Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ghost Riders

Tonight I am thankful for Johnny Cash.  When I was growing up, my mother was often out socializing with friends.  We loved it when she was gone or having a party at our house, because it meant rides in my dad's little car, Herbie, to the corner store for ice cream sandwiches, a Three Musketeers bar, or root beer float making ingredients.  Sometimes it meant trips to play putt putt golf or to the go-kart track, but, most often, my dad would pull out his guitar to sing and play for us. 

I loved when he would sing Puff the Magic Dragon, and sang along with him about Little Jackie "Paper", thinking that was the boy's name.  I always felt like crying when Puff would "sadly slip into his cave".  On top of being my absolute favorite person in the world, my dad had a beautiful singing voice, and I loved those times.

Along with Puff, there was the story of Charlie stuck on the train.  He didn't have the required nickel, or maybe it was a dime, to get off the train, so his wife just handed him sandwiches when the train passed his stop.  My husband always asks when I tell him of  this song, why his wife didn't just hand him money to get off the train. I shush him, of course, before he can ruin one of my favorite childhood memories.  Some things just don't need fixing! 

There were other folk songs that my dad would sing, like Where Have All the Flowers Gone.  He loved Peter, Paul, & Mary and The Mamas and the Papas.  I'm sure he still does.  I wish I could remember all the songs he would sing.  He is a fabulous musician.  His father was a trumpet player, supported his family that way, in fact, and also played the piano very well, as well as the banjo, guitar, and mandolin.  As a result, Dad and his brothers and sisters became great singers and musicians.  Our family get togethers were usually centered around music.

And it's just occurred to me.  Could this be where my live music addiction began?  Why I stand mesmerized below the stage at concerts, fascinated by a guitarist's fingers rapidly plying the strings?  I still don't get it.  I've tried and tried, and though dad has always assured me by telling me that once my fingers develop calluses, guitar playing will be much easier, I never take the time to practise enough to develop them and learn to play, so have great respect for those who are disciplined enough to make incredible sounds come from a stringed instrument. 
Coyle Girreli of The Chevin.  10-24-12, The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
But, to return to the point of this ghostly post, I was lying here watching The Bridges of Madison County and trying to fall asleep while fighting an ear infection.  I had a crushed garlic water soaked cotton ball in my ear, which burned like the Dickens and was doing a very good job of keeping sleep at bay, and before I knew it, the movie had ended and a Johnny Cash special had come on.  Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite actors, so when he made Walk the Line, I learned all about the late singer and have developed a soft spot for Johnny and June and the love story surrounding them.  I am still more familiar with Joaquin's versions of Johnny's songs, however, so any time I have the opportunity hear Johnny sing his songs, I am in awe of how well that Joaquin boy really did imitating his voice and mannerisms.   

In tonight's television special, Johnny did Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, then...oh wow.  I forgot that was a Johnny Cash song, Ghost Riders In the Sky.  I immediately began hearing my dad's voice rather than Johnny's, because another of my favorites that Dad would sing to us was Ghost Riders In the Sky. He had a beautiful tenor voice for the yippee ay yays, but could also really hit those low notes, spot on.  Such a nice memory!

We're all camping together in a couple of weeks, those of us from my dad's side of the family, and we are planning on celebrating our Cherokee roots with a little family pow wow.  I'm sure Dad will be pulling out his harmonica and guitar.  If so, I can't imagine anything better than sitting next to the fire while he sings Ghost Riders.  So, while I am very thankful for my wonderful father, tonight I am counting Johnny Cash in my 30 Days of Thanks for bringing me such a comforting memory.  And now to get this dadgum cotton ball out of my ear so I can sleep.  "It burns, burns, burns..."

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