Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

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Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

I’m With the Band ….

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Autumn/Fall is my favorite season. There is something about the cool crisp air and fall colors that I absolutely love. With fall comes sweatshirt weather, bonfires, and high school football games. Those high school football games remind me of marching band and the annual homecoming.

“Homecoming” is defined as “an annual tradition where people, towns, high schools, and colleges come together (usually in the fall) to welcome back former residents or alumni”. Over the past couple weeks, I have enjoyed seeing many of my Facebook friends posting Homecoming pictures. Many of them are pictures of their sons or daughters all dressed up for the dance while some pictures are from Homecoming parades. Some of the pictures were posted by former classmates who are now teaching at my old high school, and they brought back some great memories.

Prior to high school, our junior high band marched in the homecoming parades and played a song or two. I don’t ever recall staying for the homecoming game afterward. I don’t ever recall walking in the parade while I was in elementary school either, though that seems to be the thing nowadays. At my son’s parade last year, every single elementary school in the district had some sort of representation or float of some kind.

Our ninth grade band had something like 70-100 members if my memory serves me correct. Because of that fact, we stayed a separate entity. We were the Varsity Band and the 10th-12th graders were in the Concert/Marching Band. As Freshmen, we also marched in the parade as a “bonus” band. It was just a taste of what was to come as we entered 10th grade.

1985-1986 – Marching Band Season 1

Prior to school starting, we were given our music for the year’s Marching Band season. The music consisted of the four songs for our halftime show, music for the pregame, music that would be used for pep assemblies, and music that we might play in the stands or in a parade. The instructions were clear “Memorize these songs!” To be honest, this scared the hell out of me. I was never good at memorizing anything, but after playing along with the cassette tape that was available, I had most of it ready by band camp.

I will spare you the obligatory “this one time at band camp” line and just say that band camp was 1) hard work 2) hot and 3) a blast. We had all gotten the “charts” of what the pregame and halftime show were supposed to look like. It was neat to look at, but as a sophomore who had never charted a show, I had no idea what it meant. Basically, the chart shows where you are at one point in the song on one page and where you are going on the pages that follow. You might start on the 30 yard line, but in 12 measures, you are going to march in step to the 45 yard line and take your place there. Then over the course of another 24 measures, you are going to make your way over to the 25 yard line while marching side step (horn facing the stands) and playing the melody.

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You can imagine the amount of rehearsal time that something like this has to take. I can recall our band director asking us to do it over and over and over again. “Pick it up from measure 8″….”Keith was out of step, let’s do it again” … “The flutes need to be louder here”…. “Good! Let’s try it all the way through from the top – one more time!” Slowly, but surely, the show came together. It wasn’t until we saw a video of the show from one of the football games that I really came to know how cool the show looked on the field.

I’ll never forget the songs from the show. It opened with “Artistry in Rhythm”, which was Stan Kenton’s theme song. We were all lined up facing the visitor stands. Ronnie, the junior drum major faced us, while John, the head drum major was on the podium, waiting for us to turn around on the first note. We all stood with our heads down and as Ronnie counted to eight, we slowly raised our heads, brought our instruments to our lips and as he said “eight” we stepped off turning toward the home stands with the dramatic opening of the tune. Not sure how I remember that, but I can recall it like it was yesterday! It was a pretty tough song with some pretty high notes. Cathy played this amazing trumpet solo on the song and nailed it every show. She was one of two trumpet players who I admired in our band. As a young player, I hoped one day I could play as well as them.

Next, we played the Louis Prima song “Sing, Sing, Sing”, which of course was a big hit for the Benny Goodman band. I think of all the songs we played for marching band, it was my favorite. We had a solid percussion section and they really held this one together. This song had a bit for everybody. The melody was carried by the brass, the woodwinds, and the low brass even got to shine in this one. What I remember most about this song was that at the end of the song, the band formed a G-Clef on the field while the drums and majorettes formed a musical note. It truly was a very cool thing.

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Our third song was called Rock ‘n Roll Fever, which was a medley of songs like Heartbreak Hotel, At the Hop, and others. Carmelle was our first chair trumpet. She was the section leader. She had a pretty amazing solo in this number (as did Chad and Scott). She could nail high notes and they were clear as a bell. I remember I had only heard the solos on the cassette tape prior to us all getting together on the field. To hear Cathy and Carmelle knock those solos out of the park every time, truly stuck with me.

What I didn’t really care for was the fact that there was a dance that was created to go along with this song. We all stayed in the formation we ended with at the end of Sing, Sing, Sing and we did this dance. As silly as I felt doing it, the crowd seemed to like it a lot. We did a dance to at least one song every year I was in marching band…sadly. Maybe I just wish we had continued to do some more moving around on the field, but I kinda hated the dance numbers.

The final number of our show was “I’ll Be There”, which was a HUGE hit for the Jackson 5. It was the perfect show closer. It was a very soft and pretty arrangement and the movement of the band matched it perfectly. As the song ended, we all marched off the field to head back to the “band bleachers” to continue to root for our Football Team – The Abes (who were coached by the best – Jim Benefield. My Senior year – he helped coach them to an undefeated season!).

