The BIG DAY is coming !


The BIG DAY is coming !

I have another birthday coming up this weekend…  gonna be 72 on August the 19th (no, I’m not fishing for birthday presents, just send me a FB greeting, lol).  This will probably sound weird, and I don’t deny having a weird streak in me…  I have been planning my own Memorial Service, for when the BIG DAY arrives, or at least  planning the music part.  I suppose that may seem a bit morbid, but really, I am just trying to be practical about it. We all are gonna have a BIG DAY at some point, might as well be more or less prepared for it, right?  No different from financial planning, or planning for a retirement cottage, hmmm ?  And I get to have some small modicum of control over how it gets carried out.

Those of you that know me, know that music has been an extremely significant part of my life, and a source of immense influence and pleasure at the same time.  Music started shaping my life when I was 11 or 12 years old (1956 or ’57), and my Dad took me to a Kiwanis Club luncheon meeting at a local hotel. They always had a pretty good plate lunch, and a speaker for entertainment, usually a local high school coach to give us his preseason forecast for the local football team’s prospects, or an industry leader to fill everyone in on the new manufacturing plant coming to town, or maybe a ladies local singing group to entertain with a number of show tunes….  stuff like that.  The week that I accompanied my Dad, there was a young man a year older than me, who lived one block over from us on E. Adams St., named Hite McLean (the younger one, not his daddy the local lawyer).  Hite gave an impersonation of a new musical sensation who had just recently made a national splash on the Ed Sullivan Show, named Elvis Presley.  Now I had seen Elvis when he first appeared on Ed Sullivan, and I was mightily impressed.  Hite was dressed the part, with a black wig and long black sideburns, and accompanied himself on a box guitar singing Blue Suede Shoes, and Hound Dog, complete with all the hip swiveling moves that the real Elvis had displayed, and I was struck by lightening !   From that moment on, I knew that I would become a famous rock and roller like Hite and Elvis, and become a world famous TV star !

That night I started in on my Dad to buy me a guitar, and I never let up. It took the better part of a year, but finally on Christmas morning a black Silvertone electric guitar, complete with Bigsby tailpiece, a fancy case, and even a Silvertone amplifier so huge it took both of us to move it back to my room that afternoon. I had no earthly idea how to play it, but that was totally irrelevant.  Just hanging it around my neck and posing in the mirror, trying out Elvis moves, was enough to get started.  Later my older brother taught me a few basic things about music theory, like the names of the lines on a musical staff (Every Good Boy Does Fine) and the spaces (F-A-C-E), and I was off and running.

Fast forward a couple of years, like 1960 or so, and I had my first band, The Sweet Nothings, and we were hot stuff (so we thought). That began a long developmental period of learning new chords, new songs, different bands, steady improvement and pure addiction to this rock and roll wave that was sweeping the country.  Then I went off to Ole Miss, and the Beatles invaded America.  More lightning!  A SERIOUS bolt !  I had to start buying “Lilt” home perms at the drugstore, to straighten my curly hair, so I could accomplish a real Beatles hairdo !  I am NOT making this up.

I could go on for several pages about this, but you are already bored I’m sure. Let’s just say it started a 50 year career for me as a strictly amateur musician, made just enough money to spend it all on new guitars, new amps, sound systems, etc. and had a whole lot of fun. And the thirty odd years of the Curb Service Band, featuring the Curvettes ! – what a ride that was, but that’s a story for another day.

Along the way, about 1972, I came to be employed by a local manufacturing company who had come to Greenwood in 1960 from Cincinnati, Ohio. In fact the new plant manager they sent to manage this company moved in with his family directly across the street from our house at 303 E. Jefferson St. His name was Ed Reilly, and it so happened that I mowed his grass in the summers of 1961 and 1962, until I became too cool as a budding music star to trifle with such common menial labor.  Little did I know I would start work for the Baldwin Piano and Organ Co. a mere 10 years later.

Fast forward another 28 years to 2000, when Baldwin was in the throes of bankruptcy, and teetering on collapse, a fine 135 year old company brought down by a new but totally incompetent top management staff, brought in when the older guys retired. Such is life, and it marked the end of a fabulous period in my life, when I worked the last 20 years of those 28 as the Director of Product Design and Engineering for Baldwin.  I had the best, most personally rewarding job in the world, designing and creating fine musical instruments that were sold worldwide to hundreds of thousands of people, and enriching their lives with the gift of music.  It is a good feeling to walk into someone’s home and see one of my “children” sitting in the living room or den, and to hear the owners rave about how they much love their Baldwin.

So, yes, music is quite a great part of my life.  Although I was never a pro, never became a star performer, I had the time of my life.  So…. it seems only natural to me that I would want to try to put together a memorial service that would, when the BIG DAY came along, reflect what music has meant to me, and to my family and friends.

