If You Have Not Yet Recorded Your Parents’ Voices, Do It Now

Don’t wait until it’s too late to capture your parents’ on tape.

REM1508BIAB20Reminisce Magazine

How long has it been since you last heard your father’s voice? In my case, it had been more than 30 years. In mid-December of 1980, Dad told me over the phone that he and Mom would be stopping to visit me in Marietta, Georgia. A few days later, after packing for the trip, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

My father had worked hard to provide for me and my mother, brother, and sister. Much of the time, he held a full-time position plus two or three part-time jobs—so I heard my father’s voice less often than I would have liked.

One of Dad’s part-time jobs was as a musician in a swing orchestra, and then a smaller nightclub band. As a kid, I was too young to hear him perform, and as I attended college and later started my career, I was too far away to hear his mellow trombone or his baritone voice.

Dad and I had never had heart-to-heart talks, and I thought his retirement would give us more time to chat. I was so let down when his early death deprived both of us of those conversations.

As the years passed, I gradually forgot what his voice sounded like.

Then, a few months ago, I experienced a miracle. I was visiting my brother, Dick, in Cortland, New York. He pulled a cassette tape out of his car’s glove compartment and said, “It’s Dad’s tape; I haven’t played it for years, so it’s probably no good.”

It turned out to be plenty good—a recording of one of Dad’s nightclub engagements in 1959 or 1960. We listened as he played old favorites such as “Sentimental Journey” and “Mack the Knife” and even sang a couple of numbers. As the evening’s emcee, he bade the audience good night and acknowledged the performers.

The original recording, which had been captured on a reel-to-reel machine, was disintegrating—but with the help of Dick’s wife and a radio station technician, we copied it onto a cassette tape. Dad’s voice and music had survived against all odds.

I have since made CD copies for my brother and sister. Anytime we want Dad’s spirit to visit us, we simply insert the disc and listen to his magic. If you have not yet recorded your parents’ voices, do it now. I doubt you’ll get a lucky break like I did.

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Originally Published in Reminisce