Please remember re. my generation, the boomers, that we took our time getting into the real world. I heard a cultural observer say this once and it stuck in my mind. The generation gap was a real phenomenon. It wasn't just an ethereal, whimsical thing said of our generation based on some superficial traits.
I say this by way of introduction to how I spent a portion of my young adult years. At first I balked at being a member of the Tempo Kings dance orchestra. But I finally went ahead when I realized it would counter the boredom in my life. Boomers had to deal with boredom when young. We didn't have all the gadgets of today to stimulate us. I played in the Tempo Kings and I suppose I should be proud of it. We should try to be proud of all the chapters in our life. The idea is to be glass-half-full.
As a band we catered to the World War II generation of older people. We owed a debt to those people we could never repay. They saved the world in WWII and then created the great American middle class, something we took for granted at the time. Think of the "Wonder Years" TV show: a father with a job so boring he didn't much wish to talk about it.
And, how did they confront that boredom? How did they combat the mundane tone of their lives? No retreat to the Internet. How did the men try to erase the hell of their WWII memories? They flocked to bars and private clubs. They danced. They joined fraternal and veterans service organizations. The private clubs could boast of doing laudable things. No debate over that. But the "extracurricular activity" seemed a little pointless and destructive. They drank. Boy, did they ever drink. Did you ever observe a Shriners convention in the 1970s? Ray Stevens put out an album called "Shriners Convention." BTW Ray has a fine TV show today that airs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday nights on the RFD channel. It is preceded by the Marty Stuart show at 7 p.m. This is my favorite hour of TV viewing all week. Please tune in.
Highway stretching north
I was with the Tempo Kings band when we played for a Shriners convention that I understood covered five states and two provinces of Canada. This was at the Grand Forks ND Auditorium. We played at that auditorium several times. I know what you're thinking: Sheesh, Grand Forks is a long ways away. Yes it was. We'd get on that ribbon of Interstate Highway between Moorhead and Grand Forks. Very serene and therapeutic to drive through - scant evidence of civilization in places. Topography flat as a board. No wonder the Red River floods all over the place. We'd look for certain billboards. I'm not sure why musicians from western Minnesota were enlisted to play for gigs so far away. But it sure as heck happened.
The late Oren Budke of Fairmount ND ran the Tempo Kings. It might seem exciting to have made those trips to play music. I suppose I should have it proudly on my resume. However, keep in mind the old expression about how "nothing good happens after (specify a certain late-night hour)." I saw no constructive behavior at the functions where we played. People consumed ever more alcohol as the evening progressed. Many got silly in a way that people back then would laugh about the next day.
Don't forget hot water bottle
Remember that old comic strip called "The Better Half?" Remember that middle-aged husband, living his most humdrum life, seated at the kitchen table in the morning in his white sleeveless T-shirt, unshaven - a water bottle on his head! - recovering from a night with the kind of activity I'm describing? This whole milieu of foolishness was the template for many of my elders. God bless them on how they survived the Depression and WWII. But their later adult years could devolve into pointless fun-seeking, lubricated by alcohol. They played the jukebox at the VFW Club on Friday or Saturday nights.
I had a classmate whose name I certainly won't type here, who said she and her sister got teased because their parents had such a notable reputation of hanging around the VFW Club and maybe the Legion too. Stumble home at around 1 a.m.
I'll say over and over: bless these people. But they weren't even the best parents. They let their kids run wild. Their kids developed drug use habits that went unchecked. They left their kids on their own with too much idle time - the devil's workshop. It truly was the devil's workshop to an extent the parents either didn't realize or were in denial about.
Us kids should have been self-starters.
Members of the Tempo Kings orchestra itself could abuse alcohol. I was associated with some high school band directors from western Minnesota who could abuse alcohol. No one worried about DWIs back then. Chris Matthews of MSNBC described a typical encounter between an apparently inebriated driver and a cop: The cop would peer into the window and say "are you sure you're in good enough shape to get home?"
Today we have elevated the bar so high, for proper and safe behavior. Today you can get a citation for simply not wearing your seat belt. We could not have imagined this back in the 1970s.
So, my generation took its time getting into the real world with all its obligations. We took too long getting through college. We might pick a college major with no apparent connection to doing anything constructive the rest of your life.
Would boomers confide?
Oh, we sought frivolity. If your parents are boomers, maybe you could ask them about this, and most likely they'll be in denial and not say much, if anything. Leave those memories in a dark closet.
The '70s were dysfunctional in many ways. We got disco music, which we consumed even while joking about how devoid of art it was. We really had to deal with boredom. One of the biggest accomplishments of the modern age is our absolute conquering of boredom. We have swung to the opposite extreme, actually, to where our safety can be endangered by distractions caused by all our devices. Remember the typical bad guy characters in the "Dirty Harry" movies? Those characters really needed social media. Social media can lift up your self-esteem. We can trumpet our presence in God's big world. We can't really get lost in anonymity. There's no excuse to be bored.
I used to go to the library to maybe read Time Magazine. Now I can get on a computer and really enjoy myself.
The Tempo Kings dance orchestra left its mark, to be sure. As a nit-pick, let me say that when our bass player Dave Nelson of Fargo ND passed away, I was discouraged by how he was not replaced. No bass player: that simply didn't work, IMHO.
I doubt that I ever benefited from my dance band experience. Really I should have had a lifestyle where I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. every night and went to church every Sunday. Hindsight is easy. Our cultural environment can change and certain behaviors get supported more. Today the responsible behaviors are supported so much more. In the '70s we dragged ourselves through pointless behavior.
I remember discussing all this with Jerry Jesness. Somehow we got to talking about obscure obligations of the adult world such as being township clerk or treasurer or whatever. Horrors, if we had been obligated to do this stuff when we were around 20 years old! But then we realized as we got older, as Jerry explained, that "someone has to do this stuff."
A style like Sammy Kaye
The Tempo Kings played dance music that was very much like the Sammy Kaye Orchestra. Remember them? It was a so-called "sweet band." Sammy's tag line was "swing and sway with Sammy Kaye." His signature tune was "Harbor Lights" which we in fact played. He was a hit on radio. He was known for an audience participation gimmick called "So you want to lead a band."
Shortly after the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, Sammy wrote the music and Don Reid the words to "Remember Pearl Harbor." Sammy had shows on network television when that medium was in its infancy. Just think of the movie "My Favorite Year" which is one of my favorite movies.
Sammy was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992. He left this world for that big ballroom in the sky in 1987. I found his music to be quite agreeable.
I remember playing with the Tempo Kings for the Glenwood Waterama Button Dance in the summer of 1973, my first summer after high school. I could definitely have spent my time in a more constructive fashion. But then, it is a chapter of my life. Let's raise a toast but not with alcohol. Close your eyes and hear the song "Harbor Lights."