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My Dad

This is my Mom and Dad with their sons at my Dad's 94th birthday party. That's me on the right (his left)

My Dad died yesterday. He was 95 and lived about as full a life as anyone I’ve ever known. He grew up poor and was the first in his family to attend college. He went on to Med School, fought a war both in the South Pacific and at Normandy. He came back and fathered nine sons. Any one of those things would have been extraordinary but he did them all. I can’t say that he was the reason I became a guitar player but he certainly was something of an enabler. In 1963, he came home with a Kay flat top acoustic guitar with the stipulation that I take lessons and learn to play. He bought the guitar at that musical Eden called Woolworths. I tried to play it, I really did, but it was just impossible. It took me 6 months to be able to play an F chord but I persisted. Finally, my Dad relented and took me to Hermies Music Store in Schenectady to buy an electric. My guitar teacher was a Magnatone dealer and pressured me to buy a Magnatone Typhoon (with the tilt-lock neck!) but I had my heart set on  a Stratocaster. At the time, a Strat listed for around $320 but you could buy them in New York City, 160 miles away for $200. I was not aware of this. Hermies’ prices were just North of retail and I wound up with a 64 Duo Sonic and a Princeton amp for the princely sum of $159. I had to haul the trash cans down the driveway to the curb every week for 5 years to pay for it. Interestingly, this was the cusp of the Duo Sonic’s transition to the Duo Sonic II and when I tried the guitar out at Hermies, I played the newer model. Hermie said he had to set the guitar up and that it would be ready in a few days. The guitar that showed up at my house was the older model. Nice. I mentioned this to my Father but he thought I was just angling for the Strat. I played that Duo Sonic in my first band in 1964-65 (I was 12). I’m pretty sure we were called the Dimensions (this predates the Fifth Dimension, so we weren’t quite as lame as you might think). It was clear to my Dad that the guitar was here to stay and I would practice endlessly at high volumes. “Turn that damn thing down…” he would yell up the stairs to my room. I knew the amp sounded better when it was loud but I wasn’t sure why. A year or so later, I had saved some money from our gigs ($15-$25 per gig-not for me-for the whole band) and my Dad said he would match it. By then I knew that going to New York was the way to get a new guitar for less money, so we skipped Hermies and headed South to Manny’s on 48th Street. I went with 2 guitars in mind. I wanted either an Epiphone Crestwood Custom (which a friend of mine played) or a Stratocaster. When we got to Manny’s, I asked to try the Crestwood first. I liked a wide fingerboard and the old style Crestwood definitely had that. The bad news was the new ones with the batwing headstock had little skinny necks and I knew I couldn’t play it. So, I asked for a Strat next. I wanted a sunburst and they only had a Sonic blue one which I thought was a bit girly. I still can’t believe that I let that one go. I also can’t believe that Manny’s didn’t have a sunburst Stratocaster at the time.  So, I wound up with a sunburst Fender Jaguar which cost $240 which was more than I had. Back to the garbage cans for another year. My Dad never liked my guitar playing but he had other good attributes. He only came to watch me play once in the ten years or so that I played gigs. He stuffed cotton in his ears and left early. I guess I can’t blame him. We were very loud. So, thanks Dad. Thanks for supporting my guitar habit even if you thought it kept me out of trouble (it didn’t). When he was much older, he loved to hear my son play piano when we came to visit. It often brought tears to my Dad’s eyes to listen to him play. Maybe I should have taken up the piano. ‘Bye, Dad. I’ll miss you.

6 Responses to “My Dad”

  1. Susan Iger says:

    Dear Friend,

    That was lovely…a word you would never use, but lovely nonetheless.

    It captured that unique tie that bound you to your dad in a way different than all the other eight….

    He was your dad, and you were his noisy, talented, opinionated and totally loyal son.

  2. Steam says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your Dad. It’s hard and I feel for you. It was fun to read your remembrances about him and your early music days especially the “Turn that damn thing down!!!” command which was uttered more than a few times in my house. My Dad, now gone 12 years was around the same age, involved in WWII and had difficulty understanding rock and roll. One thing I remember which hilighted the head on collision of his musical aesthetic with mine (and millions of kids in 1964) was when he came into the living room as the Beatles cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” was blasting through the single Magnavox 12″ speaker. The song was a great 2 plus minutes of high energy thick pumping sound with Ringo’s cymbals sizzling all the way through until everything stopped and George played the clean plain major chord at the very end. My Dad looked at me and exclaimed “That was the only bit of music in the whole damn song!” referring to the major chord. A few years later my Grandfather moved in to live with us and my repetitive banging back and forth between the G and A of “You Really Got Me” elicited a desperate and angry “Is that all there is to that God damn song!!!???” I came across an old Victor Herbert LP of his recently with Dad’s hand written note over the liner notes that says “Dad had Victor Herbert etched in his heart….he loved this show music.” I totally get it now. I still love the Kinks at volume but I completely understand where he was coming from. Sorry Dad, sorry Grandpa. One interesting thing though was my Dad’s love of classical organ music. The 12″ Magnavox speaker could not handle the low end generated by the 16 and 32 foot pipes but he would crank the volume as loud as he could anyway. Other loud sounds that came out of our record player were live recordings of steam locomotives. In the late 50s and throughout the 60s he took me all over the place on the east coast, to Canada and Colorado to watch, ride behind and on the last steam locomotives in regular railroad service. He would play various recordings of that soon to be gone technology at ear splitting bone rattling volume. My mother sometimes would tell him to turn it down but he loved it and I loved it. Many times since then I’ve thought how similar an experience it was listening to the music of those machines and the pipe organ to a Who concert (when they were all alive putting out enough energy in a few hours to power a small town). I never mentioned those thoughts to him but he might have agreed.

    None of this has much to do with 335s except that my parents, like your Dad, never really embraced the music but did all they could to support me and helped finance my 335.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Thanks for your very familiar sounding story. I think many of us baby boomers have overlapping experiences and that’s part of what bonds us together as a generation. Perhaps our ’60’s was akin to their war since we were probably of similar age when we experienced our upheavals. While living through the 60’s does not compare to fighting WWII from most points of view, it is the shared experience of a generation that, in some way, makes us who we are. My Dad hated Chuck Berry. And he wasn’t too fond of the Kinks either. He came to like the Beatles many years later when most older folks finally had to admit that, yes, it was music after all. But the Stones? Uh, uh, ya gotta draw the line somewhere, I guess.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Thanks Susan. I know that guitars and rock and roll aren’t what you’re all about but we’ve shared enough over the years we’ve known each other to almost be brother and sister. That makes me happy. Thanks for the lovely note.

  5. Yehuda says:

    My condolences.
    I wonder if when he walked out of woolworths’ with that guitar he even considered that some 50 years later somebody on the other side of the world would be reading about it.

  6. OK Guitars says:

    Probably not. I don’t think he even considered the importance of his actions until later. He never really thought of the guitar a “real” instrument. He loved the piano and the clarinet. He was a product of the Big Band era and a big Benny Goodman fan. Somehow the guitar seemed to him to be something of a tool of the Devil. He hated that rock music I listened to and wasn’t real thrilled with the music I played. A times, I couldn’t blame him. He also had less musical talent than just about anyone I’ve ever met. It’s a wonder I can even make music with 23 of his chromosomes at work. Fortunately, my Mom was much more musical. My son is much more musical than I am, so maybe there’s a trend here.

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