While being back home with my family due to the matters at hand, I had an idea to write this blog. My sister recently acquired a record player and decided that she wanted to look into all my dad’s old records when she came back home. My dad got really excited taking them out of hiding, dusting them off and organizing them by genre and artist. They hadn’t been played in so long because his turn table had stopped working. Looking through all of his music got me thinking how he lived through such a different time, and I wanted to hear about how music shaped his life growing up. I decided to interview him, and this is how it went.
First off, here’s a little background on my dad:
He was born December 28, 1951. He’s lived in Kalamazoo all his life, graduated from Hackett High School, and enlisted in the army at 18. He was part of the 3rd Armored Division stationed at Ayers Kaserne in Kirch-Göns, Germany. 18 months later, in 1972, he came back and took classes at KVCC and worked. Only a year later he was running a carpentry business with his brother that became his career. After this interview I learned a lot more things about my dad that I had never heard him talk about, and it was really fun.
Was there a time growing up that you remember being really into music more than any other time?
“Not really. I started collecting music since I was a young kid, probably 10 or 11 years old I’d buy albums like the Beach Boys and get them on 45’s [45 RPM records]. Growing up in a big family, there was other people who played music, but me and my sister would buy them and listen to the Beatles and stuff like that in the basement.”
--My dad has 10 siblings, and he was one of the youngest. He had been listening to music for a long time, his sister Mary, being closer in age, would spend more time together in
the music scene. Music was a constant in his life, and I think this relates to a lot of people. Music for me has always been there, and I know it’s something I can rely on.
In the army, was there any specific artist or album you remember from that time? What did you use to listen?
“Hmm. It was probably heavy metal then, because it was in the 70’s. I remember listening to Black Sabbath and then I started listening to more blues. Actually, a lot of the albums I have are from the early 70s, a lot of blues. I probably had 80 albums I left in Germany, and the guy was supposed to ship them back to me, but he never did. What a lot of guys had at the time were called reel to reels. You’d tape other people’s music, and you could have 20 albums on there. When I got out of the army not many people had them anymore though.”
--After the interview we went through old photos trying to find some of his time there and the address book from the guys he was stationed with, thinking maybe we could find it and get those 80 records back! No such luck.
When do you think you started buying records and when do you think was the last time you bought one?
We went off topic a bit for this question, but I wanted to include everything because I thought it was worth sharing. My dad began buying albums at 10 or 11, which we had already touched on, and he didn’t have much influence in music from his other siblings.
“I’m probably still the only one [sibling] who buys music and listens to music. A lot of them have probably never turned on a radio. And I listen to music all day long, it doesn’t matter what I listen to. The friends I would run around with would introduce me to stuff too, one of the guys I lived with probably had 700 or 800 albums. He would sit down all day long and just listen to music. So, that kind of opens your eyes, which is why I have a selection of a lot of different stuff, not just one genre.
--I asked the end of my question one more time because I was interested to know around what time he stopped buying records.
“I’m trying to remember when I quit buying for a little while, you know you’re kind of just doing what you’re doing. I think it was probably the time me and your mom met, and I was building a house and had a lot of things to do. I mean there was always music, but I wasn’t going out and buying a lot.
There was a place in town, Boogie Records, that was a cool hang out spot. Back then, I was probably still buying records from there in high school, and then when I got out of the service, I was buying a lot and living with two or three other guys. And now that I think about it, I had my whole stereo system stolen, two of them actually, one when I was living down by St. Augustine church.
I had six guys staying there, in a huge house, and I was working at Borgess then and still going to school. So, then I didn’t have a system to play, and I was going to school and working, and I didn’t have a lot of extra money to go out and buy a whole new stereo system. Then when I finally did buy one, we were also broken into and it was stolen at my next place in Kalamazoo. And when you reach that point, you’re kind of like, well I’m not going to keep buying more stuff all the time. I always had music around though, I played the radio or played my albums on my friends’ systems.”
Do you think that your music taste changed growing up or did it mostly stay the same variety the whole time?
“A lot of it is who you run around with. Who opened your eyes to different things. See we always had dances at our school, almost every Friday, and this is when I was 16 or 17, they’d have what they called the Shamrock. And we’re at Hackett so it makes sense. We’d listen to everything, but mostly what we were listening to was rock ‘n’ roll. And not the rock ‘n’ roll of today, no, there was 50’s rock and then stuff like The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, all the British Invasion bands. Ed Sullivan had this variety TV show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and you’d get to see a bunch of different things.
“When the Beatles came, in ’64 and ’65, and every week you’d have a different British band. I listened to a lot of that on 45’s in the basement of my house. And records back then were like 2 dollars, which was a lot of money, and so you never ran out and bought junk.”
Did you get to see any of the artists live you have records of? Did you go to many concerts?
“They never did a lot of small concerts. They did a lot of live stuff on the TV. There was a big concert, Goose Lake Festival, up by Jackson area, and it was in 1970. There were probably 40 bands.
--After the interview we went to go look at the lineup of Goose Lake Festival, he had a big poster of it, and he told me that him and his buddies camped there a couple days and that it was pretty crazy. It was a couple months before he went into the service.
“But the head-shops we went to would have bootleg music from bands that had a small company put out like a hundred albums. Small little groups that ended up being pretty important. I didn’t really go to a lot of concerts because after I hit that festival I went into the service to Germany. We didn’t have a lot of time there, and when we came back everything was changing.
“The Beatles changed a lot of music. All the music that I started with was when rock ‘n’ roll first started. The mid-fifties. I wasn’t listening to it, but that’s when Elvis and everything came out and then there was another change when the British Invasion happened. There’s people still who listen to all that music, it hasn’t gone away.”
“Back then, there was a lot more places, you could go to bars and they would have live music and you wouldn’t even be paying, not even for cover charges. There was this place we would go called the Rathskeller. It was a more folky, country-rock place. There would be maybe 30 tables, laid back, and you’d see bands that have put out a couple albums. Bob Seger played in a couple bars in Kalamazoo when he was first starting out. He was just a college kid looking to make money.
There was also one bar, two levels, and we’d call it the Back Door and the Front Door. The Back Door was the rock bands, and it was packed all the time. For sure Wednesday through Saturday. Upstairs would be country or country rock.
“When we were younger too, bowling alleys always had bands play. League bowling at that time was a big thing. For 8 or 10 years we played league bowling. You’d all get done working, go there and play, eat and drink beer. Then when you were done the women’s league would come in so we’d stick around and play on the alleys not being used and play money games. But there would always be live music, mostly rock or country-rock.”
Why is music important to you? Do you think it was a significant part of growing up?
“I don’t know if it was a significant part, but it was always a part of me. I never not listened to music. Sometimes it’s just background, but you know the first thing I do when I walk into the shop is turn on the radio. Or Spotify now. And after pulling all those records out I remember the people I haven’t heard in a long time.
I think music, it’s a relaxing thing.
To me its like, its kind of like work. If work is fun, then work gets you out of the everyday drudgery of sitting around worrying about the things that go on like in today's life.
Music does the same thing. It gets you into a different feeling of things. You know when a song comes on and you really like it you crank it up or you reminiscence about what you were doing when you listened to that song for the first time 5 years ago. So when I listen to older music I think back on everything I used to do growing up, where and who I’d be hanging out with, what stupid stuff I had been doing.
Makes me remember a lot of things.”