A few blogs that I follow, started to talk about “Blogmas” a week or so ago. From what I can tell it is a list of 25-31 Blog post ideas. Sort of a daily writing prompt that are all Christmas related. I did a search for “Blogmas” and read through a few of them. The list seems to vary a bit, but mostly contains the same prompts. The idea is to blog about each of these prompts daily. Some of the lists stop at 25 (Christmas Day) and some end at day 31 (New Year’s Eve).
The ones I read yesterday were under the title “Christmas Tag.” In essence, you answer the 20 questions and then tag a blogger to answer the same. I won’t tag anyone at the end of this blog, since I am technically not officially committed to “Blogmas,” but I liked some of the questions on the list and thought they would make for good reading (even though I may have answered a question or two in more detail in past blogs). So here goes:
When do you start getting excited for Christmas? I would say that I probably start getting in the Christmas mood right after Halloween. Many radio stations begin playing Christmas music then. I could listen to Christmas music any time of the year, but hearing it on the radio starts to get me excited for the season.
Is Christmas your favorite holiday? I would say yes. I have so many wonderful memories of past Christmases. I love that people’s attitudes tend to be happier during the Christmas season. There just seems to be a lot more joy around Christmas.
Do you prefer to stay at home or travel for the holidays? I guess I prefer to stay home – or close to home – for the holidays. When I read the question, travel seems to insinuate going out of state or a lengthy trip. Most of my family is within a 60-90 minute drive, so that really doesn’t seem like travel to me.
Be honest: do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? Definitely giving. I love to see the look on a person’s face when they receive a gift from me. I wouldn’t consider myself the best gift giver (trying to buy anything for my wife is SO difficult). I like to have some sort of idea of what a person wants before I shop for them. As far as receiving gifts – I never really feel comfortable when someone buys me something.
Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve? I have every year since I was a kid. We always went to my grandma’s house for Christmas Eve and opened all our gifts. During my first marriage, we always let my sons open one gift on Christmas Eve (usually Christmas pajamas). Today, my sons come over the day before Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve morning is our “Christmas.” They spend Christmas morning with their mom. My daughter and my son will have some gifts to open Christmas Eve morning with their brothers and then more for Christmas morning.
Have you ever built a snowman? Yes. Quite a few actually. I remember loving when the snow was “good packing” and you could build snowmen and snow forts. Just recently, my daughter and I started a snowman, but she was so excited to play in the snow, he was never finished. Can’t wait for our next opportunity to build one.
Do you decorate the outside of your home for Christmas? Yes. Usually the front and side porches. It is by no means the best on the block, but I’m happy with it. One day I hope to be courageous enough to climb up on the roof and do more. For now, I’m happy with it.
Is your Christmas tree real or fake? Fake. In all my years, we’ve never had a real tree. I enjoy them when they are at someone else’s house, though. I enjoy the smell of the pine tree. I am not sure that if we ever got a real tree that I’d be comfortable with it. You know, fire hazzards, bugs or animals possibly still being in them, the fact that you have to water it each day, and stepping on pine needles for months after….
Most memorable holiday moment? How does one even begin to answer this question?! I have so many from childhood, and now even more with each of my children. I just couldn’t narrow it down to one.
What do you like to do over Christmas break? What break?! I have a couple days off and work the rest of the days in between. I wish that I could stockpile vacation time up so I could actually take more time off during the holidays so I could spend it with family.
Which holiday traditions are you most looking forward to this year? One thing that I have come to really look forward to is driving through the Holiday lights display at Crossroads Village on Christmas Eve night. It doesn’t change too much every year, but I always love going through and seeing the lights.
Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Urgh – again, very difficult to chose one. Maybe it was the Atari 2600. It also could be the cribbage board my grandpa gave me. Or it could be the gold trumpet charm from my mom. Stretch Armstrong? I just can’t narrow it down.
What is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Toss up between Pignolata (loved when my grandma made this!) or cannoli. Both were staples at Christmas time (along with many many Christmas cookies).
Your favorite Christmas movie? I would say A Christmas Story or any version of A Christmas Carol. (Christmas Vacation could easily be in there, too!)
Your favorite Christmas song? Man, all of these “favorite” questions are just to difficult! Dean Martin’s Marshmallow World is a definite favorite! Santa Claus is Back in Town from Elvis, Mel Torme’ The Christmas Song, Doc Severinsen’s Jingle Bells, the list goes on and on!
What makes the holidays special for you? Family! Spending time with my family is all that matters! Sharing those special moments with them is everything!
What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season? I’ve never really been away for the holidays, but I know some places go all out. Disney, Branson, and so many other places really have some amazing things going on. Maybe one day we’ll be able to check them out.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you stick to them? I used to. I don’t really any more. I shouldn’t need a new year to want to make changes in my life. For many years, I would make them and would fail miserably at them.
You have been granted one Christmas wish, what will it be? I would wish to make a difference. Included in the wish, I would wish to be a role model for my children, a good friend, a good husband, and a man whose faith helped lead others to the Lord.
Who’s “it?” At this point on the list you are supposed to pick someone to answer the same questions. If you are so inclined, you may do so. If not, I hope you enjoyed my answers.
If you think about it, the saxophone is one of the most important instruments in pop music. As I think about some of the great early rock and roll songs, almost all of them had saxophone solos in them. Bill Haley and the Comets, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, and many other artists used a saxophone in their songs. I could probably post about 100 links to songs that have great sax solos!
Even well into the 80’s, songs featured the saxophone. Careless Whisper by Wham, Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers, Who Can it Be Now by Men at Work, Urgent by Foreigner, and The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey all have a prominent sax in them. Heck, even Kenny G had instrumental hits in the 80’s.
In honor of National Saxophone Day, how about a few songs you may know and a few you don’t that feature the sax ….
Hand Clappin’ – Red Prysock
My dad introduced me to this one! Wow!
In The Mood – The Glenn Miller Orchestra
Walkin’ With Mr. Lee – Lee Allen
One of the great 50’s instrumentals
Honky Tonk Part 2 – Bill Doggett
Another great 50’s cut
Sax Alley – The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen
Five To Go – Nebraska Wind Ensemble
Ok, I know you probably don’t know this one. I played this my Junior year of high school. Some cool cats played the sax on this one. Hearing this takes me back to 1987!
Take Five – Dave Brubeck
One of the coolest jams in 5/4 time!
Pink Panther Theme – Henry Mancini
How can I not put this one on the list?
Sax and Violence – Zoot
Ok, this is a stretch, but I always thought Zoot from the Muppet Show was cool. Here is his featured number…
I’m still trying to process the loss of my friend, Tom Shaner. He passed away just before Christmas. He was my high school band director. He was more than just a friend to me (and many others). He was a mentor, a leader, a counselor, a cheerleader, a boss, a role model, an advisor, and at times, was like a second father to me.
I received word that he was in the hospital the week before Christmas. Due to Covid, no visitors were allowed. I found out afterward that he had been in ICU. Then his family announced that he was coming home to hospice care. Word came very quickly after that he had passed away. I am still in shock, as are many of his former students.
I had been watching the mailbox for a letter from him. He and I had exchanged e-mails recently and he said he was going to drop a note in the mail. I assumed that the note might be stuffed in the annual Christmas card from him. It never arrived.
My Facebook was filled with other band students remembering him. There were pictures of him and many stories, some I had heard before, some I had been in band to witness, and some I had never heard before. Those various memories from band students younger and older than me, were proof that we all shared many of the same wonderful experiences with him. They also were illustrations of the great impact that this one man had on students throughout his teaching career and far beyond.
From a previous blog:
One of the first blogs I wrote here was about the impact of teachers. I listed some of mine. Here is what I wrote about Mr. Shaner almost 3 years ago:
Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog. (I can also add the importance of dedication, responsibility, self worth, dignity, and honor to this list!)
I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.
It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.
I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “Bye. I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.
His Own Hashtag!
The one thing that showed up in almost every post about him on Facebook was how strict he was about being punctual. “If you’re on time – you’re late!” He always told us that! In other words, if rehearsal started at 4pm, you had better be in your seat with your instrument ready to play at 3:59pm (or earlier!). SO many people mentioned this in their posts. I chuckled and thought he would think it was great that the hashtag #ifyoureontimeyourelate was in almost all of these posts!
The Band Room
The band room represented a safe haven for most of us. It was like a family gathering place. Almost everyone hung out there before and after school. Most of us ate lunch there, too. We did homework there, we talked about life there, we laughed there, and we cried there. Many of us never used our lockers because we kept most of our stuff in the band room!
