How I Spent my 2022 (Part 1)

Now that 2022 is gone, I’m certainly not sorry to see it in my rear view mirror.

When we moved to the country several years ago, we anticipated living life a little more isolated than we had previously. Being 10 miles outside of the nearest town tends to do that. While it’s not on the edge of nowhere, it’s certainly not like living in an urban environment or even a suburban neighborhood. Even at our previous home in Florida, we were “in the country” but we had a Publix supermarket within 2 miles of our house and before we left, one opened even closer. I even went by a Costco on my homeward commute, so stopping to pick up a pizza or a chicken was a daily option.

Here in North Carolina, the closest store is a little over 2 miles away. it’s great if you want to buy gas, beer, soda, ice or lottery tickets, but doing the weekly grocery shopping comes up a little sparse. Unless your diet consists almost entirely of candy and chips, you’re out of luck.

So, 2022 was a bit of a mental tumult for me. In October of 2021, a routine colonoscopy started my first real serious relationships with doctors. I’m one of those guys who is rarely sick, probably missing less than a couple weeks of work in over 25 years at my previous job. There was about a three day layoff in 2000 when I had to have a hernia repaired, but other than that, never more than a minor cold or sore throat. Hell, the worst thing I ever had in that time was a hangover!

But I digress. The colonoscopy discovered about a 4 centimeter tumor in the very bottom of my colon. Imagine, my first real exposure to the metric system was to figure out how big 4 centimeters might be! Of course it was cancerous. Imagine going from getting a physical about once every 10 years to having a reserved parking spot at the local hospital’s cancer treatment center. Hell, I didn’t even have a primary care physician. I had been getting along just fine for 68 years! This cancer thing didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun… and I was right. It wasn’t.

Considering the somewhat glacial pace that modern medicine seems to move, I was rapidly whisked through a series of blood tests, a CT scan and an MRI in about a week’s time. I got calls from a Medical Oncologist’s office, a Radiation Oncologist’s office and an colo-rectal oncology Surgeon’s office.

I first met with the surgeon. That was pretty grim. He was young, by my standards. I figured he was probably early 40’s, very professional and very matter of fact. Matter of fact, he scared me half to death. Things didn’t look good and he explained what he and the other two docs had planned for me. First was radiation, then chemo, then surgery. Then what? That’s where it got really grim. He basically said I would probably end up with a colostomy for the rest of my life and he really didn’t know how long the rest of my life would be. Reassuring, not!

He also informed me I had multiple lymph nodes that showed signs of cancer. They would have to come out as well. According to him, I was a solid Stage 3. Now, believe it or not, I never looked up what Stage 3 meant, but I knew what Stage 4 was so I took some solace in that.

A few days later, I met with the radiation doc. Great guy, also very matter of fact and he was just a couple months from retiring. I would be among his last patients. I got the tour of the radiation facility and was told I should get used to it because I would be visiting it every weekday for about a month and a half.

Another couple days and I met the medical oncologist. This guy struck a nerve with me. He seemed to be much more interested in me than just as someone in treatment. Super personality, no bullshit kind of guy. After he interviewed me, I interviewed him. He had obviously been through this scenario hundreds, if not thousands of times with other patients, yet he treated me like I was his only patient. Kind of guy I am, I started asking him about his hobbies, what he did to unwind, what kind of music he liked. Had he ever played an instrument. Great conversation and I was really comfortable with him, much more so than the surgeon or the radiation doc.

Well, the introduction was over and he got down to business. Basically, according to the tests and the observations the three docs had made, I was incurable. So he outlined the path of treatment, which was going to be radiation to try and shrink the tumor and in the process possibly destroy some of the cancer in the lymph nodes. That would be about a month and a half of daily treatments, followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy, with an infusion treatment done every other week and the time in between for me to recover. At the end of those they would re-evaluate my condition and decide whether surgery would be beneficial.

