All That To Say

I don’t remember which Christmas it was. I know it’s not an attractive character quality, but I’ve always been a bit jealous – perhaps more skeptical – of grown people who say, “I”ll never forget the Christmas when I was 9! I got an Atari 5200 and 4 – FOUR – Panama Jack shirts!” I just don’t think grown people can keep track of that type of thing. I told you it wasn’t an attractive quality.

Anyway, I don’t remember the Christmas, but one of my favorite presents ever was a Panasonic cassette tape player AND recorder. Not one of the slim, palm-sized ones either. No, this one was the size of book. The kind that you put the cassette tape in the top, with a cheap microphone that would also work as a speaker if you plugged it in to the headphone jack, and you had to push play AND record at the same time to record anything. It was utilitarian and I loved it.

On several Friday nights, I sat 3 feet away from the TV and recorded the audio of The Dukes of Hazzard. Scrambling to push ‘Pause’ when the show went to commercial so that I wouldn’t waste tape on Dove soap and their claim of being “99 and 99/100 percent pure clean!” It’s how kids of my generation developed our keen sense of timing regarding commercials. People in my house get all tense when I change the channel during a commercial break. “Turn it back! Turn it back!”, they scream. “Relax, offspring. I’ve got this,” I calmly reply. And then I tell them to get a little closer to life’s edge, but they don’t understand such. They just don’t want to miss any part of Bizaardvark.

Through the week, I’d listen to the recording, along with episodes of Gilligan’s Island that I recorded also. This was before VCRs, and way before TiVo. I like to think that I pioneered recording live television with this recording technique in the early 80s.

The Christmas that I got the cassette player/recorder, I got two cassette tapes. Both were by Alabama; My Home’s in Alabama and Feels So Right. So it must have been the Christmas of 1981,since Feels So Right came out in February 1981. I know. Some of you weren’t born. I’m sorry you missed all the fun.

Anyway, when I wasn’t listening to the episode of Gilligan’s Island where the space capsule splashed down near the castaways and ended up in the lagoon, the songs from these Alabama albums made their way through the little 2-inch speaker with a range of about 3 notes and a distortion factor of about a million.

Drinkin’ was forbidden in my christian country home.
I learned to play the flattop on them good ol’ gospel songs.

I’d listen to one side, then flip the tape over and listen to the other.

Oh, Tennessee River and a mountain man,
We get together anytime we can
Oh, Tennessee River and a mountain man,
We play together in Mother Nature’s band

When I had listened to My Home’s in Alabama enough, I’d put Feels So Right in the player and listen to it. I’ve always liked songs that told a story and, for me, Feels So Right is a better collection of songs than My Home’s in Alabama for stories. I still don’t know what “Fantasy” is about, but the stories wrapped inside “Burn Georgia Burn”, “Ride the Train”, and “Hollywood”are phenomenal. Well, maybe the Cotton Queen from Atlanta didn’t like her story.

We went to the Grand Ole Opry a couple of years ago and took the tour after the show. You get to walk on stage and stand in the circle. They tell you that you can stand in the circle, step to a cold microphone, and sing a few lines of your favorite song if you like. I sang “drinkin’ was forbidden in my christian country home. I learned to play the flattop on them good ol’ gospel songs.” And then I stepped aside.

When it comes to early Alabama, I like to think that I’m bona fide. I didn’t know many other 11 year olds who knew the words to “Woman Back Home”.

All that to say, Jason Isbell’s version of “Old Flame” is spectacular. Haunting. Just phenomenal.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

One thought on “All That To Say”

  1. Jammy how I love to read your stuff. I know I’m older than you but this one touched something deep inside me. We had so much less yet we were so happy. Childhood was a beautiful thing! Keep writing. You have great kids. That’s all.

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