When the Toyota Tundra was delivered to me last week to test drive for 7 days, as part of your 3rd birthday gift from me, the SiriusXM radio was set to a jazz station.
In theory, jazz is technically my favorite kind of music.
However, considering the vehicle I was driving, it just felt wrong while going the quarter of a mile from my office to your school.
In fact, I almost think that any new Toyota Tundra should automatically come with a cowboy hat…
So, I changed the station to Country music.
After your intial ecstatic reaction to seeing the truck for the first time and I got you buckled in, you asked me, “Daddy, what’s that music playing right now?”
“That’s Country music, son.” I explained.
It was about that time that we discovered the entire back window behind you rolled all the way down with the simple flip of a switch.
That, combined with the moonroof being up, created the ultimate “pick-up truck convertible” situation as we cruised through the constant red light stops of Cool Springs, TN as Willie Nelson played through the stereo.
The next morning, and every day I didn’t automatically set the station to Country, you simply requested/mumbled:
“Country music, Daddy.”
It wasn’t until this past week that I even realized you had no idea what Country music even was.
Growing up in the same small town as the band, Alabama, it was a given that the first (and main) kind of music I heard when I was a boy was Country music.
Granted, our family lives in Nashville, so it’s about time you know what Country music is about.
You were born in this city.
So maybe I need to do a better job of introducing you to more Southern culture.
I’d say getting to ride around in a huge pick-up truck while listening to Country music the week following your 3rd birthday is a good start.
Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.
This evening while Mommy was buying groceries, you and I played with the Dollar General version of Play-Doh, called Craft Dough.
With your 5 pack of Craft Dough came a very rare color… black.
You decided to make a camper for your Dodge Ram pickup truck, so you began stuffing the bed with black dough.
In the process, you picked up your St. Peter action figure and his boat, and stuck them in the back of the truck, then stood Jesus on top of a couple containers of Craft Dough nearby.
You ended up nixing the whole camper idea altogether and I got to hear the dialogue of the new plot line:
“Jesus, I gotta drive my truck and take my boat. Do you want to go?” Peter asked.
“No, I’ll just stay here today,” Jesus replied, in your falsetto voice.
I immediately began imagining a new kids’ show which featured favorite Bible characters in a modern day setting.
Yeah, that wouldn’t go over well at all…
But just the thought of Jesus and Peter as buddies who drive pickup trucks and take the boat for a spin out on the lake, instead of the familiar “walk on the water” story everyone knows, it’s pretty much hilarious to me!
In the process of trying to find Biblical action figures last Christmas, which you asked for by the way, I noticed there weren’t a lot of toy companies that made them.
Not only is there probably not an abundance of toy companies who are willing to make religious action figures, but there’s also the fact that those toys may very well end up in random activities which are more likely to show up in the lyrics of a Country song than they are in a sermon.
To be honest, I’m suprised it’s actually taken you this long to crack me up with your inevitable and accidentally humorous (and somehow seemingly inappropriate?) use of Jesus and St. Peter action figures during playtime.
My favorite song on Country music radio right now is one about a man whose brother was killed in the war and who drives around his brother’s pick-up truck as a form of therapy.
You’ve heard Mommy and I sing “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice enough times that you started singing it too.
However, I feel that your version of the song misses the sentimental and emotional aspect that songwriters Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary intended.
Your version is more of a lighthearted comedy:
“I drive you truck… it was accident!”
Whether you unintentionally rewrote the lyrics on the spot or whether you honestly thought those were the words, I can’t not laugh when you sing it.
The funniest part about it is how you assume you did something wrong, by mistake.
I picture you beboppin’ around a parking lot, stepping in to someone else’s truck, and driving to the other side of town before realizing… you have the wrong truck! And I picture all of this happening with you being your current age and height.
As your vocabulary is expanding, you are learning new words to fill in the blanks when you don’t know what the right words are. This story is a great example of that.
One phase you’ve recently picked up is, “Are you kidding me?”
You haven’t quite got the expression of it down, though. When you say it, it’s more monotone, but then you laugh at yourself for saying something you know will make Mommy and me laugh, even if you don’t know why we think it’s funny.
I see how you are figuring out in your head how to be a comedian. Strangely, one of your first cases involves a very good, but not funny, Country song.
Today my son Jack asked me to turn on the TV so he could watch Elmo on Netlflix.
By “watch” I mean “point to Elmo when he appears on the screen then let Sesame Street serve as background noise as Jack plays with his toys.”
And by “asked me” I mean he simply pointed at the TV and said “On?”
