Some of my best memories of my father involve music.
In my formative years, we attended a Baptist church in the next town. It was a bit fire and brimstone. I remember being quite worried for the preacher as he grew red-faced, sweaty and pounded the pulpit. I never thought of us much as a religious family but more a church going family. Your belief was just expected but not really discussed. Anyway, the choir was a big part of the church as was singing. We had at least 3-4 songs during the service and the choir would sing yet another one. I remember seeing my dad up there in the bass section wearing his mint green leisure suit, singing the parts I could only dream of singing and feeling so proud. I was sure he sang even deeper than Harold Reid.
Growing up we had a record player in a credenza that my father built (and apparently had written loving things to my mother on the inside doors; I only discovered this one day when after the divorce the credenza doors were missing and I saw them burning in the brush pile out back). My father played mostly what I would consider Old Johnny Cash albums and the like. Rock Island Line is probably the Cash song that makes me think of him the most, with Daddy Sang Bass a strong second and Hey Porter rounding out the top three.
The credenza also held Hank Williams (Sr), Charlie Pride and Jim Reeves LPs. But those make me think of my mother more than my dad.
He got the big black beast; it had shag carpet in the back and an 8 track tape player. When he would pick us up for his weekly visits, we would get to pick what 8 track went in. This expanded our mutual music experience to include The Statler Brothers, Willy Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ricky Scaggs (one of the few of concerts I have attended in my life) and Merle Haggard. His second wife introduced Anne Murray and John Denver to the mix (not going to lie, 30+ years later, I still change the channel if they come on or hit skip).
He plunged deep into Bluegrass as I discovered the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and 80s music. Our relationship was one of varying degrees of closeness and our music tastes ebbing and flowing in similar fashion. Towards the end of his life we were back to suggesting songs to each other. I had just sent him a link to Lyle Lovett’s That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas and he had suggested I check out John Prine.
There are two songs that are not Cash or Statler Brothers related that make me think the most of my dad, and oddly it is because we danced to them at two different weddings. Both songs instantly conjure him in my mind.
The first was at my cousin’s wedding (his niece). He was out on the dance floor cutting a rug, if you will and told me to come out and dance with him. I am not a huge dance person but he insisted, so I joined and we shook it to Love Shack by the B52. I know, you are as surprised as I was that this became a memory. It does make me smirk a bit when it happens.
The last song is Crazy by Patsy Cline. He asked me to dance with him at my step-sister’s wedding. Not on the dance floor but quietly standing in the shadows by the table as we were standing there. Seemed we had come full circle both in our relationship and music-wise.