I’ve heard — and read — a lot of people talking about how it has been 50 years since the Chiefs won — or even played in — a Super Bowl. That started me thinking. Yes, 50 years is a long time. I guess it’s not really that long if you look at it through an “eternity” lens, but for most humans it makes up well over half of our expected lifetime. As I draw nearer and nearer to moving into what society likes to call the golden years, I think time.
With a mind toward not having a ton of things sitting around that Laura or the kids will have to dispose of when I leave this world, I’ve been trying — in some fashion — to downsize. That means getting rid of some things I have previously thought to be important.
One example would be my small collection of vinyl — those 33⅓ rpm discs played on a turntable for your listening pleasure. Through the years, I’ve gotten rid of so many albums that I do now have a small collection, relatively speaking. In fact, I think I might just hold on to most of them for retirement.
I have a few guitars as well. All of which, you see, I believe are needed. And as I was trying to decide where I might be able to downsize in that category, I realized there is no real emotional attachment to any particular one. Well, maybe that old Alvarez jumbo six-string.
It was a gift from some friends after I had given my old Alvarez jumbo to a church and pastor in the Pacific Northwest after someone had broken into the church and taken all of the musical equipment. It has been part of my life — part of our family’s life — for at least 25 years. We’ve had family singalongs in the living room or around a campfire with it many times. It is my “go to” guitar, you might say.
Two of the remaining four guitars now in my possession were gifts as well. One from a friend who had it just sitting around and decided it needed to be played. That little natural sunburst beauty is now at the cabin — just in case the need arises for music when we are there.
The other “gift” guitar is a vintage hollow-body jazz style guitar given to me by an elderly man who wanted it to be played and taken care by someone who appreciates it. And I do appreciate it.
But I didn’t really want to talk about guitars. I was thinking about that 50 year mark; about how many guitars I have owned since my first dime-store bass guitar I got when I was about 10 years old; and then about how crazy it seems that I have actually been playing music for at least 52 years.
I remember there was always music in my home when I was growing up. Most of it was from vinyl LPs and 45 rpm “singles” mom and dad played on a little Airline stereo that sat in the corner of the dining room. The music that came from that machine varied from Hank Williams to Johnny Cash to Johnny Horton on the countryside to Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and - of course — Elvis on the pop side. Mostly it was Elvis. There were also Saturday evenings spent watching the Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller shows on television, and tuning into the Grand Ol’ Opry on the radio when we had the chance.
I can also remember dad singing as he went through his day or evening. He’d sing “Hey Good Lookin’” or “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” or “Kaw Liga” or some other Hank Williams song. He didn’t play an instrument, but there was a guitar in the house much of the time nonetheless. That may be how I got so interested in playing music in the first place.
Which brings me back to playing the guitar. The fingers on my left hand have what the dictionary calls “a thickened and hardened part of the skin or soft tissue …” — or, put more succinctly, calluses. They are thick and hard. And, why not? They’ve been there for 52 years (and counting). (To be continued)