While leisurely perusing the newspaper Thursday morning — one of my last chances to take my time doing so before the new school year begins — I noticed a small blurb proclaiming that Kay Starr was celebrating her 89th birthday and was shocked to learn that Kay Starr is still alive.
Kay Starr is a singer, in case you were wondering, from the ’50s and thus might as well be from a galaxy far, far away. Her contemporaries were Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Patty Page and, of course, “Der Bingle.” That would be Mr. Bing Crosby. All of the above graced album covers stored in a place of honor in the cabinet under my parents’ hi-fi set.
I said albums — not 8-tracks, tapes or CDs — and I said a hi-fi, not a stereo or sound system or whatever it is that people listen to music on these days.
My own children have thousands of tunes available at the touch of a — well, I was going to say button, but what I actually mean, I suppose, is the touch of a touch screen. They have songs by the rich and famous and by radio heroes, and they have songs by “alternative” artists that you and I have never heard of — for good reason. They even have one song in their vast musical library by Kay Starr.
I am pretty sure that my kids take their access to those tunes for granted. I can absolutely guarantee you that Homer and Tommie Huckaby never took any possession for granted, including the precious few record albums they owned. Money was too hard to come by for that.
When daddy would bring home a new album — he was always the one who purchased such “luxury” items — he would proudly show Mama and they would carefully remove the cellophane cover from the pasteboard dust jacket. Daddy had a special way of holding the albums between the palms of his hand as he placed it on the turntable and set the needle arm on the front edge. It wouldn’t do to smudge the precious vinyl with fingerprints and, heaven forbid, someone scratch one of his records.
They would sit on the couch and stare at the hi-fi as the album played through all the songs. I was allowed to listen to them, too, as long as I was as particular as they were. Their music was my music when I was a small child, and I still wax nostalgic over some of those old tunes.
If you were alive and paying attention when everybody liked Ike, you might remember some of them, too. Feel free to sing along.
“I was dancing, with my darling, to the Tennessee Waltz.” Yes, that song preceded Rocky Top as the No. 1 melody in the Volunteer State.
“All day, all night, Marianne. Down by the sea shore sifting sand. All the little children love Marianne ...” Hey! Elvis was still learning when this stuff came out!
“There’s an old piano and they play it hot behind the green door ...” That one always made me wonder what went on behind the green door and a couple of years ago my curiosity almost got me in trouble when I wandered into an establishment in Las Vegas called the Green Door. I quickly decided that this was not the place on mama-and-’em’s record album and beat a hasty retreat.
And, of course, there were the classic standards — Crosby’s “Swinging on a Star,” Como’s “Hot Diggety, Dog Diggety” — bet you haven’t thought of that one in a while — and Dean Martin’s “Standing on the Corner.”
Lord, we could do this all day. There were so many of them, and often on Saturday nights, several couples would pile into our little house and the gang would literally move the furniture against the wall and dance the night away to the tunes played on that scratchy old record player. I’ll say this — my folks and their friends knew how to make a good time for themselves.
Oh, yes. Kay Starr. She was born on an Oklahoma Indian reservation in 1922. “Wheel of Fortune” was her biggest hit. I couldn’t tell you how that one goes, but my parents could sing every verse of “Side by Side,” and did so every time we started on a trip of even the shortest duration.
“Oh we ain’t got a barrel of money. Maybe we’re ragged and funny. But we’re traveling along, singing a song, side by side.”
And every time I start on a trip with my family, Kay Starr starts us on our way. It used to be one of those roll your eyes things, but now my kids insist on hearing it and have it on their iPods just in case I cannot find my antique CD containing the tune.
Thank you for traveling down memory lane with me and happy birthday, Ms. Starr, wherever you are.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.