Song: “You Always Hurt The One You Love.” The Mills Brothers
I ended last week’s column the following way: “Next week I’ll tell you how, in anger, I harmed the neck of, and abandoned my faithful companion of 15 years, and how I sought and found a new, prettier and younger one.”
I’m a fiend, right? Not! I just wanted you to anticipate this column. The companion I abandoned was my guitar and here’s the story.
In 1958, my son Mike was 3 years old and my wife Dot brought him to hear my band at the Town Club (La Nige) in Golden Meadow. The night was not going well for me. My guitar kept shorting out in the middle of songs which was embarrassing.
Flash back: When I started playing music with Dudley Bernard I bought, at a pawn shop for $45, a Harmony electric guitar, adequate but plain because my musical future was uncertain. After 6 months and assurance by Dudley, I bought a beautiful, blond, F hole, cutaway Epiphone guitar for $ 210 dollars. It came with monthly notes but it was my pride and joy.
That guitar was giving me trouble that night. We had bought Mike a ukulele he wore around his neck, watching me and pretending to play. After my guitar shorted about 5 times, I got angry and slammed it against the bandstand railing, which severely damaged the neck. It would never be playable again, but my old one was in the car, saving the night. There was one situation I couldn’t save.
Right after my stupid act, Mike took his ukulele, slammed it against the table and it too broke. As Dot was leaving with our son in her arms, she whispered to me, “He’ll hear you play again when he’s old enough to come by himself.”
Not a proud moment for me and it took a while to repair.
Mike learned how to play the guitar during the Beatles era and learned more chords than I ever knew.
A definition for country music was “three chords and the truth”. There were actually more but the Beatles used more minors and different structures.
Mike played awhile in a garage band for fun with his brother Perry, Louie King and Lance Anselmi. Thanks to Harry Anselmi’s daughter, Jana Cheramie, I have a video of them playing at a school function, but no sound.
Mike continued to play as a hobby and bought Harry Anselmi’s classic Guild guitar and had it refurnished. A few years before he passed, he bought an Ovation, the Rolls Royce of acoustic guitars and was planning to buy a Martin “D 28 Dreadnaught”, the Cadillac of country singers’ guitars. He planned to build glass cases to exhibit them in his den but it was not to be.
Today they hang on his wall next to my classic Fender Precession bass, my last gift to him. When I visit I seldom go into the den … too many memories.
Mike’s gone now, but lives in our hearts and minds.
My Epiphone, never used again, was eventually destroyed when Hurricane Hilda flooded South Lafourche and my home.
In the late 1950’s, with a regular job, married, raising a family and having other irons on the fire, I decided I no longer wanted the burden of being a bandleader. I still wanted to play music so when our long engagement at Tee Lee’s ended I decided to switch from guitar to electric bass, a new invention which led to the obsolescence of the old.
Incidentally, because my computer made them obsolete to me, I have two complete sets of encyclopedias, like new, a World Book and a Colliers, which I would love to give away to anyone who has the strength to take them off my book shelves. I don’t. I’m in the phone book. Call me for arrangements.
Next week, how I switched from guitar to bass and how I left country/Cajun music (for a while) to join the enemy that was destroying it (how Aaron Burr of me) and the funny story of why I own two sets of encyclopedias.
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Posted on Tue, April 26, 2016
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer