The Early College Years
(Note: This is a little longer than I originally thought it would be, so, in order to keep true to my intention of only five parts, part four will be split into two parts.)
My first year at college, I attended Southern Utah State College (now, Southern Utah University), and I poured over the course catalog until I found what I was looking for – Private Instrument Instruction, String Instruments. I registered for the course and, a couple of weeks after fall quarter started, I had a meeting with the Dean of the school of music, C. David Nyman. He needed more details to match me up with an appropriate instructor. I believed that I would get snubbed if I asked about rock gutiar, and I wanted so badly to have a guitar teacher, so I told him I was looking for someone that taught classical guitar.
One of my favorite guitar players at the time was Randy Rhoads, and I knew that he had learned classical guitar before playing rock guitar, and I liked the ideas he spoke of in interviews about merging the two styles. Randy had died a few years before in a plane crash and I remember thinking how cool it would be to, as I saw it, continue his work in this area. But I needed to understand the world of classical guitar in order to do that, and although learning "Stairway To Heaven" in the classical style helped me realize that I could like it, I knew that I would need a more formal plan and instruction from someone who already knew what they were talking about.
In a few more weeks, I was contacted by Joe Costello
, who had been referred as my new classical guitar teacher. I bought a mid-line Yamaha classical guitar (or, rather, my mom bought it for me – I was a poor college student who didn’t have a job), and started taking lessons from Joe. I found out that Joe had grown up on an army base in Germany where he first started playing electric bass. He even had a record that his band made when he was living there. He said he started taking classical guitar lessons to improve his bass playing (something about classical technique using four fingers and a bass guitar have four strings made sense to him – it made sense to me, too, at the time), and that his former classical guitar teacher had been a student of the late, great, Andres Segovia.
For nine months, Joe worked very hard at getting my fingers to do what they were supposed to do, especially my right hand. I found classical technique to be, over all, much more challenging on a technical level than the rock technique that I was using. Because of my basically lazy nature, this ended up making me a less outstanding student than I should have been. Therefore, it seemed to take me forever to get the hang of that right hand technique. But Joe patiently persevered and never let me feel like I failing.
After that school year ended, Joe got married (ironically, to a girl from Kanab that I had known in high school), graduated college, and then moved away from Cedar City in search of a location where he could make a decent living as a musician. During this school year I played in the college jazz band (which doubled as the pep band sometimes) and learned a lot about reading chord charts and playing chord fingers other than just major, minor, and "5" chords (power chords).
I also met Mr. John Houtson in that jazz band. John played piano/keyboards, but was also very good on guitar. He taught me how to substitute chords when you could get away with it, and always made me feel better about my own playing.
Also during my first year at college, I hooked up with Shannon Otte and his wife, Tracy. Shannon and Tracy were playing occasionally in town as a two piece (Shannon played bass, Tracy played keyboards, both of them sang, and they used a drum machine), but were interested in jamming with others in order to form a larger band. I jammed with them a coule nights a week and at the end of the school year, we found out about a battle of the bands that was going to be hosted on campus. I recruited a friend that played rhythm gutiar and nother friend that sang. The gutiar player had a friend that played drums, and we all met in Shannon and Tracy’s basent apartment. We picked four or five songs (don’t remember all of them), practiced together six or seven times, and then competed in the battle of the bands. The other two bands were a jazz fusion band that John Houston had put together, and a locally known bar band called Crossroads, that played mostly country music. Since I was neighbors with several football players, and our song list was all current top 40 pop hits, we got the most applause, which was how the contest was judged. It was my first time playing electric guitar in front of an audience and I was hooked on it! I had been playing gutiar for less than two years at this point, and I was blown away by having won the battle of the bands my first time entering one.
One other musically significant meeting during this first year was when I met Kevin Chronister
in my music theory class. Kevin was a drummer and we hit it off almost immediately. He was only at SUSC for a quarter before he left to attend Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, but he and I are still good friends and keep in touch.
I met so many other people that influenced my musical life in some way or another, I’m not sure I can remember all of them to list them. Rather than forget about someone, I’ll just say that they know who they are, and I am still glad to have met most of them (some not so much, but they are the exceptions, thankfully).
The next school year I answered an ad to audition for a metal cover band. I actually answered other ads where I didn’t get the job, but I soon became the fifth member (and rhythm gutiarist) for the band Sceptor. After a couple of months of rehearsals, we finally booked our first gig as a band and I played my first paying gig as a guitar player. The rest of the band didn’t like my playing much, I guess, ’cause they decided to kick me out fo the band after that gig. The bass player spent the night drinking enough beer for three people, the sound guy had my channel turned all the way down most of the time, and the bass player and singer were both doing a lot of drugs. Eventually the band fell apart after the bass player and singer got into an argument about something to do with the dealer they both bought their drugs from.
After Joe left town, I started taking rock gutiar lessons from a friend of his, Mark Alger. After three lessons Mark told me that I could not be taught by him because I didn’t practice enough. Up to that point, he had not impressed me with his teaching abilities, so I didn’t really care to stay on as his student anyway. Another friend of Joe’s (and Mark’s) became my next teacher – Adam Lamoreaux. The interesting thing here is that Joe, John, Mark and Adam were all in a band together that fell apart before Joe left town. It was called the Coallition (John use to refer to it as the "Gay Coallition", and was not really that sad about it ending). I saw them play one gig, and thought they were all really good musicians. I still have yet to see very many bands in this town that match the level of musicianship that was present when those four were on stage together. The singer in that band was basically just a side-kick to the musical spectacle that the others brought.
Adam turned out to be a really good teacher. Again, I was not as good of a student as I needed to be, but I did learn a lot from him before he, like so many others, moved away in search of the dream of making a good living as a musician.
Next time, Part 4b, Life After Sceptor.