That’s my Daddy and his bluegrass group, The Swept Wing Chicken Thieves.
He’s the big-eared guy to the left of the guy with sunglasses.
Daddy died just three months before his 85th birthday , January 14, 2011. But he’s still around in so many ways: The guitar he gave me (or, that I talked him out of) when I was thirteen is hanging on the wall of my office/studio. There is also a wooden collage of a fiddle player that I sent to him from Ireland. I also have an Aran Cardigan that I sent him from Ireland. I don’t wear it because it never gets cold enough here in California. I have one of his harmonicas that I carry around at school.
Daddy was a silly man. He loved to joke around. His first love was music and his instrument was the bass. He liked acoustic music, but in later years he bought an electric bass when the standup got to be too much to carry around.
Daddy was my first musical influence. He loved music, but during my childhood he didn’t have much time to play because he was often working two or three jobs just so the family could get by.
But he encouraged my interest in music. He had a beautiful guitar. It wasn’t a particularly good guitar, but it was beautiful. It was a 1941 Sears Roebuck harmony, arch top f-hole. He bought it from a man at a truckstop in Berenda California for $25. in 1945. He paid $25 for it.
I came along in 1951. He always like to say that he paid a lot more than that for me – and he was still paying.
When I was 13, I decided I wanted that guitar. He had it hanging on the wall of his bedroom and I wanted it for MY bedroom wall.
He said, “Well, if you want it, you have to learn to play it.”
I knew my Daddy and I knew he was going to say that. I had been practicing, secretly taking down the guitar when he wasn’t home. I demonstrated a reasonably good “C’ chord and a “G” chord. I was still having a little trouble with the “F.”
He was impressed!
And then the guitar was mine.
I’m not a good guitar play, but I get by.