This post will be a kind of I was born… and then… kind of post. Just offering a little warning. I am not ever sure where I am going with my music–ever. I know where I’d like to be going, but I’ve reconciled myself to the unpredictable of my life and how things tend to play out. My musical career has been a chain of consciousness kind of process. I’m OK with that. I thought it might be interesting for anyone who might be trying to kick their career down some pre-decided road to read what has been my experience of music. Spotty at best.
I’ve got about 10 gigs coming up this month and next for which I am getting ready. I have been thinking some of the roads my journey has taken to get to this point. I say in my PR Package that my father was a minister and during the late 30s and early 40s did revivals in the Ozark Mountains, and that my mother led the singing with her mandolin. I also state that my mother gave him an Epiphone Recording “A” guitar for their first Christmas in 1928, all of which is true. I have both of those instruments.
What I do not say is that my father never learned to play the guitar, and, for the most part did not even like music. He had a canon of around 12 songs that he allowed his churches to sing, and beyond that, he said that whatever anyone else wanted to listen “jangled” his nerves. My mother had an RCA Red Dot collection of classical music but had to wait until he was out of the house to listen to it. I used to listen country music in the early 50s on my little radio, and one time when I was around six or seven, I remember pretending I was a guitar, dadadadadadadada, imitating a lead guitar run, and I was driving him crazy and had to quit. Now if that was my kid I would have sent him out immediately for guitar lessons, especially having that old guitar in the house, but he did not.
I am not writing all this to carp about my father, but to say that, as a young person, I basically, except for church on Sundays, I had no experience of music until we moved to a city in 1956 and I heard Rockabilly and my life changed. I wrote a song in 1958 and didn’t know what to do with it and I just discovered this year, but I didn’t know what to do with Rock ‘N; Roll music. It was evil, of the devil, nasty, and contrary to anything my folks believed. AND, for the most part the really good stuff was performed by those folk with the darker skins. So I started to explore photography, and decided that I would be a photographer. While most kids were buying guitars and learning to play, I bought a camera, outfitted a darkroom and went on to become a fairly good photographer. But, I could never shake music, and in 1968 met a man who would change my life for the musical good. Brian Johnson played a Martin D-41 and a Gibson ES335, and damn, was he good. He got me started in music and would not leave me alone until I was performing and writing songs. He was a few years younger than I, a student at Sacramento State College, and just a fine picker. Later I would have a son and a daughter who were interested in music, and I would take them to Tiny Moore for lessons and that was another life-changing experience for me, but one I earlier written about in an earlier post.
My point is that because I was not encouraged to be involved in, or even listen to, music when I was a child, music came really hard for me. I did not have a voice that sang the notes. I had no sense of rhythm. I invented new tempos as I played. What I could do was write poetry. I had been doing that since I was fourteen and seriously since I had been exposed to the Beats at sixteen. I started to try writing songs first, and then began to learn guitar so I could put melodies to the words. Then I started to perform to get my songs heard. And let me tell you, I could empty a coffee house faster than anyone else in the room! I was really that bad.
And yet, I pulled it off. I went from having some jerk from my audience get up grab my guitar and tune it for me., thereby humiliating me and giving me the heeby-jeebies to last a lifetime. That SOB is still out there somewhere each time I get up to perform. He never goes away, but screw him I have an electronic tuner now! Fear is truly a debilitating entity. I got over the fear when I started imagining it to be a curtain through which I had to step to get to the microphone. I would visualize it, and part it mentally as I walked to the mic. a Really freeing exercise! It seems not that not only do I love being on stage, but I am loved by my audiences, AND, I love them.
I have developed an almost metronome-esque sense of tempo, I can sing on pitch, I can use my voice to draw in an emotion, and I can do some things on the guitar–not much, but I can hold my own. I consider the harmonica to be my first instrument, and if there are any jam sessions that I need to sit in on, I default to it rather than the guitar. I am now paid good money to perform, but it has not been an easy path. I am not sure where I will end up on this musical journey, but so far, it is a really fine journey!