Daddy sang bass

The older I get, the odder the things that can make me verklempt. I never know when I’ll get choked up over something, though I can usually figure out what triggered it if I give it enough thought.

Tonight, momentarily, I fell into a burning ring of fire at the Rep (superb, BTW), over, of all things the line “Daddy sang bass.” It’s not like we really gathered around the piano and sang – at least not often, and usually only because Mother made us, but, OK, it did happen.

And we used to go to Shakey’s Pizza mainly to follow the bouncing ball, as far as my parents were concerned.

At Shakey's in the ’60s, you could sing with your pizza and your parents' beer.

My dad was a heck of musician (piano and trombone, a la Glenn Miller band style) and could definitely sing, though it was his father, whom the southern girls of the family called “Daddy Lou,” who was really a basso profundo.

As I’ve mentioned before, church was never my bag, but standing next to my grandfather when he sang the bass line gave me shivers. He also sang in a barbershop quartet at times.

Anyway, I decided to back-track the day to figure out the teary reaction. Didn’t take long.  Here’s how it went.

First thing this morning, I went to hear my friend John Brummett speak at LifeQuest – extremely fun part of an assignment for a class. On the way in, I noticed a way-back-when neighbor from Blackhawk who used to work long days with my dad – and for whom I spent many a night babysitting.

We visited afterward and it was nice. But he’s still here, and still relatively young. Daddy’s been gone since 1982. So there was that on the back burner.

Then I visited with my friend (and John’s wife) Shalah Brummett, who admired my shoes (they are cute, as you can see), which got us to talking about seersucker, which led me to tell her about when my friends Kelly and Gay and I had matching gray-and-white striped dresses our mothers made for us. We were about 8.

Hang on – there’s a point.

They were sleeveless with set-in waists and patch pockets on the front. Two of us had strawberry appliques on our pockets, I believe, and one had cherries. Don’t ask me which was which.

Anyway, we liked to wear them at the same time, and one day we were for some reason horsing around with firecrackers. OK, I was. Daddy was like a kid with fireworks, and he taught me lots of tricks, one of which was to hold a firecracker until the fuse burned down a bit, then toss it.

Somehow one landed in one of Gay’s pockets and blew it off her dress. Oops. No damage to my friend, but try explaining that one to three mothers.

Talking about that made me think about firecrackers, which is of course a Daddy memory.

(There was also the time in college when I was in no condition to be near firecrackers and one blew up in my hand next to my ear before I could toss it. Hurt like hell and I said, “Huh?” a lot for the rest of the night, but no permanent damage. And I’ll still toss a firecracker given the opportunity. So watch out.)

Factor in that the family used to watch “The Johnny Cash Show*” when I was a young, and there you have it. Verklemptness-mystery solved.

*Be sure to watch this clip – it’ll blow you away. Johnny Cash had some chops (not just sideburns) to land these guests.

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