When I was a little tomboy growing up in Grimes County, Texas, which was one of the poorest counties in the rural southeastern Piney Woods side of the state, my dad’s brother, my Uncle Ray who lived in the big city of Houston, was a huge country music fan…and when I say huge, I do mean huge. He was like the most faithful Saturday night radio Grand Ole Opry and Louisiana Hayride kind of country music fan.
The rest of my family was luke-warm to what are now considered the country music classics because they were all gospel music folks, snow white Southern Baptist church music kind of folks: quartets, singing conventions on Sunday afternoons with dinner on the grounds, Baptist Hymnal songs played on the organ and piano on Sunday mornings for the congregational singing.
Out of that place I began to sing solos in the little country church we attended before I could read the words to the songs. My mother taught them to me by repeating the words over and over until I could remember them. Then she would have me stand on a little folding chair on the floor just below the minister’s pulpit on Sunday morning to sing the “special music” for the service while she accompanied me on the piano.
I could look out on a congregation of maybe 50 people that included my two grandmothers, my dad, my grandfather, and at least two of my uncles…sometimes one more if my Uncle Ray came from Houston for Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s house. They all beamed back at me with love and great appreciation for my singing talents.
So much so that my Uncle Ray paid me the highest compliment he could give me one Sunday when I graduated to standing without the chair and actually was able to read the words to the music on my own. I must have been around eight years old at the time.
Sheila Rae, he said, you sing as good as Patsy Cline. You should be on the radio on the Opry or the Louisiana Hayride.
Well, now this suggestion made quite the impression on my prepubescent self – remember this was in the 1950s before American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, The Voice and reality TV – and that comment sparked my interest in country music that has lasted for the past 60 years. Could I sing as well as Patsy Cline? Clearly not, but I could fall in love with her music.
In times of trouble and deep distress, therefore, I am more apt to listen to George Jones than I am Hootie and the Blowfish or the new country sound of Darius Rucker. Yesterday I resisted MSNBC, Blue Bloods, In the Heat of the Night, a tennis tournament in Singapore, Ellen and Sharon Osborne… and found myself with the Country Classics. It was good for what ails you.
Here’s a portion of my playlist…
That Woman I Had Wrapped Around My Finger
A Wound Time Can’t Erase
Blue Moon with Heartache
It’s a Long, Long Way to Georgia
If I Miss You Again Tonight
Ghost Riders in the Sky
I Met a Friend of Yours Today
Don’t Fight the Feelings of Love
The Right Combination
(Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner)
A Little Good News
I’ll let the titles do the talking.
Until we meet again, I leave you with this Irish blessing: may all of your troubles be less and your blessings be more and may nothing but happiness come through your door.