Sunday, June 14, 2009

Continuing the Story

Okay, so Jennie got a six-string guitar. It was an Emperador which must have been Spanish for "wood and metal torture device." Let us just say that the action (the height of the strings above the neck) was high. She played it very well. I used it, too, and with three main effects: 1) I got calluses that I could stick needles through and impress my friends, 2) I developed a strong but slow left hand and still tend to squeeze a string like I'm trying to get the last of the toothpaste out of the tube, and 3) I developed an avoidance of barre chords for a while (although I played full chords by hooking my thumb over to get the top string).

About the same time I discovered The Who and "Tommy." I learned to do the Pete Townshend flamenco flail (see blurred right hand in above photo), and I learned every song on Tommy. Every one. Even the Underture, which I still think is an amazing piece of music. So most of my playing was acoustic rhythm at that point. When I picked up electric, it was a Gibson Les Paul-shaped Melody Maker I borrowed. Besides Who stuff, I discovered the blues. The first real blues I heard was B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone." on Top 40 radio. Like I said, there were no blues stations, no rock stations either. This was before album-cut FM stations. Anyway, I loved the blues and found all these great blues artists on $1.00 bargain albums. The recordings were raw, but it was the real deal. I learned to play the blues by discovering the pentatonic minor scale (I think I saw it in a book) and playing the notes over and over again while I had The Yardbirds (especially "New York City Blues" ( on the phonograph. I didn't know the soloist on that cut was Jeff Beck. Listen to him and hear where Duane Allman got a lot of his licks. Well, that's where I got a lot of my licks, too. I never was one for copying solos, but I sure stole a lot of ideas. I had no desire to be in a cover band, never saw the point of replaying something someone else had already done, but I was never above "borrowing" anything that might prove useful for my own purposes. Thus my motto: Copy nothing but steal anything. If you know what I mean.

Still no band, just lots of playing in my bedroom. By now I had "the jones." Any player knows what that is. It's the point you reach where you have to play every day, several times a day. You just have to. That's where I was.


  1. I don't recall ever seeing this photo. Do you remember who took it? It looks like a photo that you would have taken but you were in it and your hands were already occupied.

  2. Dude...
    This is Cool x 10.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed your writings.
    keep it up.
    michael b