Mr. Shaner always had something playing over the speakers in the band room in the morning. Sometimes it was just the classical music station, while other times it was an album featuring artists like Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. I was introduced to so many great albums by hearing them in the band room.
Many student’s first stop was the band room every day. We’d drop our instruments off in the instrument storage room and walk over the the white grease board where Mr. Shaner wrote all the announcements. At the bottom of that board, he always had some quote. The one I remember most hits me a bit hard with his passing: “Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right.”
In my senior year, I was the Band President. All the officers had mailboxes in his office. He would often write notes for all of us on Post It notes and stick them in our mailbox. Mine often read simply “See me”. Sometimes, the sticky note was stuck to some flyer or something and it would read “See me on this!” Every now and then, an officer would find a page from the Far Side calendar in their mailbox, just because.
I had a typing class my senior year. I hated it. I would get my work done early and I would sit there for the rest of the hour doing nothing. Eventually I’d as the teacher for a pass to go to the band room to work on stuff I needed to get done. This became a habit and one day I walked to his desk and before I could ask he said, “No. You may not have a pass to the band room.” I looked at him and said, “I was hoping you could give me a pass to the IMRC.” The teacher looked at me puzzled and I continued, “The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Center” (which was something Mr. Shaner had said in class that week). He wrote the pass and told me to beat it!
While in school, I have many wonderful memories of band class and Mr. Shaner. I remember how he would tell us stories about the little old lady that he went to church with, which always made us laugh. Whenever one of his kids had a baby, he’d announce how his wife, Carol, “became a grandma again.” I remember how if there was a part of a song that didn’t sound right, he’d pull out the grade book and go down the line and make us all play individually – for a test grade. Then there was “the parting of the stands”, when he would step off the podium and go directly to whoever he needed to yell at.
When I was a junior, I wanted to be a band director (until I stumbled into radio). Mr. Shaner ran an after school Conducting Class for whoever wanted to be in it. It was part music theory and part conducting. Each of us in the class got to lead the band in a warm up chorale every day. I really enjoyed that. One class he asked each of us to bring a song to the class and explain why we liked it. I remember there being a lot of different types of music and his reaction to each was always enlightening.
The above picture was taken of him conducting the Jazz Band. We rehearsed after school and we got to play at Pep assemblies. Jazz Band was so much fun. It was just a small group of us, and he seemed to really have more fun with us. I remember one of the songs we played was Delta Dawn (the Tanya Tucker song). The sax section had the melody and the harmonies were just fantastic. I was given the solo on a song called “In a Sentimental Mood”. I was scared to play it but he was so encouraging and I remember not being so nervous after he talked to me.
At Christmas time, he would invite the band officers over for dinner or a movie. I remember how strange it felt to be at his house at first, but we were welcomed as friends and family. I can’t remember how many times we drove by his house honking our horns after graduation.
The “Radio” Preview?
At the end of my sophomore year, he had put an announcement on the grease board asking if someone wanted to help take songs from vinyl and transfer them to cassette so he could listen to them in the car. All the music publishing companies would send out record albums with demos of their music for the upcoming season. Band directors would listen to them and then order whatever songs they wanted. He needed someone to announce the title of the song before it played on the tape. That way, when he heard something he liked, he knew what the song title was. I volunteered to do it.
Naturally, before each song, I played DJ and if I knew something about the artist, I’d ad-lib something. I told jokes, and was just silly on them. He must have enjoyed it, because I did it for him the next two years. If we were recording something in class he’s say something like, “Hey, Golden Tones, why don’t you announce this for me.” I remember announcing Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo by saying, “Here’s a swinging little number called Mood Indigo.” Without missing a beat, he said “Shirley is gonna go around now saying ‘Hi! I’m Mood Indigo!”
He was so encouraging about my radio career. He’d listen when he could. He was always so supportive and interested in my radio job. He often talked about things he’d heard other DJ’s say. In an email he sent last year, he told me: “saw you in front of the microphone on Facebook this morning. I’m always pleased to see you doing what you always do so well.”
