Friday, April 30, 2010

When Radio Really WAS ...

By Frank Absher

Remember the day when the lyrics to a song could just grab you and make you pay attention? It happened to me recently.

About a year ago I discovered the music of Tommy Castro. I was so taken that I checked his road schedule and drove a couple hours to catch him at the W.C. Handy Blues Fest last year. Then, the other day, I heard his version of “Big Sister’s Radio.”

“It was hangin' in a corner like a candy ball and chain
It wasn't nothin' she ever thought about
Didn't know it was gone the day she moved out
In my hand if I pointed it just right
You oughta heard what come to me at night
On that little transistor,
My big sister's radio"

I was hooked and reeled in after the first stanza.

“Well it couldn't hold a candle to a modern stereo
It only had one speaker
Only had one dial
Oh that radio used to make me smile gettin'
So many DJs from so far away
You oughta heard the records they would play
On that little transistor
My big sister's radio”

Boy, this guy Mike Schermer, who wrote the song, had been inside my head. I was there with the transistor radio, listening to the deejays far away playing songs that I loved! And Tommy Castro’s Band was the vehicle that brought the sentiments back.

“My big sister's transistor radio
Had a song for my heart and a song for my soul
One for my heart aches
One for my tears
Every song was music to that young boy's ears.”

Yes, it’s a bit overblown, but that’s what happens as the years begin to blur. It wasn’t a matter of hanging onto every song. Some didn’t do it for me, but a lot of them did.

“Memphis and New Orleans only half a turn away
900 miles just turning that dial
And the music would start to play
I heard that old soul rock and roll
Funky rhythm and blues
Man I didn't know what I was getting into
On that little transistor
My big sister's radio”

Back then, just as the lyrics say, it was a big deal to hear deejays from those distant cities. When you’re growing up in a small, country town in Southern Illinois, listening to jocks in Chicago, New Orleans, Little Rock, Minneapolis – that was a thrill.

“Now I'm grown and I long for those nights in the corner by the bedroom light
Laughin' and a' singin'
Dancin' in my drawers
Spinnin that dial 'til my fingers got sore
All those DJs I wished I could call
Looking back I know I owe it all
To that little transistor
My big sister's radio.”

(Copyright 2004 Mike Schermer, BMI)

That little radio was a lifeline to the world, and most of it was way beyond what we experienced in our lives. The radio took us there. It brought us the jocks and the new music. What’s sad it that I first heard the song just as I first heard the Tommy Castro Band – not on the radio, but on SIRIUS.

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