Dear Johnny

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Dear Johnny

500 Words: Lost In Music

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/89634

When you grow up with music that’s played over and over and over again, you can learn to either love it, hate it  or just accept it.As a child growing up in a family with a father who regularly played a set repertoire of songs on repeat and at full bore, I chose the latter course of action.My father usually cranked up our record player on Saturdays after lunch. No bakelite radio blaring football games, cricket results or trotting odds  in our suburban weatherboard household. With our Saturday morning paid employment over and some household chores also completed, dad set about playing his records on repeat and at full blast well into the early evening.My mum, brother and sister and I weren’t really that perturbed by Dad’s music. It was just what he did. We never complained or got upset about the noise or embarrassed about possible neighbour repercussions. Dad’s music was just the background to our home life.My father loved Johnny Cash, Frankie Lane and marching bands but had a particular penchant for Johnny Horton, a swarthy and rather handsome American country music and rockabilly singer who sang songs with legendary lyrics.Johnny wore ten gallon hats, cowboy boots and fancy shirts and sang ‘saga songs’ which apparently began a historical ballad craze in the late 1950s and early 1960s.My siblings and I heard Johnny’s songs so often, I’ve now begun to wonder whether we were subliminally indoctrinated in various ways. Perhaps: Our love of the outdoors and sense of adventure came from the song North to Alaska.Our hatred of war and devastation and our need to be resilient came from Sink the Bismarck.Our sense of romance and love of nostalgia could have been sparked by the song All for the Love of a Girl.And perhaps our quirky sense of humour was sparked by lines from The Battle of New Orleans.Recently, I was on a long drive home when Johnny’s ‘North to Alaska’ started blaring from the radio. I pulled over to the side of the road and killed the engine. As salty, fat tears stampeded down my cheeks, I sang along with Johnny, word for word, as the lyrics that I’d learnt through osmosis all those years ago came pouring out.As I sang, I closed my eyes and I could see my dad, putting the black vinyl on the record player and gently lining up the stylus. For those few Johnny Horton minutes I was a teenager again, at home with my loving family and my dad was still alive.As I indicated to get back onto the road, I smiled through spent tears and snot-smeared cheeks…and remembered.

 

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