Snow Days? The Radio Guys Told Us

Originally posted April 11, 2008

For just an instant, it felt like 1970 again.

It’s been snowing pretty steadily for about fifteen hours now. The Texas Gal and I left the health club last evening after our first visit there – and I may write about that someday soon – and walked across the parking lot buffeted by a north wind carrying the wettest snow we’ve seen around here for some time. After a stop at one of the major discount stores to buy training shoes and a gym bag for me – both by adidas, the only athletic brand whose name I will wear on a shirt or cap (and that loyalty lies at the end of a long tale, which I also may share here someday) – we headed home amid the muck and settled in.

This morning, as I packed her lunch, the Texas Gal wondered if her company would be closed for the day. She was fairly certain that several of her co-workers would be working from their homes, and she wondered if the company might close its offices, given that the weather system that’s already dumped eight or so inches on St. Cloud is going to be staying here for most of the day. She turned on the television, but that gained nothing, as there’s really no local news on TV; our local stations are all based in the Twin Cities and don’t cover St. Cloud as such.

I went to the kitchen table and turned on the little clock radio, tuning it to WJON, the AM station whose studios are not much more than a block away. After the national and world news ended, the local guy started reading long lists of closings. And for an instant, it felt like 1970, when on snowy days when we would listen to Minneapolis’ WCCO on the old brown radio in the kitchen and I would hope as I ate my breakfast that the St. Cloud schools would be closed.

The names of those long-ago radio guys come back: Howard Viken, Charlie Boone, Roger Erickson, Chuck Lilligren. On snowy days, one of them was at the microphone in downtown Minneapolis, reading those long lists: “Ada public schools closed, Benson public schools closed, Chokio-Alberta public schools closed, Dassel-Cokato public schools closed,” and on down the alphabet to the S’s. “St. Charles public schools closed, St. Clair public schools closed.” And then, maybe, “St. Cloud public schools closed, St. Francis public schools closed . . .”

When I was in elementary school, snow days were a holiday, a time to sit in a cozy corner and read, maybe spending a part of the day bundled up and plunging through snowdrifts outside, perhaps joining Rick and Rob and the other neighborhood kids in a pretend universe of one sort or another, a universe that – if the snow were wet enough to stick – inevitably included a snowball fight.

By the time I was in high school, however, snow days were a mixed blessing. There would be time to read, to listen to music, to wander across the intersection and see what Rick and Rob were doing, but there would also be times when I’d have a shovel in my hands and tackle the job of clearing the sidewalks, the driveway and the paths across the back yard from the house to the garage. It wasn’t awful work, but it was drudgery compared to listening to my most recent record in the basement rec room.

All that flashed through my mind as the Texas Gal and I stood in the kitchen, listening to the announcer at WJON this morning. Some workplaces were included in the lists he read, but not the Texas Gal’s. So she bundled up and went out into the falling snow. And I turned to the laundry and then to this blog. As we live in an apartment, at least I won’t have to shovel much snow, probably just a little around our second car, the one that’s in the parking lot.

But I won’t get into any snowball fights, either.

Bobby Whitlock – It’s About Time (1999)
As long as I was feeling like 1970 for a moment, I thought I’d share an album that makes me feel like 1970, too. It’s Bobby Whitlock’s It’s About Time from 1999.

The title is apt, as it was Whitlock’s first recording since 1976 and Rock Your Sox Off. But if time has left a lot of things behind, it hasn’t left Whitlock’s voice there. On the CD’s twelve tracks, the Memphis-born musician is in great voice, sounding about as good as he did – maybe a little raspier at times – when he was playing keyboards and singing with Eric Clapton as a member of Derek & the Dominos and when he was releasing four solo albums in the early to mid-1970s.

One could quibble, I suppose, and say that Whitlock is stuck in time and has ignored everything that’s gone on in pop and rock since those days. But I listen to Whitlock’s newer work – the sweet ballad “There She Goes,” the fresh yet familiar versions of the old songs “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” and “Bell Bottom Blues,” the gospel-informed “A Wing & A Prayer” and the others – and I come back to the realization that good music is good music, whether it’s based in the conventions of 1950, 1976, 1999, or 2008.

And It’s About Time is filled with good music. (As is Whitlock’s more recent CD, last year’s Lovers, recorded with his wife, Coco Carmel.) To make the album, Whitlock surrounded himself with good talent, some with very familiar names. The credits list Brady Blade on drums; Daryll Johnson on bass; Whitlock on piano, organs and guitar; Steve Cropper, Barry Swain and Buddy Miller on guitar; Miller on electric mandolin; Jim Horn on saxophone and other horns; and Beau Whitlock, Ashley Whitlock, Bobby Whitlock and Johnson on background vocals.

Quite simply, if you liked Whitlock’s contributions to Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and to Derek & the Dominos, or if you liked his solo albums from the 1970s, you’ll like It’s About Time. It’s not easy to find; I saw one copy listed online this morning for about $80. I got mine the other week for about $40, the most I think I’ve ever paid for a CD or a record. (The Texas Gal once spent $50, I think, to get me a two-LP bootleg of The Band at the Hollywood Bowl.) My thanks go to my friend Mitch in Alabama for giving me a taste of It’s About Time before I bought it.

Here’s the track list:
There She Goes
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad
It’s About Time
Wing & A Prayer
Sold Me Down The River
It’s Only Midnite
Standing In The Rain
Born To Sing The Blues
High On You
Bell Bottom Blues
Ghost Driver
I Love You

Bobby Whitlock – It’s About Time [1999]

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One Response to “Snow Days? The Radio Guys Told Us”

  1. Saturday Single No. 70 « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] 3: It’s About Time by Bobby Whitlock, 1999, shared here April […]

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