I’m pretty sure that music has more mojo than anything else on earth. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from or how old you are or whether you play an instrument or just play the radio. Music speaks to the deepest parts of our memories. You hear the right tune and suddenly you’re transported. Your fingers start tapping on the steering wheel. Your mind visualizes moments captured in time.
Nothing else I know does that. Except maybe the smell of chicken and dumplings.
Although I haven’t heard it in quite some time, any time I hear Puff the Magic Dragon I am immediately taken back to the playground swings during recess in first grade. Weird, but true. I had no idea what the magic dragon was puffing on, but us six-year-olds were belting out, “Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea” at the top of our lungs. The sway and creaking of the chains just seemed to go along with the tune.
If the oldies station spins up a little Rare Earth and “Get Ready” comes on, I am immediately back in high school. Maybe my favorite tune of all time. I was completely afraid of girls and over-the-top petrified of dancing. That song got me over both fears. We played that song a thousand times at the club house at Lake Talmadge. It was dark. The black lights made your Converse high tops glow this eerie shade of blue.
I never met a girl could make me feel the way that you do
You’re all right
Whenever I’m asked what makes a my dreams real
I tell ’em you do
You’re outta sight
Well tweedle de-dee, tweedle de-dum
Look out baby now here I come
Pardon me a moment while I collect myself. Whew!
The Temptations may have done it first, but Rare Earth will always be the ones in my head.
The only reason a kid like me ever picked up a guitar was to try and be a part of the music. There’s just something about it. And I can’t really explain it, but I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. The tunes, the lines, the drive, the phrases. They get embedded or imprinted or permanently stamped somewhere inside, and from time to time they come to life and bring us alive with them.
“Ooga shacka Ooga Ooga, Ooga shocka Ooga Ooga, Ooga shocka Ooga Ooga, Ooga shocka”
Tell me that doesn’t get you all stirred up? Either you’re so young that you think I was raised in the jungle. Or, you know that I’m just Hooked on a Feeling. Or, you are considering the possibility that I have lost my mind.
My Mama liked Dean Martin and Elvis. I remember when she allowed herself to buy a stereo turntable and she started buying albums. We watched the Dean Martin show on TV, and she listened to Dean crone on the stereo while she sewed. She even went to Hawaii once with Inez Daniel to see Elvis in Concert. Dad had no interest in going to pay to hear somebody sing. But Mama made her own money at her sewing machine and she wasn’t going to take any lip from Dad about it. It was the trip of her life.
Dad was a Tennessee Ernie Ford and Hank kind of guy. He would whistle while he drove.
“Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”
He couldn’t sing worth a flip. And, as far as I knew, he never spent a dime on buying a record. Never saw him dance. But I did see him tap the steering wheel a few times. He sang at church, though. Knew all the words to the great hymns. He understood what Amazing Grace was all about.
Which makes me think of the first song I ever played on guitar. House of the Rising Sun. My mother was a seamstress, and she sewed my new blue jeans many times. But my father was not a gambler down in New Orleans. It was a soulful and eerie song. The clean-cut version was to sing the words of Amazing Grace to the same haunting tune.
Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun
The song seemed to imply that grace was needed. So, it wasn’t a bad fit.
I went through a Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper stage. Loved Zepplin and Moody Blues; Yes and Jethro Tull. But I always seemed to circle back to James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Harry Chapin. The acoustic stuff really drew me in.
I went to the Southeastern Music Hall a good bit. Saw Chapin there several times. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Even saw Steve Martin play the banjo with an arrow through his head before he made it big.
Music is the mojo that moves us. All of it. The blues and the bluegrass. The rock and the Ryman. The old hymns of faith and the new. So I’ll just sign off with the theme to Andy Griffith and see how long it takes for you to get that one out of your head.
Maybe this will help. Ooga shocka!