Open To All Ideas
He always seemed to want our ideas to come to fruition. It was tradition for the band officers to do a skit in front of the rest of the band. For our sketch, I thought it would be funny to have each officer step into the spotlight and lip sync to songs (this was long before lip sync battles were a thing). He gave the green light and we had a blast!
The skit that year led to us doing a lip sync contest. I asked Mr. Shaner if we could do it as a fund raiser. He was not really sure it would work, and he asked me many questions about it and how we were going to handle things before giving it the go ahead. He was willing to let me throw it together.
He called it Puttin’ On The Hits! We opened it up for everyone, but they had to audition. Someone did Time Warp from Rocky Horror (that won), someone else did Going Back to Cali, and me and my buddy, Steve, did the Ames Brothers Rag Mop. Prior to the show, ticket sales were low. We thought we were gonna cancel it because of that. However, the sales at the door that night sold out the show. We had a full house that night and it was a huge success.
Band Banquet Imitations
My Junior year, the officers were discussing the agenda for the annual Band Banquet. We needed one more speech, so I said I’d get up and do an imitation of Mr. Shaner. That night I was nervous. I got up and started my speech by saying “The longer you’re in band, the more Mr. Shaner starts to grow on you…” with that I ducked under the podium and threw on a bald cap. I then put a baton in the back of my shirt collar like he did. I “yelled” about how nobody practiced, talked about retiring and some other things. As the laughter died down, I realized I hadn’t written an “out”. I went on to thank Mr. Shaner for the many times he opened his office to listen to me talk about life, and issues I was dealing with. I don’t recall all I said, but I got pretty emotional and ended by telling him I loved him. He got up and we hugged. Somewhere I have a picture of that moment.
Remember, that happened my Junior year ….. so when my senior year arrived, he got me back good! I used to have the video of it, but I am not sure what happened to it …. so from memory, here’s what happened:
He always had a spot on the agenda to speak at the Band Banquet. So when it came time for his speech, I introduced him and sat down. He stood up and reached into a paper bag. He pulled out a wig and put it on. The entire hall erupted in laughter. He ran around the hall doing all kinds of gestures that I really hoped I had never done. At one point, he stopped at pointed to the custodian who cleaned our band room and yelled “Get outta here, Bill!” which was something we all yelled at him. By the time he got to the microphone, I was crying from laughing so hard. But he was far from done…..
He began to tell silly stories as me. One of them was “You know, Margaret is always asking me to come over and go to dinner or to the movies, but I tell her I’d rather play pinochle than do that!” (The guys and I would always play cards together, and Margaret was one of my best friends.) As the stories and laughs continued, he paused, said something about a costume change and turned with his back to the audience.
NOTE: Now, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that we did a lot of TPing when I was in school. We had a group that went out called the TP Bandits……
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of toilet paper that he made into a mask and the laughter became ten times louder!
He looked absolutely ridiculous! It was the funniest thing I have ever sat through! My sides ached from laughing so hard!
The thing about Mr. Shaner was, he could take you from laughing like crazy to crying like a baby. Immediately after he took off the TP mask and wig, he spoke to us about the achievements of the year and offered up wisdom. I remember he mentioned how after graduation, friends will go separate ways. He said that you could go 30 years and when you met back up, could pick right up where you left off. Looking back at that now, I am lucky to have had his friendship 30 years after that night!
After his speech, I told him that was the worst impression of me I had ever seen!
I’m not going to lie, I hated graduating. I didn’t want to head out into the real world! I was comfortable in the band room. There was talk about an Alumni Band, and I was asked to head it up. I gathered all the addresses and we got it up and running. It, in itself, became a great way for all of us band “kids” to come back and hang out with Mr. Shaner. We marched in the homecoming parade every year and even played on the field once or twice. He was very supportive of the group. When he retired, there was an attempt to get folks together, but it was less successful. I truly believe that this had to do with the fact that he was not there to run rehearsals and chat with. There was always so much laughter and fun when we all got together, but without him, it was not the same.
I remember stopping by the band room one summer and he had lost a bunch of weight. He said he had been doing Weight Watchers. I had been struggling with weight for some time and I asked him about it. He was very encouraging and suggested I go. I remember losing 85 pounds and he cheered me all along the way!
One day, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see the Community Band play at one of the colleges. I was surprised to see Mr. Shaner playing his cornet in the band. There were many other concerts I attended and saw him play. It was always a treat for me. We often bumped into each other at shows. I remember seeing him at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra show, and at a Doc Severinsen show (among others).
