This Old Guitar

August 4, 2016

 

I'm a guitar player. Well, I wasn't always a guitar player. I started out as an accordion player. Before you start laughing, let me explain.

When I was five or six years old, my best friend, Tim, played the accordion. I used to listen to him practice, and he was damn good. Eventually his parents bought him a new accordion. It was a 120 bass accordion, and if you know anything about accordions, that's big time. He graciously gave me his old accordion, a little blue 12 bass, but a great one to start with.

When I got to seventh grade, my music teacher, Mr. Weber, found out that I could play the accordion and insisted that I bring it into class and play for the other kids. My first public performance! I laid into “Lady of Spain” and “Beer Barrel Polka.” I mean, I killed it. I finished and looked expectantly at my classmates. My classmates stared back at me. In complete silence, I put my accordion away and sat down. I don't think I've played it since, although I still have it.

1965. Beatlemania. Girls loved guitar players. That made sense to me. I decided I’d play the guitar because, well, I liked girls. I'm reminded of that song by Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero.”

Bought a beat up six string in a secondhand store


Didn't know how to play it but he knew for sure


That one guitar felt good in his hands
Didn’t take long to understand


Just one guitar, slung way down low


Was a one-way ticket; only one way to go


So he started rockin'.

Ain’t never gonna stop


Gotta keep on rockin'.

Someday gonna make it to the top

Yup, that was me! Right, now I needed a band. So I got together with a couple of like-minded seventh graders and we started our very own band—The Sands of Time. No idea where the name came from, but we thought it was very profound. Back then bands also had matching outfits. We didn't have any money, but my mother somehow bought us all matching black paisley shirts. I still remember them, and no, they weren't very attractive, but we did match.

Our first gig was the Barnstable County Fair. It was a huge annual event, and I still don't know how a bunch of thirteen-year-olds got the gig. They set up a special tent for us that was far away from the midway and left us alone. We were right next to the 4H tent. We started at 8:30, and at 9:00 the officials came and told us they had to shut us down since we were disturbing the sheep in the next tent. True story.

We got much better after that. Our drummer, Bruce, went on to found one of the best acoustic vocal groups I've ever heard. Who knew? Not us, because we wouldn't let him sing. He played the drums, and drummers don't sing.

The star of our band was Marc. Even at thirteen he could play anything, and man, what a great voice he had. He went on to study music and became a studio musician and part of a touring band. You would know a lot of the people he played with.

Me? I did some solo acoustic gigs in seedy bars from Amherst to Cape Cod for $50 and all the beer I could drink. I played a lot of Cat Stevens and Steven Stills. I'm what you call a living room player. I'm really good in my living room, particularly if you've had three or four adult beverages.

Fast forward to 2011, when I decided I should start another band. I found that Marc was back living on Cape Cod and he was actually interested. A monster guitar player was now practicing with me in my garage! So we gathered a few other friends from the old days—a bass player, a terrific jazz drummer, trumpet, sax, and a lead singer—and we were ready.

We didn't have a name, but who cared. We played our first gig at the VFW hall one Saturday night. Near the end of the night, I think we played “Mustang Sally” (every band has to play “Mustang Sally”) and when we finished, a drunken woman on the dance floor yelled “One more time!” Wait a minute, that's our name. And so we became 1 Mo' Time. Yes, there are recordings, and perhaps some night after I've been hanging out with my friend Jack Daniels I'll have enough nerve to post one or two.

It wasn't long before that band fell apart, nor was it much longer before the next incarnation of garage rock stars was formed. This band was hot. Marc, me, Pete the drummer, and Mike the bass player. We needed a name, and since I am a Monty Python fan and we're all just about ready for Social Security, I named the band Not Dead Yet. Our first gig was at a local watering hole in Harwich. We did so well, the owner wanted to book us once a week through the summer. Success!

As often happens with bands, we fell apart about two weeks after our flirtation with stardom. It's been a couple of years now, and I'm still in touch with Pete and Mike, but Marc has ridden off into the sunset. I still have all the equipment set up in the room over my garage, but it all just sits there, waiting patiently to see if I have the energy to try it all over again.

Maybe I'll just do an acoustic thing and find a girl who knows how to really sing. I hear the pay has improved a lot since I was making $50 plus beer: they still only pay about $50, but now you can get shots.

 

 

 

 

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