Welcome to my series of posts about how I got into music and songwriting and the events that ultimately led to the 2012 release of my first album. Here are the posts, so far:
If you read anything that strikes a chord please let me know in the comments section or via email. As always, thank you for reading.
Ever since I started this blog, I have maintained that my brain injury was the catalyst for me to make an album. But I think the real catalyst happened back in 1970 or so, when my Dad moved the family out to California from the East Coast. He had gotten a job in Silicon Valley, and while he and my Mom searched for a house they could afford, they rented a house on Wyndham Way in Portola Valley (see photo above!). The house was furnished and came complete with couches, chairs, tables, beds, and, drum roll please, a console stereo system. It was a massive thing, replete with dials and knobs, made of wood and bookended by built-in speakers hidden behind thick-threaded fabric. But its true magic lay within, for stored in the built-in record compartment — underneath the turntable and other components — were a few albums that the owners had left behind.
The first one that piqued my curiosity was “The Old Chisholm Trail” (this might be it, I don’t know, looks different), at least I think that’s what it was called, and it was filled with cowboy songs that featured guitars, accordions and loads of harmony vocals. I’m pretty sure I wanted a guitar after hearing it, but my parents guided me toward the accordion, no doubt because of its resemblance to the piano, and soon I was taking lessons and hopelessly trying to learn how to read music. But there was another album in the base of that old console that eventually displaced the cowboy record as my favorite and shoved the accordion from my hands and remains a part of my record collection to this day: The Beatles Second Album.
Listening to The Beatles play Roll Over Beethoven was a revelation, truly; I had never heard the likes of it before — my parents were classical fans — and after one listen, I could not hear it often enough. My desire for a guitar intensified. To further stoke my Beatlemania, there was a girl at school who had an electric guitar and could play and sing without any effort whatsoever (really, she made it look so easy). Equally cool, she seemed to have all the records by The Beatles. She gave me several, which I still have, and it was around this time that I started to think about becoming a rock star and making an album of my own. I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade, so I had way more time than sense. Lucky for me, though, I was born to parents from North Dakota and while they encouraged my music they also instilled in me a level of practicality that didn’t exactly put rock stardom first on my To Do list. And so, as I grew up, though I stayed with music, played in bands, spent a small fortune of my parents’ money on home recording gear and even went to a special guitar school in L.A. after I graduated from college, I always had a plan B should music not work out. Actually, that’s not true; there was no plan B, just a college diploma from a decent school, which I could use to help me start a career should I have to do such a horrible thing someday.