Golden oldies don’t seem that old

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Shortly after midnight, somewhere on a turnpike in southeastern Kansas, I found out I was officially an oldie.

No, I wasn’t struck by a sudden and desperate need for a bathroom. I deal with those problems during the morning thanks to blood pressure medication. This was an assault on my music. The radio DJ I was listening to had just labeled a song from the early- to mid-1970s an oldie.

Earlier that day as it began to get dark in central Oklahoma on a recent road trip across the Heartland I began to search for a radio station and finally locked in on a strong classic rock station out of Oklahoma City.

As we neared OKC my thoughts went back to my pre-teen years and the happiness that time of evening brought many young people in eastern New Mexico as KOMA in Oklahoma City and X-Rock 80 in El Paso turned their transmitters up and brought rock ‘n’ roll to hundreds of small western towns.

KOMA was broadcasting in the late 1960s so it was one of the first night-time stations I listened to. X-Rock 80 was better when it came along. The format was a little more on the edge and the signal was stronger. It should have been, it was an outlaw station with transmitters just across the Mexican border in Juarez. It transmitted at 150,000 watts of power, a level far exceeding American AM radio stations.

That’s right kiddos — I said AM radio; back in the days of oldies that’s all we had. FM was a few years away for most of the country, a decade away for most of eastern New Mexico.

Occasionally having to explain these days to the younger set what AM radio was should have been one tip-off that my music was headed to the oldie charts. The fact that I often exclaim, while listening to a classic rock station, “Hey I had that album on eight-track,” should have been a clue too. Somehow it never sunk in.

So, there I was on the road trip, involved in a rousing game of “Name That Band.” I say it was rousing because every time a new song came on the radio, I had to rouse my wife from her slumber. She hates the game, almost as much as I did when I first played it with my good friend Ted who always knew the song and artist in the opening chords.

I eventually got better, mainly because classic rock survived and I never switched to newer music as my favorite. I would have moved forward in music tastes but people laughed at my white leisure suit as I tripped out onto the disco floor. When disco hit I retreated to the music of The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Bachman Turner Overdrive and ZZ Top.

When the eight-tracks had finally all been consumed by my car tape deck, I listened to my vinyl and recorded cassettes of my favorites. Eventually classic rock came on the scene as a radio format.

After the classic rock station faded near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line I surfed the dial until I hit an oldies station. That’s when I was slapped in the face. Expecting a little surfer music or maybe an Elvis tune this station was mixing in ’70s with all that older stuff.

Several weeks later I still haven’t come to grips with “my” songs being played on an oldies station. I could deal with the name “classic rock” but “oldies” is just too much. I may have to switch to punk, grunge or some other brand new genre.