You say it’s your birthday. It’s my birthday too, yeah. But that seems too cliché, as great as as the song is. And I’m not old enough for the other classic Beatles aging song, so I decided, what the hell.
It’s my birthday and I can go with any song I want and decided somewhat randomly on one of my favorite obscurish 45s that Pam and I practically wore the grooves out on.
It fits. Music is a huge part of my life – my parents even named me after their song. Daddy was a pianist and a trombone player in dance band, and he played it. We had the sheet music, and I could play it too.
I always found that very romantic, as were my parents. Love the movie, am proud to be named after the song.
As you can see from these pictures, my parents were very young when I came along in 1955. Daddy had just graduated from the U of A with a civil engineering degree and had his first real job, at the Highway Department. We lived on Chester, just a few blocks from the LollyPop house, when I was born a couple of months after their birthdays.
Daddy turned 22 in July and Mother turned 20. (I got my first German Shepherd – Trigger – at 20. Didn’t have Ben until two months after my 23rd birthday. Old for my family back then.)
Mother used to walk me in my stroller down Roosevelt to my great aunt’s house on Howard Street, right next to the State Fair Grounds and Barton Coliseum, where I would later attend many, many concerts. You could do that back then; it was safe. Seriously.
I had my first birthday in Dallas, where we lived for a while when my dad changed jobs. Then El Dorado, then back to Little Rock, on Durwood. That was where at 4 I just knew I’d broken my finger when I fell on the ice Mother had specifically told me not to play on. (I didn’t mind well). It was only jammed, but it took her a long time to convince me of that.
That house had a cute red door. I had good times there. It’s now a parking lot.
Kindergarten was in Fort Smith. (There’s that “True Grit” thing again. And, yes, we moved around a lot until settling in North Little Rock for my first through 12th grade.) A one-armed boy knocked one of my teeth out in class one day. Seriously. And I remember getting a serious shock from my red-and-white record player in my bedroom and screaming, “I’m electrocuted” over and over. Mother finally made me understand that, no, I did NOT get electrocuted (wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, would I?), I’d been shocked.
So I’ve always had a flair for drama.
I also sang some song about eskimos on a local kid’s TV show (don’t ask me why) and shook Clint Walker’s hand at the rodeo, he of “Cheyenne”. Be still, my 5-year-old heart. (But my heart really belonged to Bat Masterson and Paladin, then later Rowdy Yates and, I’ll admit it, Lucas McCain (well, actually his son).
But I lived and breathed “American Bandstand.” If it had a good beat and you could dance to it, I was down with it. Literally, seated on the floor in front of the TV. (Yeah, yeah, it’ll hurt my eyes to sit so close.) One of my earliest memories is watching saddle oxfords doing the stroll to Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans.” I must’ve been 2.
I even got my nickname when I was young from a song, and that’s where John and I got our grandparent names now that we’re old. Mother sang it a lot. That was just one of the songs she sang. Our house was filled with music. All of them were.
So is my heart.
I don’t mind being 56 – I’m glad to be here. Lots of good people I’ve known and loved didn’t make it that long. So hooray for birthdays, hooray for being oldish. And hooray for rock ’n’ roll and all the other great music that makes life so pleasurable.
I said earlier that “Ride, Captain, Ride” was chosen somewhat randomly. It’s partly by design. My beloved John, Pop to my Lolly, once set out sailing from San Francisco Bay, and, fortunately, that led him, in a long convoluted way, into my life. And he’s one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten.
And for my son-in-law Brent, here’s another version.
Happy birthday, Allison, Debbie and Ron, my fellow 9/14thers.