Sunday, August 21, 2016

I've got the music in me

Music is something I need to survive. Maybe not physically, but mentally for sure. I need to hear it and hum it and feel it. It is nearly constant inside my head even if it is far in the background. Almost like a soundtrack. Sometimes I don't recognize the tunes because they probably don't exist, but mostly it seems familiar.

When I was about 10 years old and in 4th grade I started learning to play trombone and was in school bands for the next six years. I wasn't the best or the worst trombone player in the band, but I enjoyed it mostly. When I was playing in Junior High School we had a band director that always pushed us to compete for a higher chair in our section. I moved up a notch or two, but was never going to make first chair, first trombone (there were third, second, and first trombones and a couple of chairs in each). I was okay with that as I enjoyed playing. The director still pushed us anyway when he wasn't busy yelling at the band for other things. I started to resent all the pressure and yelling and it took the enjoyment out of it for me. I hated to disappoint my parents, but eventually I just couldn't take it anymore and quit.

Fortunately, I had taken up guitar a couple of years earlier with a $30 Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar. It wasn't much of a guitar, but I slowly taught myself a few things with the aid of a couple of Mel Bay guitar books. After I quit trombone I still had a way to make some pretty sounds. The guitar started to fall apart, but my father could see I had a real interest in continuing to play. Even though he occasionally said, as do many parents, "How can you listen to that crap?" he still encouraged me to play. At least he didn't say, "Stop making that racket."

In 1966 he took me to the local musical instrument store and let me pick out the guitar I wanted. I had to have a twelve string because that's what the Byrds and some other folk rock bands played. I had to choose between the Gibson and the Framus. I played both and the Framus sounded better to my ear. They were within $10 of each other in price.

Here it is today.

I loved that guitar and kept learning more stuff, usually playing by ear while listening to the radio. Eventually I could play along with a fair amount of popular songs. I took the guitar to college where I met my best friend Mark who also played. We played together, even in front of audiences (where I am never comfortable) and usually just for ourselves until Mark died in 1995.

When Mark and I were roommates back in the late 70s I went with him to the Homestead Pickin' Parlor where we often shopped for records, music, and instrument accessories. He had saved his money and bought a new 1974 Martin 000-28 which was a sweet sounding guitar. When Eric Clapton went acoustic many years later that was the exact year and model he recorded with. Mark was way ahead of Clapton.

Mark played that guitar for our wedding when the Cooker and I got married and again at another close friend's wedding. When he died he left it to me and I have loved and played and cared for it ever since. I played it at a friend's wedding a few years ago to keep going with the tradition. It needs a new pickguard which I will get for it when I ever get to the Twin Cities again. There is a highly respected luthier there who will do the replacement.

I have a few more guitars, but these two will never leave my possession. While neither is of great monetary value I am a much more sentimental guy than I ought to be and will have them until I die or thereabouts. I need to figure out who to leave them to when the day comes, but until then I still have to keep playing.

The quality of my playing is a lot like the trombone. I'll never be really good, but I'm good enough for me and I still enjoy the hell out of playing. I doubt that will ever change.



  1. I'm right with you (as far as being a lover of music). If I had to lose a sense (sight? hearing?) I would chose sight over hearing. MY cooker (my husband, who does do 99% of the cooking) listens to talk radio in the car. Me? It has to be music, and sometimes at a high volume...

    I imagine those two guitars have many stories to tell...

  2. Feed your soul. If music nourishes your soul, practice it always.

  3. music is a constant in my life also. I would never have made it this far without it.

  4. Re: I'll never be really good ... if it's good enough for you, it's good!

    Where words fail, music speaks. ~Hans Christian Andersen

  5. How wonderful that you have your friend's guitar. He's alive again whenever you play it.

  6. My guitar has been in the carrier for a couple of years and I haven't taken it out.... Perhaps it is best because I try to sing along.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  7. Music is something which has largely escaped me. I like some of it, but it isn't a necessity. And I can't cope with background music. If I am listening, I like to really listen.
    I am so glad (and a little envious) that it feeds your soul. And your friends guitar is priceless. As is your first...

  8. It is great that what makes you happy, is something you can make yoursel!

  9. Sioux, You understand how things must be. Those guitars do indeed have some great stories.

    Ahab, Music has saved my life on more than a few occasions.

    anne marie, I kind of figured that from your blog. Where would the human race be without music?

    Pixel Peeper, The amazing thing is that I can still learn. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

    Donna, It is a rare day that Mark doesn't cross my mind. He gave me many gifts and they still keep on giving.

    Ol'Buzzard, My voice is probably closer to Tom Waits than Frank Sinatra, so I rarely sing for others. Once in a while, though, if everyone is in good humor.

    Elephant's Child, I'll bet when you really listen you hear things that will escape most people's notice.

    Onevikinggirl, That would fit well in your minimalist world. I am a bit envious of what you have achieved in so short a time and the discipline that it takes.

  10. Awesome post. I'm with you on all of that. I'm usually listening to music all day long at my desk, and if I'm not, it's in my head. I can't live without it.

    The first instrument I ever started off with was one of those cheesy recorders, but I was fairly good at it. Took up keyboard after that, and have pecked at it here and there for fun. Tried guitar, but my fingers are too wimpy. At least I can admit it.

    I love the story behind your guitar. I feel like what makes a guitar important isn't the brand or how its made, but the memories behind it.

