Do You Hear What I Hear?

After interviewing thousands of passionate people in the music products industry, I wonder if when you listen to your favorite music you hear what I hear?

When I hear “Low Rider” by WAR, I hear the harmonica lick of Lee Oskar and the story of his career both as a performer and promoter of his own line of harmonicas.

Do you hear what I hear?

When I hear Benny Goodman, I hear Charles Bickel, who designed a plastic clarinet, which made music making possible for millions of Depression era students.

Do you hear what I hear?

When I hear “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys I think of Paul Tanner playing his make-shift Theremin, which always makes me think of Dr. Robert Moog, who started his career making Theremins out of kits he ordered in the mail.

Do you hear what I hear?

It’s more than just knowing the instruments that are being played, it is understanding the ingenuity, perseverance and passion behind the music.

Whenever I hear a Hammond B-3, whether on a jazz recording or at church, I think of a lot of people, like Don Leslie who created the Leslie Speaker, and those who helped reshape the sound over the years to make it so adaptive to so many forms of music.

When I hear Fats Domino, I also hear the trumpet of Dave Bartholomew.

Whenever I hear the “Mission Impossible” theme, I hear Carol Kaye.  After all, it is her electric bass riff which drives the song and makes it so memorable.  Carol began her musical career as a guitarist for the big band of Henry Busse.  She went on to record on countless rock and roll classics and was one of the famed “Wrecking Crew” studio musicians who helped Phil Spector create the Wall of Sound.  Her driving rhythmic style was the right ingredient for the (songwriters’) “Mission Impossible” theme.

Take another listen, do you hear what I hear?

When I hear “Stars and Stripes Forever” I hear the talent of John Phillips Sousa but I also hear the gentle teaching and encouraging of all the school band directors who ever coached their students to play that march.  I hear the instruction of the passionate music teachers who loved bringing music to the lives of children.  The likes of James Saied, Nick Peck, and Denny Senseney come to mind.

Listen closely, do you hear what I hear?

Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian
dand@namm.org