Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
They made their first recording when I was in my pre-teens. Heck, at age 11, I hadn’t even begun to think about puberty, but there was just something about the “California Girls” and “Little Deuce Coupe” that took your mind elsewhere.
I grew up listening to the Beach Boys and do so today.
I’ve seen them in concert is arenas, at baseball games, at Six Flags over Texas and in a floated Christmas parade in a harbor at Newport Beach, Calif. … and until I came to Tarboro, I planned to see them again on April 27 at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
But it’s the Jazz Fest appearance that has finally gotten me closer in touch with my reality. The facts, pure and simple, is that I have aged since I first heard “Surfin’ Safari” on the “Night Train” radio show on WAZF radio in Yazoo City, Miss.
Oh, the flood of memories … the bluesy music of Night Train with an announcer reading, “You’re listening to Night Train on WAZF, 1230 on your AM dial, with studios located high atop the Taylor and Roberts Feed and Seed Building in downtown Yazoo City …” and then they would increase the volume of the music and finish the song before going into the evening dedication program.
To put things in perspective, Yazoo City was a booming metropolis of probably 7,500 or so people … maybe more, maybe less. It was 45 miles north of Jackson with only two communities in between on U.S. Highway 49. It coming years it would be best known as the hometowns of storyteller Jerry Clower and author Willie Morris.
We lived in the country, some 20 miles from Yazoo City and about four or five miles outside of Louise (Pop. 479) on Miss. Highway 14. Yazoo City was the place Daddy went to get parts to repair the tractors and combines and Hi-Boys and such he used as he managed a pair of cotton farms — Red Gum, where we lived, and Good Luck, which was all the way on the other side of town. Daddy farmed 2,500 acres of cotton, along with soybeans and oats.
We went to and through Jackson, the state capital, regularly, so I knew there were buildings much bigger than the two-story feed store that WAZF sat “high atop” of … but at night, in the Delta, there was only so much my little Silvertone transistor radio was going to pull out of the sky.
After going to bed, I would lie there and watch the headlights that moved across the horizon of my window on Highway 14. It made no difference which way they were going, I would count from the time I first saw them until they disappeared from view, thinking about the ones going fast and the ones going slow.
I would put my radio under my pillow and turn it on carefully. Daddy, after all, didn’t care for that expletive deleted rock and roll and if I accidentally turned it up too much, there would be a booming, “Turn that damned radio off and go to sleep!”
In those instances, fearful of his wrath, I would turn the knob until it clicked off and roll over on my side … counting cars instead of sheep as I fell asleep.
But that music never left me.
I had no idea as to what surfing was and I certainly didn’t know what “Sidewalk Surfin’” was … but I knew a Deuce Coupe and a 409 and just like my Daddy, I was a Chevy man, so I could appreciate the line “ … she could walk a Thunderbird like she’s standin’ still …” even though it referred to a 1932 Ford coupe’s doing it!
Perhaps it’s the Beach Boys who connected me so much to the music of that era, for I listen to it still today, but the kids from Hawthorne, Calif. grew up over the years and did a song with the rap group the Fat Boys and took a trip to Kokomo, as well.
And now they’re touring again … their 50th anniversary tour.
And that’s the point of this meandering piece … somewhere, while listening to the good times music of the Beach Boys, we’ve aged. I know the gray hairs are there and the hair’s not as thick as it once was … I realize the actions we took for granted in the days of our youth don’t come as easily any more, if they come at all!
Back when I was listening to the Beach Boys for the first time, I remember thinking that 50 was old. Now, as the band of my youth reaches that milestone, I reflect back with fond memories to the time when I was 50.
As it turns out, it wasn’t so old after all!
(John H. Walker is editor and publisher of The Daily Southerner. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 823-3106.)