Old time Butlerites will remember Lil’ George Kerr. George was a staple of Eagle advertising. He invited us to come out to his store on Route 8 north of town to see, hear, and experience the latest in devices to cook dinner or cool Fresca. In the late 1950’s everyone was wanting something new and different. In the ads, Lil ‘George would wear a stovepipe hat for the Lincoln’s Birthday Sale. On New Year’s Eve, he would be drawn in a diaper scampering around and pointing at the latest and greatest.
My family journeyed out to Kerr’s. I saw no Lil’ George but instead walked with my folks through a showroom crowded with all manner of appliances arranged higgledy-piggledy to offer a maze of temptation to the consumer on the cusp of the New Frontier. “You have to hear this!” offered the salesman dressed in a natty suit and colorful tie. “Is that a record player?” I asked staring at the oval box covered with gold faux-alligator. “Nooooo. THIS is a STEREO! It plays LPs, but doesn’t sound anything like a record player.” Skeptical, I watched as he dramatically withdrew an LP from the album titled “Leroy Anderson Conducts Leroy Anderson”.
As the first bars of Sleigh Ride breezed out of the speakers I was hypnotized. In some cases sales promises, I reasoned, were correct. This was so far beyond the record player back at home that played the scratchy 78 RPM American Patrol or the flat sounding Hound Dog on the RCA 45. The music was big, and round, and full, and big, and big.
To this day I cannot hear Sleigh Ride without recalling the audio adventure of my first brush with stereo. We had that unbelievably ugly stereo for ten more years. It was here I first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Most guys did not have a cool grandmother who introduced him to the second wave of the Beatles, but I did. And on that ugly stereo it sounded mighty good.