Don’t Break Anything …
I can’t recall if it was before or after Christmas, but my son was about 1 or 2 years old. We had stopped by his house just to say hello. Their house was full of things on shelves that were breakable. I was so nervous with my son. Mrs. Shaner told my son to pick a gift from under the tree. He picked a book that came with a CD that he listened to often growing up. Mr. Shaner and I sat at his kitchen table talking. I kept wanting to get up because Mrs. Shaner was “entertaining” my son. He kept telling me, “Carol is keeping an eye on him. He’s fine.” Come to find out he was in their room jumping up and down on their bed ….. LOL
I’d always mention getting together for coffee when we’d talk on the phone. He’d always say, I don’t do coffee, but I’ll meet you for hot chocolate. We did that often. In those times we were together, we’d talk about life, family, and the various things going on in our lives. There were so many times I’d walk into his office at school and say, “Do you have a minute?”, and we’d talk just like this. I always enjoyed his insights to things. He was so helpful when I was going through my divorce, offering some sage advice. He always helped me to see things just a bit differently.
Even in his last email to me he offered up encouraging words. He spoke of how much he enjoyed seeing my daughter in pictures on Facebook. He suggested a few books he thought I would enjoy and offered support about my bible classes. He was such a wonderful friend.
Some Closing Thoughts
Every once in a while, you meet someone who makes a huge impression on you. Tom Shaner was that man for me. He was more than just a teacher. As I stated, he was a mentor, a counselor, a leader, and a true friend. He taught me and so many other students life lessons that we have carried with us throughout our lives.
He led by example. He was almost always the first one to arrive to things and the last to leave. He was firm, yet caring. He was serious, yet funny. He showed us the importance of hard work. He showed us the importance of humor. He instilled in us pride for our organization and in our accomplishments. He made music and making music fun! The list goes on and on …
What an influence he was to hundreds of students over the years! I commented on someone’s Facebook post this week by saying that “no matter what year you graduated, no matter what section you played in, no matter what you ended up doing for a living, or where you ended up, we all had one common thread – Tom Shaner.”
He has been such a big part of my life, I am not sure where I would be without his guidance. I am forever grateful for the moments that I shared with him. I don’t know that I could ever put into words what a blessing he was to me. I am so thankful to have had him in my life.
He always said “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so I am going to assume that he was right on time for the heavenly concert that God needed an extra cornet for.
I mentioned to my friend Max that I had hoped to post a Christmas song every day from December 1st through Christmas Day. When it comes to holiday tunes, I could probably post a favorite Christmas song for every day of the year …
At any rate, rather than spend the time to do that, I was asked by a friend to pick my Top 10 favorite Christmas Albums. How can I do that? I have so many! I could easily pick my Top 10 Christmas albums for each genre – pop, country, classical, jazz, etc… So here is what I decided to do. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the 10 albums I felt were “must have” albums for me every year. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so I made it 12.
In no particular order, here is the Holiday Dozen I came up with:
Ok, you gotta have Bing! He was often referred to as “The Voice of Christmas,” and for good reason! It was an album that often accompanied us while we opened gifts.
A great album of great songs – Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, The Drifters, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin are all represented in this amazing collection!
When Charles Schulz was asked to write a Christmas Special, he said he would on one condition – it had to include the story of Christ’s birth. When he chose the soundtrack for the special, he wanted something that he felt could relate to everyone – so he picked Jazz. Vince Guaraldi’s songs are synonymous with Christmas for me.
Growing up, I always disliked The Christmas Song. I guess I couldn’t relate to it as a kid. As I grew up, it became more and more meaningful to me. This album is full of many other fantastic cuts that never get played on the radio.
This one represents the “novelty” side of Christmas! Yes, it includes the Chipmunks, but it also includes some classic novelty songs from Allan Sherman, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Cheech & Chong, and Weird Al Yankovic. It is also one of the few places you can find Stan Freberg’s Christmas Dragnet. Oh, yeah, and that dumb Hippopotamus song is on here, too (but I skip that one).
This is one that a friend told me about. The story goes that a couple of members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra were sitting around talking one day. They asked each other what they thought Glenn would be doing if he were still around. One of them said “Probably working on a Christmas album.” The idea was born. They contacted former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and they recorded this one. It is truly a great album and tribute to Miller.
Bing Crosby may have been called the “Voice of Christmas,” but Frank Sinatra was THE VOICE. This collection includes one of my favorites: Whatever Happened to Christmas. You also get his amazing version of Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas and other classics.
Some great songs from Al Martino, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and other pop singers of the 40’s and 50’s.
I have talked about this one before. It is just an amazing album with something for everyone. I love listening to Doc and the Tonight Show Band jamming on songs like Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow, and my favorite version of Jingle Bells! You’ll also love the Children’s Choir and Bell Choir on other numbers.
Mel, of course, wrote The Christmas Song, and I just love to hear his version of it. Nat King Cole’s version doesn’t include Mel’s extra lyric: “Love and joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas, too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” Known as “The Velvet Fog,” Mel’s voice is perfect on Christmas Time Is Here, The Christmas Medley, Sleigh Ride, and a Christmas version of The Glow Worm.
I have so many favorite Elvis Christmas songs that aren’t on this album, but I love how they have added the orchestra to his classics on this album. Santa Claus is Back in Town sounds so much fuller with them. I only wish that they had done If Every Day Was Like Christmas for this album.
Before both of his Christmas albums were made available, they took tracks from both his “Winter Romance” album and “The Dean Martin Christmas Album” and combined them for this collection. I have both of those albums now, but for one collection – I pick this one. Marshmallow World is one of my favorite cuts!
According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn. There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan. Many people haven’t even started raking them yet. This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!
I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th. The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches. That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today. The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!
The snow brings out a lot of anger in people. People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow. “It’s too early,” they say. It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have. As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook. We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too! While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow. I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground. Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:
“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”
Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.
At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2). Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music. On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.
Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is playing. It was the perfect song for the weather. Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas? I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
Song For A Winter’s Night
Hazy Shade of Winter
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
There are SO many more. Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”. Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”. Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”! It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs. Am I forgetting any? What can YOU add to the list?
I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round. AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up. Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.
I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….
This week I found out that the doctor’s office where my primary care doctor practices is going private. To be honest, this is the first time I have ever had this happen. They offered all of the current patient’s the option to stay with the practice – at a cost. So for $90 a month, I can stay with my doc, get his cell phone number for after hours questions, unlimited visits with no co-pays or deductibles, “unhurried appointments that start on time”, and a bunch of other “perks”. While this sounds great, I still have to pay my monthly insurance in case I need to go to ER or have a hospital stay. Bottom line: it’s gonna cost me more money.
I think the hardest part about this is the fact that I finally found a doctor I like. He’s Italian (we’ve talked about Italy and Sicily often). He listens to me. He doesn’t rush me. He is honest. I trust him. I’ve really only had a few doctors where I felt like this. Now, because the entire practice is going private, I have to begin a new search for a doctor!
Finding the right “doc” should be an easy task, right? Well, it really isn’t for me. Because I work an hour and 15 minutes from home, AND work for a health system, I have to take the insurance provided by them. I have to use doctors that are affiliated with the health system. This is not really a big deal. What makes it difficult is that the closest practices are about 30-50 minutes south of where I live.
Not only do I have to find a new doctor for me, but the new doctor has to be one that I can take the boys to as well. The options keep getting fewer and fewer, especially since there are only a few practices in that area.
The old doctor will see me through the end of December. So I have about 2 months to research, visit, and make a choice. Oh, and amidst all of that, it is time for open enrollment and there are all kinds of changes in that too that I need to look at and consider.
Why must health care and insurance be such a major pain in the ass?! Urgh! I am really hating that my doctor’s office is doing this!! I understand why, though. I mean, really, if I were a doctor and could avoid all the insurance company bullshit, I’d do it too! It’s just very frustrating and unfair to the patients who are established. To assume that a patient can afford an extra $1100 a year on top of what they already pay for insurance really sucks!
It is no secret that in many cases all it would take is one major medical emergency to put a family into financial distress! Hell, one ER visit with my son, at the health system I work for cost me over $800! He wasn’t even admitted! Health care costs are astronomical (not to mention pharmaceutical costs)!
So the search is on … I have a short time to interview, research and make the decision on my new doc. I am loathing ever damn second of it. Who is the right Doc??