He was adamant that if I wasn’t going to be able to be cured and long-term survival was doubtful, they didn’t want to make my life too miserable with what time I had left. Then, at the end of the appointment he suggested that he would like to put me through one more test, a PET Scan to get an even better idea of where and how far along the cancer was.

So, I went home and inventoried my guitars, so after I croaked, my family would have some idea of what my collection was worth when it came time to sell it.

(To be continued)

Quality of Life

This blog post is reprinted from a previous blog I kept at I no longer have that blog, nor the domain. This post was resurrected because the “how did you get started” question came up in a conversation on the BGU members forum. This seemed more appropriate than rewriting from scratch!

No doubt about it, I’m not a kid anymore. You know that when people stop referring to you as “wet behind the ears.” I never really knew what the meant anyway.

LIfe started out for me with a definite bent towards music. I played accordion for a number of years, until the accordion joined most Americans’ most hated list, right up there with bagpipes. Dick Contino, Myron Floren and Frank Yankovic notwithstanding, the Beatles and the British invasion of the sixties was the death knell for the accordion. Other than John West, playing the Cordovox in Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the sixties were devoid of any accordion heroes. So who was I to fight progress? I switched from being an “accordionist” to being a “keyboard player.” In the mid-sixties, other than Mike Smith, who played a Vox Jaguar for The Dave Clark Five, and Alan Price for The Animals, there weren’t many mainstream rock and roll keyboard players to emulate. My roots with the Natural Music Studios gave me an entré into the world of six stringers, which I immediately loved! I beat my first guitar nearly to death. It was a mid-fifties Fender Esquire, which was given to me by the studio owner so I could learn (and teach) guitar. Along the way, I owned any number of other guitars and basses as I slowly transitioned myself to stringed instruments from the keyboards.

From my first band back in Junior High School, the Rubber Soulz (thanks, Larry Koliha, Dave Goudelock, Gary Case, Mike Sand, Chris Allison) where I played keyboards to my last, Spere, with Monty Spears, Ken McAfterty and Steve Biggs, with me on bass guitar, I had an absolute blast.

But my dad didn’t. He was one who loved music, but not musicians… at least not sixties musicians. He grew up on the big bands and musicians who wore suits. Don’t get me wrong, dad approved of each of my brothers and I learning music and playing instruments. But to him, being a musician was a parlor sport. He held professional musicians in pretty low regard. So while he encouraged me to learn and play “for fun,” when I decided I wanted to try and make money, playing dances, clubs and bars, that was another story.

“You’ll never make a living playing that thing,” referring to whatever stringed instrument I happened to have hanging off my shoulder at the moment. I heard that phrase probably a hundred times, as I was leaving for practice or heading out for a weekend gig. To my dad’s credit, he did co-sign a number of finance contracts or loan me the money to get the equipment I needed or wanted to play. I always felt it was begrudgingly given, but nonetheless, it was almost always given. My dad’s opinion and approval had always been important to me as a kid, so his sudden dislike for what I was consciously trying to turn into a chosen profession was very difficult for me to deal with.

I played and he harangued about how what I was playing wasn’t music. The big bands were music. Guitars were gutter instruments. “You’ll never make a living playing that thing.” It hurt, a lot, but I wasn’t ready to give up.

In February of 1972, Spere broke up. Our guitarist, Monty wanted to play Jazz. We were playing down and dirty power trio rock ala, Grank Funk, Black Sabbath, James Gang and as much Deep Purple as we could squeeze in without an organ. The rent was paid up in our practice hall for the rest of the month and I was confident that Steve, my drummer friend and I could put together another band, so we kept the rented practice space. I was working at my day job, at a hi-fi and electronics hobbyist store when the call came in from Steve. “Hey, how come you’re taking your stuff out of the practice room? I thought you wanted to start another band.”

