Yesterday's Magazette

11 – Turn The Light Down, Daddy

Turn The Light Down, Daddy

By Bonnie S. Davis

In 1962 when I was twelve, my reward for answering a telephone request line for my father’s live radio show was a plate of French fries smothered in chicken gravy. The weekly ninety minute broadcast featured local country and gospel singers who fiddled and sang for a chance at stardom. Every Sunday night for eighteen years, Tam’s Restaurant, a popular eatery in Chester, West Virginia, hosted the show, which generated more revenue for the station than any other program. 

My father opened each broadcast with the words, “Kick off your shoes, sit back and have yourself a cold glass of buttermilk.” With his over-sized white cowboy hat perched above his ears, and his slow country drawl he told jokes, uplifted spirits and introduced the wannabe talent. Some of the performers wrote their own songs which wasn’t unusual except for one evening when Edna and The Elm Valley Boys decided to pocket a title and make it their own. 

Although the restaurant wasn’t equipped to take requests, the owner placed a small table and chair for me directly under the pay phone. Dad announced the phone number for requests and I took the calls and wrote down the songs before handing them to my father. One evening when Edna and her “boys” were warming up, I sent over my own request. It wasn’t to play a song. The small gooseneck lamp on my father’s desk was tilted up and the light was shining in my eyes. My note simply said, “Turn the light down, Daddy.”

When my father picked up the slip of paper and read my request, Edna and her entourage didn’t hesitate. They winked at each other and began to sing the words “Turn the light down, Daddy, I just want to stay tonight.” They sang verse after verse of a song that didn’t exist. I was waving at my dad and shaking my head, but he laughed at my antics. When the bow screeched across the strings of the old violin one last time, the people in the restaurant clapped and cheered. I didn’t tell my father about the song that really wasn’t a song until much later. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, especially when I heard Edna say that the song would soon be out as their latest single.

By today’s standards my father’s radio show would probably be considered “corn.” His white cowboy hat and boots would be frowned upon in most circles. A twelve year old girl who would rather be paid in French fries than with money might be looked upon in 2011 as strange, but during the 60s and 70s in a small town in West Virginia people valued a radio show where they could sit back, kick off their shoes and drink a tall glass of buttermilk. The broadcast was a venue where they listened to clean jokes, inspiring stories, and songs from local talent who gained a ninety minute claim to fame every Sunday evening.

*Bonnie lives in Nokomis, Florida. She has been published in literary magazines and newspapers. Her short story, Queen Anne, appears in Dolls Remembered, an anthology about beloved childhood dolls, available on Amazon. She will instruct a memoir writing class at the Royal Coachman Resort in Nokomis during the winter season. Her favorite stories touch on her life as a child in West Virginia.

Vol. 38 No. 3 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall- 2011


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