Fremont County, Iowa

"Growing Up Singing"
by Daisy Malcom

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of Aug 12, 2013

Music really was the “soundtrack” of my youth. Until I was six or seven, the only music I heard on our farm was religious songs, for my mom, and country-western tunes for my dad. Often Daddy would grab his Gibson guitar hanging from a nail in the living room, and request that my younger sister, and I sing standards like “How Far Is Heaven?” and “The Great Speckled Bird” as he picked out the melody. Roy Acuff's and Hank Williams' voices were as common to me as those of my own family. Also, everyone was expected to sing along at any gathering. For example, when my military brothers would come home on furlough to our southwest Iowa farm, we all enjoyed staying up late as our family of 12 celebrated their return with song.

My six brothers, one of whom had his own band, knew how to play the guitar so I wanted to learn too. The instrument was pretty big for me to handle, so my oldest brother said I could use his mandolin to learn the chords. He said if I eventually learned to play it as a mandolin rather than as a guitar, I could have it when he returned from Alaska where he was stationed. I’m sorry to say I never did earn that mandolin and every time I hear the song “Mandolin Rain,” I still regret that missed opportunity.

In the mid 50’s, however, the rock-n-roll explosion signified by Elvis Presley’s swinging hips made me want to learn not only to sing but also to dance. Although Mom with her strict religious tenets frowned on dancing, she was realistic enough to know that her kids had heard the beat and would probably follow it. As long as we didn't flaunt our new movements in front of her, she was pretty tolerant. I remember coming home from school in the afternoons, running upstairs to my older sisters’ shared bedroom and practicing the latest moves displayed on American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark.

Then in the early 60’s, the music that changed my life came on the scene. Ed Sullivan brought the Beatles and the British invasion to the U.S.---and the whole world to me on that Iowa farm. Those mop-haired boys, their independent lyrics and their songs’ driving beat broadened my awareness and made me long to travel. Never again would my music world be restricted to a couple types. I wanted to enjoy all genres and visit places where those various songs originated. I’m happy to say I have visited many of those places since then, including Liverpool where the Beatles sound originated, and love every kind of music from opera to show tunes to hip-hop---with a special spot in my heart for the strumming of a guitar.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau