Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Music: Life's Gift

           I’ve always loved music.

          For me, I learned to appreciate the music of my parents’ generation. Swing music and the Big Bands were the sounds I heard from the get-go. This music genre was engrained in me because when I began playing trumpet in 4th grade, I soon joined the school concert band. We played all the great tunes from the 30’s and 40’s. In junior high and high school in the early 60’s I was in the Jazz Band and various ensembles where our standard music packages were the tunes of Glenn Miller, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and a host of other fabulous musicians.

          As a kid in the 50’s I came of age in my taste in music as the crooners of yesteryear gave way to the evolution of Rock-n-Roll. Originally, this new breed of music was called “Rockabilly,” performed by white musicians from the South. The artist who made the transition to Rock-n-Roll from Rockabilly was Elvis. I watched Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, September 9, 1956. There was great controversy over his exaggerated hip gyrations. But did you know that Elvis’ first TV appearance was not on the Ed Sullivan Show? Truth be told, Elvis was on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, January 28, 1956, and appeared on the Stage Show six more times through March.

          My one Elvis story dates back to 1973. I came home from Vietnam in December of ’72. That next summer I was doing my reserve duty at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada located a few miles outside of Reno. We had the weekend off, so I jumped in my car and drove down to Las Vegas where a friend, Tosh Enimoto, owned a large grocery store named Mr. E’s. Tosh had worked with my step father years before, which is how we had become good friends. He and his wife were expecting me and had planned a full weekend. When I arrived at the store Tosh was still taking care of some business. He said he’d be free in about a half-hour, so I strolled around the store stopping occasionally to straighten out cans on the shelves. This is an old habit from having worked in grocery stores for years! Believing that I was a store employee, a very attractive black lady stopped and asked me if I could tell her where a certain item was in the store. As I took her to the correct aisle we struck up a conversation. She asked me if I’d ever had the opportunity to see Elvis perform. No, I said, I had never had the pleasure. She then informed me that she was one of the back-up singers for Elvis and that she could get me in for the show that evening. I thanked her profusely, but declined since the weekend was set with my friends. Little did I know the “King of Rock-n-Roll” would be dead within four years later!

          Growing up mostly in the greater New York City area I absolutely loved Street Corner Singing, known also as Doo Wop. So many great singers and groups emerged from New York City and Philadelphia during that period of musical evolution. Another music genre I learned to love at that time was Boogie Woogie. I can’t ever get enough of that!

          An exciting evening took place when my sister, Joy, turned 10 in 1959. The folks made arrangements for all of us to have a celebratory dinner in New York City at the Roosevelt Hotel where Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians performed nightly. Sometime during the evening my step father walked me over to the band and introduced me to Mr. Lombardo. I had started playing trumpet about a year and a half prior to this encounter. Mr. Lombardo shook my hand, patted me on the head and said, “Keep practicing!” I miss his band performing on New Year’s every December 31st!

          After moving to Los Angeles in 1965 the folks took us to the Lawrence Welk Show. What a treat to hear all those great musicians!

          I admit that my taste in music is eclectic. However, I have drawn the line with most music styles since the mid-60’s. When rock-n-roll became all about messages of discontent about society and life in general, they lost me. In fact, one of the enjoyable aspects of the old rock-n-roll (Oldies) was the simplicity of the songs themes. It ran along this general line: Boy meets girl, they break up, they get back together. There were variations on that theme, but if you lived through that time then you know what I’m talking about.

          I continued to play my trumpet through the years, but I gradually moved toward singing. After accepting Jesus as my Savior, I joined up with others at church to form a Gospel group. That was fun! Later I focused on singing Barbershop music which in its purest form is some of the tightest four-part harmony you’ll ever hear. Also, while a student at San Jose State University (SJSU) in the mid-70’s I was working toward my bachelor’s degree in Radio & TV Broadcasting. I worked as a DJ for twelve hours a week over KSJS, the university radio station. I loved it!

          While driving in my car, if I’m not listening to news then I’m listening to Oldies or Classical music.

          Music has played a significant role in my life and has been a source of great joy for me. But, since I just finished watching Super Bowl 49 this evening, my heart is singing with joy over the New England Patriots’ win, 28-24, over the Seattle Seahawks. Is that a heavenly choir I hear?

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