Jack and the Music Box

Mike Violette

Prohibition (1920-1933) created opportunities for many “entrepreneurs.” Before the wide-spread deployment of radio sets, families would congregate around their Victrolas, spinning 78s and (literally) grooving on the likes of Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ which is a romantic ‘Scotch Song with Orchestra’ written—and sung—by the inimitable tenor Sir Harry Lauder a hundred years back.

Jack “Legs” Diamond drove into Stone Camp Way on a chilly late-September evening. The bullfrogs had all gone to sleep in the deep mud under the lilly pads by then. The shortened days blew in an early frost and light crunch on the gravel driveway announced Legs’ arrival.

Legs rang me up some weeks ago and said he’d be by to check out my newly-acquired wireless music player and, I, not wanting to be un-obliging (not to mention something about the notoriety he gained during the “Bootleg Wars” a few years back), said ‘Yes, come on by.’

He rapped on the door and came inside, bringing alongside him a whisper of winter.

“It’s great to be back to the lake, Mike.” Legs said, closing the door behind him. He pulled on the last bit of cherry on his cheroot, regarded it for a brief moment, looked at me and dropped it, smashing his heel on the shard of the smoke. “Don’t mind, do ya, Mike? Smells like cats in here.”

Of course I did mind, but it was Legs, after all. “Cats are all dead, five years on, Jack.”

He grunted, picked up the butt from the ground, twisted it together and put in his pocket.

wireless music player

“Yo, Mike. I didn’t come around here to talk about dead pets. Let’s see this fancy music box ya got, what say?”

I motioned him through the dining room and into the living room. Ma and I summered in a two-season cabin by the lake, wood and varnish and must and pine all intermingling in the cool dark heart of the house.

“Cozy…” Jack sounded appreciative, nodding. He liked being out of the way, I knew that. “I could live here.”

Yeah, but you can’t Jack. You on the lam?

“Sure, always, ya know.”

I motioned to the tall wooden box at the foot of the stairs. This is the music box, Jack. Maybe you’ve seen one?

“Woah, nice! My mutha had one of these!”

I showed Jack the workings of my wireless music machine.

Features included:

  • No external AC or DC required (manual power input, perfect for power outages and preppers)
  • Frequency response 100 Hz-3200 Hz
  • Direct audio output
  • Adjustable volume
  • Single play, manual return
  • Selectable transducer placement
  • Supply of replacement needles

Jack sat on the porch overlooking the lake. I’d never seen him so relaxed. We played Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ (twilight), Somewhere a Heart is Calling*, The Bibb County Jig and Al Jolson’s popular Where did Robinson Crusoe go with Friday on Saturday Night?

After a while, Jack rose, fired up one more cigarette and shook my hand. “Thanks for the music, Mike. Maybe I’ll see you over at Kay’s sometime!” As he left, he pulled a Bell jar of clear liquid from his coat pocket and handed it to me.

“Anti-freeze.” He winked and went out the door, swung his car door open and hopped inside, cranked up the slant six and crunched the sedan down the lane, bobbing on the rocky road. I never saw him again.

Jack “Legs” Diamond was assassinated in Troy, NY in 1931. According to Police reports, a couple of rivals caught up with him and brought him to his reward in a local boarding house. Ach, the troubles entrepreneurs suffer.

*A snippet of Somewhere a Heart is Calling is here: http://youtu.be/jhzrN8x9LIg