Of course, I hadn’t removed anything, but apparently someone else had. My Acoustic 360/361 bass amp was gone, as was the amp head for the Plush guitar amp. Also on the missing list was my Fender Contempo organ that I had used to help pound out melodies for our lead guitarist for tunes he didn’t know. So I trudged down to the practice room to find the hasp gone from the door of the room. I went to a local hardware store and got a new lock and hasp and re-secured the room so as to save what I had left there, and safeguard Steve’s drums. The next day I got another call. This time everything they hadn’t taken the first day was gone as well. Steve’s drums were still there, but Steve’s set was pretty much a hodgepodge of different stuff he had picked up over the years and the thieves probably weren’t interested in the return on investment they would get from it. Gone was the rest of my gear, my fretless Precision Bass, another Telecaster I had picked up, our mics, stands and the crude PA I had cobbled together.

“You’ll never make a living playing that thing,” kept echoing through my head as I headed home to let my parents know I was no longer a working musician. In spite of feeling very sorry for me, my dad said, “Now you know it’s time to grow up and be a man.” That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, but I figured he was right. After all, since I was old enough to remember, my dad was always right and always willing to share his wisdom. But that cold day in ’72 was probably the worst day of my life.

After that loss, the idea of ever playing again just didn’t make sense. There were probably people I knew from the 70’s through the 90’s who never even knew I played. I bought a few instruments over the years. I remember probably half a dozen different acoustic guitars, a couple of spinet pianos and a Fender Rhodes electric, but I never really got into playing any of them and they all got sold or traded for something else. I got married, had kids and worked at something where I could make a living, according to my dad’s advice.

For Christmas of 1994, I traded my last acoustic guitar in to a pawn shop as a down payment on an old used drum kit for my oldest son. He was 10 and really wanted to learn drums. I was not going to discourage it, because by this time I knew what a disservice my dad had done to me by not supporting my professional efforts.

Within a year or two my family figured it out before I did. On a birthday, I think it was my 45th, Maurette and the boys got me a Fender acoustic bass guitar. Nice guitar and it got me interested, so I picked up a Squier Telecaster also. But after a few weeks they ended up in cases in the closet. I was too busy and didn’t have any clear path.

Then, back in 2010 after both kids were gone and Maurette and I finally came to terms with being empty nesters, I decided to resume playing the guitar. I scoured the Internet looking for some material I could do as a home study. I just didn’t want to go in front of some 20 something guitar teacher who would make me look really awful in private lessons. I happened upon Griff Hamlin’s Blues Guitar Unleashed course and ordered it. The next Saturday I headed into town and came home with no less than 3 electric guitars (all pawn shop finds) and a new Epiphone EB-3 bass. I think I also picked up a couple small amplifiers that day as well. I made myself a promise that within a year, I would get back to where I was when I quit at 19.

After the year was up, I figured, either I wasn’t as good as I remembered at 19 or re-learning at age 57 is a real bitch! I’m inclined to believe the latter, because I’ve heard crude recordings of my bands from about age 16 through 19 and they weren’t too bad!

Now, I can’t wait to get home in the evening, kiss my wife and head into my practice room. I practice probably over a half hour a day and noodle for another hour or so every night. I’ve played a few jams, but no other public performances.

At 59 years, I know I’ll never be another Stevie Ray Vaughan or Joe Satriani and that’s all right! I’m again doing something that I truly love. It makes me wonder how much different my life would have been had I never given it up. Whether I would have made a living at it or just had it as the “parlor entertainment” my dad always supported, I think my life to this point would have been considerably different. But that’s all spilled milk and I’m not going to look back and wonder what might have been.

With all the joys and pitfalls of career, raising a family and living a life that I have truly enjoyed, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed my life as much as I am doing right now! Most of the people I know well, wife, kids, friends all see the difference and they tell me it’s a good one. And I can’t disagree!

Update: As of March 2020, at the grand old age of 67, I’m still enjoying it as much as the day I first picked up a guitar in my teen years. A great deal of that satisfaction is from having met Griff Hamlin and adopted his methods of learning the instrument.

