You call that old?

I’ve been reading blogs about “classic rock” by writers talking about times they’ve read about, being too young to remember some of it. Sometimes they bring back memories and sometimes introduce me to things I hadn’t known.

My earliest musical memories are my brothers’ records. Both were teens in the 1950s. The first records were 78s. Three stick in my mind, one a big band record from the 40s, and here they are.

Pre-rock n roll with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra and “Opus No 1” by Cy Oliver
“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, who taught Paul McCartney to shout “woo” and shake his hair.
“Don’t Be Cruel”, the flip side of “Hound Dog”. Once I heard Big Mama Thornton’s original version of “Hound Dog”, Elvis’s paled in comparison; partly because it left out the primary concept of the song, comparing a lover to a hound dog “snoopin’ ’round my door”, and letting him know that sex was out of the question with “I won’t feed you no more”.

The first album I recall was Duane Eddy’s “especially for you” with “His ‘twangy’ guitar and The Rebels”. We played it on my brother’s portable stereo, which looked a lot like this:

Theme from Peter Gunn, an early TV detective show

When we moved to 45s, the record pile grew quickly. We played them on my sister’s record changer, which looked a lot like this.

My first single was a cover of The Beatles’ “She Loves You”, on Hit Records, a Nashville label that did note-for-note knock-offs of current hits and charged half as much as normal 45s. My own first album was the 1964 release “In Touch With Peter and Gordon”. This was the hit single:

Like most artists of the British Invasion, they listened to the blues and tried to cover blues songs. Here is their attempt at Willie Dixon’s “My Babe”, followed by Little Walter’s original recording.

After hearing the real thing, my musical tastes changed, aided by Big Bro, host of “Two for the Blues” on “Up Against the Wall” FM radio. I had to listen to it under the covers, down low, with the lights off, as broadcasts were 10:30 PM to 3 AM and I got up at 4:30 to work starting at age 12.

The hosts of “Up Against the Wall” up against the wall of Breese Stevens Field.

As a result, the first touring acts I saw live were BB King, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters.

[Breese Stevens Field is the home of the Flamingos of Forward Madison FC, whose official mascot is Lionel Bessi, a Holstein cow. The Flamingos are named after the city’s official bird, the plastic pink lawn flamingo, after a stunt in which 1008 plastic pink flamingos were placed on Bascom Hill in 1979. (See previous post re: Pail and Shovel Party and thousands of dollars in pennies.) It is also the place where I first promoted a concert and learned to do things myself instead of trusting others to keep their promises. I was urged to find an older and more experienced person to help me, as I was 16 or 17. It was his idea to save time by having each band bring part of the equipment and share it so we wouldn’t have to take so much time resetting the stage. Of course, the band he had arranged to bring some crucial stuff never showed up, so I (and another band that I had brought on-board) had to scramble to get equipment on site as the potential audience milling about outside started leaving when they heard no music. I, of course, am not bitter or anything;). This was to be a major fundraiser for Young World Development (see previous post). Fundraiser, yes. Major, no.]

Photo by Michael Kienitz

For those not familiar with Lionel Bessi’s namesake, here’s a look at his skills.

I also found video of an 8 year old Lionel already showing dribbling finesse, a powerful left foot, and the ability to be in the right place at the right time:

Maybe that lack of sleep in my formative years made me what I am today. That, coupled with being sick, means most of my exercise today is for my ears and fingers. (And too much for my eyes!) De-decorating the Christmas tree, hauling it out, cleaning up, and a couple of trips up and down the stairs was way more aerobic than it should be.

Soon I should be back on the bike and maybe writing about that again.