Doug Boilesen

Memories of the Phonograph




 By Douglas Barr Boilesen (2004)

The "Our Song" Phenomenon - A Phonograph Recollection*

I grew-up in a suburb of Lincoln, Nebraska called Eastridge. Our house had a basement with a recreation room, more commonly called the rec room. We had shuffleboard "triangles" inlaid into our tiled basement floor and it provided occasional entertainment. But the real fun was up the street at the Keister's.

There were three Keister boys and their ages were all within five years of each other so it was easy for me to knock on their door and find someone to play with. It was the 1960's and you would play with friends, not hang with friends, and over the years we played pool and played cards and we ate alot of Valentino's pizza in the Keister rec room.

We also played the phonograph, alot.


The Keister rec room was years later remembered as "the social center of the dateless" since most activities were pretty much a guy thing. But we had fun and one of my strongest memories is the sound of the 45 rpm records playing on the RCA Victor phonograph that sat in the corner of that room.

Dave was the oldest Keister brother and he loved Doris Day and Petula Clark. I can still hear him playing Downtown.

Doug was the middle son and had a 45 rpm Italian version of Downtown. For some reason playing that seemed to irritate Dave.

Doug's bedroom was in the basement and in that room he had built what you would have to call a monster sound system. The speakers were Voice of the Theatre, big 15 inch cones inside huge grilled boxes. He had made a custom control panel while working at ISCO, a local manufacturer, and it had a lot of switches and lights.

We used to kid Doug about that control panel because it didn't seem like most of the buttons or lights did anything. I don't remember the sound being that great but it had power and he could crank it up, much to the displeasure of his parents. As I recall, the Yardbirds I'm a Man was always turned up extremely loud by Doug at the end of the song.

I can still hear Mrs. Keister yelling down the staircase "Turn down that music!"

Kim was closest to my age and I remember his collection of 33 1/3 LPs and his Harmon Kardon component stereo system (the purchase of which is a story in itself). I think he had all of the Association albums and I can still picture all of his record albums neatly lined up on the top of the upright piano in the basement.

So there was a variety of music coming out of that basement. "de gustibus non est disputandum" as the Romans would say (there's no accounting for taste).

But if I was to name one song that I connect with all of those record playing days and nights, it has to be the 45rpm Red River Rock by Johnny and the Hurricanes.

It's a record that we literally played hundreds of times, which is one way to account for how deeply it's embedded in my memory.

Remembering music, however, doesn't have to be based on the number of times you hear a song. I think everyone has associations with certain songs and that the source of its memory is varied and can be the first time you heard a song or the last time or any time in between.

For couples, a song is sometimes given special status and called an Our Song.

It's music that is remembered, often with romantic connections or associated with a particular event or place.

Click here to see the full 1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement, and other "Our Song" examples


I don't know how many years we played Red River Rock on that RCA Victor record player but hearing it will always take me back to the 1960's and the Keister basement.

And it's interesting because I don't associate Red River Rock with any special moment or the fact that anyone in our group actually thought Red River Rock was a great record.

I'm also certain that none of us would now call it an "Our Song." We were a group of teen-age boys, in the 1960's, and Red River Rock was just part of the fun.

So it's not an "Our Song". But it is something special. The number of revolutions that record turned and the countless memories that were part of that room made me want to give it a designation.

So I now call Red River Rock a Time Travel Song, a song that triggers memories and takes me back, in this case with a smile, to a particular time and place.

And just like selecting a record from the jukebox, Red River Rock can be played in my head whenever I think of it, transporting me in a way only music can.

For anyone reading my phonograph recollection I would ask three questions:

Do you have a song that takes you to another time and place?

Is it a song that you share with someone as an "Our Song"?

Does it trigger a specific emotion or memory?

Finally, like a broken record I'll repeat the stuck refrain from the theme song of Friends of the Phonograph:

The Phonograph is an invention that began a revolution of sound.

The Phonograph gave us recorded music that can be replayed as often as you want.

The Phonograph created for each of us the "Best seat in the house. Forever."

On December 6, take a moment and wish Edison's Phonograph a Happy Birthday.

It's an invention worth remembering.

Its magic is alive.

It's a revolution still turning.



* A Phonograph Recollection, named in tribute to Mari Sandoz's The Christmas of the Phonographs Records - A Recollection")


Click here to listen to exerpt (4.8 MB) from Red River Rock

Click here to listen to exerpt (5.4 MB) from I'm a Man

Click here to listen to exerpt (5.5 MB) from Downtown

Celebrating the Phonograph, ©1990 Black Rock - Portraits on the Playa




Reading Look magazine and listening to Kim's Harmon Kardon with Dave Clark Headphones, circa 1966.