The red dress had black symbols of some sort splashed across it. The buttons were wooden, giving it an oriental look. It was not the prettiest outfit I’d ever seen, but the girl in it was! Of course, she was not the girl I’d come to the dance with. Ain’t that the way life goes…..
I managed to find out her name. And, as the evening wore on, I summoned up the courage to ask her to dance. The music was a record player with a microphone laid in front of the speaker. As we rather awkwardly stepped out on the floor (I couldn’t dance a lick and I’d met this girl semi-officially only seconds before), she smiled and Roy Orbison cut down on “Candy Man”. It was, as someone penned in another song, “A moment to remember”.
A few weeks later I took her home to meet the family. She was extremely attractive. She was polite to a fault, fun to be around and one of the most humble and unassuming people I’d ever met. Did I mention that her father was a doctor? And, sure, she got me on the county club golf course for no charge. She put our meals on some tab her dad “kept open”. And, oh yeah, they owned about a thousand acres of rich bottom land….. Leon kept mouthing to me behind her back, “Marry her today.” “Don’t let this one get away.” “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEE!”
I was a junior in high school and not quite ready for the husband gig. But it is a wonderful memory that doesn’t come around very often. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall it at all unless I catch “Candy Man” on one of the oldie channels.
And that is kinda the point of today’s epistle. We all have those special songs that re-connect us to a particular friend, place or situation. The catch here is they’ve about quit playing those old songs! “Dancing with the Stars”, “NCIS” and “Duck Dynasty” are not featuring Roy Orbison much these days.
I can back up even earlier. I remember Leon bringing home that tiny 45 RPM record player in 1955. He paid something like fourteen dollars for it and the store “threw in” the hottest record out that year, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of “Sixteen Tons”. It was the first song I learned from start to finish. We played it from morning till night. Leon could even sound like Ernie when he dropped down on that “I owe my soul to the company store” line. What a special memory!
How long has it been since you’ve heard Tennessee Ernie sing? Listen, the Beatles recorded their last songs together over four decades ago! Fewer and fewer people are showing up at Graceland every year. Chuck Berry just turned 87 and Jerry Lee Lewis hasn’t been seen in years. If it keeps on going this away, I might not have had a childhood at all!
I kissed Millicent Blackburn right on the mouth on her grandmother’s front porch over on Magnolia Avenue. I don’t remember if we were in the swing or on that big couch against the back wall. I do know it was a hot summer night. I don’t how I got to her house, how we ended up on the porch alone or how long I stayed. I do remember distinctly that Percy Faith and his Orchestra was in the living room playing, “Theme from a Summer Place”.
It is amazing how one old song can define the time and the location, the situation and the moment for you. I hear Gene Autry sing “Back in the Saddle” and I can smell the popcorn from the old Park Theatre.
Probably the song I remember from high school more than any other was “Rebel Rouser” by Duane Eddy. The basketball team used it as their theme song as they came on the court. It was a scintillating moment as everything in the gym paused, Duane hit the first “twangy” notes on his ole Chet Atkins’ model Gretsch, the dressing room door flew open and Jackie Burns, Paul David Campbell, Jim Williams and the rest of the team poured out on the floor. I don’t see how we ever lost a game with that introduction!
Not all the memories are so sweet. When the doctor’s daughter came out to the Twin Pools to tell me the free golf was over the Coasters were blasting out of those giant speakers under the high diving boards, “Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo, fum, I smell smoke in the auditorium…….”
When the fight broke out up at the Skyway Grill Bobby Brewer and I were minding our own business over Cherry Cokes and cheeseburgers. Rollin Trull threw some big guy from Huntingdon right slap-dap across our table! I did an immediate double back summersault to avoid the flying Cokes and body parts while the juke box was playing, “North to Alaska”.
Prom night was moving kind of slow until the masked rider rode the horse through the side doors right out on to the dance floor. Everybody looked shocked except the masked rider and the big horse. They promenaded to Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover” before ducking off into the darkness from whence they came. Ended up being the best dance I ever attended.
You don’t suppose you can lose the memories if you can’t hear the music?