Debra, I'm going to be teaching our homeschool co-op's chorus class next year, and we're going to be spending the entire year on American history and geography. Do you have any suggestions for songs that I could teach the kids? I'm going back into my own brain to remember songs that I learned as a child, "O Susanna," "Rocka My Soul," "My Grandfather's Clock," "Erie Canal," etc.

Also, I had my kids listen to "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" because it sounded like their kind of humor, and they loved it! Thank you so much for the feature!

Expand full comment
May 14·edited May 14

I hope this is not too far off track, but the line from the song "Every lock that ain't locked when no one's around" reminded me of something my mother talked about from when she was young living on her parents (my grandparents, obviously) farm just outside of a (very) small town in Iowa. I've told this bit before elsewhere, so you may have seen it, but it fits so wonderfully with the tone of the song (to me, anyway) that I'd like to relate it here.

It's THE prime example (of two typical examples) that I use to illustrate a COMPLETELY different frame of mind that people of that time and setting had from what we experienced in California (my parents moved to California when I was seven, so I have a few good memories of the Iowa small town setting -- at least back then).

But first, the other example of the two was how when friends and relatives from Iowa would come to visit us in California, their comment was typically "Wow! Everyone is so isolated and private out here -- all the houses have fences surrounding each one." And the "from an entirely different universe" view from us (at least us kids) when we would go back to Iowa to visit friends and relatives was "Wow! No one back here in Iowa can afford to build fences around their houses." Just...what? Completely disconnected viewpoints, or something. :-)

Ok, so, the other -- and king of the comments -- was about how we in California wouldn't even consider leaving the house unlocked whenever we went out. It was simply unthinkable. And my mother would tell of the difference between us in California and her mother on the old Iowa farm. In her words, she said that when they were all out in the fields working, her mother would leave the back door open (ie, unlocked) so that if a tramp passing by was thirsty, he could go in and get a drink of water.

I mean, HUH? WHAT? See, it wasn't at all the "opposite" of our California view, in some seemingly contrasting view that her mother wasn't worried that someone might decide to come into the house for whatever reason, good or ill. Rather she left it unlocked PRECISELY so that the tramp COULD come in to get a drink. Um, just SO COMPLETELY foreign to our way of seeing the world and the people in it, that it hardly registers as a viewpoint to a California brain.

And so I guess that line from the song -- and really, just the whole tone of the entire song, words and jaunty melody combined, seem to encompass that old Iowa farmhouse view somehow. Not sure how to describe it except as a kind of innocence or good simplicity or a "wholesome" view of people and the world -- and not at all that they didn't think there wasn't evil in the world of course -- not, not, not at all (and who knows, perhaps they knew all the more about what evil is and does for all that), but, well, something else. Can't quite put my finger on it. But Roger Miller and this song have something of that flavor that I have a wistful longing for that is, alas, passed, I suppose. Could we ever get such back again? Who knows? Sigh...

Expand full comment
May 13Liked by Debra Esolen

King of the Road was the first album my husband bought. I always found that a bit strange, but after reading about Roger Miller in your post, and that he wrote Robin Hood and Little John running through the forest I have to give my husband more credit for his taste in music as a youngster.

Expand full comment

I love this song, and thank you for the backstory. I always look forward to Saturdays!

Expand full comment

I marveled at the way Roger Miler used his rich, resonant baritone to creatively fragment our language, as in:

Eng-al-and swings like the pen-dulum do

Bobbies on bicycles, two-by-two

Westminster Ab-bey, the Tower of Big Ben

The rosy, red cheeks of the little chil-dren

Expand full comment

Wow, I had no idea he did Robin Hood! That’s amazing, thank you! What an extraordinary career, with a broadway role added on, what a life

(The version of King I like best, probably since it’s the one I heard first, is Dean Martin’s.)

Expand full comment
May 13Liked by Debra Esolen

You’ve done it again, Debra! I adored Roger Miller and played these songs over and over and over.

We obviously are contemporaries since you keep taking me back to so many happy times. Music certainly is powerful isn’t it? Thank you again.

Expand full comment