This past week, the music emitting from my "antique" cassette player has been old country from a March 13, 1989, “Okaw Valley Opry” show.
Joining Bill and Evelyn Oliver on stage were daughter Connie Lee, vocals; Mike Eulberg, bass and vocals; Rick Stanbery, drums; Buddy Olsteen, banjo, steel guitar and vocals; and Dale Torbeck, fiddle and general cuttin’ up.
Listening to the show, I feel as though I am a member of the audience. I laugh at Dale’s jokes and applaud the musicians along with the live audience. What fun!
When Bill Oliver built a new "Opry" building in Bluff City in 1969, my dad, Ed Torbeck, joined the show – adding his signature vocals and strong rhythm guitar. When I look back, I find that much of my life has been centered around music, even though I did not play an instrument.
Some of my earliest childhood memories were of dad’s band practicing in the living room of our apartment on East Madison Street. Chairs would be brought from the kitchen, and music would fill the air.
When we were small, dad would lift his guitar from the case and begin tuning it while my older brother, Ed Jr., would set up his snare drum. Mom would help the younger kids string rubber bands onto round tin pie pans and we’d pick too. Add some spoons and a bass by blowing into a jug, and we had a real family jam band.
Before my time, dad played with Floyd Staff and sons. One of his early bands included Doc Ecke, Bill Lingle and I can remember Bill Withers on the upright bass. Jim Staff told me he had seen my dad break a string, change it, tune it and be ready to go again before they had hit the end of the measure.
As a newlywed in 1941, Dad played with "Doc" Boaz and his group from the Ramsey area. "Doc" was a well-known, old-time fiddle player. This took Dad into the Bingham and Ramsey area, where he met Sollie "Tex" Williams.
Dad was justifiably proud that he, with Lotus McDowell and Walter Howard, played with "Tex," a fact that was recognized in a newspaper photo when "Tex" came back to Ramsey in 1948 to help the village raise money to buy a fire truck.
In 1949, the drum and bugle corps was organized, and the guitar and fiddle player took up the bugle. He also played our old pump organ and any stringed instrument. One of my favorite songs that Dad wrote was for his fiddle-playing cousin, Dale Torbeck. Dale named it “Cousin Ed Special.”
Ed Torbeck became "Cactus Ed" and named his band "The Horned Toads." I’m sure there is a story about that. "Slim" Rickman, Tom Heather and Dick Alsbury were the band members. Later, the name would change to "Cactus Ed and The Old Capitol Ramblers," and Bill Smith was a member of this group.
In his later years, Dad – a member of the VFW – organized a band and visited local nursing homes on a weekly basis. The VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary would take cookies and see that everyone who wanted to dance had a partner.
I was raised listening to the old-time country music (my dad called it boogie-woogie), but with the advent of groups such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kansas and Yes, my ear changed.
About five years ago, I began to play the mandolin and, with my husband, a musician, visited nursing homes and senior citizens groups for music programs. Hank Williams is a major influence in my choice of songs for the mandolin, along with the old-time gospel tunes that so many of us grew up listening to.
I realize now that events have come full circle. Dad’s great friend, Don Blair, at Fayette County Long Term Care, took my hand the first time I played there and told me my Dad would be so proud to know I was visiting nursing homes and sharing music.
That was the first time I had thought about the circle…continuing what my dad so enjoyed doing – sharing the joy of music.