1986 was the year, I got serious about music. At 14 a void was left from my beloved martial arts school shutting down. I knew three guitar chords that my mom showed me when I was 6 or 7. Plus three friends were coming to Chattanooga to take music lessons. I got motivated by seeing there success in learning songs. Troy, James and Eddie were playing AC/DC and Kiss songs. I said to myself, “I can do that!” So after pestering my parents about music lessons, they sought out a teacher close to Whitwell.
The unknown teacher
So the first paid teacher was guy down it Jasper. I was so excited… We got there and the dude opens my chord book and circles 3 chords. Then he played a folk song and says learn these chords. Problem I already could play them, I just couldn’t switch them fast. I felt like I didn’t learn anything new, disappointed I didn’t go back to him.
The gigging teacher
Disclaimer, this teacher we were told upfront. He is very hard to catch for lessons. But we tried. Rick Bolin was the local legend of guitar. After trying three or four times and finally got a time. I remember mom driving me there, once again the excitement was building as we got close. Rick came to the door, I remember thinking he has to be good, because he has long hair! And he was. Rick asked me something that meant a lot to me. “What kind of music do you like?” I said “Rock!” My favorite song at the time was John Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down The Road”. Rick took his time and showed me how to play that song. After I got home I played that song until my fingers were sore. I could wait to get back to continue. But that would be my one and only lesson with Rick. Due to the fact, he was just to busy..
I grew up around Bluegrass and folk music. My dad was an avid fan. He kept bringing bluegrassers around to “show me how to play”. They were all good at what they did, but I was not in to it at all. For me I wanted to escape and bluegrass was going the wrong direction. I would just get quiet, sit there and imagine I was somewhere else.
Of course the one person, I least excepted to be my first official music teacher was Gary Davis national champion banjo player. But he had a Strat and could play some mean rock licks. Plus, Gary was the guitar teacher of my friends. So I could hang-out with them while we waited for our lesson. I would take lessons from Gary for six months. Up until he would move to Pigeon Forge, to play music with Dolly Parton. During that time I became a guitar player, I learned how to play songs by AC/DC and Judas Priest.
My Musical Big Bang
I believe it was 1988, shortly before Gary left to go play for Dolly. He told me about an upcoming guitar clinic taught by guy named Steve Morse. Now at the time I really only liked a few guitar players. Angus Young (AC/DC), Eddie Van Halen, and Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest). Gary invited me to go the clinic with him. So I did, with a closed mind as to what I could learn. Wow! How things changed that night. When we got there, Steve Morse was just standing in the back of the room, playing the most amazing things on the guitar, which I later found out was his warm-up. At the time he had just left playing with the band Kansas. During the clinic he discussed his approach the playing, writing
and recording. He played tracks from his upcoming solo album High Tension Wires. I was completely blown away with it all. I didn’t know that was possible to do. It was as if a Big Bang happened to me musically. After the clinic, Steve was signing autographs and once I got up to get mine, I said ” I didn’t think this was possible on guitar.” Since I was last, he took a little time to talk to me. First he started asking me a series questions, ” Can you play a 7th chord?”. “Yes” I answered. Then followed with, 9th chords, arpeggios, etc., etc. But when he asked about major scale. I said “Yes, but I don’t know how to use it.”. He told me to read anything with the word
guitar on it. He added “You will learn something, even if it is how to paint a guitar.” I said “I would.” I asked him about a chime technique he demonstrated. He took a moment and showed me how he did it. Once he showed me slowly, he handed me his guitar. Which was the prototype Steve Morse model Ernie Ball Musicman. It was like I was being handed Merlin’s Staff! I tried the technique, I didn’t quite get it right at first. He corrected me and I made the first chime. “Now keep working on it, you will get it.” he said. I handed back the guitar, and I said to myself. I must have that guitar. That ended my first meeting with Steve Morse. I went home and became a guitar junkie. I bought and read everything I could get my hands on. I would also become a avid Steve Morse fan.
As a side note, I finally got the guitar in 2000 and it has been my main guitar ever since.