Last Changed: Saturday, 4-26-14

MWillsonIn the mid-1950s, playwright and composer Meredith Willson, wrote a musical called THE MUSIC MAN. It played on Broadway beginning in 1957, won five Tony awards, and became a classic movie in 1962. ‘Twas about a traveling salesman (Professor Harold Hill) and life in a small Iowa town, River City, in the early 1900s.

Turns out, River City is essentially Willson’s hometown, Mason City, Iowa, right down to the footbridge, the library, and some of the characters.

Meredith Willson Footbridge
Meredith Willson Footbridge

I grew up in Mason City, (under a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way), and I climbed on what is now the Meredith Willson Footbridge, read books in the library, knew folks like Willson’s River Citians; and as a band member, played more Music Man music than I care to admit. I played one of the 110 cornets, and yes, had the honor (and fear) of playing 76 Trombones under the direction of Meredith Willson himself. Yes, that’s an image of MWillson leading the Mason City High School band down main street at the 1962 premier of the film, The Music Man, right there in Mason City / River City!MWillsonBand

I’ve adapted two songs from The Music Man musical (Ya Got Trouble and 76 Trombones) to accommodate and accomplish my goal of dark skies, so that the Milky Way’s luster ‘n luminosity can once again shine free and wild.

FOLKS, listen! There’s trouble in your community, your “River City”, in the form of POOL, light POOL-lution, that is; and you need to compose and perform a DARK SKY REBELLION!

Oh, and by the way, Willson’s Ya Got Trouble was decades ahead of its time, sounding something like a 21st Century rapper’s rap, making Meredith the first true Rap Artist.  Just sayin’.

WHAT follows are my words to Ya Got Trouble and 76 Telescopes, with no disrespect to M. Willson and his wonderful musical. Read Willson’s words online here.  Or better, listen to and watch the original Ya Got Trouble, with actor, Robert Preston, THE Music Man, on YouTube here. Then return to read my own Dark Sky words to Ya Got Trouble in your own “River City.”


Now folks, either you’re closin’ your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge — sleeplessness — or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of star-stealin’, sleep-stealin’ night light in your community.

Chicago at night © Chris Alexander
Chicago at night
© Chris Alexander

Weeell, ya got trouble, my friends…right there, I say, trouble right there in your city. Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for POOL-lution! Light pollution, that is.

Why sure, I’m a lifelong stargazer, certainly; mighty proud, I say, I’m always mighty proud to say it. I consider the hours I spend with starlight in my eyes golden. Help me cultivate star sense, a cool head, a keen eye, and deep sleep.

‘Jever take-’n try to see an iron clad supernova from a light-polluted backyard? Well, I should say, it takes darkness, hours, and a mature eye to spy a dim galaxy.

Now, I say any boob can take ‘n turn on a bright, backyard light. And I call that Sloth! The first big step on the road to the height of wasteful light!

I say, first it’s a little backyard security light. Then…all night glare from big, bright business bulbs. And the next thing you know, your sleep’s a-slippin’ away, and your stars are a-dimmin’ in the glow of bright, wasteful light, and fadin’ from view in some Big Box out-a-town corporate glare!

Hearin’ ‘em tell about bigtime profit, not a wholesome dark-sky trace. Oh, no! But a race where the Horsehead Nebula drowns in blazing light! Like to see some stuck-up light jockey settin’ up more light? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say.

New York at night.© Charliebrown 7034
New York at night.
© Charliebrown 7034

Now friends, let me tell ya what I mean. Ya got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. . .thousand lights in your town! Bright lights that mark the diff’rence between a zillion stars, and zip, with a capital Z, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for POOL-lution, light pollution, that is.

And all year long your youth’ll be a slackin’ away, not sleepin’, I say your young-uns’ll be a slackin’. Slackin’ away their sleeptime, noontime, suppertime, chore time too! Get the bulb in the socket! Never mind gettin’ any fancy lights fixed, or your streetlights capped, or your parking lot lights bounded. Never mind savin’ any starlight ’til your parents are caught awake with the Milky Way lost on a Saturday night.

Well, ya got light, my friends! Lots ‘n lots of light! Waaaay too much light!

Now, I’m thinkin’ of the kids with binoculars and telescopes; young ones, seekin’ starlight in dingy, light-polluted skies. Ya got trouble, folks, right there in your city. Trouble, with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for POOL-lution. Light pollution, that is!

Now I know all you folks are the right kind of people, I’m gonna be perfectly frank. Would ya like to know what kinda sleeplessness ‘n observations are goin’ on whilst light’s-a-blazin’ in the night sky?

