In 1966, I heard some stuff on the radio that blew my mind. It wasn’t the usual rock and roll on WDGY or country music from one of the stations late at night, though this was late at night. This was on a local Minnesota station and played by some DJ who had traveled farther south that Mankato. It wasn’t soul, but it had plenty. It wasn’t a wailing guitar, though it had six strings. It had harmonies and sang about beaches, but it wasn’t the Beach Boys. Bossa Nova had hit the Twin Cities and stuck around to light up some romance and claim some ears.
Heck, it wasn’t even from our country. I mean, what kind of name was Joao? And how do you pronounce it? Nylon strings plucked a kind of rhythm that was foreign, even to The Beatles, and miles away from Motown. No one was belting out the vocals to pull me out of my seat; these guys wanted you to sit back on the couch, light up a smoke, and sip slowly from a tall, cool one.
Okay, some of it did sound a little cheesy and had bad strings in the background. It was a bit more mellow than I was used to and I couldn’t understand a word they were singing, but I found I liked that kind of mystery. I imagined them singing about stuff that was important to me. Zaza za… love… zazaza za… pizza… zaza… cars… zazaza… girls. I could feel the breeze coming off the waves and imagined the sun sinking slowly, while the stars said hello.
Dylan, the Animals, Jimmy Smith, the Four Tops, were and would always be on my hit parade, but this stuff let me know for the first time that there was more to music than I had ever imagined. It didn’t matter what it was or where it came from, music could drive you crazy. This was an introduction to a wider perspective. This was serious exposure and initiation. After this, the world would never be the same.