Thank you, Johnny Mathis
We have a new radio station KDDK 105.5 in the area that plays what I consider to be classics – Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett and all the greats. They also throw in some show tunes and the most eclectic mix of Musak-type tunes, songs in French and Spanish, patriotic songs, old time religious songs, and the occasional operatic aria. After my Kidd Kraddick fix every morning, I tune in to this new station promptly at 10 am. I spend the rest of the day either singing or humming along or laughing as I try to figure where they dug up a particular song. I would go out of my mind if I couldn’t have music in the background while I work.
One of the first songs I ever heard played on this station is the one that endeared me to the place forever. I was driving along and heard Johnny Mathis’ “Sweetheart Tree” - a song written by the great Johnny Mercer for the movie "The Great Race" directed by Blake Edwards.
They say there’s a tree in the forest
A tree that will give you a sign
Come along with me to the Sweetheart Tree
Come and carve your name next to mine
They say if you kiss the right sweetheart
The one you’ve been waiting for
Big blossoms of white will burst into sight
And your love will be true evermore
Johnny is Mom’s very favorite singer. She has been fortunate enough to have seen him live several times through the years. “Sweetheart Tree” is one of Johnny’s lesser known tunes so it’s not an easy song to find (as I found out one birthday sometime back when I decided I had to find it on CD for Mom). But the second I hear it I am transported back to 1965 at age 4 when Johnny’s album “The Sweetheart Tree” was brand new. I was an only child at the time and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. “Sweetheart Tree” quickly became our favorite and I remember I would often beg Mom to play our song. She would put that album on the phonograph and we would dance.
I hadn’t heard the station replay “Sweetheart Tree” since the first day I listened but this afternoon they dug it out again. On the first occasion, I had called Mom and turned up the radio so she could hear it over the cell phone. Today I just sat back in my chair and let my mind remember a time when it was just my mom and I at home every day. There wasn’t a set up twins there taking up a lot of her time (not that I’m not glad they came along later), none of the mother-daughter battles of the teenage years had happened yet, I hadn’t discovered The Beatles, and I still believed moms were perfect in every way. Johnny Mathis sang and we twirled and giggled and sang “Sweetheart Tree” together - just Mom, Johnny, and me. I have lots of wonderful childhood memories but this one ranks way up there.
So Johnny, I’ve made fun of you through the years and have given my mom a hard time for being such a huge fan of yours, but the truth is that 40+ years ago you gave my mom and me something special to share and I really have to thank you for that.