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Saturday, December 31, 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 calls from the living room. “Pearl! Come in here. I want you to hear something.”

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

The love of music can be such a burden.

I skulk toward the living room. I can hear the music much clearer in the hall. By the time I reach the living room, it is loud enough to have to shout.

My father is standing in the middle of the room. He grin at me.

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

My father doesn't notice. “Who is this?” he shouts pointing toward the stereo.

I roll my eyes but listen anyway.

“The Benny Goodman Orchestra.” I have to shout back in order to be heard. I try to maintain the monotone in my voice, but it is hard to do over the music. I sound like I am a little slow, maybe with a cold.

Dad nods approvingly.

“And who’s playing clarinet?”

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

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

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

“Gene Krupa,” I shout.

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

The drum solo is coming up for “Sing, Sing, Sing”. Dad motions for me.

“Stand right here,” he shouts. “Come over here – Pearl, what are you doing? No, no, come right here. Stand here.” He ushers 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 swings into the room fresh and crisp, a summer's day. My father closes his eyes.

“Ah,” he shouts. “Now that’s playing.”

I close my eyes.

“You hear that?” he shouts 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, drops his arms and rushes toward the stereo.

He picks the needle up. The music stops.

“OK,” he mutters. “Let’s just –“ he trails off as he lowers the needle. The music is back.

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

I close my eyes. And right there is the part, the snare part he wants me to hear.

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

“Yeah. I heard it,” I smile.

“Yeah!” he shouts. He walks over to the stereo, lifts the needle. He turns it off.

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

“You do play like that, Dad,” I say. 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 is in at the moment is called The Kountry Kittens, a local three-piece with a long and surprisingly bland song list.

As the band’s name insinuates, the Kountry Kittens is a country band. Both the bass player and the guitar player are female, an unusual thing for 1972. Big, healthy girls. Kevin refers to them as the Kountry Kitchens. One of them – Joanne or Judy? – I can never remember which, as they look the same to me – chews tobacco. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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

Dad smiles.

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

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

I smile. Do I love it?

It’s Saturday night and we’re going to the bar!

Come back tomorrow for Part II!


Shelly said...

What fun! Ya gotta love dads and how they pass on their passions to their kids. I grew up on a farm, so my quizzes were about cattle, telling which breeds the mama and daddy were of any given baby, tractor minutia, how to properly set poles in the ground when building a barbed wire fence, etc.

Have a wonderful New Year, Pearlie!

Lazarus said...

Awesome memory Pearl, I'm sure you cherish it. Sounds like your dad was quite a fun man. My father used to summon me to the living room all the time when I was upstairs, but for a different reason: "Boy! Boy! Come down here and change the channel for me." I was a human remote, turning the channel whilst he laid on the couch deciding where it should stay. Kids today have it good!

Joanne said...

What music. Happy new year!

Rene Foran said...

This is so my Dad..and I could live in these words and the memories they inspire for hours.

Thank you, Pearl
Happy New Year, friend

Pearl said...

My father still makes me listen to songs, still makes me stand in certain parts of the room so as to get the full -- and correct -- affect.

I've been known to do it to The Boy.

Happy New Year to all my lovely, bloggish friends!!


vanilla said...

I'm all on pins and noodles.

David L Macaulay said...

touching post Pearl - yeah musicians tend to be sporadic.

Eva Gallant said...

I love the music of that era! Benny Goodman, Les Brown (and his band of renoun!) My oldest brother (who's now 81) and my oldest sister (who passed away several years ago) would jitterbug in the living room to songs like In the Mood, and the Darktown Strutter's Ball.

savannah said...

great story, sugarplum! can't wait for part 2!!! xoxoxoxoxox

happy new year! xoxoxo ;)

Pearl said...

vanilla, I like that. So you'll come back? Pasta luego!

David, I think it's a pre-req.

Eva, oh, I would've loved to have seen that. Would you believe that I saw Les Brown (and his Band of Renown) in 1980? Have seen Woody Herman, too!

Pearl said...

Ah, Savannah! :-) Happy New Year!!

jenny_o said...

Love drums! Great post.

The very best for 2012, Pearl! Let us know when your new book is off the press, eh?

