Childhood Music and History
I grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey. Some would say, "South Jersey, or in the country". My childhood friends jokingly described this area as "Bear Country". What an exaggeration of the truth. It was a region of the state that supported apple and peach orchards, small family farms, a state teacher's college, closely bound communities, good swimming and fishing lakes, fine home cooking, and church going African American people who were mostly implants from the "old south". God knows it was a good place to raise a family. My hometown was only twenty minutes or so from Camden, New Jersey and Philadelphuia, Pennsylvania. New York and Atlantic City were only an hour or so away by car.
Both maternal and paternal sides of my family(Bright and Harris) were musically talented. They sang or played musical instruments initially "by ear" or without formal training. I grew up in a house with a piano and organ and remember my uncle Dan Harris coming by my house to teach me how to play the song "I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire" on the piano. However understanding the lyrics was far beyond my comprehension at that age. My cousin Kenny Cook was an exceptional and naturally talented musician. He was primarily a keyboard player. I played the guitar in his band when I was in high school, and we played gigs at night clubs in South Jersey. Gil Lewis played alto saxophone in our group. As a teenager, he could listen to a recorded jazz track and then play the exact solo after several practices. Shirley Cook, Kenny's sister and my cousin, could sing better than Aretha Franklin(that's my take). She was good. My aspiration to be a musician died on the vine due to a lack of talent, enrollment in graduate school, and the fact that my guitar was burned up in a pawn shop during the Washington, D. C. riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King. This ended my guitar playing at local D. C. night clubs to make school money. School obligations and lack of serious interest in the guitar followed.
Talented musicians like Norman Connors frequently came by my home in Glassboro to chat about music or just socialize. We had regular jam sessions in my parent's basement, and friends such as Wilbur and Richard Fennel often participated. Older brothers of my chilhood friends made sure that we, as younger students of music, kept abreast of what was going on in the larger world of music. Dancing to James Brown was cool, but we had to know what Miles Davis ate for lunch. They constantly questioned us about who was who and what was what in music. On Sundays, it was mostly about music in church. If you were lucky, after church you could slip over to the Track in Merchantville, New Jersey or the Dew Drop Inn in Palmyra, New Jersey. The band was driving and grooving. Beautiful ladies were dressed in their Sunday best. Do you remember the time?
Music lovers go to: The Emergence of the Hammond B-3 Jazz Electric Organ in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York Area.
I would like to extend my appreciation to the late Mrs. Mary Abner Hines. She lived at 30 Lake Street, down the street from Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Glassboro, New Jersey. During the 1950s-1960s, she formed a choral group for Glassboro teenagers. We sang songs from New York Broadway shows like "Oklahoma". She took us to an entirely different and valuable place in music and culture. In addition, we had something constructive to do in our spare time. Thank you, Mrs. Hines, from all of us.
Dr. Don Harris