Well another 50 years have come and gone ....
Recently I was at my 1968 Clovis High School 50-year class reunion. A good friend, Gail Marshall (former editorial page associate editor at The Bee) and I were recalling the first live concert we ever attended. It was Peter Paul & Mary at the Selland Arena in 1968. Our memories of that concert and the jukebox playing oldies at our reunion made me ponder the music I grew up with. We talked about it some.
My very first album was an album by the Kingston Trio (Tom Dooley and such). Mono, not stereo – that was 1959 or 1960. That was followed by two or three Peter Paul &Mary albums.
Once I got the Kingston Trio album, I quit the violin in the Ernie Pyle Elementary School orchestra. Well, I was fifth violin, so they didn’t miss me. Mom got me a Sears Silvertone guitar and I played around with it. Tried taking lessons at a local shop but did not connect with the music or the teacher. I did, though, connect with Peter Paul & Mary. I played their records over and over picking out chords and fingering. Once I could play “Freight Train” there was no turning back.
Soon The Beach Boys were singing about surfing and cars. This country kid in boots and straw hat was not picking up the surfing vibe, but the car vibe was resonating. No fingerpicking in their music, but you could dance to it and we did. I think it was the eighth grade at Jefferson Elementary when the Beatles struck. From cars to songs about holding hands, and almost simultaneously the hormones were kicking in. Great timing.
Thinking about it now, the English rock music that continued into my high school years was actually pretty mellow. By the second year in high school Dylan was making lyrics about the changing times and the Byrds made his words soar. This was a time of huge social change in our country and the music of our generation was speaking to these changes: Buffalo Springfield, The Young Bloods, Country Joe, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, then back to the Beatles and more and more. All the voluntary chemical infusion produced even more radical variations of this music. And that was what I heard when I entered the Navy and shipped off to the South China Sea.
While at sea and in the Gulf of Tonkin we listened to James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Carole King – on eight-track, no less. I saw all of them in concert in Honolulu, separately and together.
Coming home in 1972 and through 1980, I can’t put my figure on what the music was – disco, maybe. In 1974, my last year in college, I took a class from Mike Seeger and was introduced to the old-time music of Appalachia. That’s when I began learning to play the fiddle. But in 1980 and through that decade, New Age music was calming my mind. I was also listening to jazz – not soft jazz, but Coltrane, Miles, Brubeck, Charlie Parker … nice counterpoint to New Age. I can’t deny I enjoyed George Winston. Still have and play the “December” album from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, mostly in the dark. Those years were troubled times, and this music worked for me to get through them.
Now, there are 28 years between 1990 and 2018, and my music was reaching back to The Beach Boys and Buddy Holly. But I was looking for something new and it finally came. Bach! We bought a house 18 years ago that came with a baby grand piano. All four of us took lessons and more or less learned to play. I learned Bach and Bach was and is very satisfying on the piano.
Now 50 years have come and gone and we are downsizing, getting a smaller home. Gail asked me how do I decide what to keep and what goes. When it came to my several hundred CDs it was tough. My son had also introduced me to a whole new selection of musical artists. So many songs, so much good music to hang on to – forever.
Apple has come to my rescue. I have all that music from the Kingston Trio and PP&M to Bill Evans and Miles Davis, Metheny, Broussard, Tommy Jarrell, Mozart and Bach, The Decemberists, Willie Porter and Mindy Smith – all of it in my pocket. And whenever I want to listen I can, with or without earbuds.
Our generation, we who were teenagers in the ’60s, we have had the very best music. The very best musical experience.
David Keck lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A graduate of Clovis High School and California State University, Fresno, he is a retired facility planner & commercial contractor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org