Agonizing Self-Appraisal

This entry is a re-post of one I did on another blog way back in 2015. My memory was jogged when a broken link to the old blog surfaced and I was able to retrieve the original due to the fine services of

Agonizing Self-Appraisal (Originally posted May 2015)

As a result of my experience in Corona at BGU Live this year, I’ve discovered a few things both about myself and some observations in general that might be of help to anyone who finds they are experiencing similar fears.

I overanalyze everything and frequently suffer from analysis paralysis. In my remaining years, I need to live a bit more in the moment and a little less worried about what the future holds. This applies to a lot more than just playing guitar.

As for the actual competition, If you never play with anyone else, you have no yardstick with which to measure your own progress. This isn’t a case of “I’m better or worse than another player.” It’s just a reference to realize “yeah, I can do this.”

The old adage about being your own worst critic is definitely true. Sitting at home, playing by yourself with nothing but jam tracks, you won’t notice your own improvement. Your own playing isn’t going to sound fresh or original to you most of the time, because you learned and have played those same songs and licks over and over again. When you put them all together, there’s usually no surprise to you because you’ve heard them a hundred times before. They might have sounded fresh when you first heard them, but there is a whole lot of difference from “hey, I have to learn that killer lick”  to you finally owning it.

In listening to others, I hear licks I don’t do, and even some of the licks I do know are strung together differently than I play them. That leads to surprise and excitement listening to others play. You don’t know what they’re going to play next. You may not always know exactly what you’re going to play next, either, but with someone else, the sky is the limit. In other words, your own stuff is going to suck and other people’s stuff is going to sound better than yours. The funny thing is, they are likely to be thinking exactly the same thing when they listen to their own stuff. Just remember when you play that 24 bar solo that even though you’ve heard it a hundred times, most of the people who are listening to it are hearing it for the first time. They are enjoying the freshness and surprise in your solo that you’re not.

In short, you’re probably a better player than you think. It’s probably always going to be that way.

As for the fear of playing in front of other people. I can’t help you much on that. I will be scared the next time I play with and in front of others. The longer I wait, the more anxious I will be. The day after doing the solo with Griff and the band, our trio got up in front of the same group that had petrified me the day before. We did two songs that we had not rehearsed at all. One of the songs we only decided to play about 20 minutes before our turn. No rehearsal and entirely from our memory of how the song goes. Not only was I not nervous, but those last two songs were the most fun ones I had played with our trio the entire weekend.

Most performers get just a little nervous before they start. The more you play in front of people, the less that fear becomes. But the less frequently you do it, the higher that anxiety level will be.

This year, my goal is to find local friends or an open jam and become a regular. I have no doubts that half a dozen live jams will do me more good than sitting in my music room playing along with hundreds of jam tracks. It will be a whole lot more fun, too!

I Won! I has Mad Skilz! – May 2015

This is a re-posting of a blog entry I made way back in 2015. It was a monumental experience for me and I was reminded of it today. It was 5 years ago this week that the challenge in this article transpired. The performance with Griff’s band was in mid-April of 2015. I am still very much a student of Griff Hamlin and still enjoying learning the guitar and playing the blues.
Had it not been for, this post would have been lost forever.

I Won! I has mad skilz!

Not really. Well, yeah, I won, but the mad skills is just click-bait. I just had an awesome experience and in a unique break from my usual self-deprecating, lowered expectations style. I had an incredibly good time on a visit to California a couple of weeks ago.

But first, let’s go back to where it all started. Back in 2010 after the kiddies had grown and moved out, I found my interest in computer technology starting to wane. I had spent untold person-hours studying just a ton of stuff about Intel (and AMD) based computers. But the more I studied, it seemed I was reading more and more acronyms that I had no clue about. That in turn led to more reading just to discover the acronyms, which led to finding more acronyms, etc. I said no more to studying the Linux kernel. No more trying to stay ahead of the current W3C approved version of HTML. Goodbye Javascript. Adios Windows. I wasn’t giving up on computers, Computers just weren’t the focus of my learning processes. I relegated them to being a tool. This has had many advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages… I have a lot more time to communicate with the people around me. My thought processess are no longer just IF, THEN, ELSE statements. In short, with more available free time, my conversation skills have improved.

