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Music to my Ears

Since I was a little kid I remember how much music was a big part of my life. A lot of that credit goes to my mom and dad. They were fanatics about listening to music. A common vision from my childhood was the record player stacked with about five or six albums and many more piled on the floor. They would be played from the time I got home from school until dad finished reading the paper. One thing that happened fairly often would be dancing in our living room. We live on a corner lot that had a big picture window, large enough for anyone driving by or walking by to see our family dancing. Then of course I had the influence of my older brother and sisters but especially my brother. This was during the 70s and my brother had his bedroom in the basement. Many times the house would shake because the music was so loud. But I also heard the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, and many other bands that would influence my musical taste for years to come.
Then came that special Christmas when I received my first drum set. It was the best present I had ever received and I was only 10 years old. I played and played and soon my parents realized it was not a fad but a passion and bought me my first real drum set. I had played the drums up until a few years ago when my hands and arms no longer could make the necessary movements. My parents sat through band concerts, parades, garage bands, and me in the basement playing to music for hours a day. If I wasn’t playing the drums I was playing the air drums especially to the band Rush. Neil Peart was my idol and thankfully I have seen him live about a dozen times. Which brings me to my point: music has been and always will be a love and passion of mine. There is nothing I love to do more than watch live music. It could be at an amphitheater or just a neighborhood bar, but when you feel that connection with the performer; to me there is nothing greater.
The first concert I ever remember seeing was at Summerfest when my parents took me to see the Beach boys during a monsoon of a rainstorm. For those of you reading this not from Milwaukee, Summerfest is the greatest 10 days of live music in the world. Between the amphitheater and 10 other major stages there are probably close to 700 bands of all different varieties that will play during this music festival. As you would expect, a guy like me who loves music has spent a lot of time at this festival. I was able to partake in three great concerts in four days about a week ago. My wife and I saw the Zac Brown band, Dave Matthews Band, and Neil Diamond and they all were different and great in their own respects. They all brought energy to the stage between their musicianship, lyrics and vocals, and stage presence. During those 2 to 3 hours I escaped reality and got drawn into a different world. But while these were all great performances, there was also one very special performance I was able to witness. Many of the greatest concerts I’ve seen over the years have happened because of one very special friend. My friend John has been able to help me secure good seats to some of my favorite concerts.  He is also a musician as he plays guitar and has been involved in music a good part of his life. So we get each other when it comes to music. In fact, John and his wife bought me a commemorative brick that was installed in a new part of the Summerfest grounds; and as luck would have it, it is right next to theirs. But John was able to do something I never did: he played in a fairly successful band from Milwaukee in the 1980s called Bon Ton Society. After 20 some years John and his mates had a reunion show at Summerfest. I was in the fifth row as they walked out to play their hour-long set. I only knew one or two original songs but that never mattered. I just saw five guys about my age having the time of their life reconnecting with their music and reconnecting with the crowd. All those years John and I had talked about and listened to music together and here was my pal with his Gretsch guitar jamming with a grin on his face doing something I had always wished to be able to do. This is why I love music. The connection between an artist and the crowd in a live setting is unique and can be quite powerful.
If you’re a fan of music like I am, I am sure you can relate to this, and if not, well it is time to get the Led out! Music can connect people of all ages. I was a part of that growing up dancing with my mom and dad to Glenn Miller. And it is a part of my life now as I dance with my own kids to Katy Perry or LMFAO in my own living room. So whether it is rock, country, jazz, blues, or the Wisconsin marching band during the fifth quarter at Camp Randall Stadium enjoy some live music, it has and always will be music to my ears.

4 responses to “Music to my Ears

  1. julie ⋅

    Jim I loved reading this blog. I always talk about our family and how amazing it was to come home and have the music on until after dinner. It brought our family together and it was a great love watching our parents and brothers and sisters dance and sing. Those are some of my favorite memories. I do the same thing now with my own family. We listen to all types of music, but when it comes to the dinner hour…only Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller, big band music is played. It makes me feel “at home” and I love having my children listen to some of the best music from the past. Great memories we have bro….you were an incredible drummer Jim!!! All the music you played the drums to….whenever I hear a song it brings me back to our basement watching you with mom and dad!!!

  2. John Boler ⋅

    Hi Buddy,
    I am so glad that you had a chance to enjoy Summerfest this year and come to the reunion show. It was a euphoric experience and a once in a lifetime moment for the bandmates and myself. Wish you could have been up there too!

    You and I share special connections in many ways, beyond our passion for music. I think humor is another one of our great connection points as well. Thanks for being such a great friend over the years, spreading your joy and making this year so special for us and everyone around you by living life to the fullest. I am with you all the way, Bro.

  3. ljpw93

    Well said Jim, I have often said the same thing about our family and music – the living room in De Pere and Thiensville always filled with music – my first guitar, the hundreds of concerts I have been to in my life…..etc.etc. You are right on in saying music connects us all!

  4. Jim, I ran across your Drew Stafford in “The HopeLine” and then found this story about music on your blog. I had a college roommate who would always be pounding on his desk, playing drums with his pencils. I think of him fondly every time I hear a Rush song.

    That roommate of course was you. We had known each other for years from grade school band and sports and then coincidentally ended up as roommates freshman year in Madison.

    It was great to read about your efforts to fight this terrific battle I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

    I lost a friend and former co-worker, Sue Kettler, to ALS a couple of years ago and have a former colleague who is currently battling ALS as well. Sue’s husband Tom is very active in Defeat ALS and is a friend as well. I am shocked at the connections I have to ALS.

    God bless you!

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