I write some country music. There’s a song called ‘I Hope You Dance.’ Incredible. I was going to write that poem; somebody beat me to it. —Maya Angelou
Patsy Cline. Little Jimmy Dickens. Charlie Pride. Conway Twitty. Hank Williams, Sr.
I’m listening to some country music as we make final preparations for my youngest son to visit later today. We’re excited. This is the first time in eleven years that any of my boys have been able to come to Indianapolis. So, we’ve made sure that my schedule is clear, that there are chips and soft drinks readily available for snacking, and that the refrigerator is well stocked. We’re looking forward to a lot of fun. There’s just one thing I’ve not yet warned Kat about: he listens to country music.
I’ll admit, the country/rock fence isn’t one I mind straddling. I was born at a wonderful time for music, back when radio was alive with some truly great sounds. I cut my teeth on the Beatles, learned to ride my bike with Peter, Paul, and Mary coming through the kitchen window, and learned to drive with the Doobie Brothers blasting from the stereo in the car. When our parents were gone, or not exactly paying attention, my brother and I were playing KISS, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night on the console stereo in the back room. The music with which we grew up was nothing short of fantastic, which is why many of those songs are still alive and those bands are touring, even though their members pop blood pressure meds and swig Geritol instead of the more nefarious contents of the past.
At the same time, though, we were raised on a good balance of classic country music. Some of my favorite memories are sitting at the tiny little breakfast table in Towanda, Kansas and listening to Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, and Flatt & Scruggs on KFDI, 1070 AM, out of Wichita. Mother would sing along as she was cooking bacon or gently frying eggs sunny side up. We might listen to Foreigner or Boston in the afternoon, but the mornings belonged to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and The Oak Ridge Boys.
So yeah, I can enjoy a touch of country music as long as I am mentally prepared for it. One has to be in a special emotional place to listen to country music. The sad ballads common to artist such as Bobby Goldsboro and George Jones can kill even the happiest buzz. If you’re too depressed, a bit of Bill Monroe might just make a person suicidal. One also has to warn their ears that they are about to be assaulted. If you are accustomed to hearing pure, clear, well-trained vocal tones, a bit of Ricky Skaggs or Ronnie Milsap might come as a bit of a shock. If one listens to country all the time, it’s no big deal, your ears are desensitized. For the rest of us though, the sound requires a moment of auditory adjustment no matter how much we like it.
Which brings us to my biggest concern for the week. While I don’t have any problem with any of the artists I’ve mentioned, and will make everyone in the room observe a moment of silence when Allison Krauss goes “Down To The River To Pray,” my dear son listens to contemporary country. This could be a problem. I prefer classic country. Blake Shelton is about the newest artist I can handle, and that’s pretty much only because I still remember that boy when he was playing county fairs in Oklahoma. I tried listening to Luke Bryan’s latest song a while ago and had to turn it off after four bars. What if he wants to listen to that Zac Brown Band or Dustin Lynch? I can deal with some Rascal Flatts, but I’m not so sure about Brantley Gilbert or Maddie & Tae.
I understand, music never stays the same. Our parents didn’t understand any of the music we listened to, which was probably a good thing. My parents could go to a different room when we were playing REO Speedwagon or Jefferson Starship. The house here is smaller, though. There’s no place to escape. I want my son to feel comfortable and at home, but if he asks to listen to Maren Morris I’m not sure how I’m going to respond (is that actually a clap track at the beginning of that song?).
Fortunately, there’s so much more to my son than his music choices. We’re going to have a great week with him and I’m sure you’ll see me mention my favorite G-man more than once this week. I’m looking forward to showing him around Indianapolis and having a good time. We’ll eat Long’s Donuts and drink coffee at Lino’s and I might even introduce him to Mug & Bun. I wouldn’t even mind if he were to meet an attractive and friendly female friend while he’s here.
The music, though … maybe we’ll just leave the radio on NPR this week.