Before Garrison Keillor made the big time, he used to have a morning show at Minnesota Public Radio in Minneapolis. I listened to it every morning while getting ready for electronics class. Being live radio and unscripted, sometimes he would get hopelessly tangled up in some topic or spoof that was impossible to extricate himself from. On those occasions, with sidekick Jim Ed Poole cracking up in the background, he would cut to the Beach Boys’ “Help me Ronda”.
In the winter, by popular request, he would play the car starting song. In those days cars had carburetors instead of fuel injectors and a frozen car could be started by removing the air filter and pouring a little gas-line antifreeze (trade name Heet) down its throat. And yes, we did sometimes plug in the car overnight to make sure it would start in the morning–there was some sort of engine heater with a plug hanging out of it, or you could get a portable one with a magnet that would stick on any iron engine part. That was back before they figured out how to get cars with fuel injection and aluminum engine blocks to run in this cold of a climate.
The Car Starting Song is almost impossible to find on the web. I found it by googling “O cold and misery”. Turns out it was written by Charlie McGuire and the title is coincidentally “Oh cold and misery”. It’s even on an album, Harbour Lights: The Second Voyage, and you can hear the first verse here, after a short talking lead-in.
I have to add that this was a fairly typical kind of music we listened to when we went out to The Land in the summer. In the 70’s, Wisconsin communes didn’t have electricity (it has solar cells with an array of 12V batteries now), so no electric guitars or rock and roll, but there were a few people who could play a mean guitar, bass, or banjo, and still do. Sometimes after much beer was consumed, the musicians would become horizontal, but they never stopped playing.
So here is another link to the car starting song, in hopes that it will be forever immortalized.
Oh cold and misery
It was early morn’ like so many before
Oh cold and misery
Am C G Am
I put on my coat and walked out of the door
Standing alone on the frozen ground
I went to the place where my beast lay asleep
(Oh cold and misery)
On four tires of rubber a long cord in its teeth
(Standing alone on the frozen ground)
I opened the door and I jammed in the key
Not a sound did I hear, nor exhaust did I see
So I went to my neighbor and to her I spoke
She soon came a ‘ riding on white clouds of smoke
On it’s terminals bare, long cables I placed
And I gave it a charge with revenge of my face
It coughed, and it rumbled then let out a roar
Lashing it with gas pedal harsh commands I swore
The smell of the ether ether did hand in the air
And empty “Heet” cans lay about everywhere
And when we were moving its anger was gone
From its radio voice, came music and song
But tonight when the dark comes to its moving parts
It will again be the beast with the ice in its heart