A long time ago there was a guy on TV called Art Linkletter. He had a show on TV when I was a simple boy. I have told you before that I stay home during the summer to clean the house, wash clothes and prepare my father’s lunch. It was much better than walking through the hot rows of green beans, chopping cotton, or scooping potatoes. Of course, while I was at home I watched our old black and white TV.
I watched Art Linkletter because he had kids on his show (I’m telling) and he had this section called “Kids Say the Craziest Things”. He would have about five or six kids of around 5 or 6 sitting in their little chairs, and Mr. Linkletter would ask them questions that were really too complicated for the kids. But their responses were hilarious. Other people have tried to copy his lead since then, but he was wonderful with kids and made them think maybe they were smarter than they were. However, he never spoke down to them. Next to Tennessee Ernie Ford, it was my favorite show.
Almost all the shows of this era advertised for women. Ivory soap (so pure it floats) or dish soap, which was fairly new. Soap was soap in our house, as well as in many of the houses that I have visited. The TV shows were happy shows, with singers and comedians, during the day anyway. I know they were made for women who stayed at home because all the programming was for moms, I didn’t mind. Most of the time I was busy in the morning and it was just noise in the background.
My mom and dad always smiled when I asked them to buy this dish soap label and another for the washing machine. It was a wringer and this soap was designed to remove white residue that would stick to clothes no matter how often you rinse them. I didn’t rinse them that many times because you had to change the water every time, and changing the water meant sticking a hose out the window and turning on that anemic pump that drained the tub. Then I had to fill a bucket to fill the machine again. I will never forget the day I washed my father’s overalls when he left a bundle of camels in a pocket. Tobacco spread everywhere and stained everything he touched. I had to wash all the clothes three times that day.
I vacuumed the floors, made all the beds and washed the dishes that were left in the sink. I washed the sheets once or twice, but Mom finally let me out of this chore because I couldn’t get the sheets on the rope without dragging a corner or towing in the dirt.
I knew pretty much all the songs they sang in the different shows. A good thing about these songs is that if there was any new talent on TV, I could see them first. There was Ted Mack’s “Amateur Hour” and “The Arthur Godfrey Show” among many that used new and old singers and actors. I felt like a sophisticated kid. Of course I would never tell other kids what I did because they all had to work in the fields like my mom and brothers so they might have thought I was a sissy or something. .
During those days, I knew a lot of familiar song lyrics and sang them to my mom and dad in the evenings when we all went to bed. I never had a callback. Then one day something really strange happened. A guy from Mississippi came to one of the shows and played southern blues on the guitar. It only happened once because the parents went crazy. We were influenced by the devil and the parents couldn’t stand it. I still remember the guy playing, but I can’t remember the name. African Americans were hardly ever allowed to be on television unless they sang or dance to American songs. The blues was the devil’s song and it sought our souls.
The next time I saw someone as good as this blues player on TV, it was Elvis Presley. Oh my God! Even though he was on one of the whitest shows on TV, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the parents went crazy. They burned his records in the street and rolled over them with a steam shovel. The music had captured my heart.
This brings me to why I write about music. My kids know I grew up during exposure to rock and roll America. I loved Elvis and like every teenager I knew wanted to be like him, but my hair was too curly and my mom refused to dye it black.
I have a lot of heroes in rock’n’roll. I can spend the whole evening listening to older musicians playing rock’n’roll on my iPad with the songs that YouTube selects for my enjoyment based on the songs I choose. One of my favorites is George Thorogood. This guy, in case you don’t know his music, is a maestro. He’s getting older now and doesn’t tour as much as he did when he was younger. I’ve seen it twice in person and those are some highlights of my life.
I thought he had given up on touring. I even saw it at the Fox Theater in Salinas and it was a sold out show. His tickets were quite expensive, so I thought I would never see him again. Then, about a week ago, I got a phone call from Austin, who never misses a chance to do something with his brother and me. He said, “Hey dad, what do you think about you and me and Reed going to Monterey next Friday night to see George Thorogood?” He’s playing in a theater there. I couldn’t speak for a few minutes. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yeah Pop, I’m going to buy the tickets and maybe Mom can take us home.” Austin had seen me that night in Salinas and he knows that when George Thorogood plays, the devil is around the corner.
I am super excited. At my age, it doesn’t get much better to see a guy like George. When Austin called Reed to see if he wanted to come, he was also excited. He asked where the seats Austin had purchased were. When told they were roughly third or fourth, Reed said how much does it cost to be number one. When Austin told him, he said he would pay the difference and we could act like we knew someone or something. I choke a tear or two as I write this.
One of George Thorogood’s most famous songs is “Bad to the Bone”. Austin lip-synced this song when he was in first grade. There are innuendos in this song that may not have been the professors’ favorite at the time, but they didn’t stop it and I was choked with emotion that my son was doing the song. one of my favorite songs. Now they take me to see my favorite singer on what might be my last chance to see him in this area. Does it get better than that?
God protects you.