Dust off your turntable. Play a few forty-fives and LPs. Pour yourself three-fingers of Ovaltine and relax. Today is National Vinyl Record Day.
Now, I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the same thing. You didn’t know there was such a holiday. Well, there is. And it’s today.
This morning, my friend told me about this holiday. I got pretty excited because (a) I have not listened to my vinyl records in a long time, and (b) I couldn’t think of squat to write about this morning.
The thing is, I am like most modern Americans. Usually, I listen to music on my phone, which has terrible sound quality.
Ray Charles, for instance, singing over a crummy cellphone speaker is not nearly the same experience as listening to him sing over a crummy record-player speaker.
So I went to the attic, found my heavy boxes of LPs, and hauled them into the living room. I dropped them on the table, smiled at my wife, then announced in a nostalgic voice, “I think I pulled my groin.”
Whereupon I collapsed onto the sofa and screamed for fifteen minutes. I really tweaked it good, too. I now walk like John Wayne after his yearly colon exam.
But I have my father’s records to keep me company. My mother’s, too. Most of these albums have been with the family since my childhood. Such as:
—“Hank Williams Sings”
—“Walt Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree”
— “Four Tops Live”
—“Beach Blanket Bingo” (Frankie and Annette go skydiving!)
— “Love is the Thing” by Nat King Cole
—“The Music Man” (1957 Original Broadway Cast)
— “Willie Nelson and Family”
— “Songs, Themes, and Laughs from the Andy Griffith Show”
—“Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” by Ray Charles
I am listening to albums on an Amplitone suitcase turntable with a brand new needle. They take me back in time. These songs resurrect people I once loved. Music can do that.
When Ray Charles sings the Hank Williams classic, “You Win Again,” I get chills. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
I am not old, but I am old enough to remember a time when American music was still presented in AABA song form. Back before the internet, when we still had the ABC Sunday Night Movie, and newspapers were everything.
Newspapers. I grew up as a newspaper fanatic. Each morning before school, I would run to the end of our driveway to get the paper. I’d shake it open and I would read baseball box scores.
I hated the Yanks, liked the Mets, the Braves were the worst team in baseball—so naturally I loved them. I kept tabs on the Gashouse Gang, the Baby Bears, the Sox, and the Royals.
I wouldn’t root for the Dodgers at their own funeral.
After the sports section, I would read the funny papers. You had “Marmaduke,” “Dick Tracy, “The Family Circus,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Garfield,” and “The Far Side.”
God bless Charles Schulz.
And those were just appetizers. Your main course was the columnists. I loved humor columnists. I never missed a Lewis Grizzard, an Erma Bombeck, or a Dear Abby.
I still remember the Dear Abby column about the kid who wanted a pet monkey. I have this column stuck to my refrigerator.
It goes like this:
“DEAR ABBY: All my life, I have wanted a monkey. I have saved $14. I asked Daddy if I could buy a pet monkey and he said no, because I wouldn’t know how to take care of it. My mom is the fussy type. You know, everything has to be just so. Do you know anyone who has a pet monkey, and can give me some advice?”
This is classic Dear Abby. And just when you think America’s level-headed advice-giver is going to respond with something about how monkeys are impractical pets that frequently throw their own droppings at zookeepers, Abby answers like this:
“DEAR KID: I have had two pet monkeys (David and Bathsheba)…”
Wait just a minute. Are we to understand that America’s most trusted counselor; whose photograph looks like a friendly Century 21 real estate broker; who delivers straightforward advice like the lady next door; who once went on record to oppose the mop-top haircut; has in fact owned not one, but TWO pet monkeys?
And are we to also understand that after purchasing these monkeys from responsible breeders, she named them after characters from the ONLY Biblical story my Sunday school teacher refused to read aloud in class because it involved a steamy bathtub scene on a balcony?
Yes, you had to love Abby. What a down-to-earth gal. I’ll bet she threw great barbecues.
So right now I am listening to music. Good music. The sound of guitars, a piano, an upright bass, and the voice of Ray Charles. I am remembering how music sounded before computers came along and messed it all up.
Ray is singing, “You Don’t Know Me.” And this tune does something to me. I have listened to this song nearly fifty times, and each time it makes me cry. Not just because it’s a pretty song, but because they don’t make music like this anymore.
And because this groin muscle is killing me.