My Musical Life

Copyright Phillip Martin Clip Art

I have loved music since I was tiny. I absolutely don’t remember a time when I wasn’t either singing or trying to make music in some other form, from the time I was only two years old.

Both of my parents loved music and dancing (just about any type, especially roller-dancing, which they did together before they were married, and before I came along). The oldest story about myself and music that I remember, was from when our family of four (which later increased to six) moved from South Dakota to Alaska, in an old delivery-type truck that Mom and Dad had fitted out as a camping vehicle.

The two of them used to love to sing the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” together. It was a song from a movie made in 1949–the year I was born–called “Neptune’s Daughter.” (Please don’t comment about how bad this song was because it may have been flaunting sexual harrassment!) They had loved the movie and the music, and it was a favorite song for both of them. Every time I would hear Daddy start to sing it (not just on that long road trip, but for many years thereafter), I would chime in, “No it’s not, Daddy!”

NOTE: If you’d like to hear a really, really nice version of Home Free singing this song (just audio…no video), CLICK HERE.

Mom was raised as a musician.

I’ve created one page about her musicianship, and there will be more coming…

As already mentioned, she and Daddy loved to dance together, but she also could tap dance, and do softshoe. When my middle daughter Jackie was two, Mom taught her to do a little softshoe dance with her…so cute!!! Personally, I never was really great at dancing. I LOVED it when I was younger, but I’ve just never been as coordinated as either Mom or Dad.

We always had music classes in our elementary school in Valdez, Alaska, and over the years, my siblings and I were in many plays and concerts, along with all the other kids…it’s just something we were expected to do, and we totally loved it. In sixth grade (at age 12), though, I was playing Mary during our Christmas play, and had to endure an onstage hug from the young man (also in sixth grade) on whom I had a secret crush, since he was playing Joseph (yes…we were still allowed to have “religious” offerings in our schools back then). I was quite shy at that time, and that was one of the hardest moments in my very short stage career!

In my early teen years, before The Big Alaska Earthquake, I learned to play piano when my mom bought a used one from one of the bars in Old Valdez. Mom also purchased a correspondence course for me, so I could learn to play the accordion (still one of my favorite instruments of all time). During those same years, my older-younger brother Gary (the one who was just a baby on that first trip up to Alaska) and I also learned to square dance. Mom and Dad had joined a local group who named themselves the Sour Docees (a combination of sourdough…see my “Alaska–All the Colors of White” story to read about that…and the term “do-si-do” which is a square dance move). Daddy had become one of the callers, and he and Mom were one of the best couples in the club. When Gary and I requested to learn, they got together two squares worth of us young teens, and we gave demonstrations during two  Valdez Gold Rush Days celebrations, and at various other community events.

During my junior high and high school years, I was always in band (I played cornet and occasionally other brass instruments) and choir (I was a soprano from early on). I wasn’t allowed to play drums because that’s what most of the other kids wanted to do, and others got their “druthers” before I quietly made my request. I tried to play the flute for a couple of weeks, but just couldn’t do it…it always gave me a headache. So then I thought of the trumpet (the reason for that is another story). I started on a very-well-used, battered trumpet our teacher had, and ended up loving it. At that time, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass were very popular, and I ultimately learned to play most of their music, like “The Taste of Honey” which was my favorite. My parents saved up enough money to buy me a nickel-plated cornet during my freshman year, which I had until I was about 21, when my first husband hocked it, and we could never afford to buy it back. The following year (when I was a sophomore), they purchased one for my freshman brother Gary Minish, as well (not sure whether or not he still has his).

I had the same music teacher (Mrs. Sue Miller) from the time I was in Kindergarten, until I was a junior in High School (except for the brief time I attended Main Jr. High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, while staying with friends there, after the big quake). During that time, I was able to participate in every Alaska State Honor Choir and Honor Band  trip to either Anchorage or Fairbanks…some of the best and most enjoyable musical experiences of my life.