But his version of “on” was pronounced “own.” Whereas when I say the word to him to teach the difference between off and on, I pronounce it as “ahn.”
We live in Nashville, Tennessee. It assumed that people here speak with a thick Southern accent, if for no other reason, because this is where all the Country music stars live.
But the thing is, most of those Country artists moved here from Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, or some other state in the South. And if they are actually from Tennessee, they’re from a good hour outside of Nashville.
Visit Nashville and you will find that most people here don’t actually have a thick accent. Instead, you may here some Indiana or Maryland or Colorado in there instead.
Like my wife, for example, who is from Sacramento, California. And even though I was raised in the South, I don’t have the accent to prove it because my mom was raised in Buffalo, New York.
So Jack is being raised in a major Southern city consisting of a very high concentration of transplants and internationals, by two parents who don’t sound like they are part of the cast of The Dukes of Hazzard or The Beverly Hillbillies.
I predict that though he may have some Southern tendencies regarding his accent right now, when it’s all said and done he will talk the way I do. Like he’s from Louisville, Kentucky or Cincinnati, Ohio.
In other words, a virtually untraceable American accent.
On top of all this, have you ever noticed how Southern accents are extremely rare and underrepresented on TV?
When a character on a TV show or movie is from the South, they often embody a negative or theatrical stereotype, like Sawyer on Lost.
Or even if the actual actor is from the South, they neutralize their accent to be taken more seriously in the world of entertainment.
NBC’s The Office is a prime example of this. The actors who play Andy, Kevin, and Angela are real-life Southerners who don’t show it in the way they speak.
Based on my own unprofessional (!) Wikipedia research, about 35% of Americans are Southerners speaking with a Southern accent. Population-wise, if my assumptions are correct, more Americans speak in Southern dialect than do Midwestern, Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Western, or any other American accent that exists.
So when we watch TV and movies, we are more likely to hear neutralized accents than we are to hear the same accent that the actual slight majority of America actually speaks.
I believe my son’s “own” will eventually become “ahn” when he tries to say “on.” But I guarantee you that, like his parents, he will still use the word “ya’ll.”
He may pronounce it “yahl” as opposed to the true Southern way, which is “yawh,” in which no actual “L” sound is heard, but at least there will be a little proof he is a Southerner based on how he speaks.
Not to mention the whole “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” thing; which, as his dad, I will make sure he says, ensuring his status as a true Southern gentleman.
For this past Father’s Day, I received a card from my wife, a card from my son (whose handwriting looks suspiciously similar to my wife’s), and Brad Paisley’s new CD, This is Country Music. It was just perfect.
How could I, the guy whose passion is to positively re-brand fatherhood, not be a fan of a genre of music that respects the idea of family and faith?
Despite living my whole life in the South, I don’t have a Southern accent. Nor do I drive a pick-up truck, wear Wrangler jeans, or know how to rope a calf. But I ama proud fan of Country music. Not only did I meet my wife in 2006 because of it (we met while waiting in line for a taping of the CMT show Crossroads in Nashville), but I grew up in the same small town as the legendary band, Alabama.
While I can’t personally relate to the songs about tractors, cheatin’, and honky tonk badonkadonks, I can relate to the way Country music is brave enough to be simple and honest.
In other forms of music, like Rock, it’s not quite as acceptable or natural or cool to talk about your wife and kids. Or to mention that you love Jesus, without it being ironic somehow. In other words, Country music, more than any other genre, holds the strongest value for family and faith.
I am very sensitive to sexism; especially in music, because music is so influential on our culture, whether we are willing to accept it or not. And this goes for not only Rap music where it is common to openly degrade women to the standard of sex objects in bikinis at pool parties and refer to them as words that are not in my vocabulary, but also in Pop music where it is normal for man-bashing to be common.
Honestly, I don’t care what kind of music it is, if it negatively stereotypes either women or men, it bothers me. I don’t take it lightly. Both women and men deserve respect and honor, not to be damned into a stereotype of bimbos and idiots.
But with Country Music, it’s not something I really have to think about. Because for every “you’re a no good liar” type of Country song that exists, there are a dozen “I love my wife and kids” songs to overpower it. That’s not the case in other genres.
Granted, I don’t just listen to Country. I love Jazz, 90’s Alternative, and anything in the likeness of Guster and Pete Yorn.
But when I hear a song like “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington, or “Love Without End, Amen,” by George Strait, there’s a connection there that just can’t be matched by even the coolest, trendiest Rock star.
“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,
A secret that my daddy said was just between us,
You see, daddies don’t just love their children every now and then,