Christmas Music I'd Share With My Other Dad, Tom Diehl

Tom Diehl was my other father. I first met him in 1983 (approximately thirty years after the pic above was taken), even before I started dating his daughter, and it was my heartfelt honor to speak at his funeral mass in May of this year. Tom was my father-in-law for twenty-nine years but he was not at all like I'd always heard fathers-in-law were supposed to be - we had a friendship, a comradery and we bonded over mutual loved ones, gadgets, good food and good music. I made nearly a dozen mixtapes for Tom before I officially and legally became part of his family by wedding his youngest daughter in 1987. Then I began making him mix CDs in the early 2000s but he never really liked them - he preferred store-bought discs so they would look good on his small shelf.
Then I introduced him to iTunes and while I debated a whole 12 hours on which iPod to buy for him as a gift, he rushed out to Wal-Mart (and this was a man who hated to shop) and bought a $50 Philips brand mp3 player which we then both had to learn how to use. It was a pretty lame player but it was obvious he was excited about the possibility of having all of his favorite music with him when he left the house as his work kept him on the road and at remote mountain sites for hours and hours on end. So I asked his eight grandchildren to bring their old, unwanted iPods to his house one Sunday after Mass and he had an extended hands-on session with Nanos, Touches, Minis, and what has since became known as the Classic. He eventually chose the Nano as it was small enough to fit in his pants pocket or toss in the little cubby hole in the dash beneath the stereo in his truck. He then asked me to show him how to 1) make playlists in iTunes and 2) put music on the Nano and after that, he was all about it. Tom installed iPod adapter kits from Crutchfield in all of his vehicles and a 500GB external hard drive for the PC to exclusively house his digital music collection which I built up slowly at first by sneaking over while he was away and ripping several discs at a time before graduating to transferring hundreds of songs at a time from thumb drives. His favorites included The Mills Brothers, The Harmonicats, and his absolute favorite was the finger-picking genius of Chet Atkins. Tom grew to appreciate the doo-wop sounds of the Fifties and Sixties (which he had apparently missed or ignored the first time around), the country rock of The Byrds and Eagles as well as the guitar stylings of Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Stanley Clarke and others including the flamenco guitar albums of Charo.
Tom eventually upgraded his came-with-the-computer speakers to a very nice Klipsch 2.1 system (I use the identical spare set from his cabin in Williams at my Mother-in-Law's request) and would leave his music playing 24/7, filling their house with a unique brand of background music; most of it centered around the sounds of an acoustic guitar. After his second brain surgery in 2015, Tom made a list of things he wanted to get done and one of the items was simply listed as "iTunes". He called me over, sat me down and we went through his list of seven or eight questions about the program, his library, and digital music, working out what we could while he diligently took notes as he was understandably having memory issues. Within a few months, he lost ability to walk and he would ride his scooter into his computer room, bang into his desk and shuffle through his library while he played solitaire on the PC. Tom lost the desire to listen to music when he decided to stop wearing his hearing aids in early April 2016 and less than three weeks later, he left us on April 22nd. Hearing the following Christmas albums this season made me want to share them with the man as they sound like ones he'd like - there is still a Christmas playlist with more than 500 songs there on his PC. Maybe I'll sneak over and add these to that playlist anyway.

This is not a new release and may actually be a re-recording or just a digital compilation of Fahey's first two original Christmas albums: The New Possibility (1968 - later released as Christmas With John Fahey Volume I) and Christmas With John Fahey Volume II (1975). There have actually been several compilations and even re-recordings of the two albums as well as other Fahey Christmas albums. But the bottom line is I think Tom would love the music on this album.

This one would also have been a favorite of Tom's as it has a strong acoustic guitar presence and a bit of jazz. Sharp-eyed album liner notes readers will recognize Juber's name from the Wings albums London Town and Back To The Egg though he went on to play in Al "Year Of The Cat" Stewart's band after the demise of Wings in 1981. Upon listening to Juber's 2016 album of collaborations with pianist William Goldstein, I'm convinced Tom would enjoy the piano and guitar interplay found on Musings as well.

This 1969 album got a digital-only release this year after appearing on two different Japanese compact disc pressings in the past fifteen years so who knows, maybe we'll see a domestic disc release or even a vinyl repressing soon. This album is a quieter style of jazz than heard on either album featured in yesterday's Holiday Soul post and I think it would appeal to my other father Tom because of that - it's nearly perfect background music. It sounds good at lower volumes but also rewards listening at a slightly higher volume as well. I've added the album to The Holiday at The Hideaway mix.

If I were to award an album for reminding me most of Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas, this album would win. It's probably the most listened-to album on today's list - it just makes me happy! Which is something I cannot always say about the Guaraldi album - it bums me out a lot of the time. Now that everyone has stopped reading, I guess I'll keep on chuggin'. 

I enjoyed throwing Tom a curveball at every opportunity, something that I thought there was a slim chance he might like and this year that selection would be this album of gypsy-jazz. It is certainly festive and full of warmth but it does have vocals which may have worked against it in Tom's ears. Nevertheless, I like it a lot and couldn't resist sharing it with y'all. If you like what you hear and would like to hear this Canadian trio cover some Eighties tracks, go HERE.

As a huge fan of Chet Atkins, it came as little surprise that Tom loved each and every Tommy Emmanuel album I gave him, including Emmanuel's All I Want For Christmas from 2011. Along with the Fahey album up at the top, this album would have been the safest bet to be loved by Tom. But he might have surprised me - nothing was ever a lock with the capricious guy and I mean no disrespect by that or by anything I've written today. I loved him like a father and I miss him every day. Having lost my father in 2015, I was still grieving when Tom passed on with my hand on his head and his wife of fifty-five years tearfully begging him not to leave her.   

This is the final Christmas 2016 post here at The Hideaway and I would like to thank everyone for the year. It wasn't the greatest but most of us survived. I'll be back on Monday with the first of three year-end wrap-ups.

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