Closet Hillbilly

I am sitting here on my patio, in the middle of the afternoon, with my feet propped up catching a few “rays” and looking through the glass slider at the TV that I have angled so I can see it, and the tears are running down my cheeks.

When the Congress recently declared that they were going to cut funding for Public TV because they needed more money for a bridge to nowhere back home, the stations all decided wisely to spend a month on fund drives.  They had many old musical artists from years gone by and planned to run videos, with breaks for soliciting funds.  I love music…all music, and spent many evenings recording all types on my VCR (don’t have a DVD recorder yet) and I got some priceless stuff, eliminating commercials and breaks.  

Getting back to the tears, music moves me, especially country.  One particular evening I recorded 2 hours of early Johnny Cash.  The first song that got to me was written by Kris Kristofferson, a good singer in his own right but I think he is a poet among country song writers. Listening to the words of “Sunday Morning coming down”, sung by Johnny Cash was just too much for the emotional  switch today, I guess.   

One of the best segments from this series was a 2 hour show entitled Black and White Night starring Roy Orbison, accompanied by Bruce  Springsteen,  Elvis Costello, Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, K D Lange and many other stars and they did most of Roy Orbison’s greatest songs.  I play it about once a week, at least. They do a terrific job on “Pretty Woman” and many, many more of his greatest hits. There has to be a way to transfer this to a DVD for more permanent storage. Love it!

At this point it may be appropriate to ask a question.  With  no one in particular in mind, is it unnatural for a person of advanced years to take up with Orbison and Springsteen?

Now to prove I am “multi-musical” (if that is a word), one of the most enjoyable things I recorded was an old black and white video of Luciano Pavoratti,  Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.  The music lasted two hours, they performed solos and for about thirty minutes at the finish they sang together.  It was some of the most beautiful operatic pieces I have ever heard and some pop things that were exceptional.  It looked like it was done at least 15 or 20 years ago.

In my youth I was, of necessity, a Closet Hillbilly.  I loved country music but it was not referred to as country back then, it was Hillbilly music and you were laughed upon in my circles for just listening.  I think it was allowed in Harford County but I lived in Baltimore County and was in the closet. 

During the days of WWII folks from down south moved to Maryland to work at Glenn L Martin Company building air planes and working at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Edgewood Army Chemical  Center.  There had been a Richardson’s Auto auction in Bel Air for many years. He came from the south and attracted dealers from all over the southeast, so Bel Air was as well-known in the Carolinas as it was in Maryland.  After the war, many stayed and settled along with their music.

 I had an old record player, concealed in a closet in the spare room upstairs that played 78s.  Mom, Dad and brother Henry knew it was there but they were not country fans either. I had Roy Acuff’s version of “The Wabash Cannon Ball” that I played until the grooves wore out.  I knew every word of every verse. 

I also had two other records, both Hank Williams.  One was “Cold, Cold Heart” and the other was “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”…loved them both and to this day know all  the words.  I still remember when Hank died, January 1st, 1953… just worn out at 29.

My love of music must come from my father who sang a lot around the house, even with all of his problems.  As a young man growing up in East Baltimore, Mikey, my father, his cousin Louie and two other young men had a quartet and sang on the street corners for pennies and nickles.  My father also did a little tap dancing on the side.  At Christmas time, they would set up in the  Northeast Market and perform for the shoppers.

Music has always been important to me.  I sang in church choirs at home and in California when I  was in the Air Force and I sing for myself almost every day.  Always wished I had a better voice but like the man says (whomever he is) “you take what God gave you and go with it”.  I did!


Don  Langrehr


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2 Responses to Closet Hillbilly

  1. Jason K. says:

    I too get very emotional when listening to music. For me it the association of the time when i first heard certain songs and what life was like at the time that makes me like music so much. When i here the right song it transports me to a better (or sometimes worse) time in my life and it instantly gives you that “remember when feeling”. I hope down the road that when I hear today’s music it will represent a good chapter in my life and will put a smile on my face. I know of both shows you referred to but have never seen either of them. Just heard people raving about them. I can tell you that Public Broadcasting is dying and that the quality programming will go with it unless people step up and are willing to call and donate. I worked for WOSU in Columbus, OH for five years while in college and I learned a lot about the struggles of the station during those years. The staff was minimally paid and the budget was slim. Doubt that has changed much till now. You can aquire both of those shows on DVD for a price from PBS directly or possibly from your local MPT station by becoming a member. You could also go Amazon or ebay if you needed to. I’ll tell your neighbor it’s on your xmas list.


  2. Robin says:

    Love Johnny too ; )
    Dad always had it on in the garage. I know all the words, even after all these years. My voice is not good either but, I still sing anyway!

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