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Sunday, October 3, 2010

"SHUT UP BABY, I'M TRYING TO SANG" title taken from Ray Stevens- Gitarzan

I know that I have said this before, but I will tell you again that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. I don't know if it is the fact of knowing that I am no doubt NOT going to live as long as I have already, or just the all consuming wish that I could go back to being young again just so that I could live it one more time. Never-the-less, this morning I found myself back there again, another time, another place in my life, where everything was simple, and it didn't take much to be entertained.

I have this part time job of cleaning the offices where I work. I usually do this early on Saturday morning.  So, here I was early this morning, before dawn, cleaning. There is a radio in the break room, so I thought, "what the heck". When I first turned it on, there was this 'rap' music on, which I don't particularly care for. So, I just hit the scan button and then......OH MY GOODNESS!!! what came on, you will never guess! What a Blessing this was! It was a gospel station and evidently on Saturday mornings they play nothing but Southern Gospel! YES! (You don't hear much of that here in the city) They were playing some very good oldie, but goodies..... I was ecstatic..... blaring from the box was the old quartet, The Inspirations, and they were singing "Touring that City"........well, you know me.. here I went back in time.....................

It was the year of about 1975-ish and Don and I was going to the Assembly of God Church on a regular basis. The pastor there, Bro. Sidney Razor, always played the guitar and sang in church with his wife. Don was so fascinated by this. I don't think he had ever seen anyone play the guitar in church before, at least not much. He announced to me one day that he had decided that he wanted to learn to play the guitar too! He had gotten a real desire to want to  play in church like Bro Razor. Knowing that he was serious about learning, I had a brilliant idea! Since it was close to Christmas..I would buy him a guitar for his gift.This was going to be so good! So a few months later, here I go to the music store!  Well...... I had no idea that guitars were so expensive!  Right away I knew that my $50.00 wasn't going to buy anything but a string or two! I was beyond shocked.  So, I went back home with a broken heart for thinking he would not be getting his guitar for Christmas that year..... He did get one however, but he had to go pick it out himself and use what little money we had saved to pay for it. After a couple months of being woke up at 2:00 a.m. to the tunes of  'Clementine' and 'Long, Long, Ago', and 'She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain', I was wishing that I had never laid my eyes on stupid guitar.... SERIOUSLY?

Our good friend, Billie, was going to church with us about this same era in time that Don was learning to play his guitar. She decided that if Don could learn how to play one then so could she. I can not explain to you the hilarity of these two trying to learn to play together. Fingers so sore they would nearly bleed, aggravation would be an understatement, and a whole lot of frustration! But however, I have to give credit where credit is due, they both persevered until they actually got to the place that they could play very well. They finally became good enough to change the chords easily enough and we all started singing to the tune. Before we knew it........we were headed for the big times. (Yeah right)  We then discovered that my sister in law, Dorothy, wasn't a bad singer either, so..... Well, we decided that we would just make us up a quartet!  We sang and sang and practiced many many hours until we got pretty good, so WE thought!

Somehow the word got out in the area that we were 'singers' and so we were invited down to this local church to sing at one of their special services. Neither Don nor Billie were confident enough yet with their playing to bring their guitars out in front of a crowd of people, so we asked Bro Razor to help us out along with another preacher friend that we knew... aka...Jerry Coleman... Oh, yes, and nothing do, but we had to have dresses alike. ALL of the gospel singers in those days dressed alike or at least their clothing matched, and we HAD to look the part! So I volunteered to take on the job of making us the dresses. Looking back, they were the most hideous looking things I have ever seen. You know how in the movie 'Gone With The Wind' Scarlet yanks the curtains down off of the windows and makes herself a dress out of it????? Well, let me tell you, Katy Scarlett O'Hara had nothing over on us! Our dresses were floor length, bright yellow with BIG BLUE flowers all over and a big tie bow in the back....Don in his light blue leisure suit, we girls in our big blue flower dresses, Yep, WE LOOKED GOOD!!!  Don't remember the song we tried to sing, although I am sure that one of the other three could probably tell you, but needless to say... it was a disaster! Bro Razor, and Bro Jerry's guitars weren't tuned together. I ask you, have you ever tried to sing when the music was out of tune? IT AIN"T PRETTY! We couldn't even get started on our song..Our guitar players weren't together with each other, and neither one of them was in tune with us.... We finally just all gave up, the guitars stopped playing and we sang the song acappella. No telling how many shades of red our faces turned before that fiasco was over with. (Thinking I'm embarrassed just telling the story!) We swore we would never sing in public again.

Looking back on it, it is one of the most memorable times in my life. Yes, we did sing again many many times after that... They both learned to play guitar very well and we spent many, many nights, sitting up late, singing songs that were popular at the time. We would sing songs out of the old church hymn books, we found ourselves writing a few songs and singing those too, and then songs like " Touring that City".

Yes, I miss those days, I miss the pure innocence of those days... I miss my kids being small and falling asleep in the floor, while we four sang our hearts out. I miss the laughter, of... "I can't reach that key," and  "lets just skip that E chord",  and "Why can't I do that?"

As I cleaned the break room and these old gospel classics were being played on the radio, I thought to myself, "How did I get here? What happened to me? Where did I go?" and "Where did we go?" "Where did time go?" That was only yesterday........................

This story was written a few years ago. Yesterday morning we received news that our dear friend, our partner, our confidant, our alto singer, closed her eyes for the last time here on this earth.  She is no doubt in that place that we so often sang about, the one she wrote about, in that Land of Sweet Retreat....Here is a song written sometime in the late 1970's by none other than Billie Day Lee...entitled..."Land of Sweet Retreat"

I'm traveling through this troublesome world,
singing as I go
Something's about to happen,
I can feel it in my soul.
According to the scriptures,
a rapture there will be.
I'm crossing over Jordan,
to a Land of Sweet Retreat.

I'll be crossing any day now,
my redemption's drawing nigh
I'll keep my eyes upon the Lord,
toward the eastern sky.
For that sky is gonna burst wide open,
and all the glory there will be ,
beyond the clouds of Heaven,
to a Land of Sweet Retreat.

I'm going to be walking those green pastures,
and trodding those streets of gold,
Join with all the other saints,
marching around God's throne.
I'll smile the sweetest smile,
and live in perfect peace,
I'm crossing over Jordan,
to the Land of Sweet Retreat......

Yes, I'm crossing over Jordan
to that Land of Sweet Retreat....Sweet Retreat!!!!!