Tuesday, June 1, 2010

21 Days Until NMA Reunion

I live out in the country. Way out in the country in a little town of 200 named Chadwick. It's the kind of place which Mark Twain would like to call his own. In fact, we live about a mile from the humongous Mark Twain National Forest. There's nothing here but five little country churches, a convenience store, volunteer fire department, and a one woman post office. The closest thing we have to a mayor is Euba, who runs the tiny post office... Next Saturday is our big festival, Railroad Day and, as usual, Euba will preside over the line of four-wheelers, horses, and pickup trucks in the parade.

Even so, the largest industry we have in Chadwick is tourism. Yes, that's right. Tourism. About two miles from my house (one of the few structures in Chadwick which is not a mobile home) is a camp ground in the forest which boast more than 40 miles of trails for motorcycles and four-wheelers. On weekends, especially long weekends like Memorial Day weekend, people from all over flock to Chadwick to camp out, ride trail bikes, and drink beer (not necessarily in that order).

Chadwick may be a bit... rustic, shall we say, but the people are great. They are always there to help a neighbor out of a jam --- even if they don't know him! The small K-12 school is the center of culture and the largest gathering of people is at basketball games and charity auctions for neighbors in, as I said, a jam. Sparta, the next town over, is large enough to have a couple of restaurants and banks, and a barbershop (in the barbershop, everything stops when the farm report comes on the TV). And as Chadwick is out in the country, it is no surprise that country music is king out here. It's everywhere! Even at the Chinese restaurant!

When I was in the service and playing dances, guests would often request some country music. One of my ubiquitous jokes was to ask them, "Ah! But which country?" It was my way of reminding them that it is, in many ways, a big world with lots of countries and that American country music were not the only tunes in the book.

When I was stationed in Italy, my band and I played a folk music festival. Groups (mostly singers and acoustic instruments) were there from many countries to perform music indigenous to their homeland. In contrast, my band carried around a ton of equipment and we played a variety of American music: pop, rock, big band, etc.

At dinner that night, all the groups ate together in a large hall and, for entertainment, the groups would take it in turn to sing something from their country. We were out of our element: they were all acoustic while we were attached at our digital hips to our electronics, computers and such. We wondered what we could possibly do at a dinner table without all our clap-trap. So we put our heads together and, when it came to our turn, we stood up and sang:

"Just... sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from a tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship... etc."

Well, we were a hit! It turns out that Gilligan's Island was quite popular in Europe and had been translated and dubbed into many languages. We were so well-received that they clamored for an encore, so we gave them one:

"My bologna has a first name
It's O-S-C-A-R...
My bologna has a second name
It's M-A-Y-E-R... etc."

Just another day at the office for a Navy Musician.

When you start listening to all the different kinds of music that are played on this planet (from didgeridoo to dixieland, Gregorian chant to musical theater, country to classical, etc.) it is mind boggling! It can drive a person crazy! Which, perhaps, accounts for the fact that people who make a life-long study of it, like Ethno-Musicologists, are some of the most messed up, confused people in the world. It's like they have been flooded with so many musical styles that their brains just gave out trying to make sense of it all.

Jazz, as I remind myself, is merely a small branch on the very big family tree of music. Even so, as I also remind myself, it can take a lifetime to master. Which reminds me: the sooner I get started, the better. Only 22 days until the NMA reunion. It's time to whup out Axecalibur and practice!

1 comment:

  1. Jeez, John, my town in western Illinois has 3,600 people. You're making me feel like a city slicker.