By Jug Varner
Of the many things I enjoy in life, music has always been near the top of the list. Having been a teenager during the heyday of the big bands - Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and so many more - swing and love ballads were my favorites.
Dancing to the latest tunes at the campus drug stores was typical dating fare for high school and college kids of that era. Times were tough and money was scarce, but we could make it a “big night out” with a little change for 10-cent Cokes and feeding nickels to the juke box. Many years later at school reunions, I found that the majority of my classmates cherish the memories of those days as much as I do, and most of them still favor some of those old songs today.
Our high school curriculum included music appreciation back then, and I sang in school choirs, but never had the money or enough time away from work at the family restaurant (at no pay) for musical instrument lessons. However, I learned the words and music to many favorites of those years, most of which I still remember. Even today, I find myself humming an old tune I hadn‘t thought about for years. When I can‘t recall all of the lyrics, I reflect on it for a while, as sort of a game, and the words eventually come to me. Like background music for movies, I guess those old pop songs were the “background music” of my young life.
While my home town of Lubbock was primarily a center for cattle and agriculture, most of its urban teenagers related more to the big band sounds that captured the hearts of teens across the country than to roping, branding, and country music. School life revolved around serious studies, sports and social activities, highlighted by occasional semi-formal dances at the local hotel ballrooms with popular music provided by local dance bands. We thought we were quite sophisticated, but few had yet to travel beyond the borders of our little world in the South Plains of Texas. WWII soon changed that.
Throughout that long war, the music of the era sustained its young generation of Americans and was quickly assimilated by the youth of the various foreign countries we eventually occupied. I remember the first time I went ashore in Yokosuka, during the Korean War, how startled I was to see young Japanese entertainers playing and singing American pop songs in their native language. They loved it and so did we.
In the fifty-plus years since that scenario, American music has gone through many changes and cycles - some good and some bad. But despite the emergence and demise of various musical cultures during this time period, some of the old standards of my youth keep coming back again and again to be enjoyed by each new generation.
The numbers of us who lived in those times are rapidly diminishing, but our music will surely outlast us all.