Search Results for 'mrs. dickey'

13 Jan 2009 02:37 am


A fifteen year old southern girl sits on her mother’s antique settee while attired in her British inspired Mod look dress which was created by her grandmother from from a photo in Seventeen Magazine and then stitched painstakingly. The girl holds her Goya guitar which she earned by agreeing to make an appearance, along with her sister, Lucy to sing on a local country music television show. The sponsor of that show, The Ben Jack Guitar Center allowed her to take her pick of all the guitars, including Martins and she picked the Swedish made acoustic Goya. She’s never been sorry.

I happen to know because she’s me.

It was 1967 and I had been playing the guitar for four years, having taught myself on the front porch swing the summer before I entered the seventh grade. My first guitar was a Christmas present I received when I was in the seventh grade. It was better than the old guitar my Dad had let me use to learn to play on. That guitar had a wide neck and bridge and was very hard to fret. But I was determined to learn to play so perhaps it strengthened my fingers… a sort of basic training for the guitar.

I practiced the chording of the guitar in the swing on the front porch but Lucy and I practiced our songs and the harmonies in the little bathroom of our house…it had perfect acoustics…and by the time I was twelve years old and Lucy was nine we were invited to sing at various civic events.

There was always music playing in our home and when it wasn’t on the radio or playing on Daddy’s hi-fi on Saturday nights my sister and I were forced to watch The Lennon Sisters on The Lawrence Welk Show but as soon as they made their appearance we made a quick exit from the room.

Why didn’t we like them? I don’t know. Their harmony was pretty but they smiled too much and that bugged me. Being a nine year old cynic I suppose I felt they were too programmed by adults. Even then I didn’t allow my parents too much input in our selection of music.

The first song on which my sister and I learned to harmonize was The Missouri Waltz, a piece that was introduced to me by my piano teacher, Mrs. Dickey who claimed to be a descendant of the Ford family, the owners of the Ford Theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. (Mrs. Dickey is another story altogether.) When Lucy and I learned what the word Pick-a-ninny meant we quit singing the song altogether and never performed it in public.

Evidently it’s still the official state song of Missouri.

I loved watching Your Hit Parade when my parents first got a television and when the American Bandstand came on sometimes I was able to persuade my dad to get up and dance with me.

Daddy was a music lover and played Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and the Ink Spots on his hi-fi. He was a song writer in his own right. He would come home late at night after work and wake me up and there I would be, sitting at the piano, picking out the notes as he sang his new tune, long into the night.

I had taken three years of piano and knew music theory well enough to transcribe the notes onto music sheets. My Dad had every song he wrote copywrited. My sister and I should have sung them but we chose not to because they were written from a male perspective. I’m sure I was probably sleepy after the late night music sessions but those musical evenings with Daddy were precious to me. If we didn’t have music being created in our home it was art being made or sporting events to partake of or rodeos to saddle up for or drama for which we had to practice our lines. We never stayed home to simply watch television.

By the time the Beatles hit our shores I had some basic grounding in music. I suppose you could say I was already a conservative musically speaking because I had some music training. My piano teacher had informed my parents that I had perfect pitch and I was quite a critical little wretch.

When I landed in the seventh grade I was fortunate to have music teachers who taught me to appreciate great music, Latin choir music, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Bruckner and others. I was in chorus throughout junior and senior high. Our mixed chorus competed and won first in the state every year I was in high school and we never sang rock music which is now what most music teachers teach in this politically correct world. Public school music students today do not know what they are missing.

Miss Ann Duvall taught our Mixed Chorus Lacrymosa and I sang alto when we performed it when I was in the ninth grade. Knowing and experiencing the glory of that music while it is being sung is the height of musical expression on this side of heaven.

So the Beatles were fun but I wasn’t as excited about them as some of my friends were. I’d experienced music like the Lacrymosa by Mozart and Os Justi by Anton Bruckner.

I sang second soprano.

