Story by Norm Richards
We are in a reflective time in our lives. I bought “Life” by Keith Richards while shopping yesterday. I expect to see the public life of heavy drug use and escape. But I’m interested in his back story too. We’ll see and I’ll probably blog again after I’ve read it. Stay tuned. I love memoir but I know we anticipate much more experience and actions in our lives as we live on.
Many books are being written by artists and musicians these days. They are my contemporaries. I grew up through the fifties, sixties and beyond. I had the gift of influence from parents who loved music. My contemporaries were also exposed to the great music done by big bands and home style folk music which included country and what they called country and western and black music from the southern United States.
North America is made up of many European influences and cultures brought over here. Some of that got mixed with native styles and a kind of gumbo often immerged but pure styles remained. Black artists added another style. This formed a pretty interesting sound when the fifties rolled around. By then, the big band was getting cumbersome and expensive to operate for band leaders. Dance halls were losing their appeal. Big bands were doing more concert style shows and recording when they could. Radio was a huge medium in the fifties and television was just getting started. Working class folks bought better gramophones and made improvements to their reception for radio signals. For me, I loved to tune in live music from Nashville, Tennessee.
We had a short wave radio for a time and in the evening signals could be heard from all over the world. American radio was less difficult to hear since they boasted their signals at night. Our family had been entertainers before I was born. They entertained themselves since they grew up with less exposure to outside artists. Large families with many siblings was another dynamic. My folks grew up in remote places where there wasn’t a shopping mall as we know today. Grandpa travelled to the city a couple times a year by train to trade in the fur he gathered as a buyer from native trappers in northern Canada. He brought back material for making clothing and instruments for the family to play during those long hours between chores and school. No other media was available then. Mom had thirty six years of being the piano player for a family band made up of fiddle, guitar, banjo, a squeeze box, horns, various drums and homemade percussion instruments.
So by the time Elvis hit, I already had an education. My greening was musical and parochial school was almost more a roadblock than a place to learn. I coped, but did they? Not well. I loved any kind of art but there was never enough of it. I wasn’t hard headed or rude enough to rebel, so I gave up. Then, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones hit! I’d found my calling. A new direction was possible for me. Development came with the formation of hometown rock bands. So, I think today much of my own life parallels that of my contemporaries like Keith and many others I’ll spend time talking about here over a course of time. I hope you’ll keep reading me by Following this Blog. Cheers!