Ms Sparrow said...

I could never understand why Gene Krupa was considered to be so great. I just can't get into drum solos. He would appear on the old Ed Sullivan show and the audience would cheer and I just didn't get it! Maybe if I'd had your dad to coach me, I'd have understood. Lucky you!

Leenie said...

I don't know a lot about big band music but I own Best of Benny Goodman. The Sing, Sing, Sing track is a little worn. Twelve minutes of pure magic. Looking forward to part two. Hope you put it on automatic post just in case things are a little rocky for you tomorrow morning.

Happy 2012!

Pearl said...

jenny_o, I think I was in a funk about it for a while, but am on revision two of the bus stories. :-) Thank you for being so supportive!

Ms. Sparrow, and see? Drum solos are absolutely one of my favorite things!! Benny Goodman is the reason I took up and still play the clarinet. :-)

Leenie, ah, you know me well! Happy New Year!

Lucy Ladham-Dyment said...

Great post. Thing is... I know those names, not bec. of age, but bec. I enjoy that music.

Thanks for posting.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Our grandkids love this scene. A favorite joke: What's so funny about "Sing, Sing, Sing"? Nobody sings!

Pearl said...

Lucy L-D, it was a great time for musicianship!

Blissed-Out, I can just hear children saying that. :-) I love a clean joke.

Douglas said...

Yeah, but do you know who wrote Sing, Sing, Sing?

And I will not mention Krupa's addition.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I love reading your Dad-and-his-music memories and the impact such times have had on you to this day! I see a lot of humor and love in your post -- a perfect way to end the year and begin the new one!

jabblog said...

Oh, yes - the clarinettist is really good but the drummer is something else:-)

Belle said...

My dad used to drag us out of bed to watch dancing bears on Ed Sullivan. We would all roll our eyes behind his back. We were more into Elvis.

Your father was a passionate person. It's funny how you do the same thing to your son! Happy New Year, Pearl. It has been wonderful to get to know you this year. You are a great writer and a sweet person. Happy New Year!

Kevin Musgrove said...

Yay!!! The bar!!!

Have a good New Year!

klahanie said...

Hey Pearl,
You can relax now. I'm sorry for my lack of commenting on your clever and much loved blog, as of late.
Anyhow, very good and you did 'snare' me in with this one and a follow up posting by your good self is a 'cymbal' of things to drum, I mean come..Nothing like the 'Big Band error..sorry Era :)
Have fun at the bar, eh.
And from almost 2012 in lil' ol' England, I bid thee a most pleasant New Year :)

Tempo said...

With your musical background I cant see why you dont have a band where you are Pearl? Surely you can round up a few of the locals to help you out....

Lo said...

Your father and I would get along fine.....back in the 1940's I stood in line every Saturday at 7 am at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia and heard and saw Goodman,Krupa, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra and every damned wonderful one of them. Take it from me.....they were great. And "yes" I am that old.

Love your blog.

Michelle said...

Y'all must have heard by now..PHOLETAK.
Those PHYSICIANS were fooling nobody.
Either was OLIVER NORTH and the UK in all those AK's with CHO, so they say.
And you know who's saying it?
Oh yeah.
They got a regular COLLYJAG .
And that's why DISECCU and CHOKALL are freaking out on all those FREAK FARMS.
COONT PUPPROS can't be trusted.
And now, either can FEROB.

sage said...

Happy New Year, Pearl. I'm really not this old, but I did see Benny Goodman perform back around 1980--he was old but could still play

River said...

My dad listened to songs by Elvis, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Andy ?(somebody)?, he wasn't much of a fan when it came to the "big" bands.

Happy New Year Pearl.

BragonDorn said...

Just got done reading these 2 parts! Im excited to here another page!

KleinsteMotte said...

Music played on those was a big deal at that time. Not surprised that your Pa felt he had to make sure you could hear each sound and try to know it. It was his passion and he wanted it to be yours too! That you got invited to a gig surprises me. Here kids were not allowed to be in places where adults could get a drink, not for a long time! Now they are allowed into some places with parents but only some. And now there's no smoking allowed anywhere!