A Fortunate Son
With apologies to the true meaning of the John Fogerty penned song, I had to make the pun.
My earliest memory of listening to the radio is with my father. The cars he had when I was very young only had AM radios in them, so we usually listened to the New York all news station. Occasionally, he would flip over to the country station on AM, and I remember him tapping along with Kenny Rogers.
As I got older, he and my mother, referred to in my Mother's Day piece, would listen to Motown together. It wasn't until I was older that I started to pay attention to what my dad, Bob, was listening to when he was down in his work shop.
As I wrote before, my mother, Linnea sort of dominated the music in the house. But when my dad was alone, he would break out his collection of reel to reel tapes. Most of these tapes he acquired during the Vietnam war. In a precursor to Napster, each guy in his unit would send away to Hong Kong or Singapore, purchase an album and then make reel to reel copies for the other guys. He returned from the war with Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more.
Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, my father was sort of into Motown. He liked the Temptations and the Four Tops and would play them regularly at our house. During the 70's I remember him listening to a steady diet of CCR, Buffalo Springfield, Cream and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
He was much more into what became the harder edge of Classic Rock than my mom. As a CPA, one would not think that he'd be into that kind of music. However, one would be wrong - my dad can rock with the best of them
While I liked the Motown sound and the Beatles, as I got older, I realized that I was gravitating towards The Doors, The Who and Clapton. All music I had first heard from my father (in full disclosure, my Aunt Robin, my mom's sister also contributed to my love all things Clapton. I'm pretty sure she's the one who came up with the phrase, "Clapton Is God" but someone else spray painted it on a wall. At least that's how I remember it.).
When my brothers and I would help my dad with household chores or yard work, he'd play the radio, record player, or reel to reels. Music was always around us, growing up.
My dad was not overt with his music, it was just on when my mom was in another part of the house, or away on business. At Christmas, however, my dad ran the hi-fi. He developed a great mix of Motown and Classical selections, first on vinyl and then on CD and now on his iPod. Maybe that's where I developed my early DJ skills from.
Let's examine Classical for a second. Usually only at Christmas were classical pieces played by my dad. In talking about music with his father, I learned that my grandfather was a lover of classical and opera. So, you can draw that line straight down to me. When I need to center myself, it's either the Allmans, The Dead or Classical. Yes, my father and I listened to a bit of the Allman Brothers together, and I am still trying to figure out how I became a Dead Head.
I took my dad and my aunt to see the reunited Cream play Madison Square Garden. At one point during the show, I looked over at my father and he was the happiest I had seen him in months. Keep in mind, this was right after tax season and for a CPA, the months of January through April are almost as torturous as the Spanish Inquisition, except that you expect it.
When I think about my own music discovery and the influences that inspired me, I believe that I am fortunate to have two loving parents who kept music in the house at all times.
I am also very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive father. He had no problem with the fact that I did not go into accounting, but followed a childhood dream of working in radio. When I was on the air in New York, doing overnights, my father would tape my whole show. He had this rig set up where he could record a few hours and then he would get up in the middle of the night and flip the tapes to catch the back half of the show. I volunteered to give my folks a copy of my air-check, which was a recording of just the talk breaks, but they really wanted to experience the entire show, music, commercials... the whole thing.
I'll end with one more anecdote... from the time I was in high school, I could not get enough of The Band. I didn't know where it came from, I had some sort of block, I suppose. I have owned several copies of The Last Waltz on video (I always seem to lose them to a former girlfriend) and even hung out with Levon and Rick. For my parents' 40th Wedding Anniversary, I came out of retirement and volunteered to DJ their party. My mother's music dominated the playlist, but I wanted to make sure my father's tastes were represented. He offered only a few selections, and "Ophelia" by The Band was one of them. It was then that I realized where my love of The Band had come from... my dad used to play The Last Waltz, as well as Songs From Big Pink repeatedly.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thank you (Mom... I already thanked you in the Mother's Day piece...) for always encouraging me to pursue my dreams and thanks for turning me on to some really great rock and roll.
Robert Mathers (@RTNowRadio) for Cumulus Media © 2012