As mentioned in my last post, before becoming a author, I was an artist, and one of my inspirations was music. Twist the lid off this jar… There we go. Woowee! What the…?
Many of my fondest memories date back to the handful of years I spent growing up on a farm in Selma, Indiana. I wasn’t really a farm boy. My father was a carpenter. He rented the house, but not the barn or the cows. This place was out in the boonies, which I believe was my mom’s idea. Mud Dauber Road…
I was born in a trunk.
Mama died and my daddy got drunk.
Left me here to die alone
along the side of Mud Dauber Road.
For the first ten years of my life, there was no TV in the house. We had a radio on top of the fridge in the kitchen, though I really don’t recall a lot of music coming from it. I remember day-time soap operas and The Lone Ranger, Zorro, The Shadow − mostly stuff like that.
My dad, who seemed to be gone most of the time, would make an occasional appearance, whip out one of his harmonicas and play a rousing version of Running Bear, Yellow Rose of Texas, or Casey Jones − my siblings and I would dance to near-death. We all took to music like chewing gum to hair.
In the late-summer of ’63, my dad one day showed up out of the blue with a TV console – our first. Not only was it a TV, but also, built into it, were a radio and a record player − something I’d not seen prior to that day – the Swiss Army Knife of home entertainment. He’d bought two long-play records, Satchmo’s Golden Favorites and a Connie Francis album (or perhaps it was Kitty Wells), and also brought home a few 45s; one of them being Boomerang by Michael Convertino. I destroyed that record, playing it so much.
That year for Christmas, I got a build-your-own radio kit. It was a cheap, crappy bunch of wires and plastic that, when fully assembled, was supposed to amplify the signal from your nearby radio station enough to be heard over the blue plastic, ear-plug that came with it. Every part of this thing was made from the same brittle, blue plastic – even the circuit board.
To work properly, the radio had to be grounded. So, once it was assembled, I set it up on a stool by my second-floor, bedroom window and attached the ground wire to the lightning rod ground that ran down the side of the house, from the roof. Fortunately this was within easy reach, just outside my window. I remember my hand shaking, as I went to plug it in that first time. I was half expecting it to go poof, up into a little mushroom cloud, but it didn’t. I shoved the little, blue plastic plug into my ear, turned the tuner knob, and bingo… talking… people yakking. Hey! This thing was showing some real potential. I very slowly twisted the knob as far as it would go one way, found a few spots of garbled hillbilly music and some snowy, hushed gospel. What I was hoping for was music like I’d hear on the school-bus: Blue Velvet, Da Doo Ron Ron, Falling… But only the one station came in clear − just talking. I didn’t care though. It was my home-made radio. I built it, it worked, and I was proud.
But then, that same night, after being sent off to bed, I snuck over to my radio, twisted the little blue tuner knob, and found a top-40 pop station playing Sherry by The 4 Seasons. Like four tiny, lovestruck squirrels whining and moaning into my right ear… and this was only the beginning.