Also, after the 1964 Earthquake, when I was a Freshman and all the way through my Senior year, my friends Vicki and Fran and I started a small folk band, that also strayed to just about anything we heard, that we felt we could handle. We loved Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Mamas and the Papas, Peter Paul and Mary, Elvis, Andy Williams, and a ton of others. Vicki and I both played piano and accordion. I played my cornet, Vicki played guitar, Fran played drums. Once in a while, there were two boys who would join us, when we needed some electric guitar vibes. After the first few times we played in public, we started getting requests, and for all four of our high school years (I graduated as valedictorian in 1968), we sang and played at many different places, at least a couple of times a week. We never did have a name for the band, though the small population of Valdez sort of named us Linda’s, Vicki’s, and Fran’s band. 😀

Mrs. Miller moved down to Texas with her husband and two kids, just before my senior year. That year (back in Valdez, at our brand new high school in “the new town”), one of the very-talented town musicians took over as the part-time music teacher. Because he already had a regular “day job,” he wasn’t always able to be at the school very often, so he deputized me and one of the senior boys (out of our tiny class of 13 students) to be his helpers for both choir and band. We taught parts and directed both entities when he couldn’t be there…invaluable experience!!!

While still a high school junior, I had met and started going with my first serious boyfriend, and (sigh) I became pregnant between my junior and senior year. So I didn’t get to finish the teaching/directing thing after Thanksgiving, when I started doing my studies at home, until after my oldest daughter was born in January (yes…I was able to stay in school until then, thanks to my dad’s intervention with the school board). Right after graduation in 1968, Jim Mock and I were married. During our 10 years together, we had four children, and I continued to be a part of any musical groups I could find, as time would allow. In 1967, though, I sadly let go of my dreams of someday attending The Julliard School of Music (now just called The Julliard School, because it encompasses much more than just music).

I never let go of the music inside me, though. As our four kids were growing up, and after our divorce and my subsequent remarriage several years later, when my “forever” husband David’s son, and then our own daughter joined the troops, I always taught them to sing and make music–mostly involving “silly songs,” folk songs, and Christmas Carols. They all participated in band, choir, and drama, to some degree, during their school years.

Throughout all of the years after I graduated from high school, wherever we moved (and that was many times), I got involved in church and community choirs plus small ensembles. For several of the smaller groups, I also played guitar (which I learned after my divorce, before leaving Alaska) and sometimes piano. In 1985, I became part of the worship team at our church in Porterville, California (playing guitar and singing lead) until shortly before Judi was born in August of that year.

In 1999, when Judi was in the Community Youth Symphony (playing flute and clarinet) in Aberdeen, Washington (we had moved there in 1992), when she was in High School, the director invited any of the kids’ instrument-playing parents to join the symphony. I was able to rent a beautiful, brand new trumpet, which I played with the Youth Symphony for one season. I also participated in the Community Choir that season.

The same year at the church where I was the secretary, a member, in the choir, and sometimes helping with the piano playing, as well as running the–very small, very basic–sound system, we also put together a Christmas concert with some others in the congregation who played instruments, in addition to our usual choir concert plus another local church choir (we performed everything at their church first, then at ours, on different nights). That was a really busy but very fun Christmas season!

Since about 2008-2017, I hadn’t been able to do much singing at all, since I had become increasingly bent over by crippling arthritis. Even when I couldn’t sing, play any wind instruments, play a guitar, and barely could play any keyboards, I whistled my way through my days, and never stopped voraciously listening to music. It has always, always, always been such a HUGE part of my life! Thankfully, in 2017 I had both hips replaced, and now (since late 2017, and onward to where we are now–2021) I am standing more erect than I have since way back in 2000, and able to walk without my walker most of the time. In addition to being able to have my own vegie garden once again, along with participating in other outdoor activities I enjoy, I’m working on once again building a vocal range. Singing has once again become a joy!

UPDATE NOTE: As of June 1, 2021, I’ve also taken up playing trumpet again. I’d prefer cornet, but I had to to go with the pricing I could afford. I’m working daily to build my lip. I’m also working with some penny whistles. It’s so good to be making real music once again! 😀

In 2015, David and I joined with (our youngest daughter) Judi and her husband Harry in purchasing a farm in the NE corner of South Dakota, near Milbank. Shortly after we all (David, myself, Harry, Judi, and all five of their children back then–eight, now) moved in, Judi began watching a group called Home Free on YouTube. She had seen them on TV, during Season 4 of The Sing Off, in 2013. I heard one of their songs playing on her computer one night, when I was sitting here in my own computer chair. I loved it, and began watching and listening, also. I’ve been 100% hooked, ever since.

