On an otherwise ordinary weekday afternoon in 1985, my identical twin brother Scotty and I hopped off the Lone Star Elementary School bus and bounded into our East Texas home at 903 Starview St. On the way inside, we noticed our dad's pickup truck was parked outside, which was odd since he worked evenings at Lone Star Steel and was rarely home after school.
As we walked into the house, things seemed calm but not quiet. Coming from our bedroom was the unmistakable vocals of Richard Sterban, the iconic bass singer for the Oak Ridge Boys.
"Giddy up, oom poppa oom poppa mow mow."
The signature chorus to the 1981 blockbuster hit "Elvira" echoed off the wood-paneled hallway walls as Scotty and I gleefully sprinted to our room where Mom and Dad were waiting for us. They were sitting on Scotty's twin bed (complete with A-Team sheets), a two-tone gray jambox between them.
This was a big deal.
Most of the other kids we knew already had one and, finally, we did too. Two cassette tapes were included in this surprise: the Oak Ridge Boys: Greatest Hits 2 and the soundtrack to Six Pack, the wildly underrated Kenny Rogers movie where he plays a NASCAR driver employing a bunch of orphans as mechanics.
Having our dad home for the night was great on its own, but coming home to this musical surprise turned the day into an unforgettable one. Ever since that afternoon, for me, music has helped turn mundane occurrences into momentous occasions.
I've spent the past decade writing about music with a strong emphasis on all things Texan, and now I'll be serving as GuideLive's new music critic.
Though country and Americana-flavored rock have scratched my audio itches most effectively, I'm a sucker for sludgy doom metal, aggressively inventive hip-hop, eardrum blasting shoegaze, skinny jeans indie and rib-sticking soul.
I'm not one of those annoyingly vague "oh, I like everything," types, but let's just say I'm enthusiastic about a wide range of sounds and styles.
I typically understand the allure of any artist who fills stadiums and sells millions of records. People like what they like; sometimes it's that simple.
"You should never apologize for what turns you on," Derek Miller, of the noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells, once told me. They're a band often lumped into "guilty pleasure" terrain by folks too worried about what others think.
Given the tumultuous, divisive nature of the past year, Miller's sentiment is more important now than it was then. You'll never see the term "guilty pleasure" spring forth from my keyboard, because life's too short to be shamed for anything that brings you joy.
Don't get it twisted, I dislike my fair share of music, and I'm happy to discuss why. But it's not that simple.
To me, newish star Shawn Mendes is a soulless bore who represents much of what is wrong with pop music and commercial radio, yet he's a source of joy for millions, including some folks close to me. It grosses me out to know that a generation of so-called country music fans have grown up thinking Florida Georgia Line belong under the same genre umbrella as Hank, Willie and Merle. But they do, whether anyone likes it or not.
And they're not wrong. Nor am I. The fun is in the discussion.
Contrary to some high-minded critics, I think the Kings of Leon are better now than they were a decade ago when critics and hip kids couldn't fawn over the group fast enough. With or without vests, suspenders or kick-drums, Mumford and Sons are awesome. And I think Dave Matthews is as good as millions of grown-up frat boys find him to be.
Technical brilliance and visionary originality should be appreciated at every turn, and so should a song that gives you the chills or takes you back to a special place and time. I look forward to discussing it all with you.