Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“Music Lives On,” by Matt Kulak

One of the most satisfying things about Riehlife is connecting with new readers and hearing their thoughts. Matt Kulak commented on "Just as the Sun Went Down"--a Civil War song chosen by my father Erwin A. Thompson. Here's a lovely letter he wrote to Pop. --Janet

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So although the facts may disappear from history, I guarantee the music will live on in the children of those of us who grew up with these songs.

Dear Mr. Thompson,

Your daughter Janet mentioned you after I commented on her posting about the song “Just As The Sun Went Down." I wanted to share this story with you since you are interested in this song, and other music like it.

The song “Just As The Sun Went Down” is a very touching story. I’ve had no personal experience with war or loved ones lost in war, fortunately. So I can only imagine what that is like. But hearing this song does make me think, each year, of the countless soldiers lost in battle.

I was born in 1967, the youngest of 5 children. My parents were both born in 1932 (unfortunately neither one of them is with us any longer). But my fondest memories of growing up have to be Christmastime each year, when we would listen to this old, scratched 1957 Christmas album by a group called Tex Johnson & His Six Shooters. Although my parents weren’t particularly interested in country & western music, this album somehow became our family Christmas soundtrack. Every year, without fail, we played that thing over and over while decorating the Christmas tree, baking cookies, sitting around the fireplace, opening gifts, etc. I still have the original album, with a very worn cover sleeve and hundreds of scratches, pops, and crackles on it.

I honestly can’t say why certain songs where included on this album, as they were not even remotely Christmas-themed. Some of these include the theme from the TV show Cheyenne, Just As the Sun Went Down, San Antonio, and Pride of the Prairie Mary. To this day, my wife thinks I’m crazy for listening to these non-Christmas songs every year. My two daughters are somewhat more accepting of them. But I have to tell you, I just can’t get through a Christmas season without listening to it numerous times. I even searched online for several years, and finally found another copy of the album on eBay. This copy was in much better condition. So I used a newer turntable connected to my computer to clean up a lot of the cracks and pops, and made CD copies for all of my brothers and sisters. They were thrilled.

Oddly enough, when I was searching online for a new copy of the album, I found a website by a gentleman who also grew up listening to this album with his family. And lo and behold, he had heard from hundreds of people with the same story. And all of us were scouring the internet trying to find new copies of it, or make copies for other people, or even to research more about Tex Johnson and his group. There is no information online at all about this group. And what’s more interesting, is that there is apparently another album, with identical recordings of the exact same songs, but it is attributed to Cactus Jim and the Wranglers. And people have similar stories of growing up with THAT album! So it appears that the singing group might have been a generic recording group, whose album was then marketed under several different names. Pretty clever marketing if you ask me! But since the record company that released the albums (Spinorama) no longer exists, and there is little info to be found online, I’m afraid at this point in time (55 years after the album was released), there may not be anyone left who was associated with that company or knows any more details.

So although the facts may disappear from history, I guarantee the music will live on in the children of those of us who grew up with these songs.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season this year!

Best Wishes,

Matt Kulak

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  1. “Renfro Valley Memories,” by Erwin A. Thomspon | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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