Art deco or just old? You tell me.

From the first apartment I lived in after leaving home up to and including the house I live in today, some of my furniture was accumulated from different friends and relatives. My first coffee table was one my parents no longer wanted. I still use that table to hold legal pads I write songs with, books and odds and ends that just seem to fit on it.

In the early 1980s, the table and I lived in a poolside apartment in Mobile, Alabama. Steve Smith, an artist friend, saw it for the first time and said, “Where did you get that great art deco piece?”

“Art deco piece?” I said. “I don’t know what that means. I always thought it was an old table.”

45rpm-Ready Teddy by Little Richard with Rip It Up on the “flip side.”

In the years since then, I have noticed that there seems to be an indefinable moment in the history of people, places and things when they cease being “old” and are suddenly “retro.” The resurgence of vinyl records is a good example.

My solid-state transistor radio kept me entertained day and night.

I remember well when they were the only way other than A.M. radio that recorded music could be heard. By the way, I still listen to A.M. radio, too. The little red transistor I had as a kid and a college student in Mississippi is still with me. Often, I went to sleep with it under my pillow as it played hits of all musical genres from local or far-away 50,000 watt clear channel stations like WLS (Chicago), WSM or WLAC (Nashville) or WWL (New Orleans). That may be why I have always been able to remember song lyrics so well.

2 of my favorite “45s.”

As these thoughts were running through my head I decided to put them to music in a song called Retro. Some of the lyrics refer to buying vinyl records and how much fun it was to take them out of the shrink wrap and to play them for the first time on the “record player.” The irony that two versions of this song can be now downloaded from many Internet sites is not lost on me.

My first and only 45rpm vinyl record, The Camellia Grill.

My first professional recording was released on vinyl. I often joke on stage that in 1986, I was the last person who made a 45rpm record who thought people were still buying them. But my “original compact disc” with The Camellia Grill on side A and Seductive Eyes on side B, recorded at Southern Sound Productions in Mobile, Alabama, got me going.

The lyrics to Retro are below, as is a link to a video of a live performance of the song at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. I hope you’ll watch, listen and enjoy. It is also my hope that you will skip becoming “old” and go straight to “Retro,” as I am attempting to do. In the words of Bill Haley who sang them and Bobby Charles Guidry who wrote them, “See you later, alligator.”

Click photo to see Les Kerr perform Retro at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

Words and music by Les Kerr

I play a thirty-year old guitar
That I bought when it was new
Through and old tube amplifier
Built by Leo Fender, too
I remember when The Beatles
Were a brand new band
My solid state transistor played
I Want to Hold Your Hand

If I live to be a hundred, well,
I guess I’m middle-aged
Life is one unfinished book; 
Each day you turn a page
Looking at the years ahead
Can’t help but make me smile
I’m not older, I’m just “retro”
That’s always been my style

I was loyal to The King
All through his movie years
And on the day he died, 
I cried a hunk of burning tears
Thinking of how long that’s been
Could really bring me down
But time moved on and I did,too
I’m glad I’m still around

They call it vintage vinyl now
But I remember when
You found the latest album 
In a retail record bin
You couldn’t wait to get it home
And hear the music play
Now, you can download it
But the feeling’s gone away

Repeat chorus
If I live to be a hundred, well, 
I guess I’m middle-aged
Life is one unfinished book
Each day you turn a page
Looking at the years ahead
Can’t help but make me smile
I’m not older, I’m just “retro”
That’s always been my style

Words and music copyright 2008 by Les Kerr
Publisher: O.N.U. Music (ASCAP)

Click to download Retro.

Text, photos, video and music copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.


About Les Kerr

Les Kerr is a songwriter, recording artist, journalist and author originally from the Gulf Coast now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn More about Les at
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6 Responses to Retro

  1. Bill Chance says:

    Nice entry and cool table. Sometimes, I feel stuck in an art-deco world.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Our son now has his grandad’s turntable and loves to listen to vinyl (old and new). What goes around, comes around.

  3. Jerry Powell says:

    Great job Les! You got a kindred spirit here!

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