The Buck Stops Here
I grew up in a musical family, so I don’t know what I’d do without my tunes.
I’m one of those people who just doesn’t hear music, I feel it right down to my bones, which is probably why I can dance a bit, even at 62.
One of the first things I can remember is hearing my father sing at the out-of-tune piano we had downstairs in the basement. Upstairs, he would play Glenn Miller and Count Basie records on our big stand-up stereo.
He and his buddy Tuffy once went to a St. Louis ballroom in the 1930s to see the Count. They put their feet on the bandstand within inches of his piano and heard his band play “One O’Clock Jump” from midnight to the hour named in the song.
On Sundays, dad was a soloist with the First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood.
Mom wasn’t as musical as dad, but she could carry a tune and would only complain when the constant music in the house was too loud. That particularly came true when I introduced Jimi Hendrix into the mix.
My sisters picked up on my dad’s musicality. They brought rock ‘n’ roll into the house when I was little, which meant Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee and Ike and Tina Turner among others.
All three of us sang in the a cappella choir at Kirkwood High and I think most of my six Moller cousins did as well.
My cousin, Kittie Moller, has been making a living for more than 30 years singing with her husband in a band called Fanfare. Like I said, we’re a musical family.
Music also makes my memories come alive when I hear certain songs. “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts always takes me back to a summer romance I had in the early 1970s.
“Midnight Rambler” by the Rolling Stones reminds of the time I saw them play it. A guy named Stevie Wonder opened for them and he wasn’t even on the bill.
The memories include going to many other concerts through the years.
One of the most incredible was at the old Mississippi River Festival at SIU-Edwardsville in St. Louis. Me and my buddy sat front row and center for Muddy Waters and B.B. King.
Muddy caught one of his musicians drifting during a tune and stomped on the stage to wake him up. The guy snapped to attention like a Marine in boot camp.
I also got to see the aforementioned Mr. Hendrix from the 10th row of the old Kiel Auditorium. To this day, I think he was the Mozart of my generation.
During the concert, he broke a string on his guitar in the middle of a song. He simply walked over to where another guitar was, slipped the broken-string one off and slid the other on, never missing a single note. He was simply the most astounding musician I’ve ever seen.
One of the friendships I treasure is with my old college roommate and we remain linked through music. I’ve been amazed through the years how often he’s listening to the same musicians I am at any given time. It’s like we have this telepathic musical connection that never ends.
Whenever we get together, the first thing we do is bring out the CDs. Our tastes are incredibly similar and I have never had him play me a single tune I didn’t like.
Recently, my friend has been listening to outlaw country radio and had me listen as we drove down the street one day. I am not as esteemed in country as he is because I didn’t grow up in Kentucky and country wasn’t played in my suburban environment when I was growing up.
But I can say that when I hear someone complain about country music, I wish they would hear what Willie Nelson and Hall and Oates say.
It doesn’t matter what label you put on it, good music is good music.
That’s why I think Merle Haggard is a genius and that the Zac Brown Band gets it.
I can relax at night with them, just like I do with Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Chopin, Al Green, James Brown, Patsy Cline, the Afro-Cuban All Stars and the many other artists I listen to.
It’s all music to me.