Tag Archives: J.P. Richardson

From Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean

29 Sep

Last week, the students in History of American Music discussed All Shook Up: How Rock n’ Roll Changed America, a book by Glenn Altschuler about the early days of Rock n’ Roll. It was a great discussion about music, society and all kinds of stuff. We even threw a little religion in there. I guided as they talked, but I was also thinking about a book that several of those students read for another class.

Last year, I taught Expansion of the United States and had them read The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, a book by Glenn Frankel about the difficulties caused by the mixing of history and myth. On the surface, this book has nothing to do with the other one. However, there is one connection that ties them together, and it is not the fact that both writers are named Glenn. It is a chain of events that links a tragic episode in the American West to a tragic episode in Rock n’ Roll.

On May 19, 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from her home by a Comanche raiding party. Her family had settled on the Texas frontier and faced the dangers of that decision. Her uncle searched for her but, after several years, gave up. Cynthia Ann grew to adulthood as a Comanche and raised a family. Years later, she was recaptured and brought back to the Parker family. She never recovered from being ripped twice from the world that she knew.Cynthia Ann Parker

In 1954, a novel by Alan Le May was published. It was called The Searchers and told the story of a man on an epic search to find his abducted niece. Although he studied many abductions, Le May’s story is similar to the Parker saga. However, the book ends differently than real life. The uncle does not give up. Instead, he is killed by a Comanche woman.Alan Lemay

In 1956, John Ford and his stock company traveled to Monument Valley make The Searchers, a film based on the book. John Wayne starred as the uncle looking for his abducted niece, played by Natalie Wood. It is considered by many to be the greatest of all Westerns and Wayne’s best performance. The audience does not know what will happen when he finds her, but, in the end, he takes her home.images-5

On February 25, 1957, Buddy Holly, a Texan, recorded “That’ll Be the Day“, a song inspired by Wayne’s catchphrase in The Searchers. The song reached Number One and was the first song recorded by The Quarrymen, who are better known as The Beatles. On January 23, 1959, Holly died in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson.Buddy Holly

On March 14, 1971, Don McLean debuted a new song at a concert in Philadelphia. “American Pie” is believed to be about the changing musical and cultural landscape of the 1960s. It begins with “the day the music died”, which most people think is a reference to Holly’s plane crash. After all, “them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this’ll be the day that I die.”Don McLean

Yeah, that is where my mind went. I connected two books from two different classes. It probably looks weird, but there are some things that cannot be denied. One of those is a direct historical line from Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean.



Mindful Meanderings at Music at the Mill

16 Feb

Last night, we went to Music at the Mill, a fundraiser for a local private school. Music at the Mill

A lot of people turned out to watch singers in various stages of their careers – some were searching for the spotlight while others were fading from it. Most of them did a great job, and a great time was had by all. Although, the Willis Clan stole the show. If you like Bluegrass and some old Irish tunes, then you need to check them out.

Collin Ray was the headliner. He is someone who I have heard of, but I was not sure what he sang. It turns out that I recognized several of his songs. However, it was a couple of other tunes that sent my mind on one of its meandering journeys.

Collin talked about the influence that Glen Campbell has had on his career and mentioned that he has put together a tribute album. As a sampling, he sang “Galveston“, one of Campbell’s signature tunes. It was a good rendition, although Collin Raye cannot touch Glen Campbell’s guitar skills.

Later in the set, he sang Don McLean’s “American Pie“. Most people, including me, sang along, but my mind also went into another direction. As people sang the chorus, I started connecting trivial dots.

“The day the music died” references the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper. “This’ll be the day that I die” is an homage to Holly’s song “That’ll Be The Day“. To take this thing further down the rabbit hole, Holly was inspired to write that song after watching The Searchers and hearing John Wayne, as Ethan Edwards, say, “That’ll be the day.”

So, listening to Collin Raye sing a song by Don McLean made me think of something that John Wayne said in a movie. However, it did not stop there. That is when I realized that he had just sang a song by Glen Campbell, who starred with John Wayne in True Grit, the movie that won the Duke his Oscar. These days, many critics think that he should have won the Oscar for The Searchers and that the win for True Grit was a lifetime achievement award to make up for it.

As I said, most people were singing, but my mind was meandering.