R.I.P.: Andy Williams

If you were a child in the 1960s some things were inescapable, no matter how much you wanted to escape from them. In my home one of those things was the television show “Gunsmoke”, which my father watched as if it were a religious ritual. One did not speak or be otherwise noticeable during “Gunsmoke”. The other religious TV experience was “The Andy Williams Show”, at which altar my mother worshiped.

Looking back on it now, “The Andy Williams Show” (along with my mom’s other musical gods Glen Campbell and Tom Jones) probably had more influence on me than I realized. I was always a sort-of  musical child: I sang the theme songs to TV shows acapella, and did a fair “Moon River” in the bathtub. And I got exposure to some different kinds of music through shows like Andy Williams’ – the photo above of him performing with Peter, Paul, and Mary brought back a clear memory of seeing them on TV and thinking that was a different kind of music I hadn’t really heard before.

Media influences were sparse where I grew up. We lived in a very rural area in a small valley surrounded by mountains, and when I was very young we didn’t get very clear TV or radio signals. My dad built a telescoping antenna mast that he could crank up about 60 feet in the air if there was no wind, and we could get ghost-like images of the San Francisco CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates on a good clear night. I do recall the funeral of President Kennedy in grainy, ghosty black-and-white. The images of the horse with the reversed boots in the stirrups is particularly present in my earliest memory.

Then, in the mid-1960s, we got The Translator. The Translator was a big relay antenna up on the highest mountain around that would saturate our little valley with TV and radio waves. Now we got fairly good reception of CBS, NBC, ABC, an independent called KTVU, and on a good clear night some ghost-like PBS that my father disapproved of because they were “liberals”.

But most of all, for me, we got AM radio! And then I literally submerged into music. My dad would give me the car keys and I would sit in the car and run the battery down listening to the radio. Eventually he gave me a transistor radio of my own so he didn’t have to constantly charge the car battery.

Now, of course, we are inundated with media via cable, satellite, the Internet. DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, streaming audio and video, etc. But in a way that earlier time when resources were limited was more interesting, because not only was every scrap of music and video a sort of treasure, but when there wasn’t any content to be had we made our own in imitation of what we saw and heard.

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