When I was a kid, we had only record players on which to play our favorite music. For most of my early childhood, I played my records on my dad and Mom’s old Philco combination radio/phonograph. I think that old machine is still sitting in my son’s house. We only owned a few records when I was very little. Dean Martin, Sinatra, an Elvis album. All of them were 33 rpm records, or “albums” as we called them then. I wore the ones we had out playing them. I can still sing any of the songs on the ones we had word for word. The only time the radio was on was when my mother was listening to some radio preacher, or when my dad wanted to listen to a football game. Other than that, there wasn’t much “live” music being played. Maybe the “Grand Ol’ Opry” every now and then…. but not too often. My Mom had always wanted to be a “country singer” but never knew how to pursue it. She had a halfway decent voice but wouldn’t sing for anyone. Her childhood was challenged, to say the least. She had absolutely no self-confidence. None had ever been instilled in her. My Grandpa was not good to his daughters for some reason. My dad loved to sing though and would go around the house singing all the songs he had grown up with. I learned a lot of Al Jolson songs, and other various and sundry songs that a child of the depression would hear as he grew up.
I got my first personal record player of my very own when I was about 12 years old. I had to be that age, because it was after we had already moved over on 9th street…. which was in the fall of 1962 I believe. I remember having to get out in the yard and move the 12-inch-high brown grass in the cool of that Fall. It was probably my Christmas present that year. It was a two-tone brown boxy little outfit that the top part flipped open to reveal the inner workings. The best thing about it was that it had a 45-rpm converter which fit down over the top of the spindle. This meant I could play 45’s …. if I could get them. Luckily, I had an uncle whose job was filling up juke boxes with new records as they came out. Every time we went to my grandmother’s house, my uncle would have a big box of old 45’s that he had taken out of the juke boxes and replaced with more current songs. I brought home dozens of great records. There was one problem with those records though. All 45’s had an A and a B side, where the A side was the primary release song. It was the “popular” song on the record. Most of the time on those used records, the A side was about worn out, while the B side was rarely played. Therefore, I listened to a lot of “B” side music. One record I can recall more than others was Elvis Presley’s 1962 hit “She’s Not You” That song was totally worn out, but the B side was “Just Tell Her Jim said Hello” which I grew to love as probably my favorite Elvis song. (well, besides “Hound Dog” which was also the B side to “Don’t be Cruel”)
There were a lot of records where the A side was still very playable. I got to where I loved Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe, whose A side songs didn’t get played as much, as well as the B side songs of the Rolling Stones. (of which a couple I cannot even name here)
I did keep on playing the 33’s also. I began to love show tunes, mainly because Redfords 5&10 would put them on sale after they’d been sitting around for a while, and where I couldn’t afford the “popular” records of those days, I would pay 50 cents for the soundtrack of “My Fair Lady” “The King and I” and many others of that time period. I can still sing them word for word too, and in many senses, I love that music more than some of the Pop tunes of that era. I kept that little record player until I moved off to college in 1968. It was a little monaural wonder. The first time I head a stereo record player, believe me when I say, I was amazed.
I reckon the influence that music had on me during those days made me be satisfied with living life on the “B” side. I mean, I might have enjoyed being a rich man…..I might have liked being popular and well known for being a singer and a songwriter, but then again, I may not have cared for the consequences of being famous. I probably wouldn’t have. I’m entirely satisfied and happy with the way my life has turned out. Every time I think about it, I ask Alexa to play “Just Tell her Jim said Hello” or even “Hound Dog” like I did today. I also asked her to play “Dream” by the Everly brothers in honor of Phil Everly. Man, I love that song.