"There's a dream I keep having, where my mama comes to me, And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me. Got my own way of praying, but every one's begun, With a southern accent, where I come from." ~ Tom Petty, Southern Accents

"There's a dream I keep having, where my mama comes to me, And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me. Got my own way of praying, but every one's begun, With a southern accent, where I come from." ~ Tom Petty, Southern Accents

I discovered music in 4th grade. Rock ’n roll music, that is. As a younger child, I had exuberantly sung along to Disney albums, Muppet shows, and Bible songs from Sunday School class. I sang Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog with my 3rd grade music teacher, and did the Hustle with our gym teacher at the same school. But it wasn’t until I moved to Florida and subsequently heard musicians like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the first time that I became a fan of a new-to-me genre of music….rock ’n roll.

Now, in the late ‘70s, obviously, we didn’t have the ability to store thousands of songs on our smart phones, like we do now…since, you know, those hadn’t been invented yet. Music was on the radio, or on records and clunky 8-track tapes.

I began to buy music….there was something very satisfying and exciting about actually owning a hard copy of a song I loved, so I could play it whenever I wanted.

I got a dollar-a-week allowance from my dad, and my grandfather gave me twenty-five cents per A on my report cards every six weeks. I’d save a few dollars and then beg mom to take me to TG&Y, a discount store in Panama City. They had a great music section, filled with albums, 45’s and posters of popular musicians.

As mom shopped, I’d stand in front of the display cabinet containing alphabetized 45s, the small, affordable records that had a popular song on one side, and a lesser-known song by the same artist on the B-side. They were about 85 cents each, so I could buy two or three. This was a monumental decision. Which three? I can still remember how it felt to stand there and flip, flip, flip through the 45s, trying to decide between the latest song from Queen, the Eagles, or (don’t laugh) ABBA. Those records were treasures to me. I ended up with quite a collection, most of which I still have.

Now that I’m older, something is happening to the great musicians from that time. They’re getting older, too, even older than I am. Prince died. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey passed away. Gregg Allman is gone. And, more recently, the saddest loss for me occurred when Tom Petty died on October 2.

I felt like I’d lost a friend.

Tom Petty was wonderfully weird. He had a distinct Southern sound, a twangy Gainesville, Florida drawl which he seemed to be proud of. He had a unique look, with his straight blonde hair, and amazing teeth that seemed as if his lips could barely contain them. He could sometimes be seen wearing, say, a top hat and sunglasses, and they looked completely right on him. He was an artist, a character. I loved all that about him. But as an adult, what I feel saddest about is that a brilliant writer is gone from the planet.

Petty, even if you didn’t care for his musical style, was clearly a gifted writer. He wrote lyrics that went deeper than the shallow lines of the disco tunes or pop fodder that his peers were peddling; there was an intelligence there. He wrote about simple things so clearly that you felt as if he knew you, lived in the same town as you. There was a sense of place there; his feet were firmly planted in the sandy soil of the poor South. He wrote a song called. “Southern Accents” that the great Johnny Cash felt so moved by that he recorded it, himself, in his latter years, and said that it should replace “Dixie” as the official song of the South.

Petty wrote about feeling alone, being poor, being in love, losing his mama, being heartbroken, loving music, being free, experiencing loss, caring for family, and finding love. He wrote about what we’re all living. He was like us.

Because he was like us, even after monumental success, he fought to keep his records inexpensive when record companies wanted to raise the price of them. Why? Because he remembered being like me, a kid in the record store, wanting all the records but only having a few bucks to buy one or two 45s. He wanted that kid to be able to buy his music. He stood up for us.

Petty released 13 albums with his band The Heartbreakers, and released three solo albums, as well. But he wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs that none of us may ever hear, too. The ability to write like that, to me, is an incredible gift. Petty was in that universe of writers whose words are transcendent, profound, and sometimes just a whole lot of fun. The words and ideas poured out of him onto napkins, envelopes, note pads, or voice recorders. He had a gift, or as my English teacher Mrs. Margaret Biggs called it, a muse. His muse never seemed to stop whispering in his ear.

When Petty died, he was beloved by millions. He was still touring with his band…a 40th anniversary tour. He released an album of brand new music in 2014 called Hypnotic Eye, and it went to the number one spot on the Billboard charts in the United States. He was 64 at the time.

He was reportedly still advising young musicians, and generously sharing the recording equipment in his home studio with them. He donated his time to worthy causes, and he, of course, received many accolades over the course of his life, from Grammy awards to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Not bad for a poor kid born in 1950 and raised in Gainesville, Florida.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Petty, and thank you for the words and music.

"I'm just trying to make good quality music, 'cause I do realize this music is going to be around much longer than me.” ~Tom Petty, in an interview with Billboard magazine.

 

Y’all, what recipe goes with rock ’n roll? It has to be something weird, but really good.

Got it. My friend David Wallace calls these small burgers, “Skippy Sliders.” They’re something he invented for fun and shared with me recently. Now I’ll pass these funky little burgers on to you, and I want you to trust me: they’re amazing. Weird combination, perhaps, but it totally works! Give them a try. You only live once.

 

Skippy Sliders

Burger buns or small slider buns

Ground beef, formed into small burgers and seasoned with your favorite seasoning salt blend

Cooked bacon

Pepper jack cheese, shredded (a cup should do it)

Lettuce

Onion

Dill pickle slices

Peanut Butter

Pepper jelly

Mayo, mustard or Ketchup or any combination

 

Method:

Cook seasoned burgers on medium-hot skillet until juices run clear. Set aside.

Butter buns, then grill (or toast) the buns on their cut side. When golden brown, remove from grill pan.

On the bottom bun, spread some creamy peanut butter, then top with lettuce (or fresh spinach), then a thin slice of onion (red, white, or yellow), then sliced dill pickles.

Place the hot ground beef patty on top next, then top with pepper jack cheese.

Finish with crisp bacon, a dollop of mayo, and finally the bun top, smeared with some pepper jelly (mild or spicy).

You're going to love these. Turn your favorite music and enjoy!

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.

She is married and has three young adult sons who are considerably taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com and at Facebook.com/whatsouthernfolkseat.