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Monday, January 24, 2011

Stand Right Here, Part I of II

My father was a musician. Salesman by day, percussion disciple by night, he taught me the love of music. Unfortunately, the price of the education included my father’s sudden musical seizures.

He called from the living room. “Pearl! Come in here. I want you to hear something.”

I shut my book, a Ray Bradbury collection, and heaved myself off the bed, annoyed. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the music, but he could be so sporadic about it. Three, four nights in a row, then nothing. This was Saturday, though; and you could count on my Dad calling you from whatever you were doing to join him at the stereo on a Saturday.

The love of music could be such a burden.

I skulked toward the living room. I could hear the music much clearer in the hall. By the time I reached the living room, it was loud enough to have to shout.
My father was standing in the middle of the room. He grinned at me.

“What.” I said it as flatly as I could. I had just reached a good part in the book and was testing a theory that my use of a monotone would indicate a lack of enthusiasm on my part and sway him from the inevitable, letting me get back to my reading.

My father didn’t notice. “Who is this?” he shouted pointing toward the stereo.

I rolled my eyes but listened anyway.

“The Benny Goodman Orchestra.” I had to shout back in order to be heard. I tried to maintain the monotone in my voice, but it was hard to do over the music. I sounded like I was a little slow, maybe with a cold.

Dad nodded approvingly.

“And who’s playing clarinet?”

“Da-ad!” I shouted, exasperated, giving up the monotone. Why did I need to go through this? Didn’t he know I had a bed in the other room to loll around on?

“OK. OK,” he shouted. “Everyone knows that one. Who’s playing drums?”

He liked to ask questions like that. Who was Woody Herman? What did Stan Getz play?

“Gene Krupa,” I shouted.

He nodded. “Listen to that. Would you listen to that?” His hands beat the outside of his thighs, mirroring the drummer.

The drum solo was coming up for “Sing, Sing, Sing”. Dad motioned for me.

“Stand right here,” he shouted. “Come over here – Pearl, what are you doing? No, no, come right here. Stand here.” He ushered me to an oddly matted point in the shag. “Perfect spot. Right between the speakers. See that? Look. No, Pearl, look right over – oh, listen. Here it comes.”

Ba-DOO-bop-a-diddly-bop, Ba-DOO-bop-a-diddly-bop – the solo swung into the room clean and crisp. My father closed his eyes.

“Ah.” he shouted. “Now that’s playing.”

I closed my eyes, the better to hear.

“You hear that?” he shouted at me. “You hear that snare? Hold on a minute.”

My father, in the middle of conducting the imaginary 40-piece band in our living room, dropped his arms and rushed toward the stereo.

He picked the needle up. The music stopped.

“OK,” he muttered. “Let’s just –“ he trailed off as he lowered the needle. The music was back.

“OK,” he shouted. “Right here. Listen. Listen.”

I closed my eyes. And right there was the part, the snare part he wanted me to hear.

“You hear that? You hear that sonuvagun? Man, that’s something!” My father was beaming all over.

“Yeah. I heard it,” I smiled.

“Yeah!” he shouted. He walked over to the stereo, lifted the needle. He turned it off.

“Yeah,” he repeated, turning back to me. “That’s something, ain’t it? Man, I wanted to play like that.”

“You do play like that, Dad,” I said. And I believed it. He kept a tight, swinging beat when he got to play what he wanted. Not that that would happen in this town. The band he was in at the moment was called The Kountry Kittens, a local three-piece with a long and surprisingly bland song list.

As the band’s name insinuated, the Kountry Kittens was a country band. Both the bass player and the guitar player were female. Big, healthy girls. Kevin referred to them as the Kountry Kitchens. One of them – Joanne or Judy? – I don’t remember which, as they looked the same to me – chewed tobacco. I’d never seen anything like it.

“I love the band you’re in now,” I teased. The whole family agreed on this one: The Kountry Kittens was not the highlight of his musical career.

Dad smiled.

“You love it, huh? Then you’re gonna love tonight,” he said. There was a disturbing tone to his voice, as if what he was really saying was that he suspected I would also enjoy cleaning out the car or doing the dishes. I stared at him.

“Momma and you kids are coming to the gig tonight!” He winked at me. “Don’t you love it?”

I smiled. Was he kidding? It’s Saturday night and we’re going to the bar!

Special thanks to Lisleman who offers this link to Youtube and the Benny Goodman Orchestra playing Sing, Sing, Sing. :-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9J5Zt2Obko

Come back tomorrow for Part II!


Simply Suthern said...

Every time my Dad picked up a new interest he would try to drag the whole family into it. He still does to this day.It was some good times.

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow! Your dad sounds like a neat guy, he actually shared stuff with you. You're a lucky gal.

Sausage Fingers said...

Yes sounds familiar, my father was a drummer in Dundee with the Couriers and was also a salesman.
Still is.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

My dad directed any music he loved....he was Skitch Henderson in his mind.

Gary Baker said...

My mum was a singer. She got the part of one of the nuns in the stage version of The Sound Of Music. She'd rehearse at home and guess who had to be the other nuns?
"She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee
Her dress has got a tear
She waltzes on her way to Mass
And whistles on the stair
And underneath her wimple
She has curlers in her hair
I even heard her singing in the abbey..."

Cheeseboy said...

Country with a K? Ingenious band name. The kittens part was just an added bonus.

I hoe part 2 includes a little underaged drinking and a righteous drum solo by pops!

Oilfield Trash said...

I still love hearing the stories about your dad.

Belle said...

