Wednesday, August 14, 2019


I can't remember a time when music wasn't a part of my life. But I don't think I ever really considered making music my career. I'm kind of glad of that. One, although I have played guitar for a little over 50 years, I am a good player, but not a great player. Two, I enjoy music too much to make it a job.

I got my first guitar when I was ten years old. I asked for one because I was inspired by watching the Glen Campbell Show on television and was impressed by his guitar playing. People also said I looked like a 10-year old Glen Campbell.

I had the guitar, but it took several years before I could figure out how to play it. I taught myself because my parents didn't have enough money to get me a guitar teacher and I don't take criticism well so having a teacher or tutor for anything makes me break out in sweat.

Not a great trait, I know.

I started band in 5th grade playing the soprano clarinet. I chose clarinet because my dad owned one and there was no way they would spring for a new instrument. I went on to band in junior high, but switched to the contra alto clarinet in 8th grade. I switched because the band director told me that I could only make it in concert band if I switched to the contra alto clarinet, because I wasn't a great clarinet player.

I stayed in band in high school. My sophomore year I played bass clarinet in the marching band and contra bass clarinet in the concert band. I became the drum major in marching band my junior and senior year. I also started playing bass guitar in the jazz band.

On the guitar front I had bought a better acoustic guitar while in junior high and I learned a few more chords. Then I bought an electric bass guitar from Sears. I figured it would be easier to play since it only had four strings and you didn't actually play chords. So I sort of taught myself to play it. This gave me the opportunity to play bass for the jazz choir when it performed in a music competition. It also gave me an opportunity (or so I thought) to appear sort of cool.

After high school I never picked up a clarinet again. I did expand my love for the guitar. When I was nineteen, I bought a $900 Guild 12-string guitar (again I was inspired by Glen Campbell's 12-string guitar). It was the first thing I ever bought on credit and it took a year to pay off, but it was my prized position.

I was working at the Boise Public Library at the time. A friend of mine there also played guitar. But she had a beautiful singing voice to go with it (she sounded like a young Joan Baez). We started playing guitar together and eventually started playing at weddings and events. She did all of singing.

I had sang in grade school and had a fairly nice voice. I was in honor choir and I even sang a solo in sixth grade at a music competition (Edelweiss from the Sound of Music) and got a first place ribbon. But my singing career ended when my voice changed. I still sing while I play the guitar, but the only ones who generally hears me are the cats. They don't seem to mind.

When I moved to Seattle in 1981 to finish college, my Guild guitar was strapped in the front seat of my 1973 Toyota Celica. I played it in my dorm room, but never again performed at weddings or anywhere else. Oh, there was this one time when I impersonated Willie Nelson at an all-staff meeting at work.

After college, I started collecting guitars, mainly in the hopes that I'd find one that would make me a better player. I bought electric guitars, classical guitars, a resonator guitar and even a limited edition Elvis guitar by Epiphone. I also bought a banjo, but I haven't really learned how to play it. The strings keep breaking.

When I had kids, I would pull out my guitar and play in the playroom while they played. They didn't seem to mind that my voice had no range or that I rarely finished a song. They were a great audience until my son was five or so and asked me to stop making noise while he played.

Now my daughter plays violin and string bass and has even played around with my old Sear's Silvertone bass guitar. But I don't play much anymore. Occasionally I'll go off into a room by myself and play and sing. I've stopped buying guitars. My last one was a blue electric acoustic guitar I bought on Amazon for $100. It is my favorite guitar now (because things just aren't the same when played upon a blue guitar).

So, just as I am not really an artist, I'm not really a musician, either. But art and music are still part of my story.

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