Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gordie Boy: "Sing us a tune"

I didn't learn to play the guitar at a very early age, I was no child prodigy in any musical department, and I struggle to thumb a few chords to this day on my Norman acoustic. But still, I like to sing - alone in my study is best for all concerned - and I've written scores of campfire songs. One day I'll likely put out a CD that will send shivers down the spine of all unsuspecting listeners.

["I am too young here to recall this musical memory"]

The guitar in this black and white photo from about 1953 belonged to my father and he occasionally played a few tunes for his family, Hawaiian-style, with the guitar flat on his lap and with a steel in his left hand. I liked listening to him sing, at least while I was quite young, before The Beatles and Bob Dylan came along. Perhaps because of Dad's influence, I purchased my first guitar (electric) from an Eaton's catalogue and bought my first amp and speaker from the town barber when I was about sixteen. My favourite song to play was 'The House of the Rising Son' and after I figured out the chords I played it about 400 times a day for two years.

As far as I know, my dad was self-taught, learned a few chords in his teens as I did, bought one guitar while in the Navy circa 1943 and another - perhaps the one in the photo - from a small shop in his hometown, Norwich as a young man.

In his Navy memoirs he shares a few enlightening lines about his musical interests while aboard the SS Silver Walnut and on his way from Scotland to D-Day Sicily, 1943: 

The Walnut remained in Cape Town for two weeks. We all enjoyed ourselves and I purchased a guitar and brushed up on some chords that I knew so my friends could share time singing navy ditties and other songs. (pg. 66 "Dad, Well Done")

Later Dad writes that all his WW2 souvenirs, including shrapnel from the first German bombing raid he experienced, and I assume the guitar, were stolen shortly after he arrived in Egypt a few weeks later. I'm sure that was a sad loss for him.

Two years ago, while passing through a small town not far from London, Ontario I saw a familiar looking piece of steel (or guitar slide as I call it) at an antique shop and I was happy to part with ten dollars in order to have it.

["This is a concrete (and steel) link to my father's musical past"]

Somewhere I have a story Dad wrote in the 1990s about his early memories concerning a music store in his hometown and it may touch on the purchase of his last guitar. Until I find it all I have are a few faint thoughts about the instrument and Dad's love for music, including one about how I secretly changed the height of the bridge so that I could more easily practise playing his guitar.

I'll look for the story now, sing you a song later.

Photos by GH


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