As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have been playing guitar since I was 13. I have always loved listening to and playing music.
When I was about 8, my mother started me in piano lessons. I played piano for three years until my mother decided that I wasn’t progressing the way she thought I should and pulled the plug on my lessons. After piano, I convinced my parents to let me take up tenor sax. My parents rented me a student horn and I was given lessons by the high school band teacher who taught band where my father taught high school. I really loved playing the sax and was soon spending a lot of time noodling and bending notes, etc, on the saxophone. I started playing sax at the beginning of the school year in 7th grade. Most kids in grade school band don’t spend much time with their instruments during the summer and spend most of their summer enjoying summer activities. My parents arranged to have the high school band teacher continue my lessons over the summer. I wasn’t highly motivated to practice over the summer, and it showed. I was an 11 year old boy who wanted to get out and do 11 year old boy stuff over the summer, not spend it in my room playing my saxophone. By the end of the summer, the high school band teacher told my father that I would “never play anything but the radio” and the lessons were stopped and my saxophone was taken away and returned to the music store.
At about the same time I stopped the saxophone lessons, I acquired a newspaper delivery route. It was a huge taste of independence. I now had my own money! My parents had never given me an allowance, so my only spending money was what I would get for holidays or my birthday. Now I had my own income and my own money!
About a year after I starting delivering newspapers, I approached my mother about purchasing a guitar. I had been riding my bicycle to the local music store several times a week for about the past 6 months dreaming of buying a guitar.
I found one that I really liked: price $300. It was an Ovation Vyper electric guitar. Not the greatest guitar, but a bit better than the usual starter guitar for the time.
An Ovation Vyper Electric Guitar
From my newspaper route I had saved about $180. I approached my mother and asked her if she would help me buy the guitar and I would pay her back by giving her free newspapers until the guitar was paid off. I told her I hoped to take guitar lessons and eventually play guitar in the jazz band in high school. My parents subscribed to the newspaper I delivered and the cost of the paper was about $15 a month for delivery, which meant I would pay her back in about 9 months. She said she would think about it.
About a week later I asked her again and she said she had thought it over and agreed to help me purchase the guitar I was hoping to purchase. Thankfully it was still at the music store, I had checked the day before. I was elated! I couldn’t wait to go pick it up!
The next morning she and I went went to the music store and my mother helped me to purchase the guitar. I was so so excited!
We came home and I spent the next 3 hours with it in my bedroom trying to figure out how to tune it and wrap my fingers around the neck. After 3 hours I hear the call for dinner and head upstairs to eat with my family. My mother, father, brothers and I take our usual seats at the table. Shortly after dinner started my enabling father (EF) looks at me quizzically and asks:
EF: What are YOU so excited about?
Stephen: My new guitar!!
EF: What new guitar?
Stephen: Didn’t mom tell you? She helped me to buy a guitar. I told her I would give you free newspaper until I paid off the rest of what I owed on the guitar.
EF (bellowing): You brought the devil’s instrument into MY house, and we loaned you the money for it!?
Stephen (stunned): I thought it would be OK. I talked to mom about it.
EF (angry): You will NOT have that guitar until it is completely paid off. Where is it?
Stephen (almost crying): It’s in my bedroom.
EF: Go get it!
I go to my bedroom downstairs, put the guitar in its case and, in tears, bring it upstairs to the dinner table.
After dinner, I am excused and my father hides the guitar in the house. I retire to my bedroom and cry.
It wasn’t very often that I was left at home by myself during my childhood. Either my parents were there or I was watching my younger twin brothers while my parents were gone. Every occasion I had where I had the house to myself over the next month I would search the house frantically trying to find my guitar. Eventually I did find it in the back of my father’s closet in his bedroom. Over the ensuing months, I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom whenever I had the house to myself and get my guitar out of my father’s closet and play it. Since I seldom had the house to myself, I probably had the opportunity to play my new guitar less than 6 times for a total time of less than 2 hours the first 4 months it was in the house. After 4 months I was able to come up with the remainder of the money to finish paying off my parents and I was allowed to have the guitar.
I never did take guitar lessons other than what I could afford on my own, and with a newspaper route for income, I couldn’t afford many. My parents refused to pay for guitar lessons. I am essentially self-taught on guitar.
Today I have guitars in nearly every room of the house. I still very much love to play guitar.