COUNTRY ROADS: Far away places with strange-soundin’ names…

Arvid Huisman.

The rusty old Studebaker pick-up caught my eye as I pulled into the convenience store parking lot. Sure enough, my old buddy Eb Griper was sitting behind the wheel.

Eb appeared to be snoozing, as I approached his truck from the rear. When I got up to the side window, I could see he was awake and listening to music.

“Listening to your and Hilda’s song?” I asked. My question startled Eb who apparently was listening more intently than I thought.

“We don’t have a song,” Eb snapped. “The music in our lives ended when the organist played ‘Here Comes the Bride.'”

“Well, you’re sure enjoying the music today. What are you listening to?”

Eb pointed to a device under his dash.

“I got one of those eight-track tape players at a garage sale and they threw in a bunch of 40s and 50s music tapes,” Eb explained.

“You put a tape player on this bucket of bolts?”

“Hey, don’t insult my Studebaker.”

“But…” I persisted incredulously, “this is an eight-track tape player! It’s ancient!”

“Sure!” Eb said. “They don’t play my kind of music on the radio anymore. With these tapes I can listen to the music I like.”

He reached over and turned up the volume. “Listen to this…”

I listened as Perry Como sang “Catch a Falling Star.”

“That’s great music,” I said.

“You bet it is,” Eb crowed. “They don’t make music like this anymore.”

“Yeah, that was a great era for music.”

Eb listened to Perry complete the song.

“You know me,” Eb finally said. “I hate new stuff and it’s hard for me to part with a buck, but when I learned I could listen to 40s and 50s music all day long I snatched up that eight-track tape player for my ol’ Studebaker. I could sit out here all day and listen to music.”

“I’ll bet that music brings back a lot of great memories,” I ventured.

Eb grinned. “You ever hear the Andrews Sisters sing?”

“Of course,” I said. “I love ‘I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time.'”

Eb grinned a dreamy smile. “LaVerne, Maxene and Patty… they were real women.”

“Careful, Eb,” I said, “I don’t want you having a stroke out here in the parking lot!”

Eb scowled, “You younger guys don’t have an appreciation for real women singers. Those Twiggy girl singers in the 1960s were built like third graders.”

“So, are we talking figures or voices here, Eb?”

“Well, the Andrews Sisters had both. And so did Dinah Shore… and Rosemary Clooney… and Peggy Lee… and Patti Page… and Doris Day…”

“I’m warning you, old fella. You’re going to pop a cork!”

“Yeah,” Eb grinned, “but what a way to go — dreaming about Doris Day.”

“She’s a classic. I especially liked ‘Que Sera Sera.’ There were a lot of great male singers in those years, too – Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra…”

“You know why I liked all those singers so much?” Eb interrupted.

“Tell me…”

“They sang beautiful melodies and you could understand the words. Too many of today’s singers look constipated when they sing. They make weird faces and grunt and groan all the time.”

“I agree…”

“And the women singers today… a lot of them look like hookers. And dance like it, too. Doris Day never did that.”

“You’re showing your age,” I teased. “Are you so old you prefer talent to sexy dancing?”

“You call that dancing? Or sexy?” Eb asked. “If you want sexy dancers you want Ann Miller or… Cyd Charisse… or… or…”

“Eb, you’re going to hyperventilate. Slow down. You’re right. Entertainment has changed… and not necessarily for the better.”

“What do you know? I finally agree with you on something. I must be losing it.”

“Either that or you’re finally getting smart in your old age.”

Eb reached for the volume knob.

“Listen…” he said with his eyes half closed. Margaret Whiting was singing “Far Away Places.”

Eb began to sing along: “Far away places with strange-soundin’ names are callin’, callin’ me…”

“One thing is sure,” I interrupted. “Your singing is as bad as mine.”

“Who cares?” Eb retorted. “At least I don’t look constipated…”


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