Music, especially singing, was early on in my life a pastime I enjoyed and something I was told I was good at, at least in the grades and in high school. I sang second soprano in the city choir, descant in the Christmas choir, and even had a solo in the city choir performance. In the seventh grade, I played Larry Prince of Ireland in some musical where I had to sing a bunch of solos about my love for a beautiful young village lass who knew not my true identity as royalty.
At the age of twelve I bought my first guitar for fifteen dollars at a pawn shop on Edgewood Avenue—ironically on the same street the Atlanta Bahá’í Center was located, and still is. My goal was to learn a sufficient number of chord sequences to sing folk tunes and some of the rock music I heard on the radio, my favorites being the new crop of singers discovered and recorded by San Phillips’ Sun Record Company out of Memphis, Tennessee—Johnny Cash, early Elvis, and lots and lots of folk music and country ballads.
In high school I became a minor league star for singing Everly Brothers duets with a young cheerleader on stage at assemblies. I even considered trying to cut a record. But being raised in a strict middle-class milieu, I dared not venture into the unknown, and, instead, went to college where my inclination towards the arts focused on sculpture.
But during my junior year in college that I spent at the University of Madrid in Spain studying the culture, history, and literature of that beautiful country, I managed through circuitous means to discover an elderly teacher of Flamenco guitar who was a friend and compatriot of the famed Andreas Segovia. After a few classes—the first of which he informed me that it would have been better had I not learned anything at all—I managed to buy a guitar from the renowned Ramirez company, and little by little I learned enough Flamenco to impress those who didn’t know any better.
I still have that 1960 Ramirez, and it still sounds fantastic, and I still practice sequences I learned from that remarkable man, though I no longer perform, and, in fact, my greatest success in Spain was impressing some patrons by playing “Hey Porter” and “I Walk the Line” at the Club de Noche Inglés—in 1960, rock was just scratching the surface in Madrid, and I could get away with playing anything from my vast repertoire of Johnny Cash songs.
Now my guitar playing is carried on in my office when I am on a break from writing and editing, or else in the living room so that my youngest grandchild Shiloh will start dancing and smiling without coaxing from anyone.