Al Muskovitz – Vinyl Memories
I trust you had a great Thanksgiving. I’m still de-bloating from overindulging in stuffing made with Dakota Bread challah that by the end of my third helping made me look like I was in my third trimester.
In what I hope will become a new holiday tradition, we pulled out a record player and spun my old albums that we found boxed up in the most inaccessible to reach, darkest, spider-webbish corner of our storage room.
It was a treat to see the look on the “youngins’” faces as they listened in amazement to the sounds emanating from the wax disks, especially when scratches repeated lyrics off my Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely (lift needle, gently place back down) Hearts Club Band album.
To say my collection is eclectic would be a vast understatement. Besides the Beatles, we flipped through the Supremes, Moody Blues, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Streisand and Sinatra albums that co-mingled with Alvin and the Chipmunks, Captain Kangaroo’s Songs and Dances, and Detroit Tiger Denny McLain playing his Hammond Organ.
Some of my early comedic influences were represented. My George Carlin album showed that I was at least “somewhat” hip at one point in my life. That status was downgraded when I introduced my kids to my “Jose Jimenez Talks to Teenagers” album, the character made famous by comedian Bill Dana.
Dana, born William Szathmary and of Hungarian Jewish descent, made a career out of the affable Hispanic gentleman he created and introduced on the Steve Allen Show in 1959. Eleven years later, out of respect to Mexican-Americans, he famously killed off Jose in a mock funeral as a new era of political correctness was slowly coming to the fore of our social consciousness.
Speaking of politics — another of my comedy albums that awakened from its decades long hibernation — was a parody that first inspired me to do impressions. It was hysterical the day it was recorded on Oct. 22, 1962, but a historical relic exactly 13 months to the day after it was produced. The album: The First Family featuring John F. Kennedy impersonator Vaughn Meader.
At the time, it was the fastest-selling record in the history of the industry; a million copies sold per week in its first six weeks. The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1963 beating out Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco. But then our hearts were broken on Nov. 22 with the assassination of JFK. As our country mourned, Meader’s career went from riches to rags.
A fascinating footnote: Meader’s The First Family was recorded before a live studio audience who had no idea that at the exact same time President Kennedy was delivering his haunting Cuban Missile Crisis address to the nation. It has often been said that tragedy plus time is comedy. On Oct. 22, 1962 the two nearly occurred simultaneously.
OK, hold on. I can’t end my last column of 2017 on such a dour note. There’s got to be something uplifting I can leave you with — something you can look forward to in the coming new year.
I’ve got it! There’s a new reality show debuting this January on WE TV! From the producers of 90 Day Fiancé comes Love After Lockup, featuring men and women who are in love and were both in prison at one time. Ain’t that beautiful?
On second thought, I think I’d rather listen to my Alvin and the Chipmunks album on a loop. Did you hear that Alvin? Alvin? Alllllllllviiiiiiiiin!
Happy, healthy New Year, everyone!
Support the Detroit Jewish News Foundation
Support the educational mission of the independent, nonprofit Detroit Jewish News Foundation.