Karen Haglof,
The TVD First Date

“Fifteen months old in the high chair, the first child of a stay-at-home wife and mother whose ambition was complete at the time, having had ME. Mom played records, talked, and sang to me all day while she took care of our tiny new-construction mid 1950s suburban house, waiting for dad to come home. On that day in 1957, it was The Mickey Mouse Club song. She sang ‘EMM EYE CEE…’ Behind her in a tiny voice from the high chair came my first words: ‘KAY EEE WHYYY…’ Mom about fell over.”

“I THINK The Mickey Mouse Club record was part of our family collection, not just televised in. A couple of years later, I KNOW we had the first Alvin and the Chipmunks LP.

There was a huge console stereo in the living room of that little house, mainly holding adult fare based on my parents’ radio listening habits: Andy Williams, Perry Como, Leroy Anderson (“The Typewriter Song”), Mantovani, Mahalia Jackson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jane Morgan, Sarah Vaughn. I recall many humid Minnesota Summers lightened by Christmas carols from the Ray Conniff Singers. The soundtracks for South Pacific and Sound of Music filled my brain with emotion and dreams. I still see my Dad, young and straight and tall in the living room, conducting an imaginary orchestra to Victory at Sea.

In third grade The Beatles hit and Top-40 AM radio surged on the school bus. Shy but smart in school equalled ‘stuck up’ in those times leaving me with few friends, so I lived in my head, with an internal soundtrack pounding and liable to burst out at any time incongruously. I once sang “What’s new pussycat? Whoaa…” as I opened the art cupboard, earning my classmates’ derision and my forever shame.

But home and music were sanctuary. A red transistor radio dangled from the handle bar of my Schwinn Hollywood as I pedaled my imaginary horse up and down the street to “you need coolin, baby I’m not fooolin…” Then a record store moved into the tiny shopping center a quarter-mile walk/ bike/ horse ride from home—stacks of 45s and racks of LPs waiting to be exchanged for my babysitting money. I started my own record collection with Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe,” and later I negotiated the relocation of the living room stereo into my bedroom. I always loved those first scratchy moments when the needle hit the wax, before the song started—the anticipation of those first notes!

Then came the subsequent lessons about vinyl-keeping learned so painfully! Records do not mix with hot car interiors. Seven preteen girls doing the pony or the pogo are liable to skip the record, especially if several are jumping off the sofa during the slumber party. Records lent out are liable never to be seen again Sadly, Alvin and the Chipmunks was a casualty, lent to my seventh grade drama teacher and never returned, trust and innocence lost forever. Scratches and skips were likely to appear on records returned even from the best of friends, accompanied by the positive conviction that it was that way to begin with…

The excitement of bringing a new LP home, of ripping off the shrink-wrap, pouring over the liner notes, and occasionally the rarer inner sleeve photos or booklets, trying to decipher the hidden meaning in the “thanks” and other mentions, the inside jokes and barbs.

Oh, but my true love was 45s—those single radio hits with their immediate gratification and sometimes delayed delight in an unexpected B side. 45s on my stereo were stacked so high that the automatic changer would get stuck. LPs often suffered the same fate.

I started to pick out songs on my Contessa steel string acoustic, and think about writing my own. Dreams of being a cowgirl, or writer, or a scientist, turned to ROCK STAR. NYC here I come…

Years later in NYC, I would hunt the Tower Records 45 racks for oldies and forgotten idiosyncratic favorites, ’til the day I stopped by and found out all the vinyl was gone! It was still available in specialty ‘oldies’ shops, but gone from the mainstream, replaced by CDs. Our family played the CD of Victory at Sea at my father’s bedside in hospice—it felt distant, just like my dad… leaving this life.

I suppose my peak years are spent now and I’m on the inevitable regression. I ended up a working musician if not bona fide rock star, and picked up scientist by way of a medical degree. Now I’m writing and recording my own music, and if I could just be a cowgirl.

A couple hundred 45s are in my living room right now just waiting for the proper machine to be played on. I’ve made a couple of my own CDs, but really wanna put out vinyl!”
Karen Haglof

Karen Haglof’s Perseverance and Grace is in stores now.

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PHOTO: JOHN HAGLOF

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