Concerts from long, long ago are more than just memories for scholar and poet Tim Hunt.
As a young man attending concerts in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Hunt saw some legendary performers—Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Cream and many more. Years later, he had more than memories of those concerts and a drawer full of ticket stubs; Hunt had inspiration to create a collection of poems that sprang from the soundtrack of the Baby Boom generation. The new book is entitled “Ticket Stubs and Liner Notes.”
“The idea was to try to evoke something of the difference between what it was like to listen to these people early on when you’re just kind of naïve and just into the music, and what it seems like in retrospect.” Hunt said. “The way I remember things is different.”
“I heard Chuck Berry in a dive bar outside of Ithica, New York, when I was a college student. He lead us through a rousing rendition of 'My Ding-a-Ling,'" Hunt recalled with a laugh. Then his face turned serious, as modern understanding put a new slant on the memories of his youth. “But at the time I didn’t really realize that he’d been burned so much by concert promoters that he would only play after somebody paid him cash up front. And in many places he was restricted and forced to stay in his own car. So the last line of one poem is about Chuck back out to his Cadallac shack.”
“At the time, the racial dynamics never occurred to me, even in the late 1960s for a performer like Berry. Of course, thinking back on it now, it does. So the poem plays that retrospection against that naivete.”
The artists that inspired Hunt’s new collection are a part of the Baby Boomer playlist, but he has a plan for reaching out to music lovers who get their tunes via streaming, rather than a juke box or radio.
“My last semester of teaching in 2016 I mentioned Chuck Berry in passing and no one had heard of him,” Hunt sighed. “That’s a problem. So as the book comes out, it will come out with a companion website. The entry on Chuck Berry will include a YouTube video of him duck walking, a rendition of 'My Ding-a-Ling' and a reading of my poem, that sort of thing.”
Hunt hopes readers will find that the poems give them a chance to reimagine what the music was originally like for them at the time, but how now they can also see it from a different angle with, shall we say, a decade or two of additional experience or awareness.
"For younger readers, I hope the book gives them a sense of how we related to music in that era through a very different media landscape than theirs," Hunt said.
“Ticket Stubs and Liner Notes” will be released in November. It has already won the 2018 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.
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