So…that brings me to the next page, where I’m sharing with you all of my personally-compiled YouTube Playlists for Home Free (no longer being updated in 2021, but you can still immerse yourself in a LOT of their music, from that page). There’s a playlist for each of their full albums (most of the songs have videos, but others only have audio tracks) since they WON that Sing Off in 2013. I also direct you to their own YouTube channel (first thing on the page) so you can just go discover them randomly for yourself, if you like). I’m also sharing a playlist for a number of my favorite live performances that have been recorded by various other Home Fries (as we fans call ourselves).

I hope you’ll enjoy listening and maybe singing along. 🙂

7 Replies to “My Musical Life”

  1. It all looks right to me. I was curious about the delivery van statement because I remember it as a chevy panel suburban so I looked at some photos I have of our trip to Alaska in 1952 and found two photos that had parts of the truck visible. Based on key indicators from those photos and some Google research I have determined that it was a ‘1948 Chevy Stylemaster Sedan Delivery’. I found a picture that fits the photos best (including the two-tone color scheme):

  2. I did some searching after seeing the one in the link you posted, but I don’t think that’s it. I remember that both Mom and Dad used to call it a “Chevy Panel Truck.”

    I search for the Stylemaster and found more with the paneled back window area, but I kept thinking they were too low. With the truck we had, we kids could stand upright in the back, and even later, in my early teens, I remember being able to almost stand up in it.

    Here’s what I found when searching for “1950 or 1951 Chevy Panel Truck.”

    The second link below shows one that is almost the same color we had, and kind of the way it looked after Mom slid off the parking area by “The Morgue” (one of the bars in Old Valdez, out on the road leading to the big dock), onto the tide flats…with the tide coming in!

    First, The Morgue…Mom went off the right side of the road, if you were standing out in front of the bar…by the time she was rescued, she had been able to get out of the driver’s seat, and was standing on top of the vehicle, which was later rescued to spend the rest of its life until the quake, in a corner of our big yard, close to the circular driveway…

    Second, the Chevy Panel Truck…

    Here’s a two-tone Chevy Panel Truck…

    This one’s from 1949…I’m thinking the 1950 is closer…

    These are from 1947 – 1954…1950 still looks about right, to me…

  3. I learned that flute is actually the easiest instrument to play and learn. And yes, when you first start learning, it’ll give you a headache and make you feel dizzy, but the more you play, the less you’ll feel like that. I play flute and piccolo in our high school band. I use to play piano but quit… In Highschool, we do marching during the football season and play in the gym during basketball season. last year, we marched at K-State (Go Wildcats) and got a 1 ranking which is the best ranking you can get at the competition. My piccolo was blue and gold (our high school colors) but during band camp, it was so hot out, the paint started chipping off. It was looking bad by the start of the next school year so, I just removed as much of the blue paint as I could.. So now its silver, partially blue and gold. Despite that happening, my friend, Kelli, also got a new piccolo (hers all silver)

    Later in life, I plan on learning bagpipes (which requires good breating techniques. since my boyfriend is part Irish I figured I would llearn something hard..

  4. BH–I love that you play flute and piccolo! My daughter Judi plays flute, piccolo, and clarinet, as well as keyboards (and just about anything she has picked up, ever–even violin and viola). She also composes, and her singing voice is just gorgeous.

    I am finally able to sing once again, after having my two hip surgeries in 2017, and am really enjoying exercising my vocal chords once again. I also started trying to work with my sister’s guitar last month, but it’s too thick for me (my left shoulder still doesn’t work really well). I played guitar for many years, but had to quite that when I was so bent forward, as well.

    Here’s the guitar I’d really like to be able to afford right now (but can’t…sigh):

    I LOVE bagpipes! I sure hope you do get to learn them!

    – – – – – – – – – –

    I hadn’t even noticed the “breating techniques” until I read your correction note. My sister and daughter and I are always laughing over the things we come up with in texts back and forth, that go out when our phones correct things that don’t need correcting, and vice versa. 😉

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