One of the best gifts I ever received came from my grandmother the year I was 5. I had had surgery on my right eye, and when I got home, there was a bright yellow clock radio sitting on the stand next to my bed.
I thought my little AM-only radio was the greatest thing since sliced bread. The radio stations that became my music havens were WPTR (anyone else remember Boom-Boom Brannigan?) and WTRY, both out of the Albany-Troy, N.Y., area. And on a clear night, I could pull in WKBW out of Buffalo, N.Y.
That was in the waning days of doo-wop music and the early days of rock n' roll. The British Invasion, although imminent, had yet to happen, and Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio and other folk groups reigned in the Top 40.
I remember sitting in the backseat of my Dad's car as we drove to our summer place in New Hampshire in the summer of 1963 and listening to the Four Seasons sing "Big Girls Don't Cry." (Didn't Baby do the same thing in "Dirty Dancing" 25 years later?) The song, sung mostly in falsetto, drove my mother crazy and usually resulted in a quick change of radio stations.
About that same time, I discovered my mother's collection of Broadway musical albums. I latched onto "South Pacific" and "West Side Story." To this day, I can sing each and every word of each and every song.
Mom, a musician herself, was somewhat placated by that turn of events and introduced me to classical music. I loved Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King," Rossini's "William Tell Overture" (which was theme of the popular TV show "The Lone Ranger" at the time), anything by Beethoven, but especially "The Moonlight Sonata," and Stravinsky's "The Firebird Suite."
Over the years, I've been into the British groups of the Invasion era, "bubble gum" music, heavy metal, disco and Lord only knows what else. (Did I mention Gregorian chants and recorder quartets?)
After 40 years of listening to the "golden oldies" from the ‘60s and ‘70s, I've turned my back on them. I just can't take "Ode to Billy Joe" or "McArthur Park" one more time.
I've tried to embrace the music our son, David, has listened to at various stages in his life. I enjoyed his somewhat fleeting boy band-era, which was followed by his 50 Cent and Eminem rapper phase (some I like, some is too hard-core for me). I tried, and I mean really tried, to find some redeeming quality to what he refers to as heavy metal, but Led Zeppelin it's not, and I can't understand what the hoarse screaming vocalist is singing.
David came home from college two Christmases ago, and for six weeks we listened to country. I'd never been a country fan, but as he pointed out, he's into "today's country," which is less twangy than the classic country.
At first, I laughed at some of the songs. "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" -- oh yeah, that shade of green turns me on, too, was my first sarcastic thought. "Whisky for My Men, Beer for My Horses" -- nothing like a drunk pony! "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" -- so, let's switch to "One Scotch, One Bourbon and One Beer."
But then, I started to really listen to the songs, and as time has gone by, I've come to like country music. As a matter of fact, our son and I have tickets to see Luke Bryan at SPAC in a week -- despite the fact he's back into rap music.
One of my favorite songs of all times is Don McLean's "American Pie," which came out my senior year in high school. The most "American pie" I know of is apple. I clipped this recipe from the Boston Globe when I was in graduate school. Well worth the effort and very different!
Texas Apple Pie
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 medium apples
9-inch unbaked pie crust
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine and beat together the sour cream, flour, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Pare and core the apples. Slice thin, then fold into the sour cream mixture. Turn into pie crust. Combine the remaining sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the filled pie. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees. Makes 6 servings.
One of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs is "Cheeseburger in Paradise." I have had many cheeseburgers that have been paradise. One of my current favorites (I'm really into Buffalo chicken lately) is this cheese topper for grilled hamburgers. It could also be used on grilled turkey or chicken burgers, on grilled chicken or even as a dip ...
Red, White and Blue Topper
1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
Mix cayenne pepper sauce, mayonnaise, cream cheese and blue cheese in bowl. Chill.
Top each burger with 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cheese mixture.
In a nod to country music -- although, I've never had tequila make my clothes come off and I'm not sure horses even drink beer -- I offer my new favorite drink, courtesy of one of our tailgating buddies.
12-ounce can frozen limeade concentrate
12 ounces water
12 ounces light beer
12 ounces tequila
Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher. Serve in salt-rimmed glasses filled with ice and garnished with a wedge or slice of lime.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.