I can't wait for part II. Your dad is an interesting man.
My dad used to get us out of bed to watch dancing bears on Ed Sullivan. We used to roll our eyes when he wasn't looking. The bears would dance, then back to bed.

Glen said...

That is something - to be so fired up like that, though the sadness behind comes through in limitations of the band. Nice imagery - like it

Jeannie said...

Reminds me of my friend's family. Her Dad played trumpet/trombone, sometimes piano in a jazz band. Her brother played drums. Their house rocked.

Andrew Green said...

Great story....
Your dad sounds like a hoot!

Eva Gallant said...

Your writing is so vivid! I can see your dad, with his eyes closed, directing the band!

Jhon Baker said...

I don' think my father was ever that interested in what I thought growing up - I am sure he didn't. However, now he can be counted on to ask my opinions, listen closely and then days later pass the same opinions back to me as if they were his original thoughts.

Lazarus said...

I think all fathers of that generation had a propensity to summon their children from distant rooms. My dad did it regularly but not to get me to listen to music, but rather to change the TV channel for him as he lounged on the couch. I guess it was form of bonding (with me trying to convince him to just watch was was on the current channel -- I hated waiting for commercials to end!) Great piece Pearl.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Can't wait for part II!


Bouncin' Barb said...

Can't wait for Part 2.

Kal said...

Kountry Kittens is just about the greatest name (next to the Wiggle Cats) that I have ever heard. My Dad was a big music fan too. He had all the best of country music on reel to reel and I liked to listen to it because he sang so well and we would sing along with him. He taught me how to harmonize with anyone and you don't know how much that has enriched my life. If people HAVE to listen to me sing in the car, they are always relieved that I can sing so well to anything that is coming out of the speakers. It's always a shock. I figure it's the least I can do if they have to listen to my music in my car.

HumorSmith said...

Could've been worse. Your Dad could've been a checkers champ.

Krystal said...

so I really enjoy your blog and writing!

powdergirl said...

I wish my family home had been music friendly. But alas, the Mennonite people feared music as it could lead to sex, which could in turn lead to dancing. And pacifistic old-country farm folk don't approve of dancing. Not one bit!

My dad made me play crib when we were snowed in or any other time I couldn't escape. Oddly, this did not engender within me a great love of board games : /

But I really really love to dance!

Jocelyn said...

I can't decide which of you two Nut Goodies in this piece is more endearing...from sullen Bradbury reading to tapping out a rhythm excitedly on one's legs, well, you've got me.

Gigi said...

The Kountry Kittens, huh? Interesting.

Just got the book today! I'm so excited!

The Unbearable Banishment said...

That was a nice piece! Were you named after Pearl drums? Did someone already ask that question? Does dear old dad know who Neal Peart is?

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen my dad be enthusiastic about anything. I've seen him enjoythings (like Tom and Jerry and Laurel and Hardy), but never to express himself passionately about something he cared about. So, while it must have been wholly annoying, I'm kinda envious? Indigo x

becca said...

the love of music what a wonderful thing

lisleman said...

Kountry Kitchens - good stuff
I enjoyed reading this now I need to crank up some swing on my Itunes.

lisleman said...

hey I found a Gene Krupa piece on youtube and posted it.

Flea said...

Oh Pearl. I love it! My dad always wanted to be a musician, but got stuck taking over his dad's business after a major hurricane wiped out his town (he dropped out of college).

Instead of big band and swing, my dad got me hooked on Dr. Demento style music. The love has never left.

mrwriteon said...

Thanks for all of this; the reminiscence and the youtube et al. I envy your childhood. And Gene Krupa. He was the one Big Band guy that we still thought was cool even when I was in high school in the age of Elvis and the Everly Bros. And he was cool and brilliant at his art and a proto-pothead to boot. I mean, how cool is that?

Green Monkey said...

Oh... I love your writing and I'm in love with your fathers passion for music. you had a wonderful childhood and I'm jealous!

Kavi said...

That post was not only full of fun, but was also full of love. And music too !!


Daisy said...

What a great memory of your dad and a wonderful story to read. Very nice. :)

Joanie said...

I remember my parents listening to the big band sound. Sounds like your dad was a real music afficianado! Can't wait to read part II.

Sioux Roslawski said...

The Country Kittens? I am looking forward to part II.

Such a rich, vivid picture of your dad...

imbeingheldhostage said...

I just fell for your dad... shhh don't tell my husband.
You know what's great about your blog? I know you won't make us wait long for the second installment :-)

Fay said...

Hi Pearl thankyou for your comment on my pgae What a find you are Ive subscribed and look forward to enjoying you Fay x

Chez said...

First time visiter. What a find! Imagined myself right there with you.

Symdaddy said...

I love these tales! Brilliant!

My dad wasn't musical, but he could throw a mean boot if I was up to no good!

TechnoBabe said...

You had a great life growing up. Your dad was there. And he was interested in you and in sharing his interests with his family. And gads, he was a musician. Heaven.

Elly Lou said...

God this made me happy in every possible way. Almost happy enough to stop bitching about the snow. Almost. :)

Douglas said...

You've planted a seed in my head for a blog post. Not about music or dads, or the relationship between them. But about space. Yeah, I know, doesn't seem related.

I would have liked your dad. Mine was stodgy, quiet, aloof, remote. He played a few musical instruments (though I never saw or heard him doing so) and loved music. And he never drank or went to a bar for any reason. I'd have been ecstatic had he taken us to a bar on a Saturday evening.

Jimmy Fungus said...

I feel the same way when my friend makes me listen to IN SYNC.

Mrs4444 said...

This is really sweet. You ARE a talented writer :) Came over by way of Lisleman's post. It's nice to meet you :)