My folks are the best. I was extremely lucky to have the greatest parents growing up. They treated me so well, always looked out for me, taught me the right lessons and I think instilled a great perspective on how to go about life. I owe everything to my mother and father and I love them with all of my heart and soul.
That being said, I’m still pretty pissed off they never put a guitar in my hands when I was a kid!
Here I am listening to so much music as a young person. By the time I was seven or eight I was into jazz, big band, classic singers, doo-wop, oldies, Motown, soul, disco, classic rock, pop rock, new wave and power pop to name a few. I listened, collected and talked about music like it was my job before I even hit double digits. How do you not get that kid to play an instrument! Anything!
They didn’t even go the cautious route by sticking me in a school band. Hand me a trumpet or send me down the street to Mrs. Whoever’s house to pick up piano lessons! Something!? Nothing.
So, what was their hang up? To this day, I still don’t know. I mean, I haven’t really had it out with them about it, yet, but they loved music. It was always around. They liked that I liked music. They loved to dance and sing along. My dad played amazing finger drums on the couch, steering wheel and dinner table. They played music everywhere we were and they always let me buy records and tapes with my allowance money. I had stacks of tapes, records and 45’s. Enough music in my bedroom that you’d think the average parent would say to the other parent, “honey, we should probably start to get him some lessons”.
Did they think I was going to be an eight year old rebel renegade musician who would mess up the works in town and have the locals shaking a fist at me as I drove by in a black Mustang blasting my music smoking two cigarettes at once? I think they knew me better than that.
Did they hope I’d become a doctor, lawyer, mayor or simple law bidding citizen that wasn’t going to shake up things with that rock n’ roll music? No. I think they knew me better than that.
My folks weren’t pushy or suffocating. They let me do my thing, which at a young age was collecting and loving music and hanging out with friends playing hoops. I hung up Van Halen posters in my room, wore Beastie Boys t-shirts and tried to grow my hair out a little bit. The signs were all there that this was perhaps my calling. I should be playing something.
Which instrument though? I didn’t know. I liked so much different music. So, I can’t expect they would have known either. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever even asked them to buy me a guitar or if I could buy my own guitar. Years and years AND YEARS of following Eddie Van Halen; how did I not beg them for a red Kramer (guitar) with white and black scattered stripes?! Maybe this was all on me.
It’s funny, I didn’t even really know any kids I could have jammed with then. I knew kids in sports and acting, but not many musicians. Later on in high school, sure I knew one or two guys. Even then, it was the same guys everyone in school knew. These guys were like mystical legends. Who were these aliens?! There was always that guy from school band who played traditional sax. The best he could do though to impress anyone outside of class was playing “Urgent” by Foreigner or “Bitch” by the Stones. Doesn’t sound like much but it was partially impressive.
I remember one friend’s reputation starting to grow. “Dude, Roger plays guitar. He’s got an amp and his folks let him play in their basement”, a close friend said to me. Whoa! Roger came off like a rock star to all of us. I let him borrow one of my Ozzy tapes long ago so he must have some skills.
I remember going to his house once to see him play. The journey was long. Friggin’ guy lived over a half hour away! Still we trudged on to see Roger and his guitar. I remember he kinda stunk. He knew, “Hey Joe” by Hendrix which was no fun. He didn’t really play anything by Van Halen except, “You Really Got Me”, which wasn’t even a Van Halen song, but he played it and it was impressive enough to all of us. All we knew is it got him girls and that’s when you know it’s working folks!
So why didn’t the inspiration of Roger fire me up to go to my folks to say, “Hey, I wanna rock! Let’s handle this accordingly”.
I’ll be honest in my life, variety has been the musician dream killer. I’ve been into so much different music, I wouldn’t know what instrument to have played or what type of music to write. Even as I got older I still don’t think I could have settled down to a single sound or instrument. I have a musical multiple personality condition. One minute Al Green, later on Iron Maiden, then Peter Tosh followed by Roy Orbison and then XTC.
My dad and his brother were into drums as kids. They both played a little bit. So I had the drums in me bigtime, but it never developed. I just didn’t know what instrument to pick… so I pursued none.
It took me a while to realize it was best for me to be into everything, not one thing. It allowed me to work with all kinds of music and deal with all types of artists because I honestly could speak their native tongue when it came to what music they made. Rock, rap, metal, acoustic, punk, r&b; I was able to work with and respond to it all working in music for the past 28 years.
Today, we’re in a dangerous time for kids learning how to play instruments. Music in schools, music programs, public broadcasting and the arts are losing too much its support. That’s unacceptable. If this curve unfortunately continues to head in that direction, it is up to parents to bring their kids to Mrs. Whoever’s house for lessons or to see the Jack White poster on their kid’s bedroom wall and realize they’re the only ones who need to put a guitar in that child’s hands or a piano in front of them. We need to handle this crisis and support it as a community. In a city like Portland, drenched in spectacular art, music and culture; it’s up to us to preserve its future. Now, more than ever.
Music will never go away, if WE keep it alive.
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