by Trent Rentsch
Some people lead the most fascinating lives, and more often than not, keep some of the juiciest tidbits to themselves. My Father-in-law certainly falls into that category. He and wife have literally traveled around the world, often on the roads less traveled. He was at the forefront of the Distance Learning revolution, and later, in addition to his position in traditional academia, owned a bartending school. I could go on, but you get the picture… interesting man, interesting life. But after all the stories I had heard about his remarkable journey, it turned out that there was so much more to know… and the evidence was hiding in a stack of decaying acetate discs.
Now, my Wife had always alluded that he was a singer when he was young, and there was talk that he sang on television, but nobody really knew the details… and Dad wasn’t talking. When asked, he would shrug it off; maybe throw out a nugget about a road trip with his parents “for a show,” and that was about it. I suspected there was more to the story, but never expected to hear it. I was wrong.
We all accumulate a lot of “stuff” in our lifetime. Dad and his Wife decided some time ago that they wanted to be the ones to thin their “treasures,” in an effort to both save their children the work of going through it someday, and also (I believe) to reach back and recall a life well-lived. One day he asked me if I had any way to digitize some old records. “Of course,” I said. “What do you have?”
“Well, Jane has some albums and some old 78s that mean a lot to her… and I suppose some of my records are in there too.” Both my Wife and I took notice of that! I immediately agreed to do what I could with them, and was presented with a box “stacked with wax.”
I must admit, while I wanted to make sure my Step-Mother-in-law was able to listen to her records, I knew which ones I would attack first. The “Recordio Discs” in the record binder had certainly seen better days, but when I cued up the first of them, I was immediately sent back in time, where…
…Young Tommy Russell was taking the stage of Paul Whiteman’s national television show, confidently crooning “Bring Back the Thrill” with a skill and confidence few adults could match. I was amazed… yes, he most certainly WAS a singer… and a damned good one! Disk after disk, he went through the popular songs of the day; winning applause and several contests in the space of a few short years. Through the skips and scratches, I discovered an entire life my Father-in-law lived before his adult adventures began.
When we presented him with the CD of his performances, he was finally more forthcoming about days in front of the microphone. It seemed that his Mother had a bit of “stage Mom” in her, and encouraged all of the “Russell boys” to perform, although he showed more interest than his brothers. He sang on a local radio station often, and yes, did appear on Mr. Whiteman’s national TV program, after an overnight drive to Philly to audition. From the sound of it, he was a bit of a celebrity in Rochester, NY in the early 1950s… the local Justin Beiber of his day. I asked him why he simply walked away of performing, when he had the talent and seemed to be gathering a following. “Oh, I was tired of it, I guess… I was a kid,” he said, as if it explained it all.
I find it both fascinating and a bit sad that people can so easily walk away from their natural talents. I mean, there’s no doubt that my Father-in-law’s choices still led him down paths many cannot imagine, but I wonder what other stages he might have performed on in his life, had he continued to sing.
The question bears asking… what talent are you hiding? It’s a serious question, and if you’re like most Creatives I know, you have at least one answer. The bigger question comes next… why are you hiding it?
Radio Creative is a wonderful outlet for your talents and skills, but if you find yourself saying, “I really wish I was…” you’re not fully exploring your Creative world. I’m not suggesting that you immediately quit and run away with the circus, but you may want to take the time to dip your toe into those other Creative endeavors that you’ve allowed to slip out of your life. Remember, the clock is ticking.
Trent Creates words, voices, audio and music. His professional home is Krash Creative Solutions. You can contact him at: