Remembering why each generation has its own music

WestWordsWEBOn a belated Valentine’s date, I took the Secretary of Health and Human Services at our house down to the Paramount in St. Cloud.
Our trip this time was for an Everly Brothers tribute concert. I didn’t bother telling my co-workers about what we considered to be big plans, because most of them are too young to remember the Everlys, Don and Phil.
They were pop music stars in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They moved often growing up, spending most of their youth in Iowa and Tennessee. Their sound, however, comes straight out of Appalachia, and can best be described as “mournful crooning.”
They came from a musical family — that had its own radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa — and they got their first break because their dad was a friend of country star Chet Atkins.
Listening to their songs brought back many memories. My first observation was how each generation has its own music.
I remember riding with my dad in the car wanting to listen to WDGY, which was the top rock radio station in Minnesota in those days, and my dad saying, “How can you stand listening to that? I can’t understand the words.”
He wanted to listen to WCCO, which was talk radio even then, although interspersed with tunes for his generation, like band leaders Mitch Miller and Ray Conniff, whom I couldn’t stand.
Meanwhile, even though I couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a pail, I knew the lyrics to most of the Top 10 songs at any given moment from the mid-’50s to the early ‘70s, and still recall many of them.
I think what happens is that kids have more free time than adults. Once a person has a family of their own to support, they get so busy with work, maintaining a home and raising children that they don’t have time to listen to music as much.
By the mid-’80s, when our kids were listening to their own tunes on the radio, I was echoing my dad, “How can you listen to that junk? Who is that? Bruce Springsteen? Never heard of him.”
The Grammy Awards show was on TV a week ago, and I had zero interest — in part because I had no idea who most of the recording artists were.
Even though the Everly’s tribute was in the evening, the Paramount was packed with an audience, the average age of which was 70-plus.
The crowd seemed to really enjoy themselves, but I understood why four millennials sitting in the row in front of us left shortly after the intermission. They didn’t share the memories that the old tunes brought back.
Most of the Everly songs were about unrequited love. The chorus of their first big hit, “Bye Bye Love” goes:
Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness,
Hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y
Bye bye love,
Bye bye sweet caress,
Hello emptiness
I feel like I could di-ie.
In 1958, their hit “All I Have to Do Is Dream” was the first song ever to become No. 1 on both the country and pop charts simultaneously.
The lyrics of the bridge speak to a teenager who has a girl of his dreams in mind, but not the courage to ask her out:

I can make you mine,
Taste your lips of wine
Anytime night or day
Only trouble is,
Gee whiz,
I’m dreamin’ my life away.

A third song that speaks to that generation is “Wake Up, Little Susie,” about two teens falling asleep at a drive-in movie. The song begins:

Wake up, little Susie, wake up
Wake up, little Susie, wake up
We’ve both been sound asleep,
Wake up, little Susie, and weep
The movie’s over, it’s 4 o’clock, and we’re in trouble deep.

My favorite, however, was a song I had completely forgotten, “Bird Dog.” It’s a silly song in which the duo alternate singing (the second voice is in parentheses below):

Johnny sings a love song (like a bird)
He sings the sweetest love song (ya ever heard)
But when he sings to my gal (what a howl)
To me he’s just a wolf dog (on the prowl)
Johnny wants to fly away and puppy-love my baby (He’s a bird dog).

The musicianship and showmanship were top notch. They included two relatives of the recently deceased ‘60s rock star Bobby Vee: his son Tommy Vee and his nephew Matt Velline. Boyd and Aimee Lee appeared to be in charge, and Minnesota legend Mary Jane Alm also added to the fun.
However, in the end it was “the two ringers” as Boyd Lee called them, Paul and Tim Frantzich, who stole the show. Close your eyes, and you could almost believe it was Phil and Don themselves.
We discovered the Paramount only recently, but like a few key points about the venue. Parking is free in the ramp behind, it’s easy to order tickets and the acoustics are good.
Tribute concerts are becoming increasingly popular. The Paramount has several such shows later this year. May 11-13, Generation X can remember the Eagles; Aug. 24-25, Baby Boomers can celebrate the music of Neil Diamond; and Oct. 8-9, country fans can sing to Merle Haggard music.

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