RE: [Harp-L] Your First Time

My dad was a drummer in his youth, and some of my earliest memories are of him playing with a group at this campground we spent our summer weekends at. There was a pavilion and a stage, and folks would come from all over the campground to dance at the pavilion. There was always a guitar around the house, too, and he would sometimes play and sing a few songs. I don't know that he had any particular love for Jimmy Reed but he would often do "Big Boss Man", which was pretty much the first riff he taught me when I was about 8. When I look back, it just seems that music was always around in my family when I was young. The blues caught me in my teens, through some interesting channels: Thorogood led me to Chuck Berry, and somehow I caught onto Clapton's blues roots, and then of course there was Stevie Ray. I traveled backward through the history of the genre from those guys.
I picked up the guitar and put it down more times than I can count over my lifetime, never quite reaching any level of competence beyond "decent rhythm player", finally putting music aside almost totally for the better part of a decade while I focused on a career (which didn't work out) and a marriage (which also didn't work out). When I came back to music, I decided that singing would be an easier re-entry, despite having no vocal training and a (not-entirely-undeserved) reputation for being tone deaf. After a few years of working on my vocals in front of no one, I found a blues band that was generous enough to accept me. And THAT led me to playing harmonica, which has been a joyous experience. What I love about the instrument is that for beginners, it's not too hard to get a usable sound out of it, and that's where it hooks you. And the more you play, the more you understand how much there is to learn, and you begin to hear the nuances in the way the pros play. It's a terrific instrument with a low barrier to entry and a great challenge to master.


> From: bkumpe@xxxxxxx
> To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2012 18:36:28 -0500
> Subject: [Harp-L] Your First Time
> I would be interested in hearing about the experience that gave some of the
> folks on the list the music bug.  If you can, add a few lines about the type
> of instruction whether it was family or formal and the method.
> Here is mine.  It was in the early 1950's.  I was five.  My Mom and Dad had
> sent me to my uncle's farm for a couple of weeks in the heat of the summer.
> In the days before AC (and electricity in farmhouses for that matter), it
> was too hot to do much of anything in the afternoon.  My uncle asked me to
> come into a room on the darkened and shady side of the house.   It was a
> bedroom.  He sat down beside me on the bed and handed me his Mandolin.  I
> remember that it was worn but looked solid.  I know now that it was a Gibson
> F model acquired in the late 1930's when he had been a professional
> musician.  For the rest of that afternoon, he taught me the chord shapes to
> play in open G.  By the end of the afternoon he had me three chording over
> the lyrics of the old Bob Wills number, "Take Me Back To Tulsa."   I didn't
> know it then but I was hooked.   
> In later years, he and my cousins who all played taught me to listen and
> feel for the tension that signaled a chord change until if I could hum the
> melody I had a good chance of faking it.  They taught me to tap my foot and
> strum in time.  They taught me to sing a few notes in a range where I was
> comfortable and then work a chord up the neck of the guitar until I hit the
> key that matched.  But mostly, we just played together and occasionally
> swapped licks like bass runs, turnarounds and "breakdowns."  That was my
> musical education until I was teenager and by that time, I had been playing
> by ear for so long that I had no patience for beginner's piano books,
> scales, single note melodies and above all trying to read music.  I guess
> that was my loss.  I never did learn to read music.  Later in life, when
> arthritis in my hands and shoulders kept me playing guitar at times, I took
> up harmonica and the ukulele.
> Bill Kumpe
> Tulsa, OK 


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