Tonight The Music Seems So Loud

When I was growing up, I knew from an early age that my mama and daddy didn’t share the same taste in music. There was some common ground, of course – they both enjoyed standards from the 50s and 60s – but Daddy mostly listened to country music (Charlie Pride, Ray Stevens, Willie Nelson, and the like), while Mama preferred classical music. Or pop classical, at least.

Music Box Dancer, anyone?

Oh, my mama loved it. She also loved the soothing stylings of Ferrante & Teicher, a piano-playing duo whose eight-track tapes filled Mama’s Ford LTD glove box to overflowing.

Wouldn’t you love to know where they got those jackets? And those wigs?

Mama always claimed that it was “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to instrumental music in the car, and I think she was right considering that I typically wanted to take a nap after listening to one of her eight-tracks for five whole minutes. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why she enjoyed that music as much as she did. It just sounded so boring to me. Plus, I was more than a little aggravated that I couldn’t listen to my music from Xanadu or Grease while we ran our errands. Thankfully I had an older brother and sister who loved to listen to The Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins and James Taylor and Earth, Wind & Fire, but if I was riding in the car with Mama, I might as well accept my pop classical piano music fate. She adored it.

And really, why wouldn’t she?

That’s my musical heritage, y’all.

Like most children, I vowed and declared that when I was a grown-up, I would never listen to instrumental music in the car. I told myself that when I became a mama, I would be sure to listen to really cool music that kids would also like. You know, awesome stuff like The Theme from “The Greatest American Hero” and Jessie’s Girl. Or maybe even Tainted Love if I was feeling particularly sophisticated – since the people who sang it had fancy British accents and all.

When our little guy was born, I really did make a point to be Very Intentional about what we listened to in the car. We wore out some Veggie Tales CD’s until he was about four, and then we gradually made the switch to Christian music – mostly praise and worship. Eventually we added our favorite singer / songwriters (Dave Barnes, Ben Rector, Gabe Dixon) to the mix, plus bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and The Fray. I’ve always used sports talk radio as a fall-back if I wasn’t in the mood for a sing-along, but over the last year I’ve noticed that the language has gotten increasingly colorful and not so appropriate for little ears. I’ve tried listening to Christian talk radio, but to be honest it’s a little difficult for me to get interested in a radio host’s thoughtful analysis of dispensationalism when I’m trying to run five or eight errands in a 90-minute window between school and soccer practice.

(And listen. I know that right now some of you are probably thinking, Why do you have to listen to anything? Why not just ride around with the radio / CD player / iPod turned off? Why not just enjoy some silence?)

(Well. Because that solution would be way too simple. And also way too quiet. That’s why.)

A few weeks ago I decided to hit the “scan” button on my radio and see if there was something new or different that might work as a more laid-back listening option, and I ran across a jazz station that’s run by Samford University. I figured I’d give it a try, and I have to say that much to my surprise, IT IS A DELIGHT. There are no screaming DJ’s, no commercials – just “Birmingham’s Smooth Jazz.” The little guy has been a good sport about it, even though a couple of days ago he reminded me of my own eight year-old self when he said, “Gosh, Mama – we sure have been listening to this music a lot lately.” But I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy the fact that there aren’t any lyrics; it’s a nice change of pace, especially in the mornings.

Today we were on the way to school, chatting on and off while my new favorite station played softly in the background. We had just pulled up to a stop sign when I thought, Hold on. That sounds a little familiar. I think I might know that song. And when I turned up the volume, this is what I heard.

WAY TO ROCK IT, MAMAW. I mean, I don’t know what kind of full circle moment it is when you start listening to the jazz / easy listening version of music from your junior high days, but I confronted that milestone this morning. And I’ll have you know that I not only confronted that milestone; I walked around it, stared at it awhile, wondered how I felt about it, then threw my arms around it and happily embraced it for several minutes. Because regardless of how much I loved George Michael’s music when I was a teenager, it turns out that an instrumental version of his songs suits my 40s just fine.

And while I can’t say for sure, I have to admit that there’s at least a small possibility that I’m going to hop on the iTunes in the next day or two and see if there’s any Ferrante & Teicher music I need to download.

Clearly Mama was on to something. And as much as it kills me to admit it, I’m guessing that it probably would be “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to them now.

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  1. Shall we please mention The Ray Coniff Singers? My dad had every album, I think. He also had Ferrante & Teicher. My mom had better taste-Carole King, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters. :)

  2. I was enjoying the relaxing George Michael music when my 16 y/o daughter came downstairs and proclaimed, “Ok, that music has to go!!!” Kids!

