My father worked as a butcher at the Co-op grocery store in Kapuskasing Ontario, 12 hours north of Toronto. We lived upstairs in a two-bedroom apartment above the store.
When my sister and I would come home from school, we’d head straight for the butcher shop and yell, “Can we have a piece of cheese please!” He’d pull out a large orange wheel of cheddar cheese and cut us both a large slab.
One year, the Gino Mariscotti School of Music from the neighboring town of Timmins – 150 miles away – put up an large cardboard advertisement in the store announcing: “Guitar lessons offered at the Kapuskasing Community Center. As we walked by the advertisement, my dad asked me, “Would you like to take guitar lessons?” I said “Yeah!” I quit after my first lesson. It was so boring.
My dad played the fiddle and drums in several bands and always had instruments lying around the house. He had a guitar propped up in the corner behind the chesterfield sectional. After school I’d pick it up and eventually taught myself to play.
That Christmas my dad bought me a gorgeous blond Harmony semi-hollow body electric guitar. It was a double cutaway with 3 humbucking pickups and tons of gold knobs and switches. I cried when I got it. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I took it to bed with me.
I was 17 when I left home on a Greyhound bus with only a suitcase and a guitar. I ended up auditioning for a band in Toronto that put me on the road playing six nights a week for 14 years.
My guitar has been my close and personal friend for my entire life. It means so much to me I get emotional when I think about the impact it’s had on my life. I go to it when I’m inspired, to un-stress and for comfort. Words pale in comparison to the sound of it’s voice.
The famous classical guitarist Andres Segovia said the guitar is like a small orchestra. It is polyphonic and that each string is a different color and different voice. It’s extremely versatile and portable. I own 5 of them. Each one has it’s own personality and characteristics.
One of my electrics is a 1987 Ken Parker Fly Deluxe. It’s extremely light-weight with stainless steel frets. The neck is very true with superb intonation up and down the neck. It has a piezo pickup on it so that means I can switch from two humbuckers if I’m playing rock, to the piezo at the tailpiece when I’m playing jazz or acoustic sounds.
I always felt that it was important to be a well-rounded musician and learn how to play several different styles. So I learned to play classical, acoustic finger-style jazz, bebop, rock funk or blues country or soul.
My guitar has brought me to many places. I’ve played Indian reservations, pool halls, discos, fairs, Las Vegas revues, strip clubs, weddings, bar mitzvah, Octoberfests, and funerals.
I remember being in a Las Vegas-style showband called “The Boss.” Since the “show” was most important, we also had to do choreography while playing. As I also played trumpet, I’d setup my horn on a stand and get into a choreographed dance step groove. I’d kick in my overdrive pedal so that I could hammer-on power chords. Then I’d pick up the horn and play horn shots. The bass player would do this with me and presto, instant horn section!
When I walk into a gig with a guitar strapped on my shoulder it just feels so right. Nothing feels more powerful.
I hung out in smoke-filled clubs playing until 3 am for a bowl of spaghetti and a beer. I can tell countless harrowing travel and adventure stories of the road. I played all through the promiscuous and glittery disco era. I’ve been mobbed by girls. I’ve had bottles and ashtrays thrown at me. And I’ve slept in haunted hotels. And my guitar was right beside me.
My love of music was so strong. so all-encompassing, so intense, I never thought anything could trump it.
That was until I met Amy. I met my wife when she auditioned for the vocal spot in a band in Niagara Falls, Ontario. She got the gig and she got a guitar-playing husband. I guess you could say that it was my guitar that gave me a 30-year relationship with a complete Goddess.
Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll listen to Amy softly sleeping and I’ll pick up my my guitar and play.