My husband and I used to keep a basket of Cash in our living room, just to have it handy. We liked having our Cash easily accessible so that at any time we could grab some out of the basket, on a whim, and pop it into our CD player. Of course, I’m talking about Johnny Cash.
My husband was a young adult when he first became interested in Cash, but I grew up with Johnny. I heard his music on country radio playing in the barn and from my parents’ records playing on the stereo in our family home. We always had plenty of Cash on hand — from the big hits like “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” to the lesser known gems such as “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” and “The One on the Right Is on the Left.”*
My husband and I acquired our first together Cash in 1990, shortly after we purchased out first CD player. “Classic Cash” from the Hall of Fame Series gave us 20 of Johnny’s hits, which kept us afloat for a couple years. But then we needed more. We started collecting his American Recordings as they were released, and we picked up older Cash on vinyl from garage sales. After Johnny died, we acquired several boxed sets of his vast recordings, along with “long lost” music released from his vaults. We’ve heard rumors that more collections may be coming, and we’ll likely get them when available.
Since it seems we can’t get enough Cash, the basket no longer is sufficient. So now we keep our Cash in a drawer.
*You’ll find both of these songs on Johnny’s “Everybody Loves a Nut” album.
Although I’ve never been to L.A. International Airport, I know that it is “where the big jet engines roar.” I didn’t know I knew this until I experienced a road trip revelation. When I heard that classic country song on the radio, to my surprise I started singing along. I didn’t recall being much of a Susan Raye fan, good 1970s singer that she was, but I knew the words to her airport lamentation. It wasn’t hard to figure out why.
As I sang along with Susan, no longer was I in the car, tooling down a Midwestern highway with my husband. Instead I was transported via audio back to the dairy barn of my youth. Evidently L.A. International Airport imprinted on my brain back when I used to milk cows, feed silage, and carry out other farm chores with my father and my family, all while listening to the barn radio. Whenever my dad was in the vicinity, that radio was tuned to the country music station.
Classic country music accounts for many of the songs in my head — and by classic country I mean mainly 1960s and ’70s country. It’s cow-milking music, the music of my farm-kid youth. It rattles around in my head along with ’70s rock (from when Dad wasn’t in the barn) and ’80s pop from my college years, as well as hymns and gospel music — from church and my parents’ record collection.
But most often it’s that old country music that I’ll find myself singing along to, whether I hear a song on the radio or in a random YouTube video. Sometimes a song starts playing in my mind for no reason I can discern. Then come the memories — of home and farm and family.
Once in a while, a song will trigger a memory strong enough to make me cry, as was the case with L.A. International Airport. I don’t know why that particular song affected me so. Perhaps because I hadn’t heard it in decades. Maybe when I was a kid I had liked the song more than I realized. Or possibly the repetition of the last line of the chorus — “I won’t see him anymore” — was enough to spark my tears. (My dad died 12 years ago.)
Although L.A. International Airport and the other songs in my head occasionally give rise to tears, they do not lead to sadness. Instead the songs in my head transcend space and time and reconnect me to days gone by.