Posts Tagged ‘music’

For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a compelling infatuation with music of all kinds. I never did have the overwhelming desire to learned to play an instrument, as so many music lovers have had and I can’t seem to carry a tune in a bucket (though I think I sound pretty good in the shower) but I love listening to all forms of it.

When I was 6 years old my grandmother gave me a little Sonic brand transistor radio for my birthday and I thought that was the most wonderful present I had ever seen. I adored that radio and carried it with me whenever, and everywhere I was allowed to. At some point in my young life, I acquired a radio for my room and I would listen to it at night or in the evening or really anytime I was in my room doing something. In the 1960s the FM band was really unheard of and the only thing that you had available for listening to music across the airwaves was an AM radio. I discovered early on that the properties of AM radio was that the radio waves would bounce off the ionosphere and come back down at an angle so you often could tune in radio stations from far, far away. Generally, in the daytime you could only pick up mainly local stations and many rural and small market stations were limited by the FCC to how much wattage they could use to transmit their signal (I lived in a small town of about 7000 people). Most of the lower wattage stations would only transmit during the day light hours which meant that when the sun began to set and local stations would sign off the air, then their signal would stop overriding the more distant signals and we could tune in to listen to high-wattage stations from hundreds of mile away.

There was a radio station out of Chicago with the call letters WLS that was a huge favorite of mine and was one of the most popular radio stations among teenagers in the nation as they constantly played all the hits that America’s youth loved to hear. I looked forward to the evening hours so I could tune in and listen to my favorite Disc Jockeys. One hugely popular DJ that I recalled looking forward to hearing on WLS as he talked about and played the current hits as well as emerging new songs and artists was John Records Landecker. It was only after 6 or 7 in the evening that I was able to start receiving it and night after night I would loyally listen to it either with my transistor radio or in my room until it was time to go to bed, at which time I would tell John Records Landeker good night and grudgingly turn off the radio.

Overall I was a pretty shy kid and in 1968, at the age of 11, I was secretly and madly in love with a beautiful little dark haired girl at church by the name of Charlene. I vowed to myself I would build up enough courage to tell her how I felt, but every time I would see her at church, that courage would just melt away and I would set there silently adoring her. That summer on WLS, one of the new songs that started playing across the airwaves was one by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles called Tears of a Clown. I instantly fell in love with the song and I secretly dedicated it to Charlene as our anthem, as I continued to try and grasp the courage but continued to fail to approach her. One Sunday morning in August I noticed Charlene wasn’t there at church. That same evening at the Sunday night service she still wasn’t sitting in her normal seat in the auditorium, and so I assumed she might be sick. When I didn’t see her again at the following Wednesday evening service, I became concerned and on the way home that night I asked my mother if she knew why Charlene wasn’t at church and my mother replied that they had moved to Livingston. I was stunned, flabbergasted and totally devastated, for even though Livingston was only twenty mile away, to an 11 year old kid, it might as well have been twenty thousand. As I went to my room that late summer evening in 1968, I allowed the fact to sink in that because of my complete shyness and fearfulness I had squandered the opportunity to tell Charlene how I felt about her and now it was too late. As I began to wallow in this depression of my own making, I turned on the radio and proceeded to tune it in to 890 to listen to WLS. As if by design, mine and Charlene’s personal anthem, Tears of a Clown came wafting out of the radio speakers and I sank down to the floor and softly cried. Even to this day, some fifty years later, when I hear Tears of a Clown, I often think back to a simpler time and wonder what happened to that little dark haired girl I was so madly in love with in the summer of 1968.

Jim 5-8-20