Doctor Howard? Doctor Fine? Doctor Howard?
Dr. Van Helsing??
Gratuitous Grey’s Anatomy photo (cause my wife loves that show)
Doctor McSteamer? McSteaming? Or McDreamy? Whatever the hell they call him?!?!
Wish me luck … I am NOT looking forward to this at all ….
My brother read this blog and reminded me that there are many other doctor options that I forgot. So, here are a few more I will look into:
Dr. David Banner – although his temper may be an issue.
Dr. Samuel Beckett – though he is often in and out
Dr. Bombay – he’s magical!
Dr. Frasier Crane and Dr. Niles Crane – they are crazy fun!
Dr. John Watson – The game is afoot!
Dr. Rumack – I am serious!
Dr. Honeydew and his faithful companion, Beaker.
Dr. Richard Kimble – although he’s on the lamb
Dr. Bob Hartley
Another Dr. Bob …
Dr. Fu Manchu
The Family Practice of Dr. Jones and Dr. Jones
Dr. Frankenstein – it’s not pronounced how it looks.
Dr. Cockroach – he creeps me out a bit
Dr. Spaceman – not pronounced how it looks either!
Dr. Teeth – I have all his albums!
Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz – He has his own jingle and nemesis.
With all of those wonderful choices …. I may just go with the Dr. I can relate to the most … perhaps you have heard of him….
Dr. Johnny Fever!
Thanks to my brother for reminding me that I have many more options … LOL!
Bobby Darin was a talent. He was a songwriter, a singer, an actor, and played multiple instruments. Today is the anniversary of his birth – he was born May 14, 1936. As a baby, he had bouts of Rheumatic Fever, which caused some damage to his heart. He beat many odds and lived longer than most doctors expected him to.
He began his career writing songs for Connie Francis, and eventually recorded his first song, “Splish Splash” which was a hit in 1958. He followed it with many other hits including “Dream Lover,” “Beyond the Sea,” “If I Were a Carpenter”, and “Mack the Knife.”
Mack the Knife was Bobby’s biggest hit spending 9 weeks at #1. It was the #1 record of 1959. It won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1960, and Bobby won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist of the Year. The song later received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. But it was almost NOT released as a single.
The song is from The Threepenny Opera. Bobby saw this show at a theater in Greenwich Village in 1958 and thought he could present it in a more “jazzy” way. He began to sing it in his nightclub act and got a good response. He recorded it on an album and the sales of the album and his nightclub act had audiences wanting more of it. Originally Bobby did not want to release the song as a single. After all, he was a teen idol and had an image to uphold. A old song about a murderer could easily tarnish that. The record label decided that it should be released – and the rest is history!
One cool piece of trivia (at least for me, as a trumpet player): Doc Severinsen, who would go on to work with Johnny Carson as the bandleader of the Tonight Show Band, is one of the trumpet players on this song.
Mack The Knife
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old Macheath, babe
And he keeps it out of sight
You know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, though, wears old Macheath, babe
So there’s never, never a trace of red
Now on the sidewalk, ooh, sunny morning, uh-huh
Lies a body just oozin’ life
Eek, and someone’s sneakin’ ’round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?
There’s a tugboat down by the river, don’t ya know
Where a cement bag’s just a-droopin’ on down
Oh, that cement is just, it’s there for the weight, dear
Five’ll get ya ten, old Macky’s back in town
Now d’ya hear about Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
After drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash
And now Macheath spends just like a sailor
Could it be our boy’s done something rash?
Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry
Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Oh, the line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town
I said Jenny Diver, whoa, Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town
Look out ol’ Macky’s back!
There are many biographies available about the life of Bobby Darin. His son, Dodd, wrote one entitled Dream Lovers which talks much about his dad and his mom (Sandra Dee). It’s an honest read.
Bobby had health issues throughout his life and his heart already had issues. In 1973, he neglected to take the antibiotics he was prescribed for his heart before a dentist visit. He ended up developing sepsis which spread throughout his body. This made him weak and affected one of the valves in his heart. He checked himself into the hospital for another open heart surgery (he had two heart valves replaced in 1971). After a six hour surgery, he died in the recovery room on December 20, 1973. He never regained consciousness. Bobby Darin was 37 years old.