    Also, just as a note, I must be tired because I saw 'Mel Bay guitar books' and at first read that as 'Mel Brooks guitar.' And I was going to be impressed, because who else can say they have an authentic guitar from THE Mel Brooks?

  11. ABFTS, I'd give up a body part to have a guitar from THE Mel Brooks. I think he would appreciate your senses of humor and your twisted look at reality.

  12. Your guitars are beautiful. My son also began learning to play the trombone when he was in the fourth grade. He was fortunate to have good band directors. By the time he was in high school he played in marching band, concert band, and jazz band. He and some friends started a Christian ska band and became quite successful for several years. He doesn't play his trombone now, but he has no wish to give it up. I suspect that one of these days he'll play again. Music hums in our heads.


  13. I envy those who have the drive to create music. All I do is hum, usually whatever was the last thing I heard on the radio. I used to sing along to the radio going back and forth to visit my dad every night, but I don't even drive much anymore. But hum? you betcha.

    It must be comforting to have two old friends with so much history, always there when you need them, always able to lift your spirits.

  14. I played guitar, Carter family lick, mostly country and campfire songs until I got married. My late wife played piano and sang in church and at weddings. I wanted us to play together but she would only play hymns and criticized my playing and music choice. I put it away and never touched it again. A couple years ago I bought one here in Ukraine but it had been too long and nothing came back. Such is life. So now I listen to music and sing in the shower.

  15. What wonderful memories to go with the guitars that give you so much pleasure! You're a lucky man. :-)

    I love music, too - listening, playing the piano, and singing (but only when I'm alone in the house or car - I wouldn't inflict that on anybody). It's a deep enjoyment that goes right down to my bones, almost a physical sensation! But if there's music playing it consumes all my attention, so if I'm trying to concentrate (most of the hours in my day) I can't have music. Sigh. There's got to be a better solution...

  16. I really enjoyed reading this post and learning about your two guitars. I too always hated being pushed into competitions for things I just wanted to enjoy doing for their own sake. It would suck all the joy out of them.

  17. I love music..but I know jackshit about playing an instrument

  18. That guitar from 1966 is beautiful. How did you keep it in such good shape? I have a lot of musician friends. I think they mainly use Taylor guitars (Is that a big brand? I think that's its name). One was telling another not to touch his Gibson, because it's so valuable. He was being a bit snooty about it. Anyway, I, like the others, would love to hear some of your music, Jono.

  19. I tried to reply to this post from my computer but the response link led me to a page full of code each time. From my cellphone, using the same browser - Chrome - it's fine though. Weird.

    I'm tone deaf and never could play anything. I do a man hum though.

  20. Janie, I'm sure he'll get back to it someday. I held on to my trombone for about 25 years before I gave it to a kid who needed an upgrade. A few years later a brass band was started locally and I regretted giving it away.

    jenny_o, I hum a lot, too. It probably annoys some people, but at this point in my life I don't care.

    Blog Fodder, That's a shame about your late wife, but I don't think I could have lived like that. Sorry you couldn't conjure it back up, but singing in the shower is always good therapy and people rarely come in and tell you to stop.

    Diane, I have the same issue with concentration. Mindless tasks go better, though. Re: singing in the car. I do it regularly. When learning the harmonica I wore a harmonica holder and played while I drove. Better to d on long trips than around town, though.

    Debra, I'm totally with you on being pushed from outside forces. If I want to be pushed I'll push myself.

    JACKIESUE, No musicians or bands would ever be successful without someone listening.

    Robyn, That guitar has a lot of scratches and little dings. I can't believe it survived airline baggage handlers when I was a college student. Taylors are very nice and there is a market for vintage acoustic and electric guitars of many manufacturers that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

    Bill the Butcher, I am sure there are some kind of digital "spirits" (for lack of a better word) that circulate in the interwebs. Funny things happen with no explanation. I am pretty sure man humming is caused by the vibrations of the molten core of the planet oozing out through vocal chords. Hmmm. Maybe I should start a religion and make a lot of money.

  21. Good for you! You have more talent than I. I can't even manage a kazoo.

  22. Al P, You're supposed to say, " Do you know I can't even manage a kazoo?" Then I say, " No, but if you hum a few bars..."

  23. I love music and almost always have it on. I have my entire life. Sadly I am the only one in my family who can't play an instrument.

  24. Riot Kitty, We need you to out there listening, tapping your feet, or dancing in order to complete the effect. Coincidentally, I was looking at your blog moments ago looking for the next installment.

  25. I played flute from 6th grade until about 11th grade, and I learned to sight read pretty well, but I don't have any innate musical talent. And I can't sing at all so I only sing along with the radio when no one is around!

    Your guitars are lovely and have a lot of sentimental value for you. That's a really special thing.

  26. Jennifer, I'll bet you could still play. Maybe try a penny whistle if your flute is no longer available and keep on singing.

  27. I got my first guitar in the mid-'60s, too, and spent many happy years teaching myself how to play it, and subsequently playing and singing for many different occasions. A couple years ago, it was soooo worn out, I decided to replace it with a new one. Although it may sound better, and definitely looks better than my old beginner piece of junk, it doesn't give me the same pleasure.

    I also had a 12-string for a while in the late '70s-early'80s. It sounded fabulous, but it was really tough on my fingers. I ended up selling it. (sigh) Now, I hardly every play. Stiff fingers simply don't move as quickly as they used to. (sigh)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I do appreciate it, and it's my pleasure to return the favor. Count me in as your newest (albeit old) groupie.