Christmas Eve 1951: It started with a Santa Claus suit, a bottle of cheap bourbon and a momentary reprieve from the daily tumult of a bad marriage. A tradition in my family was to open one present on Christmas Eve. I know what my father unwrapped. Nine months later I was born. I can’t say it was a bad beginning but I’ve heard better stories.
11 years later. Christmas again. Under the tree, wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with red ribbon was a long cardboard box containing a guitar bought from the local department store for $13.97. The strings were so far off the frets it took a pair of vice grips to make any discernible musical sounds. A year and 52 guitar lessons later I could play Aura Lee and Amazing Grace and had the grip of a journeyman mechanic. That same year I made my performing debut with my best friend at the school talent show. A disaster. A year later, with money I made from my paper route I bought a Harmony electric guitar and a Kalamazoo II amplifier. It changed my life. The British invasion was upon us and me and my buddies would strap on our guitars, turn up the stereo full blast and lip sync along with our favorite tunes from the likes of The Beatles or The Dave Clark Five or The Rolling Stones or The Animals. It was glorious. Finally, we got up the courage to plug in our guitars and start playing the songs ourselves. I can’t say it was any good but there sure were a lot of thrills. Like the first time we figured out the chords to a song. It was The Last Train from Clarksville by The Monkees. We sat in my bedroom with a portable record player and moved the needle back and forth over the 45 until it was so scratched it was unlistenable. We finally figured it out though and we were on our way. Those were the days.
And that was a long time ago. A lot has gone on since; much of which need not be mentioned here. I will close now and add that I love the blues, Bach, Dylan, Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen, Thelonius Monk, Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Bill Evans, Bonnie Raitt, Doc Watson, John Prine, Billie Holiday – well, you get the idea.
Much of what you’ve just read is true.
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