John Greaves and His Love For Country Music

  • John Greaves and His Love For Country Music

    Posted by Tom Greaves on January 16, 2023 at 4:33 am

    My late father, John Greaves, who taught some of you mathematics, was a country music fan. Many Saturday mornings at the Greaves home in Hastings were filled with the airplay from CHEX in Peterborough. This was my introduction to the likes of Hoyt Axton, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Tanya Tucker, and others. I can easily conjure up the memory of “Before the Next Tear Drop Falls” playing on the juke box in the Ladies and Escorts room at the Royal Hotel in Hastings, though I understand the hotel is no more. Like all self-respecting and knowledgeable teenagers, I mostly loathed my parents’ music but, stay with me, I later became a fan.

    Saturday afternoons the balance of power shifted, and the radio dial belonged to my mother. Remember, this was before the Sony Walkman and earbuds. She who controlled the dial, controlled what we all listened to. In those days, Texaco sponsored a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City at 1 pm. Every Saturday, we had a jarring transition from country to city, from CHEX to the CBC. I was not a big fan of Verdi, Puccini or Donizetti as an unruly teenager. Today I am but that’s another story.

    What’s this got to do with hillbillies? Thirty some odd years ago I moved to Boston and one Saturday morning I happened across the WHRB (93.5 FM) broadcast of Hillbilly at Harvard, Boston’s original country-music jamboree – what a find for a homesick Canuck. Mind you, bluegrass has a long tradition in New England. Walls of Time by native son Peter Rowan — who hails from Wayland, Massachusetts and played with bluegrass icon Bill Monroe — is one of my favorites. Play the Ricky Skaggs version at my funeral, please.

    Here’s the kicker. I nearly drove off the road that Saturday morning when Cousin Lynn or Ol’ Sinc who hosted Hillbilly at Harvard, announced the WHRB broadcast of Live from the Metropolitan following their program. The “opry” broadcast is a fixture of WHRB programming on Saturday afternoons and to this day, Cousin Lynn plugs it hard. Full circle, I was home that Saturday.

    Country to classical? Fiddler Mark O’Connor has toured with country giant Zac Brown and his band’s cover of “Ruby, Are You Mad at your Man” is as good as any I know. O’Connor is equally at home in the classical genre, and it was my good fortune to hear him conduct the Phillips Andover orchestra playing some works by Samuel Barber. Knoxville: Summer of 1915 transports me. The homogenized chord progressions of a lot of today’s country music don’t do it for me, but maybe that just means I’m getting old and grumpy.

    Alas, my father didn’t get to know my children. But this year, my daughter Emma serves as President of Harvard’s student-run WHRB station. She told me at Thanksgiving dinner last month that she first heard about WHRB when it filled the airwaves of our home. And so it goes, round and round. That old Shaker melody Simple Gifts runs in my head as I write this down. Your children may be listening, even if you don’t know it.

    Tom Greaves replied 1 year, 4 months ago 1 Member · 0 Replies
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