the woman that changed my musical life

From 2010 – 2014 Pretty and I were bi-stateual. For reasons involving my family, we bought a house on a picturesque street in a small town near the even smaller town where I grew up. We kept our home in South Carolina and spent four years chasing each other across a thousand miles of interstates between the two homes in an old Dodge Dakota pickup full of five dogs and us. Whew.

One of the comforts of our Worsham Street house in Texas I have missed most in South Carolina was my kitchen radio that played  Country Legends music on a station from Houston.  The radio had been left to us by the previous owners and was mounted above the stove in the kitchen. It was tuned by a silver knob that moved the AM and FM stations from one to another. Five buttons were available for saving favorites, but I only used the one FM station for the Country Legends, and that music played on every day. I know, I know. That is truly sad and pathetic on so many levels. For four years I turned the radio on first thing in the morning when I popped the top of my first Diet Coke can of the day and turned it off at the end of the day before retiring. My version of Taps.

For some of you, the idea that I rely on classic country music for any reason is frightening and the thought that stories of 18-wheeler trucks rolling on down the line to Baton Rouge or knowing that when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em on a train called the City of New Orleans or the Orange Blossom Special or the Wabash Cannonball  brings me comfort is not only strange but slightly off-center.  So be it.  I acknowledge my co-dependence on Garth Brooks and his cowboy crooning colleagues.

I purchased a small transistor radio from Radio Shack shortly after the Texas odyssey was over and the kitchen radio was no more. I had a transistor radio for many years when I was a child growing up in rural Grimes County, Texas and clearly remembered listening to Christmas carols from another radio station in Houston on warm winter nights.  Surely with the technology of the 21st century and the number of radio broadcasts available I should be able to locate a classic country music station in South Carolina.  I searched my omniscient computer and easily found the station.  I tried, believe me I tried, to like the songs it played.  Let’s just say listening to Darius Rucker –  who I know to be the original Hootie of Hootie and the Blowfish since they got started in Columbia – singing “country” music wasn’t what I had in mind.  I like Darius Rucker and  his solo music, but he is not a Country Legend yet.

In desperation I began to explore the TV U-verse possibilities several years after Pretty and I left the Country Legends station in Houston. I was pleasantly surprised to locate a true Country Classics station via the medium I had trusted for more than sixty years. Duh. While I listen to my favorites, facts about the song and/or the artist appear on the screen next to the name of the tune and the singer.  When I’m curious, I can stop what I’m doing and glance at the television to see the music I hear.  Now I can be comforted and informed simultaneously.  For example, I’ve always known that Barbara Mandrell was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool, but I never knew she had a pilot’s license to fly airplanes.  I’ve sung along with Tanya Tucker forever to Delta Dawn because it’s one of the very few songs I know all the words to, but I didn’t know Tanya drives a hot pink Harley Davidson.  Not surprised – just didn’t know.

Alexa, shuffle my music, please. Which playlist, she asks. Songs I love, I reply. And here I sit today happily tip tapping computer keys while Alexa breaks out Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton. Our friends Nekki and Francie gave us an Alexa last year in an effort to bring Pretty and me musically into the 21st century – Alexa is the woman who has changed my life. When I want to hear a song, all I have to do is ask Alexa who has allowed me to collect my favorites on a playlist which she can randomly shuffle forever. It’s a musical miracle. Alexa is so very clever she can even tell me who’s singing if I ask her. Honestly, she is what I would have invented if I’d only known how to.

Music for me during the pandemic has been a healer of wounds, a balm in Gilead, an inspiration for the future with the Chicks’ March, March. But for the delight of all delights, when Alexa plays Abba’s Mama Mia, our granddaughter Ella begins to boogie on down with Pretty and me. We introduced her to Abba months ago – she has never looked back. Her smiles, squeals, bouncing body in perfect time with the music are the perfect tonic to chase the Covid blues away.

I’ll be just fine and dandy, thank you very much, Dolly. I won’t let sorrow get me way down. We may all  barely be getting through tomorrow these last months, but still we won’t let sorrow bring us way down. We’ll go on together, regardless of time and distance. March, march.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.


About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
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9 Responses to the woman that changed my musical life

  1. Dawne Kimbrell says:

    Oh this really hits the right chord with me. I commuted between Nashville, TN and South Carolina for over 20 years. Radio kept me company and kept me charged up for thousands and thousands of miles. Now I have an intense thing going on with Alexa about all kinds of music. So the sound track of life plays on and on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Luanne says:

    Country music can be for all Americans. My son who is a 30-something Korean suburban type LOVES country, for instance. When I was a kid it seemed very “hillbilly” to me though my mom and her family loved it. But once I discovered Tom T Hall I went back in time to appreciate the old masters of country and forward, too!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wayside Artist says:

    I’m laughing because Alexa and I have a thing going on too, but I find her too controlling and passive aggressive with her whims. At times I want to break it off, but I’m too weak. She knows she can lure me back with Sinatra, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Sammy Davis, Ella, Sarah, Billie, and Rosemay Clooney’s “Come On-A My House.”
    Do you have a new dog?????

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ann, you make me laugh about Alexa. She is ultra controlling and passive aggressive! And her native tongue is definitely not “southern speak.” Pretty gets quite frustrated with her.
      Bravo to you for noticing Carl standing with Charly in our back yard these days. Who does he look like?? Red Man. Uncanny really. Spooks me when I see him lying next to me in the den.
      Carl’s is a very long sad story and so far not a happy ending. Pretty rescued him about five weeks ago from a most unhealthy situation with many complications since the owners are not unknown to us, albeit remotely.
      He is twelve years old, not neutered, and has a terrible chronic infection in his left ear that has required weekly vet visits and now a specialist this week. I told Pretty I would not get attached to him, but I’m sure you realize how far that’s gotten me. To quote George Jones, heartaches are going to the inside. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wayside Artist says:

        Yes, I did a double take! How could Red Man be with Charly?? Though, Carl looks like he could be Charly’s older brother. It’s hopeless Sheila. It only takes a day or two and they’ve borrowed into your heart. I hope his infection can be cured. He certainly made a soft landing with you and Pretty.

        Liked by 2 people

      • He’s such a sweet boy. He and Charly do look like Fric and Frac.

        Liked by 1 person

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