I’ve Got the Music In Me… Part 5


Is musical talent inherited? Researchers are leaning towards that possibility–continued

We always knew when my maternal grandmother, Loretta Lathrop Ford, was happy. She would be whistling like a canary, playing her harmonica, singing and dancing on the screened in porch with other family members, or “dancing up a storm” and “cutting a rug” at the American Legion Hall with other family.  My frame of reference for these memories goes back to the 1950’s.

Other Family Members “Got the Music” in Them, too!

Just like the baby in the video dancing to Bon Jovi, there’s very few of us who can keep from singing, tapping our feet, clapping our hands, or moving some part of our bodies to the beat when there’s music playing–Both my parents loved to jitter bug and they were quite a good looking duo out of the dance floor. In fact, their love of dancing continued up until about 2000 when their Knights of Columbus dances and circles of friends got fewer and fewer and dad developed neuropathy in his legs.

My mother repeats the story that her mom, Loretta, told various family members over the years; “That Norma would tap dance on roller skates going down a flight of steps.”  Mom said my grandmother must have been “pipe-dreaming,” because she only remembers the story, not the actual activity.

Family Musicians and Music Lovers in the 1950’s

In an earlier blog, From Everyday Moments May Come Precious Memories, posted on January 12, 2013, I wrote about the weekend car trips where everybody in the car was singing songs from the old south and traditional hymns.

Image:  Admiral Phonograph

Admiral Phonograph

My dad, Frank’s, sister–my aunt Delores, was a Patsy Cline, sound alike, and from the picture on Ms. Cline’s webpage–very much a look alike, too.  We would play vinyl 78,
33-1/3, and 45 rpm records on our portable Admiral Phonograph and have family sing along’s much like today’s home Karaoke.  Further evidence that television and solitaire video games take away from quality family times.

My great uncle Jack Shipp and his daughter “Sissy,” created a repertoire of music they would perform for family get togethers. Jack played acoustic guitar and Sissy sang–and in some of her songs Sissy would yodel.

Image:  1950 Ad for Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour

Jack and Sissy (she was maybe 12) were so talented that they appeared in Washington, DC, on Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour (about 1950). This show was the precursor to this generation’s Star Search and American Idol, except it was broadcast on both American radio and television. In fact, Amateur Hour was a continuation of radio’s Major Bowes Amateur Hour that was broadcast from 1934 to 1945. Ted Mack succeeded Major Edward Bowes in 1945 and brought the show to TV in 1948.

Music Around Us in the 1960’s

In the early 1960’s, though not together, my husband, Bob, and I both appeared on the Milt Grant TV Show in Washington, DC–similar to Dick Clark’s dance show American Bandstand out of Philadelphia, PA. And believe it or not, each of us with our dance partners won the dance contest the day we appeared on the show. In the video clip that features Milt Grant, he’s promoting Pepsi Cola and the “highly portable” radio with an antenna-turning carry handle–and–“volumatic tuning,” oh nostalgia!

Image:  Joanne Boling holding accordion

Joanne Boling Accordion

While I studied accordion for 13 years, Bob played the trumpet in high school and in the Marine Corps. In fact, Bob received a commendation for entertaining the troops aboard the USS General W. A. Mann when returning from Okinawa.

Rhythm & Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hard Rock, and More Family Musicians

I was 11 years old before my parents gave me a baby brother, Frankie, named after my dad.  And when he was five, another baby boy came along, Johnny, after my maternal uncle who had recently passed. Their two names together left my brothers forever tagged, “Frankie and Johnny”–like the 1917 Frankie and Johnny Dixieland Jazz piece.  They still cringe at that reference to them today.

Bob and I married very young and began our family about 18 months later . So, my youngest brother was only 3-1/2 years older than our eldest son. Hard Rock was the popular genre in those days, and my eldest son and eldest brother both loved the drums. Some families had dueling banjos–we had dueling drums. Both boys were equally talented. My brother, Frank’s, first band experience was with the Out-of-Hand Wilson Band–you know the local teen aged school boy band. I recall going to several Battle of the Bands contests.

Our son, Bobby honed his skills and searched long and hard for his genre and musical path which became his avocation–Contemporary Christian Music Ministries.

Bobby played drums for about 10 years with friends from three churches.  Their band “CrossWords” was popular up and down the east coast and they played various coffee houses and at christian gatherings. One of their more popular hangouts was “My Brother’s Place,” in Waldorf, MD.    Meanwhile, my brother, Frank, still plays drums and sings in rhythm and blues bands locally, as well as produces lights and sound mixes for music-based events.

We are still seeing musical talents emerge as my brother Frank’s children, now young adults, play guitar and banjo in bands in the Washington Metropolitan Area. In fact, Frank’s daughter’s child, age 7, has perfect pitch and one day sat down to a piano for the very first time and started playing Bach’s “Jesu’ Joy of Man’s Desiring.” When we asked her where she learned that she said; “Oh, I just heard it somewhere!” And, my daughter’s daughter, age 12, just played at her first piano recital–at nearly the same age as I was when I played my first.

So, whether it’s nature, nurture, environment, motivation, or self-initiative does it really matter? Some may become notable in the field, but our family just loves music and it’s something we all love to share with each other. In a future blog we’ll not leave the drama at home either–we will share stories about the great actors and directors in our family, too! Happy blogging.

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