Captain Kangaroo’s Theme by Edward White, Conducted by John Wilson, August 2005

At around the same time of life baby John was home in Gateshead falling out of his high chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, I was in my crib in the living room of the old one-bedroom apartment in South Minneapolis jumping up and down in excitement to the theme of Captain Kangaroo on TV.

I think I was always aware that this thing called music existed—my mother continually had the “light music” station tuned in on the tabletop radio, and I remember, before I could walk, hearing again and again orchestral standards like Leroy Anderson’s “Serenata”, Morton Gould’s “Pavanne”, Trevor Duncan’s “Lady in Love” etc etc, and my absolute favorite, the ubiquitous (because Minneapolis) “Swedish Rhapsody” by Hugo Alfen, jauntily rendered by Percy Faith.

But the Captain Kangaroo theme is the first piece of music I remember being able to grasp entirely, except for that stop-time somewhere in the middle, but then I was only 1 or 2, and I didn’t learn about stop-time until music school. Never even knew the piece had a name besides “The Captain Kangaroo Theme”. Then just last month I landed on this vid of an entire BBC2 program from 2005 dedicated to light music pieces used for BBC shows. Went there to rip the Dick Barton, Special Agent! theme, a Monty Python favorite, for my library—it’s called “The Devil’s Galop” by Charles Williams, by the way—and came away with “Barwick Green” from The Archers, “March from Little Suite” from Dr Finlay’s Casebook etc etc etc. And then like a bolt from the blue at 47:55 was “Puffin’ Billy” which, with a crazy thrill, I recognized from the first four notes, who wouldn’t? And there—and there!—at 33 looking 12—my darling lad on the podium.

John Wilson Friday.jpg

Nell Gwyn Overture by Edward German, Played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Conducted by My Bonny John Wilson

Didn’t realize it but I’ve actually had this album (recorded in 2011) for a couple of years now; bought it for Ralph Vaughan Williams’s exquisite “The Lark Ascending” back when John Wilson was just one of those English names to me. This piece though—what absolutely delicious music. I can’t describe what an almost erotic thrill this layer cake of an overture gives me, especially knowing who’s at the baton.

Made in Britain John Wilson