Valori Moore is the owner-editor of The Taylor County News, one of the papers that carries my column. She wrote an editorial in March of 2019 about having a song stuck in her head that wouldn’t go away. I think most of us have that happen on occasion.
Valori’s column led me to reflect on a few songs that I often recall from the distant past. They are perhaps no better than many others, but to me will always be among the best.
Larry G. Hudson was the lead guitarist in the state champion Unadilla F.F. A. String Band. He graduated from high school the year before I joined the band to play piano. I enjoyed listening to Larry and the band as they practiced in the auditorium or on the lunchroom stage.
When I was in the eighth grade and Larry was in the twelfth, the band was playing a slow song one day called “Sleep Walk.” It had a tender and somewhat ethereal quality. As Larry picked out that soulful melody, it made me wish I had a girlfriend and knew how to dance. Sometimes I play “Sleep Walk” on my piano, but the sweetest sound is the one I remember from Larry’s guitar on a lunchroom stage a long time ago.
Another Larry played rhythm guitar and sometimes took the lead in that same band. Larry Hamsley came from the most musical family that’s ever graced Dooly County. He was one of 15 siblings whose cradles were rocked to country tunes. Larry H. was also ahead of my band playing days, but he joined in with our group one night in Vienna for a session at George Forehand’s house.
George was a disc jockey at a radio station in Montezuma, and he had a recording studio in his home. Larry H. played lead on a song that I think he called “Bulldogging.” I don’t know if it was a tune he had heard or if he made it up, but it had a bluesy sound that stayed with me long after the party was over. I tried to learn it on guitar, but my talents are nominal. I can stumble through just enough of it to bring back a good memory.
After the two Larrys graduated, I began playing piano in the band. I was a freshman learning the ropes from four juniors, Michael Sullivan, Jerry Pickard, Charles Jones, and Jerry McIntyre.
Michael Sullivan had a smooth-as-silk baritone voice. “The Green Green Grass of Home” was a hit for Porter Wagoner and was covered nicely by a lot of other good singers. But Mike Sullivan’s version will always be my favorite. The grass seemed a little greener when he sang about it.
Jerry Pickard sang a gospel song with conviction titled, “The Wings of a Dove.” It’s the story of God sending Noah a sign after the waters receded. “On the wings of a snow-white dove, He sends His pure sweet love, A sign from above, On the wings of a Dove.” It didn’t surprise me when God called Jerry to be a minister. I believe he would have been on the ark if he had been around back then.
Charles Jones rocked the stage singing “Johnny Be Good.” Charles could play anything with strings on it and enjoyed music as much as anyone I’ve ever known. When he hit the pounding chorus singing, “Go Johnny Go,” everyone in the audience would be grinning at full speed. If you saw someone with a somber expression, it was probably too late to call the ambulance.
Jack Greene’s recording of “There Goes My Everything” played well on the radio, but Jerry McIntyre’s rendition was about two notches better in my young opinion. Jerry had a clear voice that resonated with confidence, the same confidence with which he played basketball and approached life.
VeEsta Brown joined us when we performed as VeEsta & The Country Gentleman. She belted out a string of country standards with a voice that was good enough to headline a much bigger stage. My favorite was an old Kitty Wells number, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honkytonk Angels.” Every band needs a star. VeEsta was ours.
I planned to write a column about songs that are stuck in my head, but I realize now it’s more about songs in my heart. The music was good, but it’s the memories that I cherish most. If I ever forget those treasured moments from long ago, it’s probably too late to call the ambulance. Just take me back to the green green grass of home. That’s the place where I’ll always have a song in my heart.