Then there was Christus Factus Est. Tears fill my eyes as I remember. This was the music of my youth that I cherish the most.

And yes, our teacher told us the meaning of the Latin words.

The Beatles had become the big rage in America in 1964 and many British groups had followed in their wake, groups like Peter and Gordon, The Animals, and the Dave Clark Five. The British invasion wasn’t limited entirely to males. Petula Clark had been on the British scene for many years but her song, Down Town took the states by storm with her silky, crisp voice that inspired both Lucy and me.

The harmonies of the early Beatles, Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon appealed to Lucy and me. We would sing their songs and find our own way on the harmonies, making the songs our own. Lady Godiva, one of Peter and Gordon’s last big hits was one of our favorites and one of our most lyrically daring songs. We sang that song locally to many encores and I had learned many new picking techniques on the guitar thanks to many hours of diligent practice and listening to the song on the record player.

The Beatles’ earliest songs, “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were enjoyable and catchy but it was the slightly more complex songs that captured my imagination, such as Yesterday and Here Comes the Sun. I loved the guitar, bass and drum accompaniment on all the songs. The Beatles grew on me really fast.

But, alas, the great fun that was the Beatles soon turned out to be a drag.

I loved the Beatles first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. The Beatles were brilliant in their unsophisticated humor and silliness but after a few years things seemed to get too serious with them. That came along about the time they released the Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think Strawberry Fields Forever upset me most. It literally gave me the creeps…

The Beatles redeemed themselves on The Long and Winding Road but we all knew it was over. John was getting all moony with Yoko and George had gone to see the Maharishi. There were rumors of drugs. About this time in high school there weren’t even rumors about any of our fellow students taking drugs although my graduating class of 1969 gave as a gift to the school, a smoking pavillion. A smoking pavillion! How times have changed.

When I told my children that when I went to high school there were no drug problems they found it hard to believe but it’s true. Things changed just a few years later but at the time standards were still holding. The moral breakdown that was to come in our culture from the radical left, the Vietnam War protests….Hollywood’s anti-hero movies promoting drug use, the anything goes attitude of the sixties….I guess you just had to be there.

When I first heard “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison it became the favorite and most haunting of the Beatle melodies in my memories.

Today Strawberry Fields Forever still creeps me out and While my Guitar Gently Weeps still touches me and it weeps for the kids who have missed the innocent fun of the days when the harmony of the Beatles could bring a tear to your eyes. It’s doubtful that much of the music that young kids are listening to today brings them any heartfelt emotion. I know for a fact that they are not experiencing the out of this world emotions that exposure to the great classical music of Bruckner, Mozart, and Handel, would give them because the Christian themes are politically incorrect.

Am I sorry I laid my guitar aside at the age of eighteen and went to college?

In a word, no.

I knew what I wanted to do with my life and while music would always be part of it, love would rule for me.

I would get an education, get married after my West Point-bound boyfriend graduated, travel with him, have children, make music and art with my children, become a teacher, paint and draw and then pick up that weeping guitar again. I always did play music for them and when my children became teenagers they discovered the Beatles.

“Mom!” they exclaimed. “Did you ever listen to them?


“No, of course not. I was always glued to the television watching the Lennon Sisters.” was my secret response.

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all…
Still my guitar gently weeps.

George was always my favorite Beatle.

Read Sissy Willis’ take on The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis and Dusty Springfield. Sissy’s got the Look of Love.

13 Jan 2007 02:34 am


When I was eight years old I started taking piano lessons from the daughter of the woman who had taught my mother. My piano teacher’s name was Miss Evelyn Dickey. I don’t know if she had ever been married but when I took lessons from her she lived alone.

Mrs. Dickey’s house was very small but in her living room was an elegant grand piano. I learned to play on that glorious instrument. Miss Dickey was quite eccentric and that made me very hesitant to go to her house.

She dressed in a very old fashioned way, wearing a white starched linen blouse with a high neck and a floor-length gray skirt made of a heavy fabric. She kept her gray hair in a bun and it was always out of array, as her hair was heavy.

