What Music Did You Grow Up On?

I grew up essentially listening to three songs.

When me, mom and sis moved in with my Grams, mom left a lot behind. Her records were one casualty. We had the white album by the Beatles, Elton John’s first album, and Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell. In fact, I still have all those discs, and they still play relatively well, despite our grubby little kiddy hands smudging them.

Music was important to mom and it still is. She still introduces me to music I wouldn’t otherwise have heard. The latest is Alison Krauss. Back then, I remember trips to Mickey Music, a record shop in a Belleville strip mall. And looking for oldies shops in New York, where she hunted and finally found the Phil Spector Christmas Album and Elvis’s gospel album. My uncle Paul still has boxes of original 45’s from the early rock ‘n roll / R&B era, from “Speedo” and “Earth Angel” to obscure greats like the Jive Bombers (immortalized in John Waters’ Cry Baby). Unc ran a couple bars and would let us pick through the jukebox discs when they cycled through the latest tunes.

I think that’s how at age seven, I wound up with singles of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising/Lodi,” KISS “Detroit Rock City/Beth,” and Marvin Gaye singing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” We played those platters until the grooves became distorted. Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” was also a favorite. The opening horns drove me and Danielle into dances of spastic joy. Detroit Rock City, Grapevine, and Bad Moon Rising are still three of my favorite songs of all time. Like mutagenic substances, my proximity to the record player altered my DNA.

Mom thought music was a necessity, like I said. I remember Styx’s “Paradise Theater,” Elton’s Yellow Brick Road, Donna Summer, Steely Dan, and albums we’d break out to laugh and remember when we thought this music was cool, such as Leo Sayer. Elton’s “Crocodile Rock” with its ’50s nostalgia was one we’d always sing in the car.

The first album I bought was A Flock of Seagulls. I still dig their B-sides and minor hits like “Wishing” and “Telecommunication.” They still play casinos on the west coast. Next time I visit, I’ll make sure I see them.

So, what music did you grow up on?



Sparky & Cowboy, c.1962, Danny Lyon

I love me some rockabilly. I grew up with boxes of 45s from the ’50s, my mom’s and my uncle’s,  with everything from silly novelty records like “The Old Philosopher,” rhythm and blues like Fats Domino and the Jive Bombers, to Hank and bluegrass, and the true kings of rock ‘n roll, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. My uncle Paul also ran a few taverns, and when they dumped the hit singles for the latest batch, he’d bring home a trunkful of everything from KISS, Creedence, to ’80s one hit wonders.

On the other hand, I didn’t hear the Beatles until I was in high school, which is perhaps why I don’t buy into the worship. Great band; they changed history, yes. But it was more as a function of marketing, if you ask me. Same with Elvis. Love the guy, especially his early Sun Records work. But they stood on the shoulders of giants, and we must never forget that. Both of them found early success covering the R&B records that few would play, due to fears of mixing the races. They became their own men sometime afterward, when success allowed it.

Her expression inspired a character. c.1963 Danny Lyon

So, it was with great relish that I wrote a story for an upcoming anthology entitled “Hoods, Hot Rods & Hellcats,” that my friend Chad Eagleton is putting together. I dug deep for this one, through old family stories and ’50s hot rod history, World War 2 realities and human frailty. It’s a long one, at least it is before Chad edits it, and I look forward to sharing it. I could title it “birth of a hellcat,” but for now, it’s called “Red Hot,” after this gem by Billy Lee Riley: