I’ve decided to lay out the path that has brought me to where I am in my musical life. Here is the first part, wherein the beginnings of my journey are revealed.
The first time I remember wanting to play music was in fourth grade. I was 9 years old and attending Moffett Elementary School in Huntington Beach, CA. It was my third year at the school, and, serendipitously, the third year of the school’s existence. Our school just started a small band program that year, and I think there were all of five or six of us that volunteered to be the first ones. I was the last one to choose an instrument. It was often my preference to go against trends or pre-conceived notions, so I chose to play the flute. Nobody else had chosen that one, and it was generally considered to be a "girl" instrument, so I decided that one sounded good to me. I remember sitting in my bedroom, listening to the soundtrack music for the movie Star Wars, and imagining myself attaining the position of 1st flute in the London Symphony Orchestra, and doing nothing for my livelihood but playing music around the world.
During that school year I discovered a TV show that came on Sunday mornings after the Popeye cartoon show I loved to watch. It was called Serendipity (interesting name, in hindsight), and I was enraptured by the music that was played during the opening credits. The show held absolutely nothing of interest to a nine year old boy, but I would sit through it, half paying attention, for an hour, just so I could hear that theme song again. I didn’t know anything about it, but I loved the sound of the acoustic guitar in it. I used to call the song "Serendipity," because I had no idea that it was named something other than what the show title said, splashed across the TV screen (years later I learned it was "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams).
My school band teacher, Mrs. Brown, was also the "general" music teacher for all the grades, and she often played an acoustic guitar during those lessons, but she didn’t teach private guitar lessons, and the school didn’t offer to let her teach them there. I desperately wanted to learn to make that music I heard in "Serendipity," so I asked the husband of one of my mother’s co-workers. He had been the best male role-model I had known in my life at that point, and since they didn’t have children of their own, he would often take me fishing with him. But he wouldn’t teach me how to play the guitar, even though he was a fairly good player himself. He told me that it would hurt my fingers and that I wouldn’t stick with it. I pleaded, but he would not relent. My mother couldn’t afford to pay for private lessons for me, but she did pick up a 3/4 size classical for $20 at a swap meet and a "teach-yourself" course on vinyl LPs. She intended to teach herself guitar to use in her classroom, since she didn’t play any musical instruments, and a guitar seemed portable and simple enough.
Although my mother never got around to learning the guitar, I tried several times to learn with the "Quick Pickin’ & Fun Strummin’" course that she bought. Although I didn’t actively dislike "Tom Dooley" and "The Streets Of Laredo" (the first two songs taught in the course), and I was even somewhat of a fan of folk music, I could not get very far with that course. Between being bored by the musical arrangements, frustrated at how hard it was to make a C and G chord (let alone a D chord), and the extremely poor quality of the instrument, I was just too young to motivate myself, and without a teacher to make it fun for me, I was lost.
Tomorrow, Part 2.