The guitar seems to have been a part of my life since I can first remember. The drawing below is one I did at about 4 or 5 years old.
My first exposure to the guitar was through mid 60’s performers, such as the Monkees, The Stones, Glen Campbell (and other records
my older sister was playing). No one was listening to jazz in Lima, Ohio, at least that I knew while growing up. I cannot remember
a time when I wasn’t obsessed with the guitar and the music you could create with it. I am thankful to my mom for getting me my first
guitar for Christmas when I was in the third grade…that was the best Christmas! It was one of those Sears or Woolworth’s beginner
acoustic guitars, and it played terribly! – but I learned a lot of first position chords on it, and also used a Mel Bay book to learn
how to read music. I banged around on that for many years before getting an electric solid body (probably a Teisco) from my brother
Dan (a bass player) when I was about 13. I was always interested in chords and solos, but never so much rock music…more the horn bands
of the 70’s (Blood Sweat and Tears; The Doobie Brothers) and later the Crusaders. I wasn’t formally introduced to traditional jazz
until I got to college and started taking music classes…that was a late start for a jazz player! My first jazz records were Chet Baker,
Johnny Smith, and Wes Montgomery. Chet and Wes have remained a couple of my favorite players to this day.
In junior high and
high school I took guitar lessons from Rex Edie, a wandering Lima-area musician who seems to have fallen off the earth, despite the
connectedness that the internet provides. He was a sweetheart of a guy who was very interested in music theory and what it meant to
be a musician. I got a good start from him, about as good as you could get in Lima. I also played horn in the marching and concert
bands, but this never really clicked for me and I quit by the time I was a junior. I attempted to play the horn again in college,
but, ever having to learn lessons twice, gave it up again and haven’t touched it since. In my early college years (Bluffton College)
woodwind Professor John Kuehn was my first exposure to playing duo, clarinet and guitar. I discovered there the challenge of trying
to improvise some kind of solo with no bass player!
I received a solid masters degree in music from Indiana University of Pennsylvania,
and while there studied with Pittsburgh’s famous Joe Negri (a local star and featured in Mister Rogers Neighborhood). Joe was a Johnny
Smith style player who helped me advance, though in some ways I was still too early in my career to appreciate what he was doing.
This was in 1986. I did not realize at that time how long it really takes to learn about this music and develop a unique style…it’s
a life-long work. “It takes a long time just to realize it takes a long time”….like many things in life.
In the late 80’s
I worked some around Bowling Green and Toledo, took some more graduate classes at BGSU, and heard Dan Faehnle. He sounded about the
same then – in his early 20’s – as he does now…and he was ripping fast with a Benson-ish tone even then. He has always sounded great
to me. I don’t think he ever attended any formal institution for music, he just seemed to naturally have it inside him. I have met
very few players like that….I think most of us have to work at it in a different way, and also end up with something different in
the end. Bobby Floyd (Columbus, Ohio) was another such player. I heard him play Amazing Grace, solo piano, in church one time and
could not believe someone could be that kind of channel….it was just beautiful.