Throughout my childhood, music was never a source of bonding for me and my amazing father, Joe.
As a proud member of the Greatest Generation, my father’s interest in music was relegated to memories of the “big band” sounds of Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller and the like.
And there was no music ever played in my childhood home, unless you count the weekly broadcast of the “Lawrence Welk Show” that always prefaced the family’s attendance at Saturday evening Mass.
My bedroom, however, was a much different story, which explains the door being on perpetual lockdown.
The frequent discussions between my father and I centered exclusively on history, especially World War II, sports, and sports history.
As I recall, the only comment he offered in response to my fascination with The Beatles was, “They started all that long hair and drugs.”
Accordingly, my love of all things music, including the electric guitar and later a garage band, was forged on my own: with a helping hand from older cousins Glen V. and Chris M., and Trinidad mentors Eli DeBono, Mark Bosley and Bob Shew.
And while my father never directly interfered with my musical obsession, he often would tell me, “I hope you’re not thinking about trying to make it in music. They are too many people already trying who are starving.”
Hey, at least he allowed me hair past my shoulders and a pieced ear, without too much complaint, God rest his soul.
For this week’s column, I’m turning to a father and son for whom music continues to be a vital bonding piece and joyful fountain of enduring memories.
“Growing up, KDZA ruled the airwaves, and both of my parents had it on all day long in
their cars and in our home,” said Dalton Sprouse, like his father Bob, a past contributor to this space. “Even though I grew up in the ’80s, aside from Boy George
and Culture Club – I’m still a huge fan; check out their latest album titled ‘Life’ – and
Michael Jackson, I know very little about that era of music that is apparently supposed to be really great.”
Thanks to his father, Dalton was introduced to a roster of amazing artists “that continue to be in rotation on whatever stereo I’m listening to at any given time. So what follows is a list of songs that remind me of growing up with my dad.”
GIVE ME JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME
Dalton: I give this group, Chairmen of the Board, credit for my attraction to distinctive voices and tonal color. The lead singer, General Johnson, also earned extra points for being from my dad’s hometown of Norfolk, VA. I’m almost always working on a playlist of a variety of songs that I love, and this one always makes the cut.
Bob: General Norman Johnson started out in Norfolk fronting The Showmen. He is still a big draw on the Carolina Beach music scene, doing summer shows from Virginia Beach to Myrtle Beach. “Beach music” is not the same as “surf music:” it’s kind of a specialized style of soul music.
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER
Dalton: My dad loved this song so much that it was played during my parents’ wedding
ceremony. I followed suit when I got married to Elizabeth, playing Coldplay’s “Viva La
Vida.” We used an instrumental version, though, because I’m not really sure what the
Bob: This classic song was performed at our wedding back in 1974. No Top 10 would
be complete without an entry from Simon and Garfunkel. Dalton and I both love great
songwriting, and Paul Simon is one of the best ever.
TRUE LOVE WAYS
Dalton: Apparently, I’ve always liked Buddy Holly. My dad often tells a story about a
time when I was just a kid and we were at a restaurant. A Buddy Holly song came on
over the speakers and I granted my approval for the restaurant because they played his
music. I still like Buddy Holly, and so does my 10-year-old boy.
Bob: When Dalton was quite young, he heard more music from Buddy Holly than any
other artist. One time, we were on a road trip and Dalton must have been somewhere
between 2 and 3 years old. We were waiting at a cash register in Texas to pay
our bill when Buddy Holly’s voice came over the music system. He looked up to me
and said, “Hey dad, they know Buddy Holly out here, too.” The guy in front of us couldn’t
believe his ears.
GRAZING IN THE GRASS
Dalton: My dad was never much of a singer, but he had the chorus of this Friends of Distinction song down pat. In grade school, I would stay at my grandma’s house after school until my dad would get off of work. One day when he came in, I told my grandma that he could really sing this song. Much to his embarrassment, I made him sing it for her. This one still cracks me up every time I think of it.
Bob: I can dig it. A song we had so much fun singing along to, especially the “I can dig
it, you can dig it, we can dig it” part. Music brought us both so much joy, especially
when shared together.
Dalton: I went through a huge Beatles phase when I was a sophomore in high school.
My dad would spend hours telling me all about them: He’s like an encyclopedia, and
this was before the internet had really taken off. I went to school that year with a Beatles
haircut and dressed like a hippie. He’s a bit of a fan of the underdog, and always liked to point out that Ringo would get one song on each album. As it turned out, Ringo’s drum
solo on this track was the only one he ever got.