The disadvantages… Friends who used to depend on me to fix their screwed up computers have stopped calling. When people do call and ask questions, I can now safely say, “I don’t know” without sounding disingenuous. Some friends I used to enjoy don’t call any more now that I’m not the ace (and free) computer repairman for them.

But some time in 2010, I decided to pick up my guitar and play (with apologies to Pete Townshend). Something I had loved as a youngun, but given up when I turned 20 was suddenly calling me back. For more in-depth, I think I wrote something about why I quit a couple years ago. I don’t write that often in here. Look it up.

I made myself a promise that after 2 years I would evaluate my progress and if I wasn’t back to the skill level at age 19, it was all over and I would again quit playing for good. After 2 years at it, I figured out I either was really good at 19 or I had forgotten most of what I knew. Learning this stuff in your late 50’s is a ton tougher than when you’re 15. But giving up was out of the question.

Then I found Griff Hamlin, who is not only an exceptionally talented and skilled guitarist, but he’s an absolute master of getting the point across as a guitar instructor. You may have seen some of his ads on the Internet. He is one of maybe a half dozen instructors who are selling material online that will really do you some good. His material and teaching style immediately clicked with my learning style (lazy). Edit: My learning style is lazy, not his teaching style. He teaches how to play blues guitar. If blues isn’t your thing, then Griff may not be your guy. I very highly recommend his courses. Check out his web page here; Blues Guitar Unleashed.

OK, I told you all that so I could tell you this.

In addition to his online courses, Griff started an annual pilgrimage of his students to Corona, California in 2011. Home of Fender Musical Instrument Company’s U.S. factory. He also lives there, which makes sense… I didn’t go to the first get-together, because at the time, I wasn’t a good enough player to go hang out with his other students. I assumed that they were all near-professional players and I was just a lowly old fart who was picking my way through learning the pentatonic minor scales and how to apply them to make something that might be confused with music.

By the time the 2012 get together came around, there was a little more confidence in my playing. Actually, that’s a complete lie. I still thought I sucked really badly at the guitar. But I went anyway.

On this trip all attendees were to learn a few blues standards, primarily 12 bar blues, with a few variants like 8 bar (think Key To the Highway, Bring It on Home To Me) and some slow, sad stuff, like The Thrill Is Gone. So I’m sitting there with about 35 other guys and we pair off into trios and each trio goes onstage with Griff’s unbelievably talented drummer, keyboard player and bassist. These guys could make almost anyone sound good. They never lose the beat and no matter how badly you play, you can’t get them lost in a song. While sitting there I completely froze. This was a major anxiety attack. Consider that as a kid, I played with bands from the time I was about 13 until I was about 20. Parade floats and in front of untold drunks in bars, when I was too young to even be in the bar otherwise, I did it all without a moment’s hesitation. But I couldn’t get up on stage and play guitar. I told my trio mates to find another guitarist who hadn’t yet paired up with anyone, otherwise the trio was about to become a duo.

That night I went back to my hotel room and had a serious chat with myself. After traveling 2500 miles across the U.S. with two guitars and luggage to come to this marvelous get together, I was too chicken to get up on stage and play guitar with an audience of other guys who were probably just as scared, but managed to do it anyway. The next day I would play.

