The first song I ever remember hearing was “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait” by Little Jimmy Dickens. Daddy would pour a bucket of water over the ground-wire to our radio antenna so we could pick up the Grand Ole Opry as clear as possible. This was around 1951. You’d think with Hank Williams, Red Foley, Eddie Arnold and the likes singing on that same stage, I could have made a better choice.
But Little Jimmy sang louder than the rest. He was definitely distinct. And he seemed to enjoy singing way more than anybody I’d ever heard. Maybe, like Minnie Pearl, he was “just so proud” to be there!
Or maybe the choice speaks more to my musical knowledge and talent.
It’s interesting how so many of our personal “moments” are immortalized by a particular song. And, I know in my case, it didn’t have to be a blockbuster; just a tune that carried you back to a special place, time and memory.
Oh, the feelings a simple lyric can wrought forth!
Some are good, sweet, uplifting and memorable; others can be downright gruesome, painful, dead-out awful… memorable, I guess you could say, in the opposite direction!
It may not be Little Jimmy Dickens and an old cold tater, but I’m sure you’ve got a song (or two) that take you back to “Another Place, Another Time”…
I hear Dickens sing anything today and immediately I see my family gathered around that old “standup” Zenith radio in the living room. Mom and Dad are so young. Leon is on his best behavior. Me and little brother are on the rug, as close to the source of the music as we could get.
My first group sing-along happened in grammar school. One of our teachers was enamored with Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera.” We would sing it in class near ’bout every day. I fell in love with Miss Day before I ever saw a picture of her…. and certainly before I realized she also was a movie star.
Leon came home one day with a fourteen-dollar record player he bought up at Lance’s Music Store. The free record he selected with the purchase was Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” We played it night and day for months! It was the first song I learned all the words to.
Bobby Brewer and I would see who could swing the highest at recess singing the very popular “Battle of New Orleans.” I believe it was 1959. I hear it today and think of the lifelong buddies I made on that old playground.
Those were the days my friend…
When I think back on high school basketball – scores, halftime talks and game winning baskets don’t come to mind. I see Martin Paschall, beating time on the locker room door after practice, doing a great rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.”
I didn’t start the big fight up at the Skyway Grill. I was trying to enjoy the best hamburger in Henry County when Rollin Trull took exception to what some guy from Huntingdon said. As I’ve told you before, Rollin didn’t have a backup gear.
He popped the naysayer high up on his left temple. I don’t know who threw the chair. I heard glass breaking from three different directions about the time some guy landed on my table. As they would say at ringside, “The crowd went wild!”
As I was crawling out on my hands and knees I could hear Johnny Horton’s “Sink the Bismarck” blasting out of the jukebox.
Mary Hadley Hayden was as nice as she could be; in every happenstance. We were listening to the car radio in front of her house when she politely gave me the “take a long walk down a short pier” speech. We’d ONLY been “going steady” for three years!
I was speechless, as you might imagine. And you’d think a song like Elvis’s “Love Me Tender,” Sonny James’s “Young Love” or Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” would have been softly drifting out of those radio speakers
What I got at that infamous moment was Johnny Cash belting out “A Boy Named Sue!”
That “humorous” song comes on today and people look at me in complete bewilderment… as tears start trickling down my face.
I had the good fortune to meet Little Jimmy Dickens in 1968. I told him about the old Zenith and how he was my favorite back then. He smiled up at me and fairly shouted, “Son, I appreciate that.”
Little Jimmy, long after the early Opry days, sang “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”
Gosh, if I’d known that song the night Mary Hadley gave me the verbal “Dear John” letter… I would have sung her a tune she’d dang sure remember forever!
This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: Finally, an answer for Mary Hadley!