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Fifty Years Ago Today, Part 2

This photo was taken February 7 at newly renamed JFK Airport. It's important to have a childhood hero. I had four of them.

This photo was taken February 7 at newly renamed JFK Airport. It’s important to have a childhood hero. I had four of them.

February 9, 1964 marks the beginning of a lot of things. In no particular order: The British Invasion, The “Guitar Boom”, The “Garage Band”, Long hair on men, maybe even “The 60’s” as we know them. But this is about the event, not the effects, vast as they are. The Gelber boys were supposed to be in bed before 9 on a school night but not on this night. We were all (at least those of us older than 5) crowded around the big old GE in the basement playroom to catch our first glimpse of John, Paul, George and Ringo. I had the old Wollensak rolling and off we went into history. …”close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you”…no intro, no lead in-the absolute perfect opening number and still a great tune 50 years later. I couldn’t have been more than a foot from the screen, trying to catch as much detail as possible. I knew,at that very moment,that I needed an electric guitar and I strained to read the brand name on Lennon’s headstock. It looked like Rickenbacker to me (I remember commenting …”wasn’t he some kind of WW1 flying ace or something?”). I spoke with my brother Brian the other day and asked him what he remembered. He is two years younger than I am so he was 9. He said he recalled our father commenting -saying something like “how can you listen to this stuff (he probably said crap) but you get the idea. That seems odd since the second song was ‘Til There was You” which is from “The Music Man” and my Dad loved Broadway show tunes and I’m pretty sure he had the original cast recording of it. “She Loves You” followed and then they went to commercial. A bunch of typical Sullivan dog and pony acts followed and, at the end of the show, The Beatles came back and finished strong with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

The show was a turning point for so many of us. Before that I merely listened to music. From then on, I wanted to make it. I took up the guitar almost immediately thereafter, bugging my father to get me a guitar-any guitar. He came home with a Kay flattop that I’m pretty sure he bought for $15.95 at Woolworths. I took lessons and, as everyone says, practiced ’til my fingers bled. Actually, with that guitar, it only took about 10 minutes of playing until that occurred. Sure we all had an idea of what we wanted to be when we grew up-astronaut, big league ballplayer, doctor (like my Dad) or some other mainstream profession. Rock star had never entered our collective consciousness until that moment. Suddenly, every kid in America wanted to be John. Or Paul. Or George or Ringo. Imagine…to have the talent, the adulation…the GIRLS. I was 11-what did I know about girls? Not much but I wanted them to be screaming for me.

I worked pretty hard for the next 6 or 7 years becoming a decent player (for a teenager, anyway) and playing in bands all through middle school, high school and into college. We gigged regularly and were considered pretty good in our little village of Scotia. I played dances and sock hops at 14, bars at 16, frat parties at 17 at Union College in Schenectady and was supposed to be the opening act for The Hollies in ’68 or ’69 (it never happened but that’s another, longer story). By the time I had finished college in 1973, I was on to a different career having realized that just being an average guitar player and backup singer wasn’t going to make a career for me. I sold off the gear, keeping just my Martin D-28 and barely picked up a guitar for the next 15 years. I never stopped listening to The Beatles though. In 1987 when my son was born, I picked up the guitar again (to entertain/distract a baby more than anything) and haven’t put it down since. I can play at least 80% of The Beatles catalog from memory and know the lyrics to virtually every song even the obscure ones like “Not Guilty” and “That Means a Lot”. Is that a waste of brain cells? Well, no, except maybe “Mr. Moonlight”. After all, I’ve got another 2000 songs in my head-many of which I don’t even like.  The Beatles have made my life better for 50 years and, especially now that I occasionally play in a Beatles cover band, continue to do so.

This is me with my first ES-a 63 ES330.

This is the earliest photo I could find of me with a guitar. It was the Summer of 67 at the Ridgewood Swim Club in Glenville, NY. I was 15 and playing a 330. Note the sideburns-pretty good for a 15 year old. That’s Mark Cerasano playing the plastic Hagstrom bass. If not for JPG&R, I wouldn’t be there then doing that or here now doing this.

4 Responses to “Fifty Years Ago Today, Part 2”

  1. chuckNC says:

    What’s a confederate flag doing at the Swim Club in Glenville, NY? A Union Jack I would understand….

  2. cgelber says:

    Thats funny. I wondered the same thing when I posted the photo. Looks like a beach towel.

  3. Danny says:

    I just wanted to brag, that although I was not around (alive) when The Beatles played at the Ed Sullivan, I was at the recording of tonight’s CBS tribute show and sat ten feet behind Paul and Ringo!

    I’m pretty sure the show starts off with a sunburst 1964 es 335 (it could be a 63, but I choose to believe it’s a 64 because that’s what I have.)

    Enjoy it! Can’t wait to watch it in a few hours.

  4. cgelber says:

    I watched it and was fairly impressed. See Part 3

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