Sunday morning showed up and my two guitars that hadn’t been touched and I headed to the get-together. As soon as I walked in the door, the same fear and dread came over me. Couldn’t do it, so I pretty much sat in the back of the room and watched. I was in mental equivalent of the fetal position, with my thumb in my mouth. Finally, as we were nearing the end of the day, I got enough nerve to go up and ask to play bass with one of the groups. Mark, the bass player was about due for a smoke break, so he eagerly accepted my offer. For some reason, it wasn’t nearly as frightening to play bass. I did a few tunes and the fear went completely away. Unfortunately, it was also the end of the day and there was no time for me to get a do-over. Home the next day with my two guitars and my luggage and I hadn’t played a six string guitar in the entire time I was there. Next year I was determined to come back and redeem myself.

2013 came around and sign ups went out. Waiting for the email with bated breath, I think I signed up within 5 minutes of receiving the email. Off to California once again. This year, Griff was assigning people to groups. I really had no preference and said so in the questionnaire that was sent out in advance. I was assigned to a group with a friend I had met the year before, who lives just an hour from me and with another gentleman who I didn’t know. This time around, playing order was also assigned and surprisingly our group was first. I don’t think that was coincidence. It has never come to mind to ask Griff if he did that on purpose, just so I wouldn’t have time to melt down again. Whether or not, it was a good thing. Our group got up and did our tunes first. By the time it came around in the afternoon, nerves were pretty much settled and I had a great time all around.

Due to my anxiety about playing in front of others, I have been very reticent about finding jams and places and people to play together. Other then the first year, when I started attending a weekly jam in Fort Lauderdale (an hour drive) from me, I never played with others. It was less than a year and the sponsor of that jam suffered mortal injuries in a motorcycle accident. Since those jams stopped, I haven’t played guitar with anyone else, other than at the annual get togethers. All of my practice consists of working with the recorded material supplied and playing along with jam tracks.

2014 rolled around and again I made the trek to Corona. It was even better than 2013. I got paired with a couple of guys who had been at the previous two years sessions, we had become pretty good friends. Still, when I arrived at the venue, I dealt with the same anxiety issues I had the two previous years. Again, once I played, it all went away. A pleasant time was guaranteed for all and I had a blast.

After the 2014 get together, I came home energized and my practice schedule became a way of life. I watch virtually no television. I come home, have dinner with my wife and I’m off to my little 10 by 10 foot music room, which is now crammed full of various guitars, amps, and other musical junk. But I’m by myself.

Signups came for the 2015 event. Again, I was right there when the email arrived and had my confirmation back less than 5 minutes after registration opened. This year Griff threw in a new curve. In February, he held a rhythm challenge, where everyone registered had the option of submitting a rhythm guitar track for one of the songs on this year’s playlist. Griff critiqued it. Unfortunately, I was very busy and didn’t submit one.

Griff also announced a solo challenge for March. Same idea. Do 12 or 24 bars of solo work of something that was repeatable, so it couldn’t just be 24 bars of mindless noodling. He suggested that we write it down in guitar tab notation. So I wrote my solo down or at least most of it. I didn’t quite find what I was looking for in the last 4 bars, so it was mainly repeatable with a surprise ending. The kicker in all this was, Griff said he was going to select a winner from among the soloists and the winner would perform onstage with his band at a live gig, in front of paying customers. That was a bit of a stretch. He and his band are outstanding and their performances are close enough to perfection as to be indistinguishable from magic.

Griff mentioned that if anyone didn’t want to get up in front of people and perform with the band, to let him know and he wouldn’t consider their solo submission for the contest. When he said that, I thought, “He did that for me… How nice!” By the time I got around to getting my solo written and practiced so as to be moderately consistent in performance, there were a number of other solos already submitted. I figured that just about any one of them was better than mine. No way would I win, so why should I be so presumptuous as to send along a note saying I don’t want to be considered. So I didn’t.

My solo went in and got several positive comments on it. But in the group and the online forum associated with it, we all try to support one another. I appreciated the comments, but they were from guys who were pretty good friends, so I figured they were just making me feel better. After all, I heard it. I wasn’t impressed. The other solos were much more impressive to me.

