My First Guitar Lesson in 1981

November 15, 2017

I was a fan of popular music since the age of 9. My brother who occupied the adjacent room played music constantly so I was very familiar with all of his favorite records by that age. A few of my favorites that he played were Fragile by Yes,  Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith, The White Album by The Beatles and Joe's Garage by Frank Zappa.

 

My dad was a huge music fan also. He had an area in the living room where he played records. He often played The Monkees first album, Johnny Cash, the collaborative efforts of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and an LP called Anything Goes by Harpers Bizarre.

 

 

I had a few of my own records that were previously owned by my sister, my brother or my dad. They were all 45s. I listened to Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn, Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry and Sooner or Later by The Grass Roots..

 

I may have been about 12 when my dad and I were at his friend's house listening to records. He and his friend often listened to records together. The son of my dad's friend put on Abbey Road by the Beatles while our parents were downstairs. I'm sure that I'd heard many of the songs before, likely as an infant or toddler, but I couldn't consciously remember, but every song seemed so phenomenal and familiar. I couldn't believe it when I heard Hey Jude. It hit me hard. I was sure that I was listening to the greatest song ever recorded. It was an unforgettable moment.

 

Soon after, sometime near the end of 1980, just a week or so after John Lennon had died, I was at my cousins house. My cousin and I by this time were both huge Beatle fans. He then informed me that he was going to begin guitar lessons. I thought to myself, "but I wanted to learn guitar now my cousin is beating me too it". This idea of him taking lessons didn't sit well with me. We were always in a bit of a competition with each other.


I looked at the wall and saw a poster of John Lennon. He was holding a guitar in the photo which was from around 1965. I was at that moment truly inspired to play guitar. I had been somewhat interested in drums before since my brother played and he had taught me how to keep a beat on the drums when I was 9, but it was never something that I became passionate about. I knew what I wanted to do when I stood there in my cousins room looking at that poster.


My cousin never began lessons, but I did just after Christmas. I must have gone directly home to ask my parents for a guitar because I got one that Christmas along with a new Beatles' album. My best friend Tom also got a guitar for Christmas and we began lessons together on a cold Saturday afternoon in January of 1981.


I remember sitting in the lesson studio at The Bandstand in Wabash for the first time and not being at all interested in the Mel Bay book my instructor was trying to make me learn. I wanted to learn songs by the Beatles. My instructor didn't know any Beatles songs so he began to teach me a song by Neil Young. I hadn't really heard much of Neil Young at the time and I wasn't at all happy with the first few lessons. I only took lessons from him for a few months before I quit.


My instructor was probably only about 16 or 17 years old during that lesson. The following year I saw him in the high school between classes. I had just started 7th grade, by that time I had a new guitar teacher.


My sister was about 9 years older than me. She had a boyfriend who I believe was about 27. One day I took my guitar to their house. He sat down with me to give me a guitar lesson. Over the next few years he taught me Day Tripper, Get Back, Just What I Needed by The Cars,  The 12 bar blues, Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo by Rick Derringer, what an octave was, the pentatonic minor scale, many guitar riffs and a huge number of other things. I was thrilled to sit and learn from him. Without this guy my guitar skills would have lagged for awhile and may have never become what they are today. Within the next 2 years I was learning from friends and by ear from the records.

 

So what have I gotten from this experience? Listen to your students. They may not know what they want to learn, but they may have something absolute in mind. You should listen to them, learn the music that they want to learn and teach it to them. They'll have a much easier time learning guitar and will appreciate the lessons so much more.
 

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