breaking it up now that I think about
When Dad retired in 1963 I packed
up and brought to the States the piles of 45 rpm records
that I had acquired over the years. They ended up in the
basement of our house in Baltimore where they had been relegated
as I was now purchasing 33 Stereo LPs and my taste in music
had moved into Rock and Roll, Hard Rock, Acid Rock. I was
in the Army in Germany in the late 60's when a hurricane
that came ashore in Louisiana cut across the East coast
and flooded the basement to our house. Upon my returning
home I learned that all my treasured 45's had been covered
in water and mud and were beyond recovery and consequently
were thrown out.
Inwardly I was upset because of the
extent of the collection and the memories I associated with
many of the songs on the records. Fortunately, I have discovered
that many of the old singles are being reproduced on CDs
and I hunt the racks in Borders hoping to find some of my
old memories. Occasionally, I will listen to an "Oldies"
radio station and hear one of those old forgotten favorites
and the great memories come rushing back Too bad I can't
share them with my wife and daughter…..they don't
That's the way it was…..