It’s a simple story, really. I started playing a plastic guitar Dad gave me for Christmas about the time the Beatles landed in America. My brothers both got one too but moved on pretty quickly. There I was, plastic guitar, learning "Secret Agent Man" and "Ruby Tuesday.: Mom realized I could do it and bought an old 12 string guitar from Sister Rose at St. Mary’s. Played folk music, wore a turtle neck, and got into trouble with some guys in the neighborhood – they know who they are. The Catholic Church started allowing “guitar mass” in limited doses with music played from the back just in case it went badly. “Sons of God, hear His Holy Word!” Anybody? “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”. What? Come on!
I wrote, composed, or just “made up” an instrumental piece to play at a Catholic Youth Organization church basement function about that time. There were some other local players there, some of whom went on to long and productive careers in Nashville playing with major artists. They’re still there today. I played folk music and slid into the early/mid 70’s with country rock and then smoother sounds and then jazzy sounds. I didn’t play an electric guitar until I was about 38.
As for writing, my thinking was if I make it up, then nobody can say I’m playing it wrong. It was and still is mostly by ear. Plus, there is the mystery of “where did that come from?” I didn’t know anyone else who actually put words with a tune very much back then. As for guitar playing, two words…Jerry Fields. Incredible old school jazz and big band guitar player who was my teacher at age 12.
When I started listening to music intentionally, it was to WANT and Mr. C in the afternoon in Richmond, VA. I mean “smack back on the track, lookin’ mean and clean on the scene with the dean of soul, Mr. C!” That guy. I dug James Brown and Otis Redding and Aretha in Muscle Shoals and Sam and Dave and the funk bros in Motown. Truth be told I was a white kid from the suburbs who lacked the courage to go for it – I was about 14 so I forgave myself. My heart lies in that tradition but time added many other influences.
I wasn’t actually a good enough guitar player to make a living but did have a knack for putting some words with a tune. My living came from other endeavors which moved me around the country but putting words with a tune was always something I loved to do. Moved to Texas in the early 90’s and won a couple of local songwriting contests. Just enough to drive me to a studio and record some demos. You know how it works. Once you’re in that loop a little you meet people who know people who have serious talent and don’t mind sharing and teaching and letting you in a little. Still can’t read a note but have played long enough to hang in with them in a session.
I am truly blessed to know those players who can make a good song sound spectacular! Listen on. These pages highlight songs I’ve written about Mom, relationships, my faith (which is the other thing no one can ever say I’m playing wrong because it’s mine) and some of the pain and joy that comes with living a full life. Each has a story and “the demos” turned out all right. Check it out.