More submissions came in. A couple of them were absolute killer, in my opinion. There was no need to excuse myself, because there so many solos better than mine.

Then, about mid-day, just a few days before the trip, I logged into the forum and noticed some new posts in the March Challenge thread, so I read the thread. There was apost like “Hey will you autograph my guitar?” and a couple more congratulatory posts to me. What the ???? Then I realized I needed to check my email. There I found a group mailing to all attendees. Guess who won the solo challenge! Oh crap! Panic set in, cold sweat. Anxiety, thy name is Lloyd. “I can’t go through with this!” About this time, I got a text message from Griff on my phone congratulating me on having the winning solo. I thanked him profusely for selecting me, but hell no, I can’t do this! Nope. Not going to happen.”

I also happened to be online with my two trio friends (neither one of whom had read their emails yet, either). “Can’t do it. I need to let Griff know.” He has to pick someone else.

Then I get a text message from Griff’s wife congratulating me and telling me how much fun it will be to have me join them (she’s the sax player in a killer horn section with the band). I told her I couldn’t do it. She sent me back a message telling me I couldn’t be in a safer place. With Griff and his band, I could literally stand there with my volume turned off and they could make me sound good. There was no doubt in my mind that she was right. Also, I can’t refuse Laura. If I had a baby sister, I would want her to be just like Laura.

For the rest of the week, I was a total mess every time I thought about it. But I made the trip. As soon as I got to the hotel, I got the star treatment from all the guys I who had befriended me in prevous years. It felt really good, but I was still scared to death. We finally got to Saturday. First, the day of performing within the groups had to happen before the evening on stage. Didn’t know if I would make it.

When our trio got up on stage, I was as scared as I had ever been before, although I’m getting better about hiding it. We did our first two tunes very well. It doesn’t hurt that I have two very talented and dedicated partners in the group. By the time the afternoon session rolled around, I was feeling a whole lot less nervous; certainly less nervous than I have ever been in recent memory when in front of people with a guitar in my hands. It went well. Then came Saturday night. I kept thinking what Laura had said, I couldn’t be in a safer place than onstage with the band. It helped that the other players are extremely personable and I consider them all to be good friends. I had a beer to settle what nerves I was feeling, but surprisingly, I was more comfortable waiting to play with Griff’s band than I was earlier in the morning waiting to play with my trio.

Griff started to introduce me and told pretty much the story I’ve just related (although he did it in 30 seconds, not 2500 words). I walked up, picked up my guitar and turned to face the crowd. At that moment, I realized that Mark, one of the best bass players I’ve ever heard was standing to my left. Chris, an incredible rhythm machine of a man on drums was behind me, Griff, one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet was on my right. Off to the far right was Laura, Ken and Mike, the rock-solid horn section. I was ready. Not a shred of nerves!

I guess I did OK. No one booed and the applause was awesome. I made it. And nobody died in the process. I’ll post my observations and what I took away from this in my next blog post. I’ve run on way too long with this one

As someone once said, “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”
Added to the original post: Be careful, this is truly cringeworthy. I would like to think I have improved in the 5 years since this was recorded.

great people I’ve never met and a few that I have

While in a conversation with a very dear friend this evening, we struck a lot of common ground. It’s kind of weird… I think I’ve lived a very charmed life, musically. I’m just an old retired dude, who hacks at playing blues guitar. I’ve been very lucky to have touched bases with a lot of famous names and a lot of names that should be famous, but for some reason or other, are not.

This isn’t name dropping. I abhor that. Well, actually I don’t abhor it, but I’ve learned that there is nothing to be gained by tying yourself to people who have exhibited a more aggressive zest towards bettering life than you. At the same time, sharing the lessons learned from people like this is something I take great delight in sharing.

One of the things that having an ‘Internet Famous’ offspring has taught me is that no matter how well known someone becomes, it’s still all people and the good points they present to you. Call me an eternal optimist, but artistic people are always a joy for me to meet. Musically artistic people tend to top that list.