Other Random Marching Band Memories

  • Marching in a parade is always a cool thing. Marching in a parade through Disney, kind of tops them all! You’d stop in specific spots at times and play a song, then get back into ranks and march a bit more. Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and all the characters would be around dancing to your songs. Such fun times and great memories.
  • The Hall Football Hall of Fame Parade. We did this once … once! It had to be the longest parade EVER! I remember we were marching and we’d see a floating balloon in front of us start to come down. We’d be thinking “the end is near – we are almost done” and that damn balloon would jump back up in the air and mock us! By the end of the parade, our legs felt like jelly and our lips were basically dead.
  • Senior year I got to play a solo in the half time show. We did the George Gershwin song Rhapsody in Blue. One of my lifelong friends, Margaret, and I got to play solos. She stood on one side of me and we did a “question and answer” type solo. I played, she answered. The solo was quite easy for me, and nothing as complicated as the solos that were played by Cathy and Carmelle in my first year of marching band, but it was still a solo. It was exciting! I knew it and I had it memorized, but I was always nervous each time I had to play that thing in front of the crowd. It’s funny to think about that now, as I am quite comfortable being in front of a crowd (because of the radio work I did for so long). I guess, when you think about it, both scenarios are “performing” in front of a group, but with band – there are always the possibilities of playing a wrong note!
  • Doggin’ Around. We had this fun, bouncy and jazzy number called Doggin’ Around. I might be wrong, but I want to say it was a Count Basie song. Anyway, it was a damn fun song to play and I thought it would be fun to conduct it. Some of us were taking a conducting class and I asked the band director if I could conduct it at one of the games. I must have pestered him enough because he said yes. We played the song during our post game show. (This was done when the home team won a game – and we won EVERY game that year!) I knew that song inside and out. I knew where every brass sting was, I knew where the tuba line was important, and I knew where every crescendo and decrescendo was! I counted it off and the band played – how they were able to follow me, I am not sure. I was moving my hips all over the place in time with the song. I was dancing along while conducting. It was crazy. When I saw a video of it, I was embarrassed at just how silly I looked, but again, the crowd seemed to love it, and I was having fun.
  • The Washington and Lee Swing. The Lincoln School Song. I can still play this by memory! This is one of those “If I had a dollar for every time I played this song…” songs. It was a parade favorite, it was played at pep assemblies, it was played during pre-game, post-game, when the football team entered the field, and every single time the team scored! While in school, I think we kind of got sick of it … but now, when I hear it, I am reminded of some of the best days of my life!
  • The Star Spangled Banner. You hear the National Anthem before each and every sporting event. With high school events, it is no different. One thing I always remember is that whenever our band director conducted it, he played it pretty quickly. I think one time he said, “there’s no need to drag it out – we wanna get the game started”. Whenever I hear a band play it slow and drag it out … I always think about how fast we used to play it.
  • The Italian Number. We Got The Beat was a hit for The Go Go’s in 1980. I’m not sure when the LHS Band started playing it, but it basically became a tradition. It was a standard “must play” song every year. It is also another song that I can play by memory. In marching band, you play while at attention – feet together, back strait, horn level to the ground. With this song, all bets were off. You danced, you swayed, you “got down”, and had fun! It was a celebratory song that was a “staple” to every post game show. It was often called “We Gotta Da Beat” or “that Italian number”. I’m not sure if it is still a tradition at LHS, but deep down, I hope it is.

Times have changed

When I go to a high school football game today I get excited to watch the band! I walk in with the expectation of seeing lots of movement and hearing the full, loud sounds of the band. Recently, I have been somewhat disappointed. It seems that today, you need to have an entire pit full of xylophones, bells, and in some cases, electric guitars! I understand that these are all musical instruments, but I’m old school and I don’t think they belong.

At one recent performance, it took the band 3 minutes just to get all the stuff down in front of the gridiron for the show. To me, this is a waste of performance time. When that clock started to tick away the halftime break, we were entering the field, and within a minute, we were playing! I digress. Bottom line, I DO love to watch a marching band and it takes me back to a time in my life where I had a lot of fun.

Thanks to YouTube, there are many great college marching band shows available to view online. Recently the LSU Marching Band got a lot of attention doing a halftime show with a bunch of TV themes. OSU has also gained attention with some of their great shows as well. I am always amazed at the things these bands are able to do on the field. Kudos to the creators of these shows, they entertain in SO many ways!

After I graduated in 1988, we created an Alumni Band. Keeping with the Homecoming theme, it was a chance for band alumni to come back and march in the Homecoming parade again. We pulled out the school song one more time and played it with every ounce of school spirit we had. We were able to order a new piece of music to play in the parade as well. After our band director retired, the tradition of the alumni band returning began to fade. Part of the fun was rehearsing again with him and laughing like old times.

It’s been some time since the alumni band last played for Homecoming. Who knows if the interest is still there and whether or not the new band director would be open to welcoming us back. I do know this – Each and every fall I will always be reminded of those chilly days of fall where I’d suit up in my band uniform and march on to the field to play that school song loud and proud! I will remember with a smile how very special it was to be in the marching band!

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