I think that this project may have gotten started a few weeks ago, when I had my desktop computer upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (against by better judgment), but my usual mistrust of the unknown proved to be unfounded, and Windows 10 seems to be performing remarkably smoothly for me.  This, coupled with the seemingly unrelated fact that we have been studying various composers of famous hymns in our Westminster Presbyterian Church Sunday School classes in recent week (guys like John Newton, who wrote 8 verses of probably the best known and best loved hymn of all time, Amazing Grace, and several others), led me to decide to try to download several of MY favorite hymns from Amazon Music, to just, you know, have them on my hard drive, in case I needed to put something together for a memorial service, in case I started feeling bad or something ????

Well, I compiled 8 or 10 candidates for consideration, and decided to burn them to a CD, so I could play them in the car, and listen to them all, seeing if I could pick my top 5 or 6, and then share those with Rebecca, and let her help me pick the 3 or 4 finalists for the BIG DAY. And since I know that I will have absolutely no say in when the BIG DAY will arrive, I figured now was as good a time as any to finalize this project.

In the computer field (or maybe it’s the educational field), there is an old saying “use it, or lose it” !  It refers to the concept of staying familiar with the operation of any complex process, such as a software program, or a difficult operating procedure, or else you become rusty at it, and after a certain period of abstinence, you lose the ability to do what was once routine, easy, and familiar.  Enter Windows Media Player version 12, a new part of Windows 10, a new operating system.  WMP is a music file management program, obviously, for playing your tunes on your hard drive, or from “the cloud”, or from one of your connected “devices” like your phone, or tablet.  You can see right off that this technology stuff has quickly advanced to the point that you have to have your own personal teenager to be able to navigate the twisted landscape of IT proficiency/fluency. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), all my teenagers have moved away, and are working on raising their own teenagers.  And seeing as how I have not burned .mp3 files to a CD in over 10 years, I spent 3 nights staring at the WMP graphical user interface as if it were written in Greek, or Russian, or perhaps even Martian.

Anyway, I finally came to terms with sending the files I wanted to a CD drive, putting about 9 possible cuts on there, for Rebecca and I to preview as we drove to Memphis this past Saturday for our grandson JPS III’s 4th birthday. As it turned out she loved my 4 favorites, and we agreed that not only would we use those 4 for my Memorial Service on my BIG DAY, but she wanted to use the SAME ONES for her BIG DAY as well!  I was gonna say “kill 2 birds with one stone”, but somehow that seems to not fit this narrative. The Church will like it, since they can just use the same program, same lyrics, etc, all they will have to do is change one line,  the honoree’s name. (I told you I had a weird streak in me)  LOL.

Now, I know you are all dying (oops, sorry again) waiting anxiously to know what we have picked…  I suppose I could say, “Well, you’ll just have to wait and see”, in a dubious effort to ensure a good crowd to see me off, but I really would be interested in some feedback about our choices, in case y’all just hate one, or two, or even all four picks.  So, let me insert here a few you tube links to the 4 tunes that made the cut (if I can figure out how to do that). I know how to insert pictures, and I have done a you tube link a few years ago, but (use it, or lose it) ?

Before I add the video links, let me say that I chose 4 hymns, 3 of them  fairly old, and one of the 4 is even 1,200 years old, from Ireland, but 2 of the 4 are done by more contemporary artists, and the other 2 are traditional thundering pipe organ and choir pieces.  I wanted to present a balanced mix, from soft, sweet and emotionally moving, to powerful, soaring, “rock the house and blast out the stained glass windows” statements.

I would hope folks would appreciate my choices, and that they would remember how important all music has been to me, and hopefully to those in attendance will feel the power of God’s grace and majesty in the presentation.  I would want people to know that THIS music was important to me, for the message of redemption, salvation and eternal life it still carries to the World.

I know you can’t get the full experience of a 10,000 watt sound system on your phone or tablet for this preview of what I hope will happen at the Church, but give a listen to these four below, and let me know how you like them if you want to comment, and whether they seem appropriate choices for a Memorial Service.

And the usual disclaimer applies to the links below…   I do not own the rights to any of these works of intellectual property, and present them only for demonstration purposes, If you need to contact my lawyer, at least wait til after the BIG DAY.




#1 – Festival Canticle:  “Worthy is Christ” – Richard Hillert – 1976

(after all are seated but prior to any remarks)



#2 – “Amazing Grace” – Celtic Woman – John Newton – circa. 1779

(about one-third through the service)



#3 – “Be Thou My Vision” – Selah – 1,200 yr old traditional Irish melody

(about two-thirds through the service)



#4 – “Lift High The Cross” – St. Michael’s Singers – George Kitchin – 1887

(following the benediction, and before the family exits the Church)



Now that I have a completed plan for the music for our two mutual, but separate Memorial Services, and have distributed copies of the CD’s to my three children (I hope they won’t argue over the selections), and prepared written pages of lyrics for the program, and copies of the instruction sheet for the Church sound board operator/technician, I can sit back and hope earnestly that the BIG DAY doesn’t arrive TOO SOON.   Maybe by then CD’s will have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and be a forgotten technology, and my kids can then fall back onto the thumb drives I have prepared, to be use with a laptop to patch into the sound board at the Church….    🙂



At least one of us will get to hear it live at the Church, and can maybe report to the other how it went, when meet again.   🙂

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