Confession: I like country music

Because I’ve lived in the islands for over 40 years, most people who know me might be a little surprised to learn I really like country and western music. A Samoan friend’s Facebook comments about James Taylor’s beautiful Carolina being one of his most favorite songs led me to make this confession. Actually, I have a very eclectic appreciation for all kinds of music, but my appreciation for the country genre goes back a long way…

…to my little kid days in Salt Lake City. No, my daddy wasn’t a cowboy, but growing up in Utah in the 1950-60s, we were very much in the west…and he loved country music. He was one of those people who couldn’t seem to carry a tune, but he liked country. I recall he said once that’s all they listened to on the radio at work, and it just sank in.

I mean, we had to faithfully watch Grand Ole Opry on our black-and-white TV (along with Texas wrestling)…and over those young years it just rubbed off on me, too. I also loved the western artists: Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, Marty Robbins, Floyd Cramer, Hank Williams… I even confess that when I rent a car on the mainland I usually tune into country stations, because there’s not much CM available on Oahu airwaves.

Back on the eclectic part for a moment: Of course at the same time I was first gaining this appreciation, my parents  loved Lawrence Welk’s weekly broadcast, so we listened to a lot of polkas, band numbers, and was it the Lennon sisters trio? Then there was Mitch Miller’s TV show — also must in our house.

I also remember those days in Salt Lake City there was a series of Utah Symphony concerts, with Maestro Maurice Abravenel conducting, on Saturday mornings for elementary school kids that I  used to go to in the Mormon Tabernacle…and I still love orchestral music. My parents would let me ride the bus by myself from Sugar House to downtown Salt Lake City and back, 5¢ each way (including a transfer).

My eighth grade music appreciation teacher at Roosevelt Jr. High, Mrs. Marguerite Johnson, broadened the scope by introducing us to what were then called Negro Spirituals and even some Native American music. In fact, I still have a few Native American songs in my iTunes collection.

I grew up in the days when folk singers were very popular and rock-and-roll was really taking off. For example, I absolutely loved the Kingston Trio (including a Tahitian song they did); I saw Peter, Paul and Mary live, as well as the Beach Boys, who were fantastic; and I really liked the New Christy Minstrels.

I  just love choral music, and still consider the opportunity to sing in the East High a cappella choir under the direction of Miss Lorraine Bowman a great blessing. In fact, I had been singing in church, BYUH and community choirs ever since until  GERD recently seems to have affected my abilities…so now I just listen, with appreciation.

Or sometimes not: I don’t have “perfect pitch,” but I do have very good relative pitch, which means I can usually stay on key, hit those strange intervals, and also hear when an instrument or singer is going off-key. The latter ability, being able to detect when musicians go even a little off-key just “kills” my ears. The other day, for example, the Relief Society women in our Latter-day Saint ward sang an interlude hymn that went so flat the pianist had to stop playing…or as I describe it in Samoan: Pa’ulua mata’utia — frighteningly flat.

Of course, I absolutely love all kinds of Polynesian music — even that old-style church singing. Basically starting with my missionary experience in Samoa, it was always amazing to me how everybody seemed to know so many songs: For example, you would often hear school kids singing as the aiga buses passed by; or another time I was on a hour-long bus ride where everybody was singing the whole time.

It was also in Samoa where I met a couple of men who had been labor missionaries in New Zealand, and who used to play their recordings of Maori music, which absolutely enthralled me. Still does! Of course, moving to Laie and associating for many years with the Polynesian Cultural Center has given me ample opportunity to listen to a lifetime of outstanding island music.

In fact, I love it all.


  1. Hey Dad, you didn’t love orchestral music when I was in the orchestra… haha! I’m sure your keen sense of pitch was tried during those years, huh?

  2. Ah, those intermediate school orchestra strings often seemed like a chorus of cats to my overly sensitive ears. However, I’m so glad you were in orchestra and had the chance to go to OZ and New Zealand. Now, your work in Glee and Hö’ike…that was beautiful.

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