In 1972, the Edgar Winter Group, a prominent rock and roll band of the time released an album titled, “They Only Come Out At Night.” On that album was a song titled, “We All Had A Real Good Time.” It was a party song about people coming together, playing music and enjoying life. It’s an appropriate title for this post also because at last nights music party we did indeed, all have a real good time.
Some time in the early 90’s my wife, who I had not met yet, answered an ad in the newspaper for singers for a 1960’s Dance Music Review band. She auditioned and joined the group. They were called, “The Boomerangs.” The band played many events in the area and garnered quite a following but in 1996 they broke up, as bands do. A couple years later, Bill, who was instrumental in forming the band started an annual reunion party for the group. It was to be acoustic instruments only, a backyard gathering of friends and family to celebrate music, the band, and just plain having fun. It’s been more than twenty years now, and the party is still going strong.
Probably somewhere between 70 and 80 people came to the annual party last night. There is always a plethora of musicians, both former members of the band and others. Plenty of guitar players, singers, bassists, (both guitar and stand-up) fiddles, sometimes a banjo or an accordion, and usually I’m the only one playing drums. Last night we had another drummer too. We play Rock and Roll from the 60’s and also folk, country and blues. For the last two years we’ve even had a traditional Irish music group play and for several years now we’ve had a guy who juggles fire. People bring food. Lot’s of food. It’s all free, and the mood is always festive but laid back. Lot’s of smiles and laughter, lots of handshakes and hugs. Lot’s of conversation. I’ve made more new friends at those parties than at any other time in my life. It’s one of those things that you wish you could do more often but if you did, it wouldn’t have the same meaning.
Many thanks to Bill and Janet for putting on a great gathering. Proving to me once again that music is the great moderator. Many people of many different backgrounds and beliefs can come together and forget for a while the troubles of our lives and simply have a real good time. And hopefully we’ll keep doing it for many years to come.
Around September last year, I decided to learn to play Bass guitar. I’ve been a drummer most of my life and so I understand the workings and structure of music. It helps to know this when learning an instrument. So I bought an electric bass and amplifier.
I chose the Fender Mustang Bass because it is a short scale bass, meaning, the length between the nut (the point where the strings meet the head of the guitar) and the bridge is only 30″. A full size bass has a 34″ length. At 61 years old I’m not as flexible as I once was and not stretching another 4 inches to reach the first fret makes it easier to play. The Mustang is also lighter in weight so not as fatiguing to hold for long periods. Besides that, it is just plain sexy. I mean, look at it. A slim waist, beautiful curves. Who wouldn’t want to hug that thing?
I can strum a few chords on guitar but I chose the bass because it is a rhythm instrument, like drums. Most people don’t realize this but the bass guitar is as important if not more important to the rhythm of the music. It sets the groove, filling in the bottom end of any piece of music. Just try listening to a favorite song with the bass turned all the way down and you’ll see what I mean. It needs to be there.
I have a lot of musician friends. So I have been getting together with some of them to help me learn to play. So far, it’s been a fun adventure. Musicians are always ready to give advice and help someone be a better player. One trait that most musicians have is to believe that it’s not about them, it’s about the music. Most of them are very selfless when it comes to teaching. So I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time. (It helps to be retired.)
I’ve discovered that I have guitar fever, just like many other musicians I know. One guitar is not enough. A few months ago I picked up a Taylor Acoustic Mini Bass.
This is also a short scale bass and a lot of fun to play. Yesterday, I had to take it in to the shop for a little work and I discovered a full scale Fender acoustic bass for a really good price.
This being a full scale bass is as I said, 4 inches longer than the Mustang. However, I’ve noticed that since I started playing my flexibility has improved to the point where I can play this guitar without too much trouble.
So I’m learning to play bass. I don’t think you’re too old to learn something new and it keeps you from shriveling up and dying. Besides, I love music and being able to make music is a real treat. I’m still playing drums as well and will keep doing it all as long as possible. As they used to say in the Sixties, Keep On Trucking!
Music is important. Yesterday, me, my wife and our friend Bill played music at my mother in law’s 90th birthday party. Several people there told us how nice it was to have music at the party, even though most of it was in the background. If pressed, most people could not put their finger on why it was important. Some might say, it added something. I agree. It does add something. Try imagining watching a movie or a TV show without the music. Music sets a mood. Today’s modern cars all have radios and CD players. They used to have cassette and 8 track players before that. Smart phones all have music capability. The Sony Walkman was one of the best selling music players of all time. I would be willing to bet that there are few households in the U.S. that don’t have some kind of music playing device. The invention of the affordable household radio was one of the most important things that happened to modern society. Before the radio, music in the home came from people playing instruments and singing right there in the house. With the advent of the electric radio you could now hear music from across the country and across the globe. It brought the entire world into your living room.
