For me it started in the late 1950s with a small transistor radio underneath my pillow after bedtime. Up to then most of the music I was around was older hymns and southern gospel. My dad would serve as the interim song leader at Bruton Road Baptist Church every time we had a music leader leave and do it until the church “called” a full-timer. “Onward Christian Soldiers” was about as rowdy as we ever got at my independent fundamental church three times a week and twice a year at revival time when Bro. Lester Rolloff or Bro. Arthur Dimsdale would come for a week-long revival.
The first time I heard rock n’ roll which I remember was when my Aunt Albina Stedry had me listen to some Elvis Presley songs such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Love Me Tender.” I even sat through the “Love Me Tender” movie at the Majestic Theater in downtown Dallas.
But things changed for me when I started listening to KLIF the Mighty 1190, top 40 radio with Gordon McClendon. I fell in love with a crazy man’s music. I had to put my radio under the pillow because I did not want my folks to hear and know I was listening to Jerry Lee Lewis rock out to “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lota Shakin’ Goin’ On.” The somewhat rebellious side of me was born. Even though I dared listen to this wild man, I feared the Lord might come back while I had that radio under my pillow and I would go straight to the land of fire and brimstone for listening.
The next big music moment for me was when I saw and heard the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I really liked the Beatles and their brand of rock music, but it was another British group that really got me pumped up before my football games as a Fred F. Florence Gladiator in the fall of 1965. It was the rag tag and rowdy rocking Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones blasting “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” It was also a Stones tune in the fall of 1966, “Time is On My Side” which gave me hope my girl would come back to me after leaving me for another red head.
By this time I was also entrenched in Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company with lead vocals by Janis Joplin and the moody and reclusive Jim Morrison and the Doors. The summer I spent flat on my back after my first spinal fusion, I never watched TV, just listened to KLIF all day and all night long. The daily rotation filled my ears with: The Doors and “Light My Fire”; “Ruby Tuesday” by the Stones; “Strawberry Fields” the Beatles; “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield (my first protest song); “Brown-Eeyed Girl” by Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze.”
I enjoyed a lot of soul music in my high school years. The Temptations were one of my first concerts, but I also loved Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. In college it became increasingly more hard rock. I took a job parking cars at Dallas’ Memorial Auditorium where I got to experience concerts with Alice Cooper, The Who, Wishbone Ash, Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, the Moody Blues, Credence Clearwater Revival, Led Zepplin (three times) and the early Eagles.
Woodstock came along and my music turned to 10 Years After, Carlos Santana, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane and Sly and the Family Stone. It was a time of peace and love along with protesting against racism and a really nasty war.
In the 1970s I embraced more hard rock and a thing called Progressive Country, a Texas Music hybrid where cowboys and hippies could party together and live in peace.
Willie Nelson became my hero in the mid 1970s and his “Phases and Stages” album got me through my first divorce. I soon discovered Waylon Jennings, B.W. Stevenson, Rusty Weir, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Fromholz, Nancy Griffith, Willis Alan Ramsey, Townes Van Zandt and my favorite songwriter Guy Clark, who passed away last year. I spent a few years working at Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas and got acquainted with my country music side by the likes of George Jones, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbit, T.G. Shepperd, Dottie West, Gene Watson, Vern Gosdin, Gary Stewart and Mel Street.
The southern rock of the Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard, the Outlaws, Molly Hatchet and Mountain gave me hope in a new era of rock.
Today, I listen to all kinds of music and have a special place for heavy metal acts I have seen in recent years such as Godsmack, Shinedown, Papa Roach, Black Sabbath, Megadeath and Motley Crue. One thing I noticed about the metal crowd is that anyone is welcome. You see all walks of life from nerds to bikers; from hippies to rednecks; from handicapped to jock and may other different kinds of people. Heavy metal is a genre which is all inclusive.
The music in my life has gotten me through a lot of rough times including 20 years of addictions when music was one of my few realities.
My wife and I spend several evenings each week listening to old rock songs, Texas Music, and even Gordon Lightfoot. And each time we listen for any amount of time, a song will always come on which will take me to a special place, person or time. Music is not just an escape, it is a part of me and who I am.
I am at a point in time in my life where I seek to sit and listen and let the music speak to my soul. I guess the Stones say it best when they sing “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you get what you need.”
Tonight when I get home, I will turn on Pandora radio and get what I need as I drift to another place and another time with a smile on my face.