They’ll be tryin’ out GoTo; tryin’ out Telrads; tryin’ out light filters, like telescope fiends, and braggin’ all about how they’re gonna eliminate streetlights with B-B’s!  They’ll be trying’ out light-shielding shades ‘n curtains, sleeping masks, blindfolds, amber-tinted goggles…

One clear night they leave the light polluted town headin’ for the countryside and dark skies. Libertine males, curious females, and…and… telescopes! Oh, yes, my friends, shameless star scopes that’ll drag your son, your daughter, to the arms of the spiral Milky Way Galaxy–MESSIER HYSTERIA!!!

lightpollution1Friends, this idle light’s the dark sky’s demise! Ya got trouble, folks. Trouble right there in your city, with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for POOL-lution, light pollution, that is! Oh, yes, you’ve surely got trouble.

Gotta figure out a way to keep our skies dark all night long. TROUBLE! TROUBLE! TROUBLE! TROUBLE!

Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, dogs, cats, gerbils, fishes, frogs… of your city. I come this way but once. Heed my warning before it’s too late.

Watch for the telltale signs of excessive light. The minute you leave the house, does your Milky Way vanish in the glare and glow of wasteful light? Is there a streetlight stain in your dark-adapted eyes? An old telescope hidden in your closet? Do you struggle to sleep in your light-soaked sleep chambers?

Are you startin’ to memorize astro-words from Capt’n James T. Kirk’s Logbook? Are certain words creepin’ into your conversations? Words like…. like BIG BANG? Ahaa! So’s your ol’ telescope? AHAAAA!!

As the sky should be!© M. Druckmuller
As the sky should be!
© M. Druckmuller

Well, if so my friends ya got trouble right here in your city. With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool-lution, light pollution, that is! Folks, remember sleepy dreams of Orion, the Pleiades, and the Milky Way.

Oh, yes, you’ve got trouble, trouble, trouble. Trouble there, ya got big, big trouble. With a capital T. Gotta rhyme it with P. And that stands for POOL-lution! Light pollution, that is!

Now folks, let’s protect our sleep ‘n night skies. Resist light pollution! Demand sleep ‘n starry skies! Smite the light, the gross, astronomical amounts of light! Save your sleep and the Milky Way! And keep our night skies pure!

Folks, listen! May I have your attention please? I can smite ruinous light, my friends, with the wave of my hand, this very hand! Please observe me if you can. I’m Mister Milky Way Man, and I’m here to organize dark skies and a town full of telescopes!

Now think, my friends. How could wanton light ever hope to compete with a town full of telescopes? Remember folks, what the great Hubble Space Telescope did for the famous fabled views of Jupiter!

Those light polluted skies are gonna dim and darken. Telescopes’ll do it my friends. Oh yes, I mean lots of telescopes! Telescopes here, telescopes there, telescopes everywhere!

telescopesDo ya hear me? I say your city’s gotta have telescopes, and I mean it needs ‘em today.

Well, Ol’ Milky Way Man’s on hand, and your city’s gonna get tele’s, yes it can! As sure as stardust makes little green planets; and those tele’s are gonna be focused by Johnny, Bonnie, Annie, Carl. And they’ll glimpse the glitter of starry clusters, soothe your souls and lead to hours of quiet, restful sleep.

And they’ll peer at the wonder of rings ‘n things. And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when meteors, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the Sea of Tranquillity, and the Great Orion Nebula all came visible on the very same dark sky night.

Now folks, you’ll soon have telescopes right here in your city. Telescopes with a capital T, and that rhymes with D, and that stands for DARK, Dark skies and Deep sleep, that is, right there in your city!

RETURN to Home Page.







Visit the Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa.

Alright folks, listen to and watch Robert Preston as Harold Hill singing 76 Trombones, then return to read my version of the lyrics to 76 Telescopes.

Seventy-six telescopes save the Milky Way,

With 110 star wheels close at hand.

They are pointed by girls and boys.

Oh, the finest telescopists,

from high schools all across the land.


Seventy-six telescopes catch the evening stars,

With seventy-six tripods right below.

There’ll be more than a dozen Meades,

Spying galaxies,

All to say, “Wasteful light, NO! NO! NO!”


There are copper-colored telescopes

To shoot the Moon… Reflecting, refracting…

All across the sky.

Double-mirrored Dobsonians and Jup’ter’s moons.

Each dim moon shining in your eye.


There be 50 mounted tele’s

Charged with batteries…Refracting, reflecting…

Better than before.

Orions of ev’ry size

And Celestrons computerized,

A dark sky and brighter stars galore.


Seventy-six telescopes save the Milky Way,

While seventy-six tripods hold them sure.

Then they modestly take their place

At their one and only pace,

And they star-hop their own dark-sky tour!

One comment

  1. MusicMan, I like your tune! Love to see this happen marching right down to the White House!

    You’re right, it’ll take the gumption and conviction of all the astronomers to get’erdone. . . no time like the present to do it.

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