  3. I actually saw Ferrante and Teicher in person in concert while I was in college back in the ’70’s. I had been a fan even as a teen, so I was thrilled! Am still a fan of the “easy listening” instrumental genre. Hopefully the fact that I am almost 60 explains that, other wise I am really a nerd.

  4. Hahaha! I love you, BooMama!

  5. I had a music box with that very song! Never knew what it was.

    I was raised on a solid diet of Statler Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, and Bill Gaither Trio. I might have caught a Gaither Family reunion on TBN the other day. And I might have cried a little, and then I might have made a southern gospel playlist on Spotify that I’m embarrassed for anyone else to see.

  6. I love this post!

    My Mom had loads of Ray Coniff Singers albums, Movie/Musical Soundtracks galore, and of course Andy Williams. Bless her heart, she also added The Carpenters to the mix when I was in grade school, who I was able to see in person when I was 11 – truly a highlight of my younger self.

    Music still calms my sweet Mom, as she is now in a skilled-nursing home, advancing through the final stages of Alzheimers. Music, like nothing else, soothes her – especially instrumental music. But best is when my Dad sings to her songs from his heart.

  7. Judy in Mi says:

    My parents were proud supporters of “elevator music” back in the day. 97.1 in Detroit played it until you wanted to rip your arm off and hit the radio with it! Ray Coniff, Andy Williams, and Charlie Rich crooned away on the 8 tracks in the house with a little Carpenters and Pat Boone thrown in for good measure. (There was also a Canadian singer referred to as “The Scottish Nightingale” that my dad adored. She made my teeth ACHE!).

    All that to say, I’ll be adding a Ferrante & Teicher station to my Pandora list to go along with the Ray Coniff station (and the album I downloaded from iTunes – not even kidding), the Carpenters station and John Denver. Because, girlfriend, those tunes make me happy. They bring back good rememberies – even if I didn’t know they were being made at the time!

    I’m still holding out hope that one will never see anything Lawrence Welkish on my iTunes list or the Pandora stations. Then, I will know, I’ve become my mother.

    Somebody turn off the bubble machine!

    • I grew up in Michigan and I know exactly what you are talking about lol!

    • is that songbird anne murray?!

      also, did anyone else sit with their parents and sing along with
      mitch miller??

      fun memories!

  8. When do we become our mamas? I grew up with rock and roll and country/bluegrass. Country/bluegrass because we visited my grandparents every weekend and my granddaddy played steel guitar in the back room which was called the music room. There was always a jam session going on in there. I HATED it when I was young. Now when I hear it I turn it up loud and remember those days at barn dances and watching my granddaddy play that steel guitar. Sigh.

  9. I have to admit that in my office I listen to a Pandora shuffle of “spa radio” and “yoga radio” that is wonderfully relaxing. Still, I sometimes forget to mute it when students come to visit and they look at me like the crazy lady I am.

  10. Katherine says:

    I go back a little farther than you – my parents had an 8-track (FANCY!) and played a Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass tape until it was WORN OUT! I can still hear the bumpy, kicky rhythm of “Tijuana Taxi” if I concentrate. Makes me remember us girls cleaning up the house on a Saturday morning. :)

  11. I grew up in a very musical family and the music of choice was country music. My dad was in a band and could play any instrument by ear (though guitar was his main thing). My mom was born and raised in Iceland and met my Air Force dad when he was stationed there and hired her as a singer for his band–she was was an amazing singer in the style of Patsy Cline and Etta James even. I did not appreciate any of this when I was growing up. I thought they were completely corny and retired to my room to listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40.

    Flash forward many years…my dad went to be with Jesus when he was only 60; my mom had a stroke in her late 50s that left her with a bit of aphasia, so I became kind of like a mother to my own mom. I was driving mom to Santa Barbara for a doctor appointment and we were listening to our local “smooth jazz” radio station. Mom sighed deeply and said, “I’ve always love this soft sex music”…okaaaaay Mom. TMI. Aphasia…can make conversation very interesting. She went to be with Jesus at age 62.

    Thanks for sparking a little walk down memory lane! Love your blog…

  12. I’m with your mother — instrumental music is soooo relaxing. My husband and I attended a classical piano concert at our local arts center a couple of weekends ago. I haven’t attended a piano concert since I was a music major in college in the ’70’s. I am not kidding when I say that 2 minutes into the concert, I literally felt every muscle in my body begin to relax. LISTEN TO YOUR MAMA!

