When I was plopped down in Ripley County, Missouri, in the middle of nowhere as a not-quite-16 year old, I vowed I would never be a country convert in ANY way, but particularly not in my music choices.
Remaining a separatist took some doing. I could listen to Wolfman Jack out of WLS in Chicago on nighttime rides and soak up all the rock music I could stay awake for. Favorite tunes could be purchased on 45’s from Fred’s, and I could play my cherished 33’s on the stereo in the living room and pretend for a while I was not in the midst of brush, bugs and blue jeans.
KDFN was the local radio station – totally country for sure – and I did tune in at scheduled times to hear Grandpa Hunt read the local/national news, to argue with Grapevine (a 30-minute phone-in talk show), to list items from the call-in buy/sell show Current River Exchange on Saturday mornings, but not to listen to music. Being subjected to the weekly broadcasts of Grand Ol’Opry growing up as first child of a super fan was enough country/western music to last me a lifetime, I thought.
After one year in a tiny rural high school, off to college I went, the country/bluegrass culture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, ever present to challenge my resolve. We college kids had plenty of ammunition: AC/DC, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, KC and the Sunshine Band, Neil Diamond, the Eagles. I won’t go on, but I could. I had tons of options to safeguard my resolve.
Two years of college in the Kansas City area, with a roomie who played acoustic guitar, I learned to sing harmony and gained an appreciation for popular ballads, folk and country. The first crack in my shield.
Fate would lead me back to work in that same rural district I had scrambled to escape from as a teen. As a teacher I wanted to be in tune with my middle school kids, so I lowered my shield and played with the radio dial a bit more often. Good thing; Billy Yates, Nashville singer/songwriter, the musical director/lead vocalist/guitarist of Raiding the Country Vault and the owner/producer of Hit Songwriters in the Round, both top shows in Branson, was among my first students and I am among his devoted fans now.
Motherhood came during the disco era, as well as work on advanced degrees, so I filled long hours on the road with the loud rhythm of pop and rock to maintain musical balance…and stay awake. A year’s residence in Memphis, with the radio dial inviting me to tune in to all sorts of styles punched multiple chinks into my protection.
Back to the rural district in Missouri, this time in a high school setting, the balance was tipped toward loud 80’s tunes the teens preferred. My cheerleaders adored routines to the likes of Guns and Roses, so I found myself chilling to softer country tunes at home, without realizing my brain cells were absorbing the lyrics of both genres.
In retirement I am relishing those varied musical memories that are tagged to so many events, and I am now chilling to 80’s tunes – on purpose! – on our new local public station KQJN 99.1 established by James Nonnemaker, another among those high school students of mine.
And I am learning a thing or two….sometimes the beats and the bars in various genres sound amazingly similar and dancing to all of them is great exercise as well as tons of fun. Another fact I have learned is that our somewhat isolated rural county in the midst of Mark Twain National Forest has many talented, creative souls who can play, sing, write, perform, produce and encourage others to do the same. Another reason to sing and dance!