No doubt about it, I’m not a kid anymore. You know that when people stop referring to you as “wet behind the ears.” I never knew what the meant anyway.
LIfe started out for me with a definite bent towards music. I played accordion for a number of years, until the accordion joined most Americans’ most hated list, right up there with bagpipes. Dick Contino, Myron Floren and Frank Yankovic notwithstanding, the Beatles and the British invasion of the sixties was the death knell for the accordion. Other than John West, playing the Cordovox in Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the sixties were devoid of any accordion heroes. So who was I to fight progress? I switched from being an “accordionist” to being a “keyboard player.” In the mid-sixties, other than Mike Smith, who played a Vox Jaguar for The Dave Clark Five, and Alan Price for The Animals, there weren’t many mainstream rock and roll keyboard players to emulate. My roots with the Natural Music Studios gave me an entré into the world of six stringers, which I immediately loved! I beat my first guitar nearly to death. It was a mid-fifties Fender Esquire, which was given to me by the studio owner so I could learn (and teach) guitar. Along the way, I owned any number of other guitars and basses as I slowly transitioned myself to stringed instruments from the keyboards.
So here we are, now a two accordion family. On top of that, I’m teaching. So I’m signed up for an advanced class with their best instructor and within a few weeks they determine I can probably teach any of their new students. The operation ran along the lines of a class of 8 to 12 kids for one hour each, every week. It happened to work out well with the studio, because they were just opening the studio in my home town. The original studio was in a town about 20 minutes down the road. My Saturday’s were gone, as well as one or two evenings a week. But I have to be honest. Teaching was a very addictive thing. I truly enjoyed it. I loved watching the kids that really got it early on and within a few months, I could always tell by the parents’ reactions when they dropped off little Jimmy or Susie whether the kid would survive the big meeting and after 8 weeks show up with a 120 bass accordion and who would stop showing up.
I devoured the accordion! There was a lust in me that just couldn’t be satisfied. The Palmer-Hughes Accordion method was my constant companion.
At some point in 1962 or ’63 I hit the high point of my young life when my parents took me to the Galesburg High School auditorium to see the one and only Myron Floren from the Lawrence Welk Show perform in a one man show! I was mesmerized by all that talent up on stage!
As far back as I can remember, I loved two things. Music and the radio. In the late 50’s and early 60’s they were pretty much entwined. I can remember as a kid sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon (a red and white 59 Chevy Brookwood), listening to the likes of Peggy Lee and Julius LaRosa on those trips to my grandfather’s farm for a couple hours on the backroads of Illinois.
We lived in the country and as a pre-schooler, I was home pretty much all day. If I wasn’t outside playing, I was inside listening to the radio. Mom had it on all day long, from early in the morning until dad came home at night.
Good grief Charley Brown! I’m actually doing this again! It seems like only yesterday I was spending three hours a day, four to five days a week locked up in a Sunday school room at an old church with 3 other guys and various hangers on. Practice, every night we could all manage to get together was the rule of the day. That wasn’t always easy, because Ken, our lead singer lived in Boulder. Monty, our lead guitarist worked at the RC Cola factory. I’m not sure if Steve, our drummer had a job or not yet, as he was the youngest in the band at 19. Among the usuals was Joe T. who was always willing to man the tape recorder and try and mix our miserable PA system. Steve’s younger brother Scott would show up every now and then to tell us how awful we were. And there were always a few people who managed to drop by to bum a cigarette or a beer off of us. They said they came to hear us, but I think a Marlboro and a Coors ranked higher than we did.
The church had been the old First Christian Church in town. After they built a new one on the south end of town, this one, smack in the middle of town on College Avenue didn’t suit their purposes any more. So some smart management company had taken it over and the second floor was full of various rock stars in the making, a couple of improv comedy troupes, a marionnette puppet group and one or two old farts who rented the rooms to use as photo darkrooms. The old main sanctuary was used by a local theatre group who never seemed to be there. All this was just across the alley from an old three story house on Remington street. Three floors of little crummy apartments that the college students in town were oh so happy to have for next to nothing. Unfortunately, that house had a couple of cranks living in it, so we always had to have our practice done before 10PM or suffer the wrath of the local cops. Back then they didn’t need a complaint. If they drove by the church after about 9:30 and heard ANYONE, they came in and shut us all down. I think it was just an excuse to see if any of us had any weed. With half a dozen bands and an unknown number of teenies and twenty-somethings just hanging out there was always some excitement.
Anyhow, that was then and this is now. I’m 57 years old and starting over. I picked up a guitar course online (more on that later), hoping against hope that the 37 years without a decent guitar and absolutely no practice time, I could magically make a Fender Telecaster sound like it did when I was 19. The reality is that right now it sounds more like when I was 12… Or maybe this IS what I sounded like at 19!
Bring it on!