“Music is defined as vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” -Oxford Dictionary
Recently, my bonus father, Wayne Lambert and I sat at the kitchen table discussing his affinity for music. Over the span of 88 years he has built a collection of hundreds of treasured albums and music stored on a variety of mediums. He and mother are aging together in their Southside home and as her health has declined, he has assumed a major role as a caregiver. He finds space to care for his own spiritual and emotional needs through the solace music provides.
Whenever he has another family member or helper in the home, he retreats to his basement man cave. Of course, he has chores to perform downstairs, but shortly after his descent the strains of jazz classics waft up the steps into the kitchen.
When asked about his love affair with music he recalls music having been a staple in his life since high school. He attended my alma mater, John Baptiste DuSable in 1944, and fondly remembers playing the French horn, under the leadership and guidance of the legendary Captain Walter Henri Dyett; affectionately known as “Cap.” Captain Dyett was renowned for curating many of music’s luminaries like: Jean “Jug” Ammons, Nat King Cole, Richard Davis, Von Freeman, Ella Fitzgerald and many others. “The disciplined approach of Captain Dyett made a huge impression on me, in fact you couldn’t be in his class and not be changed.”
Wayne, dropped out of DuSable after his sophomore year, knocked around at odd jobs until he wisely joined the army. He was promoted from private to corporal and earned an honorable discharge.
After the military, around 1953, when several transportation companies were consolidated under the Chicago Transit Authority Wayne was hired as a street care conductor and when buses were phased in, Wayne drove a CTA bus until his retirement in June 1994.
Wayne, a people person with an infectious smile recalls, “Whites didn’t accept ‘Colored’ bus drivers graciously. I was spat upon in certain neighborhoods and hit in the face with snowballs with rocks in them. It was worse than it is now”
He stoically remembers an evening, early in his driving career, when an off duty White Chicago Policeman got on his bus and demanded to ride free. Following the company policy, Wayne requested that the officer show his badge.
“He pushed the badge against the side of my face –hard. I felt humiliated but maintained my composure and the officer took a seat on the bus.
It wasn’t until the officer got off at his stop, that a male rider said, “Man, I’m so glad you didn’t talk back to him. He had his gun pointed right at the back of your head!”
After my shift, I went back to my apartment and played my music for hours. Music was a healing balm to settle my spirit. Still is. I could never buy enough music or listen to music often enough.”
By 1965 Wayne adopted the handle “Jam with Lamb” and started DJing part-time at Southside clubs like the Pelican Lounge, Hank’s Lounge and others.
One of Wayne’s favorite musicians was Count Basie, who he preferred over Duke Ellington, because “the Count’s music was more down to earth.” It is worth noting that the two band leaders joined forces for an album in 1961 in an album, Count Meets the Duke with their combined orchestras under the Columbia record label.
He believes that “Music is so basic, like David and his harp,” and he appreciates almost all music, including classical (Beethoven is his favorite). You might catch him grooving to show tunes, jazz, blues, and R&B. The octogenarian admits that he hasn’t crossed the cultural divide to Blue Grass music or for that matter to Hip Hop.
“Music used to be about beauty. Now when I listen to some of the music it is vulgar, and it bores me”
As I reflect upon my own musical tastes, which includes, to the chagrin of some of my friends, Hip Hop and Rap, I most resonate with the love songs that framed my youth. I love Smokey Robinson’s promise to “build me a castle with a tower so high it reaches the moon.” And for me the most beautiful song ever is the Temptations’ version of Some Enchanted Evening, sang by Ollie Woodson. What’s yours?
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.