I loved music since I was little. My mom said that when I was little, doing number two in the bathroom, I would sing some nonsense lyrics at the top of my lungs. I think the lyrics were, “Yee tah! Yee tah!” This was before Internet, cell phones, cassette recorder/players, cable television, etc.
If we were at Po Po’s (my maternal grandmother) house on a Saturday night, the Lawrence Welk Show was on television. That was her favorite television show. She loved Lawrence Welk not only for the music, but because he was also a dancer. If anyone got near the t.v. dial to change the channel, she would threaten to kill that person! It didn’t matter if you were a kid or a grownup. As a kid and a teenager, I thought LW was so square; but now, looking back, I have to admit, the LW Show had an great influence on my love for music. Here’s a clip from the Lawrence Welk Show.
Another contributor to my love for music was church. When I was about 4 years old, I remember being transported to the back house of Mr. and Mrs. Jones with a group of other Chinese kids around my age. This was at South Stockton, and the back house was a small classroom. That’s the first time I attended Sunday School and learned the classic Sunday School song, “Jesus Loves Me.” When I came home, I started singing “Jesus Loves Me”, and Po Po started singing it in Chinese. I later learned that Mr. and Mrs. Jones were Christian missionaries, who were fluent in Chinese and welcomed Chinese newcomers to Stockton. Po Po was one of the newcomers that Mr. and Mrs. Jones welcomed back in 1939 (I think). When I was about 5 till about 9 years old, I attended Chinese Bible Church. We met at the basement of Peniel Chapel, which is located on Sutter St., just south of Charter Way. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were the only non-Chinese who attended the church, and Mrs. Jones played the piano. We sang the classic hymns, such as “Rock of Ages”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” I really loved that time of singing of the church service, and, I must admit, it really helped my reading, because we sang out of hymnals. PowerPoint slides hadn’t been invented yet (We didn’t read from clay tablets or scrolls; we actually had printed books to read from). Here’s a video from the Gaithers, performing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.”
The third major contributor to my passion for music was AM Top 40 Radio. Growing up in Stockton during the late 60s and early 70s, AM radio was king. The two main AM stations I listened to were KJOY and KSTN. Radio at this time didn’t have all the different music genres that we have today. They had live disc jockeys who played vinyl records on the air. Radio played rock, pop, Motown, soul, country, and everything in between. I used to carry around with me this little red AM transistor radio from Montgomery Wards. When we went shopping with my mom and I didn’t want to hang around in the lingerie department, I’d hang outside the store to listen to whatever was playing on my little red radio. A big treat for me was to listen to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 program that came on, I believe, on Sunday nights. I listened to the whole program to see if there was a new number one song, or if last week’s song remained the number one song in the country. There was a lot of variety of music played on AM radio during those days; it greatly contributed to my eclectic tastes in music. Here’s a short video about Top 40 radio in Northern California. Towards the end of the video, you’ll see the legendary Dr. Donald D. Rose of KFRC. We loved listening to him on the way to school (High school, that is).