In late 2011, staff of the All Things Considered program on National Public Radio asked listeners to share memories of music that reminded them of winter. Veronica Horton offered a charming childhood reminiscence about dancing on the roof of an old car her dad had parked behind their barn in rural Minnesota. Wearing her Western boots and bundled up to fight the cold, 12-year-old Veronica danced with abandon, tapping out the rhythm of “Sixteen Tons.”
Country singer and songwriter Merle Travis wrote “Sixteen Tons” in the late 1940s for his “Folk Songs of the Hills” album, a collection about the plight of Travis’s Kentucky coal-mining community. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s deep-voiced, finger-snapping version of the song soared to #1 on the country music charts in 1955. Veronica Horton remembered hearing it when her mother listened to the radio on weekends.
When I heard Horton tell her story, I had what NPR calls a “driveway moment,” when listeners are so riveted that they’re unable to leave their car—despite arriving at their destination—until the radio story concludes. My driveway moment occurred in my kitchen, where I was preparing dinner, with the radio tuned to All Things Considered, my usual choice at that time of day. I stopped chopping vegetables and stood very still, mesmerized by Horton’s 4-minute winter musical memory. I wanted to hear every word. See if you have your own driveway moment when you listen here.
Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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