2008.09.04 XMing down Track No. 4

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I took quite a lengthy ride on the Savoy Express last weekend. I’m talking about Track Number Four.

When my parents bought their new car last year, it came with a subscription to XM radio—the satellite radio service that offers dozens and dozens of programming choices.

The choice for my parents is easy. They go for the 1940s, the music they listened to when they were in their 20s.

“You’re on board the Savoy Express, rolling across the land on Track Number Four.”

I drove my parents to Suttons Bay for Ben’s wedding. That’s when I had my ride back to the 1940s.

I’m visiting the XM website now and a preview from the Track Number Four includes this song:

“There’s a true blue gal,

Who promised she would wait.

She’s a sunflower

From the Sunflower State.”

According to the big list of everything they play, that song must have been Russ Morgan performing “Sunflower” from 1949.

I heard a lot of old tunes on our long trip up north, but a couple stood out. I still remember the racy lyrics about “pettin’ and getting’” on the beach. I’ve been unable to track down the lyrics from that one, but the situation was this:

They were “pettin’ and gettin’” on the sand, but eventually the tide came in and they had to arise and move back up the beach a few feet to prevent getting wet.

I’ll bet the parents of the kids listening to that song in decades past were horrified by the subject matter: What’s wrong with the kids these days? How can they allow such smut? The downfall of society as we know it. That sort of reaction.

A Google search doesn’t help me out on this one, but looking through the master list of XM songs, I wonder if it might be “Celery Stalks at Midnight” by Will Bradley or “Why Don’t We Do This More Often” by Kay Kyser or maybe “Summer Souvenirs” by Larry Clinton.

The other song that stuck in my head had lyrics something like this:

“Everything that’s bright and gay

Reminds me of you in every way.”

I told that to my son and my daughter’s husband. They didn’t seem too impressed with my sentiments toward them, but it reminded me of reading years ago how angry many people were when the word “gay” was appropriated to describe a sexual preference.

They felt the word had been stolen from them, and now I have a clearer understanding of their case. It was once a rather popular word in song lyrics.

Wait, I just tracked down that song. The Savoy Express plays two versions and it was either Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey performing “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

“I’ll be seeing you

In every lovely summer’s day

In everything that’s bright and gay

I’ll always think of you that way. ”

Every now and then there are news breaks on the Savoy Express. Maybe a report on the ups and downs of World War II or an update on Thor Hyerdahl’s raft Kon-Tiki from 1947. I like those. An instant history lesson from radio voices of the past.

Somewhere up around Mt. Pleasant, perhaps, my father thought I’d heard enough of the 40s and he turned off onto a different track: “The 50s on Five,” then he moved it on up to “The 60s on Six.” He was doing me a favor—giving me some music from when I was growing up—but there wasn’t much I enjoyed from the few we heard. I didn’t even recognize some of them and a couple of others I never liked back in the 60s.

Before long we returned to the 40s and that was OK with me. So much of it sounded really familiar though I wasn’t even alive in the 1940s. Maybe my parents played records of these old tunes. Maybe they were still on the radio in the 1950s.

Shep Fields, Red Norvo, Bunny Berigan, Blue Lu Barker, Slim and Slam, Tiny Hill, Dolly Dawn, Cats & the Fiddle, Cootie Williams, Red Foley—they’re all strangers to this “youngster.”

Track Number Four also includes some music from the 1930s and even a little jazz from the 1920s. That stuff sounded really familiar. It suddenly hit me: This was the music used as the background in all the cartoons I watched when I was a kid. I was on Track Four when I was eight years old.

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