Daddy Played the Phonograph

A musical autobiography. For you, Dad

My mom got out piano from her parents
It took up half the living room floor
My piano teacher came on Tuesday
I hid when he rang the door
My brother had a trumpet that he gave me
When he switched over to the baritone
I played it in the high school band at half-time
In the last uniform I ever owned
And now I make a living from my music
When I see how it all happened, I just laughed
‘Cause my mom played the piano, my brother played the horn
And daddy played the phonograph

On Sundays after church he played Beethoven
Handel, Bach and Haydn and the rest
My dad said, “Son, there’s just two kinds of Mozart.
Better and best.”
On weeknights when he pulled into the driveway
Johnny Hodges and the Duke would play
Louis and Ella sang Porgy and Bess
And there was Basie and Lady Day.
I didn’t know the names of what I heard then,
But knowing names, it isn’t even half.
“Cause all that music’s in me, all the stuff I heard
When daddy played the phonograph.

If you want to know the secret of music
I think that I can give you a clue
It’s not enough to know how to play
You’ve got to know how to listen too

The other week I stopped to see my parents
I paused before I knocked upon the door
“Cause the string section was coming through the window
And the timpani rattled the floor
Now there’s compact discs and graphic equalizers
To make every note so crystal clear
I know there’s no denying the marvels of science
But it’s not art ‘til it gets inside the ear
And all those music living here inside me
The stuff that makes me cry and laugh
Is something I’d be missing, I had never listened
When daddy played the phonograph.


© Bill Harley, all rights reserved. Reprints with permission only.

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