Monday, August 30, 2010

So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Late in 1963 the beginnings of a revolution could be heard coming from radio speakers across the world. The British Invasion was about to begin, led of course, by the Four Mop Tops as the main stream media dubbed The Beatles.

We all know the impact the Beatles had on the music industry, but did you ever stop to think about what other economic impacts they were at least partially responsible for? I've often wondered how many barber shops went out of business. How many comb manufacturers had layoffs? You get the idea, but while some industries suffered, others prospered. According to my parents, ear plug manufacturers saw a boost. Not sure if that's based on fact or wishful thinking on the folks part.

One industry that I know for a fact saw a boost is the guitar makers. Think about it, before the Beatles, guitars were just a musical instrument, usually in the background, sometimes out front, but only if you were a cowboy. Then, after the Beatles dominated popular music, everybody wanted a guitar; I know I did. I was pretty sure I could be a star, if I only had an electric guitar. I practiced constantly with my Mother's corn broom, since the air guitar hadn't been invented yet.

We were far from poor, closer to hard working middle class I guess but an electric guitar was a pretty extravagant gift, and even though that “was all I wanted, nothing else, if I could just have a guitar for Christmas”, I knew it wasn't very likely.

But come Christmas morning, there it was under the tree. The most beautiful electric guitar I'd ever seen! It was red and white and glossy; I had to rub my eyes to be sure I wasn't seeing things. My older brother, who was in the Air Force at the time, had made a surprise visit home and he'd bought it off a fellow airman that was being transferred and didn't want to take it with him. That had to have been one of my happiest Christmas' ever; it didn't matter that it was an inexpensive model made for Sears by a company in Japan. It had the latest technology, it was the first guitar ever made with a built in speaker/amplifier, and the best thing about it was; it was mine!

I practiced and practiced, I just knew I was gonna be a Rock 'n' Roll Star. I even joined a couple garage bands, where we spent more time arguing over the name of than band than actually playing.
Then later that year my parents were getting ready for a big party, with lots of relatives and Mom said I could play a song. This was it! My chance at stardom!

I sought out my older sister's advice and she said “What ya know kid?” so I played The Beatles “I want to hold your hand” and “Satisfaction” from the Stones. She said “Not bad but ya have to remember kid, this is an older crowd, got any thing a little slower?” So I said “How about “These boots are made for walking”? She said I'd look silly in a mini skirt; I told her I have one other and she said “Then play it, I'm sure it'll be fine”.

The big day was finally here and I was ready. The crowd was hushed as I made my way to the middle of the room and played “The Sounds of Silence” and I nailed it! Paul Simon himself would've been proud of me! When I finished the last “of silence”, I waited for the applause....nothing...silence (not what the song means people!) and then my Uncle said “Not bad kid but can you do this?” He pulled out his accordion and played a polka; everyone started clapping and laughing and dancing. I was devastated. Fortunately The Who hadn't invented smashing guitars on stage yet, let alone on Uncles! I went to my room to lick my wounds. My sister followed me in and told me what a great job I'd done and that “They were too old to understand our music”! That meant a lot to me, almost as much as getting the guitar did.

I never did become a Rock ‘n’ Roll star and long ago sold my electric guitar, but I still play my acoustic sometimes for my grandson and he appreciates it and for a little while I am a star, at least in the eyes of one of the most important people I know.

Written by Paul Dugan, Guest Groovy Reflections Blogger


Tim Armstrong said...

Wow Paul, you brought back some groovy memories for me here, as in when I got my first guitar at 7 (also under the Christmas tree). It was acoustic, though, and my mom insisted on lessons - especially if I wanted to be a "Beatle". It's a great feeling that you are a star for your grandchild huh? Thank you for this great story!

PaulD said...

Thanks so much for the comments Tim, it really means a lot. I gave my grandson one of my older acoustics and now when he comes over he has to bring it so we can "Jam"!

TimA said...

That is way too cool and groovy! I have a 4 year old niece (her mom is 15 1/2 years younger than me) that I want to teach music to as well!

SK Waller said...

Thanks, man. It was the Beatles' recording of "Rock and Roll Music" that made me want to be a rock star, and my air guitar was a hand mirror from my vanity table. LOL! I got my first guitar a year later when I was 14 (thanks Dad!). It was a cheap little $15 Stella acoustic, but I played the heck out of it.

Thanks again!

mam said...

Great story!