Radio Roulette

rouletteWhen I was growing up, listening to the radio in the car with my dad followed one rule: his car, his choice. But I never knew where exactly that choice was going to land as a cacophony of song snippets whirled in and out of my ears. My dad worked the car radio (and the television, for that matter) like a roulette wheel. It was as if he needed to check what was on each and every single station to make sure he wasn’t missing anything good…and then check it again in case a certain station had moved on to a new song while he was checking all the others. Frankly, it was maddening.

My siblings and I were conditioned well enough to know my dad wouldn’t willingly stay on a station that played “our” music. But sometimes he would fool us and linger on Q106.5 just long enough to make us believe he was throwing us a bone:

Lost…in a dream. I don’t know which…way to gooo.  A-let me say-a if you…are all that you seem…then baby I’m movin’ (movin’)…way too sloooow. (POW) I’ve been a fool before…wouldn’t like to get my love caught in the sla-mmin door…How about some information pleeeeeeeeeeese… 


-Wake up, little Susie, wake up…


staight up
Tell me, baby

Apparently, what we thought was radio benevolence on my father’s part was really just him being distracted by some jackleg driver. Once his attention was fully back to the music, the roulette wheel began turning once again.

“But this is the Everly Brothers. This is good stuff.”

everly brothers
A little too straight up

Then he would proceed to harmonize off-key and finger drum on the steering wheel.

After “Wake Up Little Susie” would come something like “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Okay, I could get down with that. Before I knew it, the whole family started singing along. Everyone except my dad, of course:

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercu-

-Get your motor running…head out on the highway…


“But I can’t finger drum to that stupid song.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, if we protested enough, he realized he wasn’t going to be able to hear his song anyway and relented by changing the station back. We would declare victory by picking up our sing-a-long without missing a beat. But my dad made sure to make a visibly disgusted facial expression. And he would change the station just before the last note played as a way of making sure we understood his dominance.

But there were times we knew better than to protest. If the spinning radio roulette dial landed on anything sung by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, CSNY (or CSN), The Doors, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, or the crown jewels, The Beatles (or any of their solo incarnations), that was the final verdict. No trial. No jury. My own mother could have been performing a song on another radio station at the same time and it wouldn’t have mattered. Furthermore, if we dared to speak during one of these songs, we would get cut off by a fervent and frantic SHHHHHH! as the volume on the radio simultaneously increased to drown out our voices. Epic finger drumming ensued.

And forget about Sunday mornings. That was Beatles Brunch on KSHE95. I’m pretty sure there were quite a few times we had to sit in the parking lot of church to finish listening to a song before going into Mass.

In hindsight, the car rides of my youth listening to the radio with my dad explain a lot about my inevitable music preferences. I love almost everything from the 60’s and 70’s. In middle school, I was much more likely to know all the lyrics to Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” than to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” (which is also why when my classmates broke out into that song during music class one day, I hid in the back and swore the line went, “You give love a Band-Aid”). I also like to characterize my general musical asthetic as a “totally random mixed tape.” I like a little bit of everything, probably because that’s all I ever really heard on the radio as a kid. A little bit of everything. And entire Beatles songs. I’m also not half bad at those trivia night categories where you have to name a song after hearing just one line of it.

Because that’s how we listened to the radio when I was a kid. Take a listen for yourself:

Head on over to Emily & Ashley’s Remember the Time Blog Hop to check out other fun posts. Just click on the cool logo for a list of other posts about memories of the radio!

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17 thoughts on “Radio Roulette

  1. Awesome. We were pretty much a Beatles family since my mom and dad ran the radio/8-tracks, lol. I remember STACKS of Beatles 8-tracks on family vacations. Fortunately, we all loved them. Other than that it was Jackson Browne, McCartney and Wings, Bob Dylan, Yardbirds. Ahhh, those were the days! Love posts about growing up—good one!!


    1. Sounds like we could have been riding in the same car! While I would get frustrated that my dad was always in control of the radio, at least I did grow up on fantastic music. I guess he really ended up doing me a favor 🙂


  2. I love your post! You give love a band-aid – I can definitely relate to not knowing the lyrics to songs you are “supposed” to know to not be consider an alien by your friends. My RTT radio post relates to that. But I can also relate to the radio and remote ADD – I think I got that from my dad – I check every radio station before deciding on the best song, and if I am listening to my ipod I rarely listen to a song all the way through. But I do see how that is annoying for everyone else in the car…


  3. I’m jealous because growing up all my dad listened to was talk radio or the oldies, but mainly talk radio (WGN if you want to be specific) and like you, he drove, so he controlled the radio. And what’s funny is that I used to be just like your dad, flipping around the stations (although, in MN the radio stations are few (?!) and not all that great), but since having kids – I basically keep the same station on because the kids are too busy distracting me, so I am unable to change the station . . .But maybe one day I’ll get back to the chronic flipping and drive them crazy 🙂


  4. My mom listened to lots and lots of pop, and then when I grew up I discovered Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and all of these wonderful artists that were never on in my house because my mom was always listening to top 40 radio. lol


    1. Ha! My mom would usually listen to the contemporary stations, so at least then we got a dose of what was current. But in hindsight, my dad did a great job exposing me to really really good music…even if I didn’t always appreciate it at the time.


    1. I do find myself poking around if I don’t like a song that’s on, but if my kids want to hear a song, I stop (unless it’s not appropriate). But it sounds like you and my dad would get along just fine!


  5. You even made a video for your post! I think you won the linkup! (Even though this isn’t a competition, I am always declaring a winner because I’m ridiculous. Sass and Balderdash was the “winner” last week, and this week it’s you.) My dad was redonk with the radio and TV roulette too. It drove my mom INSANE. It just made me more ADD.


    1. I win? YES!!!!!!! Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead. And yeah. The video. I enjoy doing unnecessary things that eat up time I should be spending on important things. It’s one of my talents. But unofficially winning totally made it worth it. I will point out however that my dad already informed me that the time spent on each song was totally inaccurate. He claims he would not have let the Partridge Family or NKOTB songs go past two notes. He takes his radio roulette seriously. Even simulated radio roulette.


  6. That would drive me NUTS to just start getting into something and then have my dad change it! My dad didn’t have a radio in his truck when I was growing up, but my mom did, and my bro and I just fought over it all the time. Eventually we got on the same page when I wanted to be just like him and he then hated it. Ah, childhood.


    1. Isn’t that just the way…you finally like the same music and your brother hates that you’re copying him. Siblings. I think I was probably guilty of doing that to my sister.


  7. Epic finger drumming. Ha! Love it. I think I might have thrown myself out of the car if someone changed that radio that much. Your video only confirmed it. I definitely would not have lived through my childhood.


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