A Little Bit Country

I grew up listening to Country Music on Sunday Mornings. After watching Ken Burns’ Country Music series, I’m ashamed of how little I appreciated that music at the time. I found it too twangy. I was truly a twang-appreciation twerp (I’ve got to let go of this obsessive-compulsive reliance on alliteration). My Dad raced old jalopies at Speedway Park on Saturday nights, and slept in on Sundays, his only day off, while stacks of his Country Music LPs dropped and played on our restored antique record player/stereo. My Mom would take us kids to church, until her grandmother died, and the Sabbath commandment ceased to be enforced in our house.

The Sunday Morning Country music we listened to was very religious, so after Grandmo’s passing, we kids became regular attendees of the Church of County Music that my Dad had founded in our Living Room. My Dad’s favorites were The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Jean Shepard, Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline. I much preferred Patsy Cline to the others (less twang, no less pain). The church was temporarily resurrected at my Dad’s funeral, where the Carter Family’s version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light” were played as mourners entered and departed the chapel.

By the time the nineteen-seventies rolled around, I embraced Country Music (dancing to County Music allowed me to embrace my dance partner, and spared my joints the demands placed upon them by Rock-n-Roll dance moves), and the performers of that era including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few. I was surprised to see these performers (the ones who had lived to tell) on the Burns special talking about the music and performers of my Dad’s era. I was surprised to learn what prolific song writers “Dad era” performers were. I was surprised to learn of the hardships that most early Country performers had endured. The whole thing was very surprising.

When I was young, I wrote songs. It is NO surprise that they weren’t very good. It’s probably because I quit going to church. When I was a teenager, I wrote a letter to God, asking that I be allowed to be a singer/songwriter or an author when I “grew up.” I think it’s fair that God did not fulfill my request, since I had discontinued keeping the Sunday-Sabbath commandment.

I entitled one of my songs “I Remember I Was Young Once.” I wrote it when I was about twenty-one years old. A friend of my husband’s (the friend was in his late fifties – boy was he old) was the inspiration for the song. One of the lines in the song was, “When you’re young they say you’re having fun; when you’re old you’re a dirty old man.” Little did I know, when I wrote that song, that I wouldn’t remember much of my youth by the time I hit my late fifties / early sixties. I do remember that I didn’t like Donnie and Marie (“I’m a little bit country; I’m a little bit rock-n-roll”), I loved my friends (who continue to inspire me with their unconditional genuine long-term friendship), I could be a total flake, and the quality of my decision-making was questionable. Even though I LOVE being retired, I truly do miss (some of) the good ol’ days when I had to work for a living. I think I’ll fire-up the ol’ record player, dig out my seventies Country record albums, and reminisce. Retirement provides me with the time to reminisce. Unlike Hank Williams, I have the time, with or without the money.

Jennie in the late 1970s in her County Music Dancin’ days.

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