  13. Oh my gosh you’re so funny! Thanks for the chuckles this morning.

  14. We walked out of the new Five Guys at Lee Branch last night and ate our food in the car because THE MUSIC. IT WAS LOUD. And I can get that kind of noise over dinner at home…

  15. Oh gosh. This takes me back! At our house, my parents listened to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Liberace and to round it out … George Beverly Shea. Probably only us oldies even know who he is! But my parents had a Bill Cosby album, too. Hysterical. The one with Noah and the Lord. Riiiggghhttt. Anyone remember that?

    • Yes to Herb Alpert (I may or may not have introduced his music to my then teenaged son when he started playing jazz trumpet in high school). I remember that the album cover with the girl covered in “whipped cream” was very scandalous – at least I thought it was for our house! And we loved the Bill Cosby album too. And I don’t even recall how I got to see his HBO special (we certainly didn’t have HBO at our house!), but it was so funny to actually see his comedy – not that he wasn’t hilarious just to listen to….

  16. Is it me…or in that first picture, the black and white one, does the guy on the right look like an old version of Robert Downey Jr????

  17. anotherlisa says:

    neither of my parents cared for music, except live music (my granddaddy could pay anything with strings) or hymns and gospel. they weren’t strict about it, just had other interests.
    so i am the explorer that fell in love with rachmaninoff and debussy, willie and patsy cline, aerosmith and led zeppelin, aretha and al green, dan fogelberg and carole king.
    newer artists are fewer, but we do love those you’ve listed, along with robbie seay band, from right here in houston :)
    my 3 girls have all had a birthday tradition of going to an aerosmith concert with me, when they turn 16. love joe perry!
    thanks for the memories.

  18. When I was a kid, if it wasn’t on Hee Haw, then it wasn’t listened to at our house – with one major exception: Andy Williams. I still have a crush on him, even if he’s in his 80s and rockin’ it out in Branson, MO. Moon River just ain’t right unless he’s singing it. Am I right?

    And F&T? When I started taking piano lessons, I wanted to play just like them. Maybe even dress like them! There’s a female version of them who rocks the gold lame whilst rockin’ the pipe organ named Diane Bish. Check out some of her keen outfits. Here’s my question: where did you get the AUTOGRAPHED picture of my boys? My gold lame is plum green with envy.

  19. Sophie, if you feel the need for some instrumental music that doesn’t make you feel like a grandmama, you need to check out Stan Whitmire.

    He has Christian music, but also has some CDs of contemporary love songs, Broadway classics, etc. He is an amazing artist. He has toured with Mark Lowry and appeared on at least one Gaither video. I need to go see if he’s on spotify….

  20. Jeannette says:

    I was just humming the Music Box Dancer the other day. deja vu

  21. Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes. Instrumental music has been…instrumental for us in the car. I have a piano CD that literally puts all our babies to sleep within three minutes. Glorious for long car rides! The other day I was so sick of mainstream radio I flipped to AM and hit scan and found a polka station. INSTRUMENTAL POLKA!!! And my girls LOVED it. I changed the station after one song and they asked me to turn it back. Ha!

  22. I’m in my early thirties and my favorite pandora station to listen to while I’m working is Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. There is something so peaceful about them. If I’m listening to this stuff now, what in the world am I going to listen to when I’m older? Ah well, it makes me happy!

  23. I still remember the day when I mastered (thank you very much) Music Box Dancer on the piano. I think it would be quite funny to try it today to see how much muscle memory is still there

  24. I remember learning how to play “Music Box Dancer” on the piano! When I was 8 years old! And I remember hearing it on the AM radio in my Mama’s Chevrolet Malibu car!

    And I now recognize why adults don’t need to be drinking fully caffeinated drinks throughout the day, because I seem to have a problem with all the exclaimin’!

  25. Also! (I am slowly trying to come down from the caffeine, I’m sorry!) But I just remembered, from the other night, when my daughter had on the Disney Channel, and one of the latest teenager-y girls was on there, and she was singing a song that was sang by the Go Gos! Oh yes ma’am! Once I find it, I will make sure to send it to you!

  26. I LOVED listening to Music Box Dancer on my Mama’s 8-Track! Hilarious post sister!

  27. Try having kids from the ages of 30 something to 3. Interestingly enough the 3 year old has loved Big Daddy Weave since he was an infant. Our 24 yr. old daughter recently moved back home and trust me, her taste in music is not tolerated in this house, my car or near my youngest three.