It all began before I was a teen. My preacher and his daughter were taking guitar lessons and I thought that was pretty neat. Therefore, I wanted to play guitar too. Dad had a 1953 Martin 00-17 that he never learned to play on. Because I wanted it so badly, Mom and Dad took me to the music store in Kokomo (Indiana) where he had bought the Martin and bought me a Winston beginner’s guitar. A little 6-string acoustic flat-top that had a sunburst paint scheme. Red blending to black along the edges.
I didn’t have lessons. I may be a self-starter, but at that point, I didn’t know where to start. So other than banging on the strings, not having learned anything about playing, it pretty much stayed shoved under my bed.
Then . . . Ralph Trotto came to town. Ralph was from the southeast portion of Indiana. His fame is pretty much reserved to the churches he played in and having taught the Memphis blues man Lonnie Mack some of his first guitar chords. Ralph Trotto was blind which was cool in its own right. He played a big-box Gibson electric (like a Byrdland or Super 400 or something) into a Fender Twin amplifier. His voice was big and booming and that’s how he played guitar. I was hooked. I wanted it.
Before I was allowed to take guitar lessons, my folks had me take piano lessons so that I could “learn music.” I had about three years of piano. I learned notes and my ear got trained to harmony. I would practice the piece my teacher gave me that week, fumbling through until I had it memorized and played it back for her, without reading the music, but appearing too. I didn’t become a pianist like my brothers and sister.
During this time, I attended a youth rally hosted by a Christian Church in Carmel, Indiana. It was held in the auditorium of the Carmel High School. They had a band, a Christian band, the first I’d ever seen or heard of. But it was a Christian rock band and whoever the guy was playing the guitar, her was playing a red Gibson SG. I was hooked. That is still my “dream guitar.” In fact, the best guitar I have ever played was a 1961 Gibson SG in mint condition. My friend Marty had it. His grandma had bought it new in ’61 and played it for 30 plus years and there wasn’t a single scratch on it. If it had all the original tags ( it had some of them), it would have been dead mint.
I pressed my folks to let me take guitar lessons. By the summer of 1977 I was taking lessons. I bought an Alvarez 5022 acoustic flat-top guitar for $90 (half price sale) and took lessons from a Jazz musician by the name of Malcom Bender.
When the cost per lesson went up 33% ($3 to $4 a lesson), we couldn’t afford to keep them up and so my friend Jim taught me. We wrote a song or two together, and played them at church.
The first real song I learned, besides the basic music lesson songs, like Michael Row the Boat Ashore and stuff like that was Three Dog Night’s “Old Fashioned Love Song.”
[Kind of a goofy performance isn’t it?]
I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve mostly learned on my own ever since, but I’ve played for 32 years now. Not as good as someone who has played that long, but I enjoy playing.
I’ve owned and played Les Paul’s, Stratocasters, Telecasters, Ovation electrics and acoustics, Hamer, Aria, and more. I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of guitars in music stores, pawn shops, churches, bars, living rooms and who knows where.
of myself and play it like it is a part of me. I love the expressive abilities of the guitar. I love the variety of styles that can be played with the guitar. I love to rock and nothing will rock like a Les Paul.
I really could go on and on about guitar and the electric in particular.
“I love guitar.” You can quote me on that too. I am not ashamed of the fact that I love guitar. I have been inspired by many players, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Phil Keaggy, Bob Wall, Ron Salisberry, Mike Baer, Santana, Les Paul and I can go on forever about my influences.
Guitar is important to me because I can be expressive in ways I might not be able to otherwise, plus, having an awesome looking guitar slung over your shoulders is pretty cool.