When I was a kid, on Fridays I would grab my skateboard and ride it out of the hood in the middle of street traffic to go visit my father. Even though I found out as an adult that I wasn’t his, after my parents divorced, as the youngest of six, I was the one who stuck to him like glue. I would sit like a little puppy outside his door- sometimes for hours. He would come in looking a little tired but then smile and say “what’s up Lil Guy? You been here long?”
And I would always lie and say “no daddy I just got here.” He would laugh and open the door and I would be home. Though he had a girlfriend living with him, no matter what his plans were, he was there on Friday to let me in. We had no cell phones back then. Everybody just knew where you were and what you were probably doing. Dad and I would listen to music until his girlfriend got home. Then they would talk about what they wanted for dinner. Sometimes we cooked. Other times it was Chinese or a chicken place. But I was always welcome. Never a burden. It was the only place on earth I was accepted for who I was. No longer clowned for being a smart proper talking black kid.
Dad loved to talk about the history of every song and artist on the radio and in his collection. He loved that I liked to listen. From the day I could first remember, I sat at the record player at every family picnic with the 45’s and LP’s taking all the requests from the hundred or so family members who brought their records with their names taped to them. Everybody knew that “Lil Guy” was the family deejay for every picnic. It started out as a cute thing to let a toddler do. But then I got good. By the time I was in elementary school, I knew music like the back of my hand. I understood rhythms and timings and crowds and how to keep them dancing.
One day on his state job, one of the Delegates who lost an election threw out a case of recorded music on some premium chrome cassettes that cost a lot of money. Those were the days where most of us black folk used to tape all our music off the radio and would be so mad when the announcers talked over it. After a while we knew which deejay to call the radio station and ask for the song and we had the nerve to even tell him we were going to record it so could he please be quiet? Wow. Those were the days.
Anyway, as a state custodian, my father kept the tapes instead of throwing them out. He was using them to record his music off the radio. When my parents were married I used have to hide in the closet with a little radio to keep from being teased by my brothers and sisters for listening to “white music”. But in the collection that was on the tapes were many artists I had never heard of and I was fascinated. We would still listen and talk about his music, but afterward I would lay on his floor with the headphones on and listen to those tapes for hours. Dad never said a word.
After a while I noticed he had purchased some new cassettes. For years I did not understand why. Until one day as an adult after he died too young, it hit me and I just cried. He didn’t want to record over them because he knew how much I loved the music. He just left the case there for me to keep listening. And I would start to tell him “Daddy did you know that song you told me about that white people be singing it too?” and he would just laugh.
Dad really didn’t care much for white people but he cared for me and that is what mattered. He let me be who I was and that opened the door for my career in music as a writer and a studio vocalist working with every style of artist and as a top requested deejay for events ranging from million dollar weddings to the White House, Embassy Row, and The World Bank. When I was in school and went away for music camp, he would tell all his friends I was at Herbie Handcock school and he had a tape of my original music in his truck that he played everyday. He wasn’t a perfect man. But not bad. Not bad at all for a man who never really had to call me his son. -NEO BLAQNESS