Case in point: A young man who could be the next John Petrucci… or he could be the first Diego Vargas. I first met Diego when he was about 14 years old. He came to a blues guitar get together, primarily because his guitar instructor was putting it on. Diego might have a passing interest in blues, but it clearly isn’t his focus. He’s a a rare case of someone who understands where a lot of us are at, even though it is clearly outside his sphere of interest.

He shreds, the likes of which I’ve never seen or heard. When I started this post, I was trying to put him into a box, saying he was liked Yngwie Malmsteen or John Petrucci. But that simply doesn’t fit this young man. He’s just freakin’ good!

While he’s more into shred and some jazz, while he was visiting us in February, I managed to capture some tasty licks while placating us “old guys.”

It’s February

Man, I put this site up in December and it’s already February and I’m just finally getting around to changing out the stock images in this WordPress theme. I need to remember to visit here more often.

With a new year comes new ideas, new things, new challenges. I’ve been away from the 8-to-5 grind for over a year now and I have to say there are things I miss about it, but a whole lot more that I don’t miss about it. I’m starting to understand what all my ‘more senior’ friends meant when they say that they are busier in retirement than when they did the daily thing. I think it has more to do with finally doing those things you always put off because you didn’t have time.

My biggest change is that I can get up in the morning and get an hour (sometimes more) to spend with my guitars. That was always an after work thing and often I came home from the office so mentally (and sometimes physically) drained that even though I practiced regularly, I was often not totally present. Now, I get to start the day and get a good session in while I’m mentally present and not physically tired. It makes a big difference. I’ve seen more improvement in my playing in the last year than I had seen in probably any three years before that. I’m still not ready to be a guitar god, but that’s not really the pot at the end of the rainbow. It’s enjoyable and it is very rewarding.

The cool part is, after I get my daily tasks done, there is usually still time to get some more guitar time. It’s also a big motivator to get things done, so I can get back to having a guitar in hand.

There are several things going on this year that are very exciting for me. We have friends from all over the country planning on coming to visit. Surprisingly, in the nearly 30 years we lived in Florida, we had very few visitors.

Current plans are for my wife to take a bucket-list trip with her father, and a few family members to Ireland this year. It’s something she has wanted to do since I’ve known her. I’m not big on playing tourist and this works out well for us. She can go and have a wonderful time. I can stay and take care of our critters. We would have a great time together on vacation, but I know she will enjoy the trip just as much with members of her family along with her. Later on in the year, I have plans to attend a blues guitar get together in upstate New York with some fellow blues players. We had one in 2018 at the same location that was a lot of fun. With the advance planning and notice on the 2019 event, I expect there will be a much larger contingent and with this group of friends, it really is a case of the more, the merrier.

Also coming up this year, our oldest son is getting married (it’s about time). We are very much looking forward to this event. It will be a wonderful time with family and friends. His mother has been waiting for this event for several years, so it’s wonderful that it is finally happening. His fiancee is already a member of the family. We all love her and can’t wait until they make it official.

There’s more probably going on this year, and this blog will be part of the conduit to share it.


Yo Mama!

You would think that by now, I would understand how this all works… But no, WordPress might as well be a foreign language to me. I had a blog before at another location. It never got much beyond changing a couple photos around and writing something once or twice a year. Eventually, it went away.

So why am I here doing this again? Beats me, but now that I’m not working a 8-to-5 job any more, it just might work out that I could have a few more activities to share with friends, family and anyone else who might stumble upon this page.

When I decided to do this, it was supposed to be musically oriented, but at times I have the attention span of a gnat (so I’ve been told) and I may ramble on other topics, like living out in the country in North Carolina, vehicle maintenance, farm equipment, ornithology, horses, and what the hell is this plant growing in the south forty(?).

In the future, I’m going to try and flesh out the front page, getting things that might be of interest to anyone who takes the time to read this. Bear with me. It may be a long journey.