The Jazz Bus: New York Radio = No Jazz, No Country, Just….
The Jazz Bus just returned from a three week tour, traveling south throughout the eastern seaboard, mostly along I-95 and then inland. During that time, not having satellite radio in this year’s model, we were forced to listening to cds, our own singing, or the local radio. New York, while a great metropolis, has many, many radio stations. One would think that with so many stations on both the a.m. and F.M. dials that there would be many different formats available to the listener. Sadly, most New York radio stations play the same thing. For people my age it is Pink Floyd every fifteen minutes whether you need it or not, followed by Led Zeppelin. The only other viable alternative seems to be talk radio, which is no prize either.
This trip The Bus pulls out of Long Island heading to The Jersey Turnpike while listening to THE FAN, sports radio. It is amazing at 3 a.m. on this cold March Saturday morning. Most of the callers sounded a bit tired, with raised, slurred voices shouting words of admonishments for the previous caller’s ignorance, and using phrases like “being a human being, I…”.It is hilarious listening to these “experts” at that time in the early morning while driving away from New York. Almost truly comical, but actual sad when you consider this my form of entertainment.
With the signal fading out about Exit Two on the Jersey Turnpike, just before the Delaware Bridge, the need to find a new station starts me on an interesting journey through the dial. We find a jazz station or two on the left of that dial and a few country music stations throughout the remaining airwaves to the right. Hitting the expected traffic jam on the Wilson Bridge in Washington D.C. on a beautiful morning with a view that is breathtaking, we find a few more jazz stations. One in particular is playing Mingus, Ellington, and then Monk. Over the bridge into Virginia we go, as the jazz station faded away with the sounds of ALABAMA by John Coltrane. A few more spins of the dial left the jazz station behind and unveiled more country stations then you could shake a stick out of.
Interesting, this country music thing, having no country station to speak of in the greater New York area we gave it a shot. The next experiment began: Three weeks on the road, south of The Mason- Dixon Line and we would listen to nothing but country music. Now, not being a native southerner and not accustomed to “their” lingo, it took me all of the three weeks to finally get it. Today, as a newly well versed country boy, I am comfortable talking about a “Copenhagen ring on the pocket of my jeans”, and feel good about wearing my boots to church. I now know what a 30 yard six is, and am considering getting me one of those F-150’s complete with a gun rack to sport around in. All these significant items will help you make friends when you travel throughout the south. Sitting on the porch swing while drinking mama’s homemade sweet tea is a major event, better than therapy. And traveling through the back roads to the party, but that usually gets broken up when the “blue lights” arrive. Everybody there plays a “geetar”, while looking out for the gators at the fishing hole, AKA ” redneck yacht club”.
“Hey y’all” is usually a general greeting while south of the Mason-Dixon line but when said from a stage to a crowd that is proudly raising their PBR longnecks, the response back is nearly deafening. And you don’t have to be a southerner to offer it. It’s not like a secret society with their own signature greeting. Everybody will say it. Then ask the natives where you can catch some catfish or largemouth bass but be prepared for a story about “ one time that Billy Bob was hooking the big one, but it got away. Funny how most men introduce themselves with two first names or initials. Hey Y’all, I’m JP, pleased to meet ya. Southern hospitality, ain’t nothing like it.
Country music will teach you things like, “ Grandpa is always right” and you probably should have listened to him. Music is music, whatever that means. Listening to Brooks and Dunn, a band which is ending their twenty year partnership, I heard the Rolling Stones circa Exile On Main Street. But from “B and D”, dynamic duo, I learned it’s always” Beer Thirty, Honky Tonk time”, and “Life’s too short, the party’s a starting, so get to kicking, and get in line”. I now know that” Paycheck Fridays” are not traditional calendar days but are celebrated more like a national holiday, “I gave the man my 40, it’s 5 p.m. and I need a little twang”. And the juke box is always filled with Hank.
Country music in New York City and vicinity seems to be an underground thing. There are a few scattered clubs in the area and in the neighboring town of Lindenhurst regular dances with live music are sponsored monthly by the Long Island Country Music Society. Truthfully, I have been listening to country music for many years. My dad was a Johnny Cash- Buck Owens fan so we had a few country albums in the record rack. He loved to watch Johnny Cash’s television show and listening to Patsy Cline. I remember when I worked nights the boss would put on radio station WHN 1050, the only country music station during the early and mid 1970’s. “Gessie With a G”, the female announcer nightly played songs by David Allan Coe ,Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Jones.
So I ask. With so many stations available on the dial, why do the playlists consist of the same thing. I gotta get me that satellite radio. I already miss “the twang”.
Note: Hank Williams is being posthumously awarded a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board for his “craftsmanship as a songwriter” and his “pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force.” Williams died in 1953 at age 29. His songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists in a variety of genres.