All right, so I was only seven in 1966 — not a child of the sixties, but a child in the sixties. And I wasn’t one of those kids who knew about popular music. I spent most of my early years in the small Texas town of San Marcos, hardly on the cutting edge of pop culture. Music came to me in a spotty, haphazard and completely disjointed way, and it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I started writing the novel MONDAY, MONDAY, a novel that begins in 1966, that I found I had suddenly tapped into one of the richest veins in American music. I was, of course, a few decades behind everyone else. I had arrived at the sixties in my fifties.
It’s not that music was unimportant to me as a kid: I liked singing. I sang along to Burl Ives records. I could sing as loud as the next kid. I remember standing shoulder to shoulder with other children on small bleachers in a small room at Crockett Elementary, belting out a song in French that none of us knew the meaning of. I thought the words were “Allawetta, John T. Allawetta.”
My dad was a politically liberal Baptist preacher who had resigned as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches to run for congress on a civil rights platform in 1961, and had lost, and had taken a job as president of the San Marcos Baptist Academy. When Lyndon Johnson became president he appointed my dad director of VISTA and then Ambassador to Australia, which for me meant a departure from San Marcos in 1967 to Arlington, VA and then, in 1968, when I was nine, to Canberra.
In Arlington I was hooked on watching the Monkees and was really into their theme song, along with “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen and “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro. But it was in Canberra that I first experienced a real adrenaline rush from music.
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