By this point I can forego the lengthy introduction of this series of posts. You get it. If not, look through older posts and you’ll discover a pattern. You’re sharp, that way. In no particular order, here is–

Post Seven of Ten

It was the size of a suitcase. Dad somehow managed to get it wedged into the car–between whichever of his kids happened to be fortunate enough to straddle it the next few hours down the road. It was an honor you wanted to decline but couldn’t.

the box

This edition of most influential albums from my childhood and youth takes us way back. This window in my lifetime encompasses just about the entire decade of the seventies. My dad’s prized musical possession was a set of twelve 8-track tapes: Classic Country Gold. 

I’ll just put this out there: I’m not a fan of country music. Every now and then I’ve heard a country song or artist that caught my fancy … for a moment. Then, gone. Over it. Thankfully. But this recollection is of how Dad’s Classic Country Gold collection left an indelible impression on my heart and my storytelling/writing life.

iuCountry music–like no other genre–is story.

So Dad’s set–these dozen 8-tracks, in their suitcase, taking up a whole seat in the car–was the soundtrack of every road trip and vacation I (we–all us kids) took with Mom and Dad in our growin’ years. The storytelling cowboys, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hank Williams; the outlaws Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones; the country crooners, Eddie Arnold, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins; and the original dixie chicks Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn–they, and dozens of other classic country singer/songwriters covering the decades of the 40s, 50s, 60s and early 70s serenaded us, non-stop.

What an impression these artists and their stories made on me! And it was pure country gold–

Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let, fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets, I ain’t got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I’m a man of means by no means, king of the road.

And gritty with reality–

I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine
i picked up my shovel and i walked to the mine
i loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
and the straw boss said “well, a-bless my soul”
you load sixteen tons, what do you get?
another day older and deeper in debt
saint peter don’t you call me ’cause i can’t go
i owe my soul to the company store

Occasionally drawing a pre-adolescent giggle–

Hey, hey, good lookin’,
Whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?
Hey, sweet baby,
Don’t you think maybe
We could find us a brand new recipe?

Here’s the connection: All those long car rides spent listening to Dad’s Classic Country Gold AND MORE SPECIFICALLY the stories those old guitar pickin’ cow-folk shared enlarged my imagination. I found myself in their tales. They were the unplanned soundtrack to much of my imagination’s formative years. These are songs and artists I haven’t listened to in four decades, but I bet you I could sing along with any one of them, still.

One more thing. Have you ever had that experience where a song comes on the radio and immediately transports you back to a time and place long ago? These old country songs take me back to vacations. I hear them and I remember stopping with my family at rest-stops, picnic lunches by the side of the road, camping, swimming, swinging on rope swings … oh, and straddling the big ol’ honking 8-track suitcase.