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Never ask me to sing unless you are in the mood to get Excedrin Headache 101
Dennis Wyatt RGB
Dennis Wyatt

Apparently I sound like — or at least I did as an eighth-grader — Domingo “Sam” Samudio when he’s singing.

I know this because I had classmates who heard me singing a hit song by Samudio and thought I was the singer they were looking for to complete their garage band.

Samudio was Sam of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. The song was “Little Riding Hood.”

If you’re over 55 or so it’s the one that starts out, “Owooooooo! Who’s that I see walkin’ in these woods — why it’s Little Red Riding Hood.”

If you’re under 25 you might want to Google it so you can reference if those that lived in the Stone Age before anyone including the homeless had smartphones tries to dismiss Ariana Grande’s version of romance songs as being daffy.

How Tom Middleton, Terry Miller, and Mike Halford made their erroneous discovery was via a school yard “audition” before our first class. They were daring classmates to sing “Satisfaction” to see if they really knew the lyrics. You know the one. It’s sung by Methuselah also known by the stage name Mick Jagger

For some reason I apparently sounded semi-decent. Looking back it has probably due to either the fact they had just gotten out of bed less than an hour earlier or else they were desperate.

At any rate they talked me into trying out that Saturday during their rehearsal.

There were four things I learned that day.

First we all learned that “singing” barely above a whisper in a school yard sounds much better than when you turn up the volume on your voice. It’s why everyone can nail “Rock a Bye Baby” but few can sound like Freddy Mercury singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I learned three things.

I would be doing the world a favor if I never tried to sing again unless there was a shower running full blast to drown out the noise I was creating.

The sound of two 14-year-olds on guitars and a third on drums in 1970 in a garage packed with a 1961 Chevy pickup, yard equipment, camping gear, and assorted junk is an acoustical nightmare and is what probably gave birth to the heavy metal genre.

Combine my voice with three teens that are wannabe rock stars and add an amplifier half the size of a refrigerator eliminates all doubts that there are sounds worse than someone dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard.

The third lesson actually took me a number of years to fully comprehend. No matter how bad my voice is it is less annoying than constantly hearing the Barney song and “It’s a Small World after All” being played over and over and over again.  I’m convinced if there is a hell one of those two songs will be playing 24/7 for eternity.

To be honest, I should have known better. It was less than a year after I proved Mr. Baughman wrong.

I was a sixth grader and he was the Glen Edwards School Band instructor. He was short band members and was trying to recruit more. He made one fateful statement when he was pitching band while making the round of homeroom classes trying to get kids to sign up for classes the following school year — “Anyone can learn to play a musical instrument.”

My inability to comprehend notes almost brought a grown man to tears of frustration. He started my short musical journey on a saxophone and ended up trying to find an instrument that would make up for the class scheduling mistake he would be stuck with for the entire school year.

That led him to the Sousaphone. You know the one. It’s the biggest — and heaviest — instrument in a marching band that the player carries on their shoulder and has a large bell flaring out at the end. He had no one else to play it and assumed it is where I could do the least damage. Boy was he wrong.

And while a Sousaphone played by someone who is talented and knows what they are doing makes an impressive sound, in the hands of a pre-teen they can send moose fleeing for their lives and send parents — and neighbors — to the edge during at-home practice sessions.

How bad was I? Let’s just say air vibrating through pre-20th century pipes in a building is a soothing melody in comparison.

The worst part is I realized less than a month into the nine months I was committed in my school schedule to band there was no way on earth I would ever learn to play a musical instrument. It wasn’t from lack of dreaming or trying.

Of course, Mr. Baughman and others who are trained to teach others would argue that anyone can be taught to play an instrument. But there are exceptions to every rule. Trying to teach me how to play an instrument is akin to someone trying to teach a person with bad eyesight and shaky hands to be a neurosurgeon.

To be honest I should have known better before I enthusiastically signed up for band.

There was a time when elementary schools taught music by having a trained music teacher move from classroom to classroom of third and fourth graders while pushing around a piano.

Such adventures in teaching kids to sing as a class have gone the way of the dodo bird and teaching cursive writing.

This was back in a time when religious Christmas songs hadn’t been banished from public schools and there were still politically incorrect songs floating around as kids were taught to sing “Dixie” along with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It never made sense to me. While I wasn’t PC then — no one was because it was decades before such a term was coined — and I’m not PC now, I was enough into history as a fourth grader that I didn’t get why we were singing the praises of the Confederacy in a California public school if for no other reason than they lost the war. After all, we never sang “God Save the Queen” nor should we.

Mrs. Foster, who was the music teacher, staged a Christmas concert and an Easter concert involving all of the school’s students. If those terms seem foreign, today they are called the winter and spring concerts that just so happen to coincide with Christmas and Easter.

She knew how to handle kids that sang off key and couldn’t carry a note if their lives depended on it. She put them in the back and encouraged them to sing softer. It was a kind way of making sure they didn’t embarrass themselves or pierce the ears of others.

I get the value of making joyous noise.

It’s just that I’m a realist.

If I was an alley cat doing an impromptu concert on the fence, you wouldn’t throw an old shoe at me. You’d be hurling construction boots.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.