Bob: Dalton could have picked 100 different Beatle songs as an example of music we
shared together. I loved Ringo’s drumming on the beginning of “The End,” and always
thought Ringo was underrated as a drummer. And then to have one sentence comprise
the entire lyrics for this song. I guess once you write, “And in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make,” you’ve pretty much said all that there is to say.
FUN, FUN, FUN
Dalton: Each summer, my dad and I would go to all the KDZA car shows. Songs like
this one would be playing over loudspeakers as we walked around on summer nights
checking out all the street rods. We never had a street rod, but one year my dad did buy
a 1965 Dodge Coronet that was in decent shape. We named it the Whopper Mobile for
his love of the Whopper sandwich from Burger King.
Bob: The Beach Boys owned Virginia Beach, my old stomping grounds. They did
a concert there each summer. The way we figured it, if we couldn’t have California’s
high surf, at least we could sing about it. Dalton and I shared a love of Volkswagens. If music was our main bonding agent, cars were a solid second. We loved cars and we loved songs about cars.
Dalton: I drove a sweet VW Bug in high school, and the only thing in my possession
worth more than that car was my car stereo. My dad was none too happy when he
learned that I used my work money to buy subwoofers and amps, but that all changed
once I played the opening of this track for him. We took my car to the next KDZA
Cruisin’ Night and he had me show off my stereo to just about anyone who would listen.
Bob: Never underestimate the potential of a member of the 101st Airborne Division. Not
me: I ran out of potential years ago. But Jimi Hendrix? Now there was someone special.
There he was, playing his upside-down Fender Strat like no one had ever done before.
“Purple Haze” was the first Hendrix song that I heard on the radio. I remember being so
excited the first time I told Dalton, “Hey son, check this out.”
Dalton: My dad ordered a box set of the complete “doo wop” collection. I think that thing
had a dozen CDs in it and probably included every doo wop song ever recorded. Some
of the songs were obviously better than others, but “Whispering Bells” by the Del-Vikings was always my favorite. This song has it all.
Bob: Of all the songs Dalton has chosen, this doo wop record touched me the most. He
and I loved listening to tons of doo wop songs together, but I would never have guessed
that this would make his list. You never know what seemingly little things you do will
leave a lasting impression on your children. I encourage all of you to give this upbeat
song a listen.
Dalton: I don’t know where my dad found it, but he came home one day with a
porcelain figurine of two geisha women on a bridge. They sat on an oak music
box that would play this song by Kyu Sakamoto. Within a few months, my parents transformed the entire front room of our house to match the little music box. We had black wallpaper with white flowers that matched the white sofas that no one ever sat in. The room also had these strange short tables that were only about 20 inches off the ground. I guess this must have been a really great song.
Bob: This was my ringtone until fairly recently. Dalton and I would have a good laugh
when I told him how me and my friends would all join in for a singalong when this
record came on the car radio. We knew all the words…well most of the words. Actually,
we didn’t know a single word but we had fun signing along nonetheless.
DIAMONDS AND PEARLS
Dalton: If you’re thinking this Prince song doesn’t really have a place on this list, you’re
absolutely right. This was one of the first albums ever released on compact
disc, and my dad came home with it one day. I remember sitting at our dinner table
looking at it and listening to him tell me and my sister that this was the future of music.
We listened to it, and he had a smile from ear-to-ear as he told us how crystal clear the
music was. The CD was pretty cool, but me and my sister were so confused as we sat
there trying to figure out why he brought home a Prince CD and not Elvis or something
Bob: Have to fess up here: I was never really on the Prince bandwagon. I was,
however, a huge fan of the new compact disc medium. Compared to tape, the sound
was so clear that it almost hurt your ears. Dalton and I spent our fair share of time at
record stores, that’s for sure. When CDs first came out, I was like a drug addict in that I
would sneak out to the Kmart down the street to buy another. I even found myself
saying, “I wonder what Mozart will sound like on these new CDs.”
To this day, the music-inspired bond between Dalton and Bob continues.
“Beyond anything else, music has been our major bond,” Bob said. “Dalton continues to introduce me to an artist that he wants me to hear. Funny, but we now listen to
them on this ‘new’ vinyl format. I know that for many dads, it is hunting, fishing, Broncos
or whatever that keeps them in touch with their sons.
“But for Dalton and I, it is a common love of music. How blessed we are.”
Chieftain reporter Jon Pompia can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/jpompia.