The most frequently asked question I hear from people I meet while I am out performing at various venues or events is, “How did you get started ?“ Now, there is a story, which I will tell you, but let me clarify a couple things before I do. First, I do not have ready access to the quantity of memories it would require to recreate my life’s story. Second, and more importantly, the quality of memories I do hold are suspect at best. The story which I will relate momentarily, is a case in point I cannot tell you with any certainty whether this tale is 100% fact, or, a collage of factual and fictional parts that I have woven together and come to hold as “the way it was” in my mind. Maybe being able to verify and prove things, one way or the other is of no concern to you, but I find myself wishing I could do so as I write these words. So, this is my disclaimer: stories told long enough become “the truth as we know it”, regardless of what the actual facts may have been, and what I am about to share with you is no exception.
How I got interested in music is really no mystery since music was played often on the radio, or record player around my house as a child. The latest hits from the likes of Les Paul, Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph, Sara Vaughn, and countless R&B artists would fill the den or living room many a Friday or Saturday night as my folks would unwind from their workweek. It’s important to note here that the scene I just described to you was going on in a small house, on a small island called Grand Bahama, less than an hour east of West Palm Beach by plane in the Caribbean. (And yes, in the Bermuda Triangle, if you’re one who likes knowing these little side facts). Life on Grand Bahama throughout the sixties and seventies was rather isolated, culturally speaking, from what was happening in the USA, despite being almost a suburb of Florida. So, as a young boy I did not become familiar with some of the big name bands of the times, like the Rolling Stones, or The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys etc, until well after they were household names around the world.
The story goes that one day, while riding in the car with one or both of my parents, I heard a song by a band (which to this day has been sadly nameless) and asked what made “that sound” coming out of the speakers. I was told it was a an electric guitar. It is said that I made it pretty clear that I wanted to learn how to play like that. I am sure there were probably subsequent conversations about my learning and whether I was prepared to “do the work” and “stay committed” to that path, knowing my parents and the values and work ethic they held and were trying to imbue upon me. Either as a result of my convincing them I “had what it took”, or because I could still use my boyish looks and charm to sway them, I found myself with a rented guitar and happily being driven to guitar lessons once a week. The classical guitar method I was being taught soon bored me and I lost interest to the point that I begged to be “released from indenture”. Through their collective wisdom, or sheer distaste for my constant whining, my parents agreed that I could stop the lessons. BUT, my stepfather made it frighteningly clear that I WOULD continue to play “That damn guitar” since he had now bought it for me. So, every afternoon after school, the first 30 minutes were spent in my room plunking away at it. I was resentful at first, but slowly, as I was able to figure out songs of artists I liked, like James Taylor, Crosby, Stills & Nash, or Simon & Garfunkel, I began to thrive and really get into learning and playing better and better.
My stepfather became very ill in the fall of 1987. I went to visit him in the hospital in February 1988. Standing at what would be his deathbed, despite our somewhat contentious relationship, I was able to thank him for the gift he had given me that has now been an integral part of my whole adult life.
Well, that’s the “story”, BUT, here’s the mystery, which my Mom would ponder regularly until her death 2 years ago. I can remember she and several other family members would puzzle over just where my playing and singing ability came from, for no one in the immediate family had much, if any, musical talent. How or why I felt compelled to pursue music as I have is irrelevant. What IS important is that it has enriched my life and been a source of joy, fulfillment and fun, while helping me make a living. It has been almost 40 years now and I am grateful for every experience along the way.