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June 2018
A Different Kind of Climate Change

This is not about the weather, it’s just another take on the music business of today, and the times they are a changing, actually, they’ve changed since the digital revolution. Now I hear that Gibson Guitars has filed for chapter 11. Initially I was thinking great, maybe there will be fewer guitars to fill the hands of unimagined kids who would rather pose than play, but then my senses came back to me and I recalled how I started playing the guitar. 

I was 13 years old, it was 1961 and I had stopped taking piano lessons 2 years earlier. I had grown tired of having to practice in the same place every day, and really, I just wanted to stop playing music. But there is something about playing music that I started to miss. The joy of hearing the sound coming from your own hands is a strong, incredible freedom that is hard to describe. Once you’ve become a little prolific at an instrument, the creativity is intoxicating. The creative process has that effect if you truly love it, I needed an instrument I could take with me anywhere and play.

As it is with most 13-year-old boys I had a growing fascination with girls and noticed that at a party my oldest brother was throwing, our parents weren’t home, there was this guy over in the corner playing the guitar, a beautiful ¾ Gibson acoustic. All the girls were surrounding him, even though he really wasn’t a great player, the mere fact that he could play Jimmy Reed songs had their full attention. The light came on in my head, that’s the instrument for me. Somehow, I wound up owning that guitar, oh how I wish I still had it, and I was on my way to my room to close the door and start playing this magical creation of wood and steel. My parents were more than supportive and suggested lessons, so I found a teacher. She played folk music, and I had three lessons and learned five chords and a couple of tricks on strumming and finger picking. Well long story short, she told me she would be gone for a couple of weeks, off to the Newport Folk Festival, but she never came home. Always wondered what happened to her. In any event I had a few, very few, tools to work with, but along with my record player, I began to play along. I was hooked and spent hours in my room just picking and grinning.

Back to the Gibson saga, it turns out that they are going to restructure their business model. I’ve been told by friends who have purchased new Gibson electric guitars, that the quality had waned, everything from shoddy electronics, to truss rods that we faulty. I hope they address some of these claims once they’re up and running again, as I have always been a fan. My first electric guitar was a 1957 ES175, which I still own today, although I made the mistake of re-finishing it years ago which brings the value down, it still has a great tone. I remember cranking that beast up with an amp I got, an old Vox Super Beatle that I ran through a single 12 inch speaker cabinet from some unknown origin, that I finally blew up, but my father, who always encouraged me to play music since he was the son of a world renowned flutist, banished me to the garage with this beast of volume, he never ever said “that’s not music, it’s just noise”.

The story runs full circle as my son now plays turn tables, a DJ who loves the Drum and Bass style of EDM. When he came to me telling me he finally found an instrument he wanted to play, and it was turntables, well I knew how my father felt, but I couldn’t say that’s not music, it’s just noise. Well nowadays kids can create music by pushing buttons, triggering samples, and who am I to say it’s not music. Every generation has its own thing. Through him I have gotten into some of the early hip-hop artists and see merit there. I bristle sometimes at how folks are haters of the genre but to each his own. I, for one, will always be partial to the actual playing of the instrument. There is a freedom that smashes through the time space continuum. You truly can become lost in the sound, and time becomes a fleeting moment of pure elation. I’m not sure that today’s group of button pushing musicians have that same experience. I hope they do.