Mercifully… Piano lessons ended and for the rest of middle & high school, my development as a musician ended with it. Unless you count those two months with the French Horn in 7th grade, but thankfully… it didn’t stick & I’ve been able to mostly block all memory of it.

The thing about all those attempts to learn an instrument boils down to this…  The music sucked!… If you’ve ever sat through an elementary school piano recital or middle school band performance, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s in no way a knock on the tiny musicians…  They’re giving it all they’ve got!…  I’m just saying that hours & hours of 10 Little Indians never really captivated me or made me want to play.  And if I didn’t want to play it, I lost interest FAST!

So what was I interested in playing?…  Somewhere along the way, I decided I was going to go counterculture musically to the world I grew up in… And in eastern North Carolina in the 80’s…  Radio stations came in three flavors: Country, Pop, & More Country. So when I discovered the Headbangers Ball on MTV, I was in love…


As far back as when Cronkite was still on the CBS news, my cousin from SC & I spent one week together every summer and it was always the highlight of my summers. We alternated houses annually, one year in NC… the next year in SC…

As we moved on into high school, he started taking Bass & Electric Guitar lessons.  He had no sooner taught me the chords to Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions and I was HOOKED!…

Only one problem…  I had no guitar  of my own.  So every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other family gathering, we’d get together & he’d show me the latest riffs he’d been learning. And I’d play for hours until my fingers hurt so bad I had to stop. Bryan Adams wasn’t kidding…


It wasn’t until my Freshman year of college that I finally bit the bullet. I saved up money all year & in the Spring of ’91, bought a blue Kramer Pacer Deluxe & a 10 watt Crate amp off of a friend of a friend.  It was a great little guitar that I completely underappreciated at the time.  And the case only smelled a little bit like marijuana…

The only real problem was the Spring semester was going to end & I had to go home for the summer…


My dad was a frugal man… People would give him clothes for Christmas… Jeans for instance… And he would store them in his closet, many times still in the gift box, until the jeans he was presently wearing developed enough holes to justify replacing.  This cycle could take up to 3 years to complete…

So the thought of bringing home a guitar & amp that I’d spent several hundred dollars on TERRIFIED me!…

I begged a friend that lived nearby to let me hide the guitar & amp at his house for the summer.  He had a great detached Rec Room at his house that we could jam in for hours without bothering anyone. But after about two weeks of this, I couldn’t stand it…

So one day while mom & dad were at work, I did EVERY chore I could think of without being asked… I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, cleaned the gutters, & fed the cows…  Yes, we had cows… I did mention the Eastern NC thing, right?  Then I laid the guitar out on my bed (which he had to walk by to get to his room)… And then I left the house as fast as I could & didn’t return until almost dark…


Not often, but every once in a while, people will surprise you… Even your parents…

I came home that evening & nothing was said about the guitar. Like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, I wandered through the house waiting for the shoe to drop. It never did… Eventually, I put the guitar in the case and went to bed.  At least the marijuana smell was mostly gone by then.


A few months later, but still the same summer, I was playing in the bedroom when dad walked through.  He stopped, looked right at me and said, “I always wanted to learn how to play guitar…”  And then he continued on through the house like nothing had happened.  We’ve never spoken about it since, which is pretty typical of our relationship…


I left one thing out earlier…  I also quit piano because I thought he didn’t approve.  Even though he’d never said anything close to these words, I believed he thought playing piano was for sissies, so I wanted nothing to do with it.

I didn’t know at the time what playing guitar would eventually mean for me.  But I do know that without his 9 words of affirmation, it could’ve turned out completely different.  So even though he’ll never read this… Thanks Dad!

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