When I was about 8 or 9 years old, mom and dad gave me a Realistic cassette tape deck for Christmas. You probably know the style--in fact you might've had one yourself at one time--top loading, plastic, with push buttons and a handle. I still have a faded blue "3M" cassette from that Christmas where we passed the machine around and recorded our voices and then played them back to see how we sounded. It's the only tape I have with the voice of my deceased grandmother and our pet bird in the background and it brings comfort and warmth whenever I listen.
Meanwhile, Ferlin Husky died last week at the age of 85. He was a country music pioneer who was popular in the 1950s and '60s. He had a deep voice and sang about love lost and other typical country music themes. Before I read his obit, I couldn't name any particular Ferlin Husky song. You might be wondering how this all fits together.
Not long after my parents gave me the cassette player, mom bought me my very first music cassette. Looking back, she no doubt found it on some sale rack. It was Ferlin Husky's "True, True Lovin'." I laugh now because no one in the family was a country music fan and, to be honest, I can't remember the specific songs on the tape. But the title and the cassette cover remain indelibly imprinted in my mind because it was my first "real" cassette and that, to a nine-year-old was a very, very big deal. Incidentally, mom visited the same sale rack not-long-after and found my "second" cassette: "Nancy and Lee: Together Again" (I think it was Nancy Sinatra and Lee Greenwood.) Her total investment back then was probably 50-cents.
Over the course of the next year, I had a great time playing with the cassette player...I would record Mark Sebastian from Q102 off of the radio speaker and I would try and imitate being a radio disc jockey. One such recording survives and is, perhaps, my first "aircheck."
Anyway, when I read that Ferlin Husky died, all of these strange memories came flooding back. I even searched and found his most famous song, "Gone," and listened. I don't think I ever heard it before. Ferlin and I had so very little in common and yet he, unknowingly, had an relatively important impact on my life back when I was a kid armed with a Realistic cassette player.