I didn't always love country music.. I grew up a reluctant listener. At our first house in Ontario, my dad blasted his favorite country tunes on hot summer days while we sunned ourselves by the pool. My sisters and I groaned every time we heard the voices of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams. I wanted to hear Oliva Newton John.
As a teenager, I distanced myself from country music. I loved punk and rock, not that old hillbilly music.
As a child, I watched my parents getting ready to go out. They frequented a local bar called "The White Horse" on Holt and Euclid. The bar had a three piece band and my parents danced the two step. My dad wore a light blue shirt with a denim vest, blue jeans held up by his "Big John" belt buckle and cowboy boots. My mom, whose favorite country singer was Freddy Fender, wore a denim outfit with fringe.
My dad took me to see Loretta Lynn at the Pomona Fair when I was little. I can't remember much of it other than I was there. I remember her thick, dark hair or maybe that image is from seeing "Coal Miner's Daughter" too many times. He also took us to the race track.
It wasn't until I was an adult that country music called me. I was in my twenties and working my way through Mt. SAC junior college. I lived in the back room of my parents' trailer in Pomona. I had lost my job as a waitress and vowed to only stay with them for a couple of months. My car had broken down and soon thereafter, Adrian and I had broken up. I stumbled upon one of my dad's Patsy Cline CDs and played the song "I Fall to Pieces" over and over until my mom yelled at me to turn it off.
When I transferred to UCR, my dad often came to visit me at my college apartment to bring me groceries. I lived on top of a bar. The first time my friend Emily saw him she looked surprised and asked if he was my real dad. I never let him stay very long. When he left, he kissed me goodbye and always gave me a strong hug. I always pulled away. One time when he stopped by I was listening to Lucinda Williams and he said, "That's country. You always said you hated country."
Years later, after I had graduated from law school and moved to Texas for a job, my parents came to visit me in Houston. They came all the way from Southern California on a train because my dad hated to fly. It took them three days to get there. I worked long hours at the firm and couldn't take much time off. One night, I drove my parents to a casino in Louisiana and watched my dad play poker. We spent the night and the next morning we drove home to the sounds of the Oak Ridge Boys.
After he died about five years ago, I listened to my dad's Johnny Cash collection in my search to find music for his service. It was as if my dad had come back to life and showed me music for the first time. I loved the deep timber of Johnny Cash's voice, his Gothic tendencies and his storytelling.
It brought back memories of our house in Ontario, of my dad's smile as he watched me shift the gears on his sixteen wheeler and how he always drove his old pickup truck with one hand on the wheel and a Kent cigarette in the other as he hummed along to his country music.