Micki, my sister, was a nurse in the orthopedic group of the University of Iowa Hospital for a number of years. It was the penchant of one of the doctors there to sing through surgeries. Some tell jokes, some have favorite listening music, others prefer absolute silence but this one, an older surgeon, serenaded the operating room personnel with tunes from the 30’s and 40’s (and maybe even a few from the 20’s).
As Micki told it, he wasn’t particularly talented in the vocal department, but, then, neither are most of the people in our family, my sister included. Lack of talent has never stopped any number of people from pursuing careers in any venue, least of all music, and it certainly didn’t stop the Morgans from fielding their own choir. However, this orthopedic surgeon was taken aback when my sister, much younger and, therefore, not expected to know songs from “before her time”, chimed in with “I’m Going To Buy A Paper Doll.” Yup, it’s a real song, for those of you too young to know. In fact, she had quite a repertoire of songs from “before her time,” thanks to our mom.
Unlike the rest of us, mom could carry a tune (she wasn’t born a Morgan) and would sing in the car, in the kitchen, even in the grocery store depending on whichever product caught her eye, as “Halo is the shampoo that glorifies your hair so Halo, everybody, Halo”. And Micki and I learned every song and every commercial. Every road trip was a concert, much to the dismay of our children and spouses. We had a song for every occasion and every landmark. “Don’t Fence Me In” came up frequently along the road between Santa Fe and Los Alamos and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree” was suitable for any tree, apples or not. Unusual clouds might bring up “Ghost Riders In the Sky” but “This Land Is Your Land” was good for any stretch of highway, just as “God Bless America” suited any mountain or even a mesa.
There were the songs you had to hear from beginning to end to understand, “Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” come to mind, as does “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. Mom even had a special song for each of us, “Micki, Pretty Micki” and my brother, “Sweet Leilani” as his name is Lonny though I still can’t envision him as “the heavenly flower”. Mine was “A Little Bit Independent.”
Kids nowadays barely know the tale of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and can’t sing the song; if they know “White Christmas,” it doesn’t mean they saw the movie, and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is only an exclamation they use when the temperature hits minus twenty.
It’s not that there isn’t good music being written so much as the other stuff is more popular with the kids, the “nananananyayayay” and one line songs with, frequently, words thrown in that would have earned my friends and me a Swift Swat with a Switch. How about that for a title?
Whatever happened to “Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats and Little Lambsydivy?” Or “Minnie The Moocher? And we enjoyed such classics as “I’m Gonna Dance With The Dolly With the Hole In Her Stocking” as we walked down the “Sunny Side of the Street.”
Songs from that era inspired and entertained us, had our toes a’tappin’, made our step a little higher and gave us a laugh and some giggles. My singing voice has not improved but it has entertained several grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are, blessedly, tone deaf until someone teaches them otherwise. By the time they learn that grandma really can’t sing, they’re doing it themselves as we drive through town. With the windows on the car rolled all the way down. We hope you enjoy the free concerts when you have the good fortune to pull up next to us at one of the three stoplights in town.