Growing up I was always surrounded by music. At every family gathering there would be singing by the adults and the kids. My mother would often be asked to come up on stage and sing at bars or at the town festival beer tents. Us kids would often put on shows for our parents or uncles and aunts if they would let us. One of my aunts tried to get me interested in playing the piano and my grandmother often tried to teach me to play the guitar.
My grandmother, Star, would play guitar, sing and she wrote many songs about her life and the lives of those around her. One particular song “Sawmill Mans Wife” was a childhood favorite, I don’t recall the lyrics, but I do recall that the last time I heard her play it my aunt Ginger cried – so perhaps the lyrics weren’t happy memories. I hope someone managed to save her lyrics and music.
I was fortunate enough to live with my Grandmother for a few years when I was a teenager and I think she picked up her guitar almost every day, and if not the guitar then the dulcimer, the accordion or would just be humming away. Music seemed to be the center of every moment for her. If she was doing woodworking on her walking sticks, or on a new guitar she’s be whistling away or singing an old song that had special importance for her.
Songs that I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise I learned about from my grandmother, songs by Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and most importantly her songs.
We would accompany Grandmother to camp sites where they were protesting nuclear power or whatever and Grandma would get up on stage and sing protest songs, popular songs and sometimes some of us would get on stage and sing with her. My sister and I once got into an argument live on stage about the right way to sing Barbara Mandrell’s “Crackers” – I think I was doing most of the arguing – Dawn understood that the show must go on and kept singing, I understood that I was going to grow up and be a drama queen.
I can easily recall images of my grandmother strumming her guitar, singing at a campfire, or at home. Most of those are good memories that I can cherish for all time. Music has been one of those things that can make me feel better no matter what – thanks Grandma.