So the question is, why is music important? Music is emotional. It brings out our feelings in ways that we enjoy. Have you ever watched a couple dancing to a waltz? Or people dancing to Rock and Roll? They are thoroughly enjoying themselves. Watch a guitar players face as he or she cranks out a tune. Emotion pours out like water. Music is movement. Rhythm. Place your fingertips on your pulse. There is your rhythm. Everyone has music flowing through them.
We associate music with important events in our lives. Whenever I hear a Hank Williams song I remember my dad and how he loved the old country music. We remember the song that was played at our wedding. My mom plays the piano. Rock and Roll was an important part of my growing up. I loved music so much that I had to learn how to play it. My wife played trumpet in high school and she also plays piano and guitar and sings. Many of our friends are musicians. We are not content with just listening to music. We need to play. We need to feel the vibration of the instrument in our hands, against our bodies. We need to create. Music is important.
When I was a teen I spent my money on records. The vinyl kind. The record sleeve usually had information about the band, called liner notes. I would read every word. I wanted to know who the musicians were, who wrote the music, who the recording engineer was, where it was recorded, everything. When biographies were written about my favorite musicians, I read the books. I spent my youth concentrating on Rock music but as I grew older I started listening to blues and jazz and classical music as well. Today I’m interested in what is called “World Music,” which is just about any ethnic music from other countries. I play hand percussion with drums of African, Arabic, and Irish origins.
Everyone has a favorite type of music. Most of the time, emotions associated with music are good ones that people feel safe expressing. Today’s Rap and Hip Hop appeal to a great swath of young people just as Rock music appealed to the youth of the 60’s. My dad was a country music fan and my mom enjoyed people like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
Music is important because it brings out emotions that we enjoy. It’s safe. And it’s a distraction from the hardships of life. Put a good record on, crank up the volume and you can forget about your troubles for a while. So get to it! Brighten up your life with some tunes.
I sit at my computer not knowing what I’m going to write about. I lost a good friend on the 9th of this month. I could write about that I suppose. We first met in the 6th grade. His name was Gus. Is, Gus. His name is Gus. I am a drummer, and have met and played music with some exceptional musicians over the years. Some people start out playing an instrument and want to be a famous rock star. I never had that desire. I wanted to play music, that was all. Just have fun playing music. And I did. Gus was primarily a bass guitar player. And he was very good. Playing music with him was fun, but watching him play was even more fun. He was so smooth and made it look so easy that you thought you could just pick up that guitar and make it sing. But you couldn’t. It took him years of practice to make his magic happen.
Gus was very humble about his musical abilities and suffered from stage fright. Before going on he would be a nervous wreck. He’d pace and smoke cigarettes and drink. The first set of the night would be good but you could tell he was stiff. By the last set he was blowing it away. Every time he played would be the same. Not everyone knew this about him. We got to know each other very well over the years. After his divorce we spent a lot of time talking about life and the things we’d gone through. He had a lot of the same desires that many of us have. He wanted to be a good father to his children, a good friend to those he knew, and he wanted to enjoy life. And he accomplished all those things and more. I’m sure he made some enemies over the years as we all have, but most of the people that knew him loved and respected him.
He never became rich or famous, never became important in a worldly sense. But he was always ready to help a friend. Always there for his kids and those he loved. Those are the things I will always remember about him. He could be kind of grumpy sometimes as we all can be, but he was a good man. Cancer took him, as it takes a lot of people these days. Damn cancer. I will miss him.
Yesterday we went to our annual music party, or rather, Bill and Janet’s Annual Boomerang’s Reunion 3rd of July Party. It was loads of fun, as it usually is. Here’s a bit of history as I know it of the Boomerangs band. The band was formed by our friend Bill and a small group of like minded players. They focused on 60’s rock and folk music with an emphasis on great singing. My wife Ann, whom I didn’t know at the time, auditioned for the band and won a place as a singer. This was in the 90’s. After several years the band went their separate ways, as bands often do. 19 years ago, Bill started a reunion party and it’s been going strong ever since. After Ann and I met and started dating I met Bill and became an integral part of the music for the party, being the only drummer who shows up. Mostly. Yesterday’s party was a hit. Not as many people as usually show up but fun none the less.
The drums are mine but of course, I was taking the pictures so you don’t get to see me playing.
Lots of party goers and good music aficionados.
And of course, Mr 4th of July himself, our friend Craig, a day early.
We even had a fire juggler show up but since I was playing a drum beat for him to juggle by, You don’t get to see him either. I ran into my friend Mary and her husband Rollie. Mary taught me Immunohematology (Blood Banking) during my college internship and after I was hired by the medical center I was interning at. We have since become friends. I also got to see Frank, a guy I went to high school with and actually played in a band with for a short while. It was a great night!
It seems a local fisherman participated in the annual ritual of throwing a dead carp along the side of the road where I walk my dog. Leaving me with the unenviable task of wrestling a 100 pound dog away from the smells of paradise. Whoever you are, I hope your children rebel against you and read books!
It was fun to see Bill and Janet, and Mary and Craig and Frank, who I’ve not seen since high school. And a good time was had by all! Happy 4th everyone!