Skip to content

songs of a coal miner’s son 3

July 19, 2013

songs of a coal miner’s son 3

With Gene Christy & Rod MacDow

Have a listen!


to listen to HIGHWAY 8

Just click on the Blue Song Title!

Words & music by Gene Christy

episode three . .

So! Where to begin?

It would be nice to begin at the beginning . .

So, when was that?strong>

Chris 7 mos Aug 1947
gene christy at nine months in 1947

Was it back at the old Tripoli Fairgrounds, in the North African city, capital of Libya, in 1973, when I first heard the strange sounds of the opening power chords of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” emanating from an empty pavilion on the deserted fairgrounds with the locked gates?

Believe it or not, those electric guitar chords, played with such fervent intensity by a teenager who had to be no more than high school age, in the last place on earth where you would expect to hear them, right under Colonel Ghaddafi’s nose—-lead directly to me forming the first band I could honestly call my own—“Ipadras” . . .

Trainside Gallery Chris1
. . . a little older here . . .!!

Tara 2
my daughter Tara Roisin, born in Tripoli in 1974!

Or was it that night in Dublin, Ireland, in 1972, when I went to a well-known sing-a-long pub in Clanbrassil Street with friends, and the Irish lads on stage heard there was a Yank in the audience—and myself, having had a few by that time, climbed up on stage, thinking I’d stump them with a song from my home town of Boston, Massachusetts, first made famous long before that by the Kingston Trio—called “Charlie on the MTA?” Need I say that I failed to stump the Dublin men with “Charlie?” So, thinking, for certain, they wouldn’t have heard the old-time American labor-struggle ballad, “Joe Hill,” I tried that one. They knew both of them cold!

As for myself, I would have to say that was the very first time I sang in public—and if it hadn’t been for the Guinness, that wouldn’t have happened, either.

How did I ever get to Ireland?–ask Cathy!

I had been in bands before. I would have to go back to about the time when I had just turned 15, and I snuck out of the house one night, telling my mother the guys in the pick-up truck, who had hooted the horn outside our back door, were going to take me to a practice session, at their house, up on Forest Street, outside of town. Actually, we went to play a gig at the Stardust Lounge on Rte 28, in Reading, Massachusetts. That was oh, 1961 or maybe ‘62, and I was a sophomore in high school, at Tenney High, in Methuen. I had got the gig because my accordion teacher, at Metro Music, down on Common Street, in Lawrence, who was Jerry Bellanti, and who was just seventeen himself, had recently enlisted in the service, and departed for boot camp just the week before—and I was the next accordion player coming up. And so, at 15, I find myself sitting at the bar in the Stardust Lounge, drinking a ginger ale when we took a break, staring at the bar mirror, where a red electric guitar, on the tiny one-step stage behind me was resting, between sets, on a guitar stand—and I grabbed a bar-napkin and wrote down the first words that came into my head—because it occurred to me that the red guitar was shaped just like a beautiful girl, with long hair cascading down over her shoulder, and a slim waist, and full hips . . .

Chris Senior yr
Guess I was one of those kids in high school!


Click that song title, baby!

Well, I would have to say that – the correct answer is – none of the above.

I would have to go all the way back to 1953.

One day the front door bell rang at No. 45 Payson Street, in Revere, just outside of Boston—we were living at that time just about a mile or mile and a half from the Revere Beach that you’ve heard of—the one immortalized in song and story by newspapers and magazine writers and novelists, too, as the Coney Island of Boston. And in those days, it certainly was. They had just extended the subway line from Boston, that very year, all the way out to Wonderland Park, the dog track in Revere. Every weekend all summer long crowds of up to 100,000 people used to flock to Revere Beach, to try to beat the heat, and the subway line being extended was a boon to the Beach, and the visitors—car traffic on the Revere Beach Parkway would be bumper-to-bumper, coming and going.

Those were the days when the only air-conditioning in town was at the show, where they would dangle a longish sign from the bottom of the marquee, with the words “Air-Conditioned” dripping with frost and snow-flakes.

Not everybody had a car in those days My father used to walk to work at Page’s Carpentry shop, off Broadway in Revere.

They used to sell music lessons door-to-door in those days.

That’s right. They would send a drummer (and I don’t mean the Gene Krupa kind) door-to-door, peddling lessons, like the Fuller Brush Man—who also used to come to our house, regularly—or the life insurance man, who would sit at our kitchen table and be given a cup of coffee by my mother–or Dr Graham, from Beach Street, down at the end of our street—who would make house-calls, and even come to dinner with us!—supper, I should say—we weren’t the kind who had “dinner.” Supper was good enough for us, and more than likely—it was pastavazoule—again!

I would definitely have to say—that was the first time I ever heard of an accordion.

I was standing behind my mother when she opened the door. I was seven years old, and trying to peek around her to see the man who was saying to her, “Why don’t you start him out on the accordion?—it’s easy—and he can go from there.”

Chris 9yrs
. . on stage at age 9 . . that’s me, 2nd from the right . . . Jerry Bellanti is the tall kid next to me!

More than fifty years later, just recently, at Portsmitt’s, here in Pittsfield, where me and the boys play every Tuesday night—only 150 miles from Revere Beach—but in the intervening time, I guess I’ve changed, just like the Beach has—well, one night, a member of our audience said to me, looking over the 120 bass-buttons on the left hand side of my squeezebox, “That’s looks so hard to play! How do you know which buttons to press?”

I quickly agreed. “Listen,” I said. “it’s wicked hard. Lemme tell you—Beethoven couldn’t play one of these things!”

. . gc . . this week . . at Portsmitt’s in Pittsfield!

. . with my partner, Rick Marquis, aka as “Good-Lookin’ Ricky!”

. . and last but certainly not least, best-buddy Bill Morrison . . he plays a mighty good 6-string!


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s