What fun it has been, looking back and recalling the musical encounters of my earlier years. This fourth entry in the ‘most influential albums I listened to growing up’ series takes me way back—I was maybe six or seven years old. In no particular order, here’s—
Post four of ten: Diamond Girl by Seals and Crofts
This album makes my list for more reasons than its tunes. For me, it’s connected to a larger collection of memories surrounding a hero of mine—my big brother Dave.
There is a season in every child’s life that is so very frustrating. It’s that window of time when you know you’re capable of doing something on your own, but no one trusts you to do it by yourself. With the old vinyl records in my house, this was especially true. No one wanted to risk allowing the kid to scratch their records, so the oft heard refrain was DON’T TOUCH!
My oldest brother Dave broke ranks. He wanted to share his love of music with me—his fourteen-years-younger little brother. Dave took the time to teach me how to treat vinyl records, how to pick them up, hold them, put them on the turntable, apply the needle to them, and put them away when I was done.
And, here’s the most memorable part for me: After the lesson, Dave allowed me to play his records on his record player any time I wanted. Daredevil or hero? Yes!
Which brings me to Seals and Crofts. Among Dave’s many records was one with two hairy-faced men standing under weird green lamps with some scary looking gold ball with a face on it between them. I’m not sure what all that was, but to a little kid it was intriguing. I chose that as my first album of choice to play.
Musically, I loved the way these guys blended their voices. I also remember this album as my first experience of other stringed instruments beyond a guitar—they had mandolins and violins and maybe even a banjo or two in there. And of course, my true artistic love: story.
One song in particular caught my fancy. I’ll give you a verse:
Dust on my saddle, mud on my boots;
Couple of empty saddle bags except for two old suits;
I’m tired and I’m hungry, worried as can be,
Last night I saw a poster and they’re still after me.
[Note: Just gave you that verse from memory and I haven’t heard that song in more than forty years. I’m impressed even if you’re not.]
As a kid, that did it. I wanted to know this lonely cowboy/outlaw. I wanted to join him on the run. This may be the song that turned me into the western buff I became—it is true, I love every television western series ever made. In fact, if you’re ever on Millionaire and a question comes up about old TV westerns, make me your phone-a-friend. I’ll win you the cash, baby!
I’m sure, also, that the song served as a reminder to me of one of my favorite western characters in all the world, Big Al. Who of course sang, “Blood on my saddle …” A story for another time.
I do recall Dave telling me (and probably after he’d heard Dust on My Saddle for the fortieth time in a row), “You know, there are some other great songs on that record.” Hint, hint.
He took the time to play the rest of the record with me, pointing out the title track, Diamond Girl. I eventually came to appreciate the entire tracklist. We May Never Pass This Way Again became another favorite of mine, for all of its talk about dreams and their worth.
Here I am some forty-five years later. These tunes take me back. And they point me forward. Story does that. I’m grateful for this album and the recollections of my childhood which are connected to it, for their influence on my writing life … and my real life.