by Nicole Crews
Me: It’s my birthday. And I bought an evening gown at a thrift store for 99 cents to wear.
Mother: Some things never change. I’m sure you got your money’s worth.
Me: I also scored some retro country vinyl. Remember that summer I tortured you and dad with “Harper Valley PTA”?
Mother: I’m glad I’m not your roommate for this go-round.
Like most great moments in history, it all began with the purchase of a Dottie West album. Generally, my philosophy when it comes to music is if the song has the word “roustabout” in it, I don’t want to hear it — but there are a slew of campy exceptions that prove the rule. The same was true when I was 7 years old and stumbled across the record Makin’ Memories at the Goodwill with Miss Ruby on our daily constitutional. Country crooning aside, Dottie had me with the emerald-green crepe de chine cocktail dress that she wore on the cover, with the neckline and hemline flounce. So it was with extreme glee when I glanced up and saw a canary-yellow version of almost exactly the same dress hanging before my very eyes. The pricetag: 75 cents. I had four quarters in my pocket so both the album and the dress became mine.
“Her Hello was my Goodbye” became my favorite song that summer and taught me a thing or two about writing, but that dress became my best friend and I wanted to be with her all the time. It was all Miss Ruby could do to get me away from her and into street clothes for school, grocery-store runs and ballet class come fall.
Dottie West, on the other hand, was more like a gateway drug to kitschy tunes and campy ballads. I’ll never forget my discovery of the long-latched duo George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
Mother: Why can’t you listen to rock and roll like a normal kid?
Me: I do listen to rock and roll but what’s not to love about the lyrics:
No, we’re not the jet set/
We’re the old Chevrolet set.
Our steak and martinis/
Is draft beer with wieners.
Mother: There’s never been a draft beer nor a wiener in this house unless it was shublig.
Me: Maybe that was the problem.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that “The Opry” and Vaudeville had an awful lot in common, and comedy was at the core of it. The song parodies and comedy albums of the ’60s and ’70s owe a lot to the banjo boys. As a girl with a collection of Canadian Trucking Music vinyl (including a section devoted specifically to Prince Edward Island), I can attest that funny transcends class, caste and fashion — as well as borders. So when I was taking my daily constitutional last week and stumbled across both the Dottie West record Suffer Time and a tulle-stuffed evening gown with pink roses plastered all over it in a thrift store, I knew they had to be mine. The pricetag: 99 cents for the dress and the guy threw in the album for free.
Listening to the song “Before the Ring on your Finger Turns Green” with friends, on my porch, on my birthday — and wearing the pink rosed wonder: priceless.