Thursday, September 5, 2013

Music On The Road

You See This Guy

When I travel I listen to music. It has always been that way. Whether in the car or flying at 34,000 feet I use my travel time to listen to new music and old favorites. First it was on little plastic and leather clad transistor and AM car radios, later 8 tracks, cassettes, and CD's. Now my music comes from MP3's and is delivered perfectly from my amazing Sennheiser's. As you read this most of the songs listed are "clickable" if you'd like to listen to the song!

Over the years I have actually come to realize that certain songs and artists now immediately trigger memories. Many are wonderful a few are painful.

I believe each journey and adventure ultimately creates its own soundtrack. A soundtrack that is influenced by the language of the region, seasons and geography.

One of my first travel memories (I was only about 4) was my whole family singing "Hit The Road Jack" along with Brother Ray Charles on an AM radio while cruising who knows where in dad's red 1957 Plymouth Suburban station wagon. Pure magic.

In 1962 we packed up in the same wagon and drove north to the green Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Worlds Fair. It was amazing. Along the way I remember being astounded by the California redwoods and hearing Sam Cooke singing "Twistin' The Night Away" over and over from the car radio.

I loved Seattle and concluded it was the city of Tomorrow. I also decided that someday I'd live there. A goal I later achieved.

We spent the summer of 1963 (I was now 7) camping at Phoenix Lake near Sonora California. The campground had a cool camp store with lots of jars filled with candy. It also had a couple of pinball machines and a jukebox filled with surf music. When the sun set the music would blast out of two majorly crappy steel cone speakers serving an outdoor dance pavilion. As the music played I'd sneak off to watch the teenagers (lucky enough to possess dimes) play pinball. The clang clang of the pinball mixed with The Surfari's playing "Surfer Joe" (go man go!) and the instrumental "Wipeout" that began with some crazed beach bunny screaming "ha ha ha wiiiiiipe-out!"

On every road trip back then I commandeered the car radio attempting to tune in any 3 letter AM radio station I could find. The skiff routinely delivered KSL, KNX, and KGO. There were even still radio stations replaying classic radio shows like The Shadow. I'll never forget listening to "Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Minds of Men? The Shadow Knows".

We celebrated the Christmas season in 1965 with a trip to Denver on Southern Pacific's City of San Francisco. We left Oakland and climbed mid-winter over Donner Summit arriving into Reno in the middle of the night. The train parks right downtown with views of all the casino lights. Then it was off to Salt Lake City.

On that journey (I was now age 9) I met a young charismatic soldier who was returning from Viet Nam. He was so open and kind. He never treated me like the annoying kid I'm sure I was. He asked me what I wanted to do in life. He considered the sketches I was constantly creating. We played endless card games, he smoked, and I listened to him play his guitar.

In the very early morning, as everyone else slept I was wired, got up and wandered from car to car. The train was making up time in a race across the Great Salt Lake. Between rail cars snowflakes were sneaking through the tattered accordion pleated connectors. When I made it to the lounge car my soldier was there. We talked and laughed. He strummed "Flowers on The Wall".

He made a shy and gawky kid's first rail trip something unforgettable. And, I'll always love that song. I hope my soldier went on to have a long and very great life.

Road trip music was always special. Tunes like "We'll Sing In The Sunshine" by Gale Garnett. Brook Benton signing "Rainy Night in Georgia", and the spectacular tenor voice of Glenn Yarborough singing "Baby The Rain Must Fall".

During the summer of 1968 we made another summer road trip to the Hemisfair '68 in San Antonio Texas. Along the way I found myself doing road trip Karaoke with Herb Alpert singing "This Guys in Love With You". Some would argue that Herb Alpert should have stuck to the trumpet, but he delivered emotion and passion to that Burt Bacharach / Hal David song. And, to this day, when it comes on I stop whatever I'm doing to sing along.

Music can trigger a memory in the same way a smell makes me hungry.

Sometimes the memories aren't so good. Like the day a concrete truck made a sudden and illegal lane change in front of me in Coeur D'Alene Idaho. While it was crushing the front left fender of my '61 T-bird my car radio was playing Rhiannon. I can still remember "Would You Stay if She Promised You Heaven" mixing with the sound of skidding tires and crunching steel.

All those trips to Death Valley and Disneyland, Lake Tahoe and Mendocino, Coeur d'Alene and Moscow, Idaho.

Journey's with mile after mile all punctuated with the music

I heard along the way.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

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