Monday, February 1, 2010

Roger Miller -- An American Original

Once in a while, I hear people lament that the United States doesn't have its own musical flavor, that we borrow everythign from everyone else. Or, conversely, that while America does produce its own music, the lamentation is that it's homogenized and pasteurized, sounding the same no matter where it happens to come from.

Wrong, so wrong.

Listen to Roger Miller. The more I listen to artists like this, the more I know America does produce its own music, and very enjoyable music at that -- and that comes, much to the chagrin of the hoi-polloi, in country and folk music.

I won't say I'm a big fan of country. Folk music, however, is a different story -- and a gateway to the old-timey country that has its roots in Southern folk music that is as distinctly American as political correctness and apple pie.

I think what's homogenized is the way music is presented to Americans today. Our local soft rock station has such a tight rotation it's a good bet you will hear the same popular songs a dozen times a day, and they all pretty much sound the same. The same can be said of any country station, or, in fact, any alternative music station I've listened to. Different channels, diferent genres, but the same old, boring rotation.

So I recall where my musical tastes came from.

First, local radio. Extremely local, in the form of KID AM 590, which was the go-to station at home when I was a kid.

Then there's the Muppet Show. That's where I got my introduction to the likes of Roger Miller, Harry Belafonte, and so many others. Their eclectic approach at presenting great artists, no matter the genre, helped introduce, I'm sure, a lot of kids like me to a wider variety of music. And actors. That's the first time I saw the likes of Steve Martin, Danny Kaye, and others. Thanks, Mr. Henson.

Today, where do I go? Local radio, once again. KGTM, our local oldies station, on Saturday nights features the "Real Bob Ziel," who is about the only local DJ who does a live show. He takes requests. He talks about the music from his childhood, roaming Brooklyn -- I often wonder how he made it to Idaho -- and just shares a lot of music. If the ISU basketball or football teams aren't on the radio Saturday evenings, I'm there, listening to Bob.

Then there's the Internet. WFMU's Beware of the Blog is perfect for fueling anyone's eclectic musical taste. I won't say I enjoy everything they offer, but a fair portion of it finds its way onto my playlists.

And I still listen to a lot of classical music. Dad and Lamar Barrus at the local NPR station introduced me to that as a kid, and I still listen avidly. It would be fun to host a local classical music show, but I imagine the audience would be pretty small for that. Maybe some day when I get this iPod Touch and podcasting thing figured out. Until then, I'll listen to more Roger Miller.

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