Friday, October 5, 2018

A Magic Carpet Made of Steel

It wasn't until the conductor shouted, "ALL ABOARD!" that I felt the sense of history, and then the song lyrics popped into my head:

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central, Monday morning rail…

My 18-year-old son Brendan had just handed his ticket to the Amtrak conductor, and he stepped through the door of the passenger car, when the conductor did what they have done for well over one hundred years. It is a tribute to a time when train travel was the dominant and most modern means of mobility – the unique and time-honored custom of announcing the impending departure by shouting the announcement up and down the platform.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A "Sweet" Riff

I learned to play guitar because I wanted to play the songs I liked. Even if I couldn't play them as well as the records, it was satisfying to have those small moments of triumph when I could duplicate a great riff or chord sequence from a favorite tune and a well-known guitarist. Ed King played one of the greatest rock riffs of all time, and many amateur guitarists like me did our best to learn it. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

What Got You Started?

When did you first start paying attention to music? Who were your early musical influences? I was a music fan first, and didn't learn to play guitar until I was in my early 20's. I didn't pay much attention to music until I saw the Beatles in 1964 on the Ed Sullivan show. That was also the moment when I decided I had to be a guitar player.

After that first exposure to the Beatles, I began listening to the radio. The mid-1960's was a spectacular time for rock and roll and pop music. We had the British Invasion, American surf music, Motown, blues rock, folk and folk-rock, and just plain rock and roll.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gentle On Our Minds

Glen Campbell died in August 2017 at age 81, bringing to a close a decades long musical career filled with incredible songs. He was best known as a Grammy winning singer, television host, and occasional actor. What many don't know is that before the movies and television shows, and before the hit songs, he was one of the most sought after session guitarists in the business.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Tom Petty - An American Original

Tom Petty was an American original. I know – we say that about a lot of well-known figures, and obviously, that's what it takes to make someone worthy of such acclaim. Some people are famous for all the wrong reasons. 

Petty was famous for all the right ones. We know him because he wrote and sang some of the greatest songs of our time. His style was unmistakable, with a twang in his voice, and powerful, guitar-driven songs that you want to listen to over and over.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Privileged Witnesses

The Ellison High School Wind Ensemble,
Mr. Smith conducting. Photo courtesy Mr. Raul Munoz
Some experiences leave a lasting impression. Sometimes they are grand in scale, and sometimes not, but they are significant enough to become etched in your mind and your heart. Music has such power, especially live performance. People playing musical instruments can move your soul; they can astonish and electrify, they can transfix and captivate. Sometimes, when everything is just right, you feel privileged to have witnessed it.
A high school band, including my son Brendan, and a piccolo player provided such a memorable experience on a rainy May night.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

King of the Texas Troubadours

I was a passenger in a car on Interstate 35 just entering Austin, Texas, when I read the news on my phone. It was Tuesday, May 17, and Texas singer, songwriter, and luthier Guy Clark had died earlier that day. After reading the news, I looked up and the first thing I saw was an American flag at half-staff.