Miss Dickey’s house always smelled of spaghetti sauce and garlic and I (being the wierd kid that I was) feared that she had plans to poison me. I do not know where I got that idea and can’t remember if I had started reading Nancy Drew at the time. Miss Dickey would often offer me glasses of water but I would never accept them because I was afraid that the water had poison in it.

I never informed my mother of my fears, (being such an introvert) and kept going to the lessons. Miss Dickey was very fussy about my fingernails and would trim them often because I refused to take care of them. My mother did try to teach me how to take care of my nails but I was too impatient to sit down and take care of something that seemed so unimportant to me. I was always pressed for time even as a kid. There had to be enough time for reading, for art, for my chores, my horse, my cats and dogs. Who cared about cuticles? Not me.

I realize now that Miss Dickey just wanted my hands to be presentable enough to touch her beautiful piano. She tried to tell me to keep my hands clean as she showed me the proper way to hold them when I played the piano. I advanced quickly but didn’t practice as much as I should have at home. There were, again, too many distractions. Many times instead of practicing a piece I would teach myself something I could play by ear. Or I would run out of the house to find a cat or make mud pies with my sister. We had perfected our method and our mud cookies looked exactly like vanilla wafers.

Once when I was going to a lesson I heard music and stopped on Miss Dickey’s porch to listen. She was sitting at her piano in her old fashioned clothes, playing something by Mozart and she was so into her music she didn’t see me standing there. Her face had such a joyful look on it that something in me softened towards her.

At each lesson after the practice on the piano Miss Dickey would teach me about music theory. I learned so much about whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, etc. and discovered that it had math connections, which pleased me. Miss Dickey tested me to see if I had absolute pitch and I did. Perhaps that is why I’ve always been so critical of music and musicians. If Madonna has ever sung a song in key I’m unaware of it.

One day as we were working on theory, I asked Miss Dickey some questions about herself. I can’t remember now specifically what I asked her but she started talking about her family and ancestry. She left the room and brought me a playbill from Fords Theater. She told me she was a descendant of John T. Ford, the man who owned Fords Theater, where John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln.

I was learning about American history at school at the time and was fascinated by Abraham Lincoln. I wondered how a descendant of John T. Ford could end up in Arkansas. Always a little sceptical, I continued on in my lessons.

One winter day I was standing too close to the wall heater and badly burned a finger. I didn’t want to go to my piano lessons that day but my mother insisted. When I arrived at Miss Dickey’s house (she lived only three blocks away and I walked) she sat me down and looked at my hands as always. When she saw my burned finger I burst into tears. Mrs. Dickey left the room and came back with some salve and a bandage. She asked me if I wanted a drink of water and that time I accepted. I didn’t practice on the piano that day, we just worked on music theory.

I went home comforted by Miss Dickey’s kindness.

Another time I had permission to ride my new bicycle to piano practice and on the way there, a car came flying by very close, startling me. I turned my bike too quickly to the right and the bike and I went tumbling down the hill. The handle bars came off and the metal scratched a long and deep gash into my leg. My perfect legs, which were one day going to carry me to the Miss America Pageant were now marred forever.

I walked my broken bike the rest of the way to Mrs. Dickey’s house, bleeding and in tears. Another lesson wasted but she doctored me and in her own eccentric way made me feel better. I was never allowed to ride my bike on an actual road again.

I spent three years going to Miss Dickey’s house for piano lessons, once a week and then, one day I discovered the guitar. I stopped going to piano lessons just when I was making real progress. I asked for and got a guitar for Christmas. My dad’s friend, Gentry Douglas sat down with me and showed me some chords. I bought a book of guitar chords and started to teach myself the rest. But everything I knew about music up to that point was due to Miss Dickey.

I think of her from time to time, wondering about her life, remembering the smell of the spaghetti sauce and the sound of her music. I think I learned something from her about judging people by their appearance only.