This past week, with the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ monumental album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the passing of rock-n-roll blues icon Greg Allman, my virtual mp3 turntable has been a nostalgic soundscape filled with the music of the Fab Four and the Allman Brothers Band. Naturally, “Sergeant Pepper” has been in heavy rotation this week as has the TABB 1971 groundbreaking live album “At Fillmore East.” My nearly lifelong friend George Savage considers both records to be “classics.” I must say that I would have to agree with him as surely throngs of other audiophiles do also.
Listening to these old albums reminds me of the profound influence people have had on my life and my musical taste. Undoubtedly, when it comes to music, aside from my late Dad, no one I know has had a greater influence on my listening tastes than my friend George Savage. Through the years of nurturing our individual sound gardens, we have continued to influence each other’s musical interests, him me more than me him. I can’t even begin to list the music my buddy LowDog Savage has turned me onto. That’s a river that is just simply too wide to cross.
As I mentioned, my Dad had a profound impact on my listening landscape. So did my Mom. She’s the one that had me listening to Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin and introduced me to opera. Dad introduced me to Bob Wills, Johnny Horton, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Tom T. Hall, Buck Owens and Roy Clark, to name a few. Dad’s considerable record collection also included Clapton, Steppenwolf, and ZZ Top. Thanks to my parents, I’ve always had an eclectic, broad taste in music and I am glad for that gift.
Through my time in radio during the 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to rock and country, I had the opportunity to cultivate an interest and knowledge into the sounds of jazz, bluegrass, classical, country western & swing, new age, and even big band. Not to mention the sounds my ears heard during the days of hosting or running the board for shows like “The Classic Rock Show,” “Higher Ground,” and the “Contemporary Christian Power Hour.” This grand audio adventure was in no small part due to working at a Public Radio station under the guiding hand of Bill Oellermann and under the direction of Rob Stanley Ernest. If you’re a Dallas hockey fan, you’d instantly recognize Bill’s booming voice from his 18 years and 800+ home games as the Public-Address announcer for the Dallas Stars. Rob Stanley Ernest retired from radio and is now a dedicated Methodist minister devoting his time to doing the work of the Lord. Both men set the table for me to broaden my musical horizons and fall in love with radio.
Working at KETR on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce (known back then as East Texas State University) provided me the privilege of working with the public radio greats like Railroad Bill Ogden (host of the Bluegrass Special) and C.H. “Kip” Martin. Another old radio compadre during my time at KETR FM 88.9 is Brad Kellar who continues to pound the news beat in the Greenville-Commerce area, keeping legions of East Texans on top of the latest headlines. And of course, I cannot forget to mention my TV-broadcasting co-host, Vicki Holloway who tenaciously continues working in broadcasting today as the marketing manager for KAMU Public Radio in College Station.
In those days, MTV and ESPN were new ideas, and Vicki and I hosted several TV shows together, including a program called “Campus Connection”. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we did what we both do—laughed a lot and had fun with it. Having a sense of humor dramatically impacts your outlook on your circumstance and situation. Life is better when you laugh.
These folks, along with a ton of others, demonstrated early on in my life that you just never know who God puts in your life or why even though I didn’t spend much time thinking about God back in those days. Today, I am grateful for the broad and bright tapestry of friends and music God has woven into the fabric of my life.
Those were great times. We dared to chase our dreams, although they may not have led us where we might ever have imagined they would take us. But that’s life. Some things you only learn by living. No matter what this world throws your way, you got to keep on living and growing into the “You” that God intended.
Like Mr. Bojangles, keep on dancing.