I’ve always been told I look exactly like Daddy. I’ve also been told I inherited his sense of humor and knack for story-telling (though mine is nowhere as keen as his.) I do know I inherited his love of music and song lyrics and that is why I insert these so often in my writing.
During my early years, television was not yet a fixture in our living room. Our music and enter-tainment came from the radio until we received television reception from Pine Bluff and Little Rock.
In these early days, some church denominations decried dancing. However, My daddy was Methodist and he enjoyed dancing and had no problem with it as did my Baptist mother and grandmother.
As teenagers, Suzanne, Other-Brenda and I would sometimes visit the Presbyterian Youth Center and enjoy a night of dancing and flirtation with boys of the community. Mama fretted that our preacher might hear of it, but Daddy was just fine with these little indiscretions. After all, had he not been the one to teach me to dance in the first place.
Now, Daddy had a wonderful bass voice and always sang in the Methodist choir – he also sang at other churches when they needed a good bass to round out a quartet. “Singings” as they were called were popular back then and a Sunday afternoon “singing” of Southern gospel following a ‘dinner on the ground’ or church conference always drew a big crowd of mixed faiths, all feet in the place tapping out the rhythm to “I’ll Fly Away” and “When We All Get to Heaven.” But what I remember most was that Daddy loved music. He was always humming a favorite song – all genres. He especially loved the Glenn Miller band and his favorite melody was “String of Pearls.” Close your eyes. Can you not hear that beautiful standard playing through your mind?
Daddy would turn on the radio, wait for it to warm up, and then began tuning in until he found his orchestra playing. I was not yet school age and he would pick me up and set my small feet down on top of his big shoes and we would dance around the room to this marvelous music on the radio. My Baptist mother just turned her head.
Later there was a 50’s Zenith console he brought home from Little Rock which took its place in our living room. The four little square compartments housed a radio, a turntable, a speaker, a place to store both size vinyl records…78’s and 45’s. This machine provided us hour after hour of fun and entertainment. It was there that Daddy and I danced again, his right hand on my back and his left one holding mine. Mama just turned back to the crochet in her lap.
Daddy (and I) believed that music was the common-denominator for all races of people. After all, had it not been created to bring happiness to the heart? This is why I so often thread different lyrics through my writing. I must admit I am glad he is not alive during this age of music we live in now. He would be so disappointed. Hard rock, blaring bass and questionable lyrics would not have been tolerated in our home. Rap and Punk Rock? He would have been disgusted by the ob-scenity, violence and desecration of women so prevalent and void of censorship. How did I get so far off my subject? Back now to my original thought…
As often as I could get away with it, I crept into the living room at night and lay on the carpet in front of the Zenith console. Now a teenager, I would drag the phone from the hall with its long cord in with me and call my friend, Suzanne. We talked quietly but became two giggly girls , waiting for sleep, laughing at each other’s comments and dreaming future plans, while the attic fan in the hallway whirred away in the background. And listening to music. Always there was the music.
The “hi-fi” held a stack of our favorite songs–tunes by Johnny Mathis, The Platters, The Dell Vikings, The Skyliners and, of course, Elvis. Yet the last record to drop was always Tommy Ed-wards’ “It’s All in the Game.” To this day, it remains my favorite. Whenever I hear it, memory washes over me and I am back in that moonlit room. If I close my eyes I can still hear the record fall down on the turntable (an unforgettable sound) and begin to play…”Once in awhile he won’t call…” I again remember that long ago time…then the last sound Suzanne and I heard, as sleep overtook us, was the final click of the record player. The music had ended.
I also know each time I hear a Glenn Miller recording that my daddy is still with me, he is stand-ing there just waiting to lift me atop his shoes to dance with him again, bringing music inside my heart.
“If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him,
I’d play a song that would never, ever end.
How I’d love, love, love to dance with my father again.”
—Luther Vandross, “Dance With My Father”
Brenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author who lives in Hot Springs Village. She responds to all comments at Brenstar@att.net.