Friday, March 15, 2024

3 Chords & the Truth: Moonglow

When does "old people's music" become your music, too?

I think that happens in a couple of ways -- when you start playing it yourself, then something happens in your head and in your heart . . . and when you encounter magic in the night. Let's just call it "moonglow."

Or, more properly, "Moonglow."

That is what this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is all about. Let's go deeper, and I'll use my own experience to do that.

Big band was my parents' music, kind of like country, Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo. As a kid in the pre-digital age, I was force-fed three things on TV in the days of one or two TV sets in the house and just two channels in Baton Rouge. First, it was The Porter Wagoner Show. Second, The Lawrence Welk Show. Third, every Dec. 31, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians counting down to the new year . . . also pre-digital.

OF COURSE, I was lucky to have grown up playing, and loving, the records bought by the younger version of my parents. We're talking jump blues, gut-bucket jump blues, Western swing, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Thin Elvis.

The "race music" thing and my racist parents? One of the many contradictions of the segregated South. If you try to make sense of it, you'll fail.

But . . . then came high school, and high-school radio.

Two of the shows I had to do as a student DJ at Baton Rouge High's FM station, WBRH, were the big-band show and the jazz show. I not only learned a lot (in some cases, painfully), but I also learned to love the music -- the music of the "old folks."  Go figure. Maybe the folks, in their own hidebound way, were planting seeds with all that forced viewing of Larry, et al.

And then, when I was in college at Louisiana State, I discovered Moonglow With Martin on WRKF public radio, which then was a brand-new thing in Baton Rouge -- broadcasting from a house trailer on Frenchtown Road. The late-night program was a continuation of something legendary disc jockey Dick Martin had been doing, on various stations around the country, since the early 1950s on clear-channel, 50,000-watt WWL in New Orleans.

Martin was a big-band and jazz DJ. He only played the good stuff -- the really good stuff. His show was, not to put too fine a point on it, magic. I missed out on his WWL show, and I was just a little kid when, after a stint in Kansas City, he brought it for a time to Baton Rouge's WJBO-FM in 1965. (Besides, who listened to FM in 1965? Apart from the folks in dentists' offices.)

Martin at WJBO, 1965 (Sunday Advocate)
BUT I DIDN'T miss Moonglow With Martin on public radio after 'RKF came to my cultural-wasteland of a hometown in 1980. Seriously, people, we didn't have public TV until 1975; WBRH was the city's first noncommercial radio station since WLSU-FM went under in 1957, a generation earlier. And we had only Channel 2 and Channel 9 until 1971, when we got an ABC affiliate, Channel 33.

And in the white, working-class world of my childhood, subversiveness was called SOOOOUL Train! But what about my parents' old race records? Do not try to square that circle; you will hurt yourself.

So, like my parents' old country and blues records, and the Top-40 and progressive FM rock of my growing-up years, Dick Martin's Moonglow With Martin is in most every episode of the Big Show. It is a marvelous mix of my youthful force-feedings, rebellion and . . . musical discovery.

If you want to know what 3 Chords & the Truth is, exactly, it's me. And maybe it's you, too.

Whatever the case, it's good. It's damned good. Thank you, Mr. Martin.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

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