This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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Forties Music

  • July 18, 2012 6:30 am

I was brought up on rock and roll—Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and later, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was the music I choose as the background throughout my life from my pre-teens and into my adulthood.

Lately, thanks to Sirius radio, I’ve discovered the Forties radio station. And now I’m head-over-heels in love with it.

I’m sure some of the songs are etched in my memory from when I was very young. They are the songs my Mom loved and sang along with on the radio in her lovely alto voice. Mom listened to the crooners: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, the Andrews Sisters, and the Dorsey Brothers. She even gave me a Sinatra LP as birthday gift when I was in my twenties.

There’s something about great songs with words that make sense sung by people with melodious voices. I love the witty lyrics in many of the songs, too. And it’s really cool to hear legendary singers like Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, or Marlene Dietrich sing their hits. I am even getting to be pretty good at imitating Dietrich’s accent and voice quality—she had a smoky, “whiskey” voice—I’m sure for the times, it was quite exotic.

When I listen to this music, I am transported to a simpler time and place. I can imagine my Mom, a beautiful young woman, swooning over these artists and romantically dancing with a special someone to it. The music and lyrics are timeless, and lose nothing in the interpretation by modern artists like Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, and even Rod Stewart who have recorded them.

This music soothes me, and it’s fun to sing along with Bing Crosby as he sings “Mairzy Doats”—one of the many novelty songs of that era. Forties music is different from listening to “smooth jazz” or show music. The songs need no context to make sense—they’re about love lost and found and relationships and about life. It’s no surprise that younger artists like Michael Buble’ and Harry Connick Jr. love this music and have made careers promoting it.

 

I love this music, too. And when I feel that I need an escape from the turmoil that surrounds me, I reach for the tiny Sirius remote and tune in the Forties radio station and let the iconic music whisk me away.

 

Radio Days

  • September 23, 2011 6:26 am

My love affair with radio began when I was a kid growing up in Buffalo. By the time I was in eighth grade, I was in possession of my own radio which was ensconced in the bedroom I shared with my sister, Susan. It was so groovy listening to the cool disc jockeys on WKBW which occupied a hallowed spot on the AM dial. Danny Nevereth, Tommy Shannon, Rod Roddy, Sandy Beach and my all time favorite, Dick Biondi, owned the air waves.

They spun the latest hits and filled my evenings with their sometimes witty or slightly naughty patter and comments on the music. I really dug them—they were the coolest of the cool. They played the hits at local sock hops—and boy, was it groovy when your favorite radio DJ showed up at a dance at your high school! Only squares or dorks would pass up a chance to go that dance.

The newspaper entertainment pages were filled with stories about their exploits. One time, Dick Biondi, my most favorite of all DJs disappeared mysteriously. He was “found” several days later in Erie, Pennsylvania (not quite L.A.!) and I was so relieved when he surfaced. I had listened eagerly to his show, which had a substitute host “sitting in” each night, hoping and praying that he would soon return to the air waves. The possibility of the whole thing being a publicity stunt was investigated thoroughly by the local newspapers. Now, as an adult, I wonder about the circumstances of his “disappearance”.

Each of the DJs that I loved had his own theme song.  (Women were never heard on the radio.) And I could sing almost all of them. In fact, one of them became a national hit song—it was called “Wild Weekend” by the Rebels, who were a Buffalo area band. The song was written by Tommy Shannon, the DJ whose theme song it was. The words still echo in my head. The Rebels even appeared on “American Bandstand”—wow! That was really groovy!

The other theme song I remember was the Dick Biondi’s:

/There’s a guy named Biondi-Dick Biondi/

/He’s a man you ought to know/

/He plays music on KB radio /

/On the Dick Biondi show/

Even now, I love radio—there are many entertainment options available from news to propaganda with everything in between.

But, I do miss the “home grown” stations from my youth. They had real personality and it was fun to listen to them. Now, radio stations are dominated by bland corporate-owned stations. In fact, you can go from city to city, and hear the same type of radio everywhere.

Wouldn’t it be great to tune in a station and hear a theme song and a DJ dripping with personality?

Now that would be really fab!