Early Musical Memories

We all have musical memories, brought back by music we played, loved and danced to, and by songs that expressed emotions we felt at specific periods in our lives. My earliest memories of playing music began by sitting at our kitchen table with a 4 string mahogany tenor ukulele at the age of 6, while my father washed the dishes and shouted out the chords to Down by the Riverside.

We lived in a small semi-detached house in Richmond Hill, Ontario, in the late 50s, and when I recently saw it I was surprised at how small it really was. The ukulele is very easy to play in the key of G and I learned to tune it by singing my dog has fleas, E A D G! Earlier I played the pots and pans but I am sure no one but me thought that is was music. My dad and his brother John both sang and played a little guitar, my uncle also played harmonica. My dad could carry a tune, was not a bad singer, and was always whistling popular tunes around the house. He had purchased a Gibson J45 guitar at that time and would get together one night a week with some neighbors to learn how to play basic chords. Eventually I was given that guitar which I subsequently wore out, and I then passed on to my younger brother who proceeded to really wear it out.

My uncle Fred, my mothers brother, lived with us briefly and taught me a couple of country rhythm patterns and introduced me to country music. My major early musical influence was Uncle Danny who was Serbian and married to the sister of one of my aunts. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, and maintained a quartet that played locally and was together for 56 years with very little change in personnel. They played authentic Serbian Tamburitza dance music and folk songs on Bracs, an eastern European combination mandolin/guitar instrument. In between they would play current favorites like Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree! I made their only recording which had to be done with the band all standing around one microphone because they could not play separated. Later on they could never understand why we could not change their individual parts in the mix.

I am 59 this year and have been playing many styles of guitar now for 53 years. My left hand which I use to form the chords on the fretboard is continually sore. I have started taping the left thumb and always make sure I have some Advil on board before I perform. In my youth I built elevators, houses, railways and did a lot of landscaping. How much of the wear and tear is from guitar and how much is from other abuse is hard to say. But I am going to play as long as possible I love music.