Riders of DeCamp bus No. 66 between Montclair and NYC might view the trip as a daily necessity, but the bus’ driver, Clifford M. Blackwell, finds it inspirational.
He’s been driving the 66 bus for the last seven years, the latest stop in a 38-year career as a bus operator, and his route drove him to write and record a jazzy local tribute, “My Old Town Montclair.”
The song is four minutes of swinging vocal jazz, and Blackwell says it’s inspired by the people who ride his bus each day: “The song chronicles the great accomplishments, achievements, and popularity of this little extraordinary, diverse community of wonderful professional people.”
Blackwell lives in Union with his wife Marceline (they have four adult children), and for more than 45 years he’s been a church musician and songwriter. “I was surrounded by music throughout my childhood,” he says. “My mom loved and sang opera and grew up in the Greater Bethany Baptist Church of Newark. My father also grew up in Bethany and loved jazz, 40s big bands and pop, and he was an avid listener of WBGO jazz radio.”
The music for “My Old Town Montclair” comes out of those jazz and pop traditions, and the lyrics are straight from his bus route. “My route goes down the high end of Valley Road for a short segment, where the new Valley & Bloom apartments now sit,” he says. “Knowing it would have a spectacular view of the New York City skyline is what inspired me to write this song about the town of Montclair and its ‘New York City Connection.’”
He says the song is meant as a gift for the people he sees on his bus. “This song is a tribute to the town that I have grown to love and cherish,” says Blackwell. “It’s a tribute to the town and the wonderful residents that I serve on a daily basis.”
“My Old Town Montclair” is available for download at www.cdbaby.com/cd/cliffordmblackwell.