The Blues Discovery

I remember what got me into playing the guitar like it was yesterday. I had given up taking piano lessons when I was just about to turn 12 in the summer of 1960, told the folks I needed an instrument that I could take to my room or wherever, other than the piano in the living room where I had to practice an hour a day.  I was tired of being anchored to the same spot, at the same time, every day of the week.   Later that year, my oldest brother was having a party at the house and there was this guy playing Jimmy Reed songs on a sweet ¾ Gibson acoustic guitar, and lo and behold he had almost all the ladies gathered around him!  Ahhhhh, one of those moments that is seared into my brain, that’s it, guitar = chicks!!!  For my 13th birthday my folks bought me that very guitar and I was in heaven.  Finally, an instrument I could bond with.  I could hide in my bedroom and try to find those riffs I heard on Jimmy Reed records, albeit simple, they were magic to me.   

My folks said, “Okay, now it’s time for you to take lessons”, so they found this folkie lady teacher over in Silverlake, I was now 14 and she was beautiful, but said I had to lose the steel strings and get a nylon string guitar.  Like a fool, I believed her, so away goes the Gibson and we find a classical guitar made by Candelas Guitars.  Little did I know that these instruments are some of the very finest made Classical and Spanish guitars and I wish I had both those guitars today, their value is way more than we paid for them, but that’s another story.  Back to the folkie beauty who gave me my first two lessons, I learned 5 chords form her then she said she was leaving for 2 weeks to go to the Newport Folk Festival, she never returned … but I did inherit an interest in folk music from her.  From those roots I found Folk Blues.  Mississippi John Hurt was the first record I bought and I thought wow! His style was so different than that of the simple Jimmy Reed progressions.  From there I found Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James, Huddy Ledbetter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and so many more that I can’t even remember.  I was lucky that there was a club, The Ashgrove, that underage folks could go to hear folk music.  Saw Lightning Hopkins, Johnny Shines, Brownie McGhee and Sunny Terry.  Like a kid in a candy store, I ate this stuff up.

So now you know how I got into playing the blues.  Over the next few blogs I will go into depth about some of my favorite players, styles, and who I think carries on the traditions.  There are so many great players I will undoubtedly miss someone, but I do welcome your input and questions as to what you would like to hear from me.

Carry on my brothers and sisters.