Monday, September 3, 2018


Driving home Saturday night, a thought appeared like a hitchhiker, and I always pick these mental ones up.

  It was 14 years ago to the day that I had started teaching guitar.  Man.  A lifetime ago, and more for some of my current students.

  In a tiny room smelling of the carpet glue of the new construction I would sit...At first they'd arrive, and we'd be mutually terrified.  That first week - woah.  One by one, with their guitar cases, folders, and needs I couldn't even come close to seeing.  Gradually, things settled in.  You'd get to think of a day of the week by the personalities of the folks stopping by for their lesson, or even the other people in the waiting room.  I'm still buddies with one of them who I've never talked to for more than a total of five minutes.  A skinny little kid who grew up to be an ace mechanic.  You should see his Camaro on Instagram.  Another little punk out on the floor, showing off his lead licks at ten years old - his social media is full of his tours and cigars now.

  It seems as if humanity is a mostly still pond - those little ripples are hiding the fish and frogs underneath, and some turn into princes, others sadness.  Some of my former students have passed on, others have rocked on, some are married, others have grown old.  All of them have shown me something, taught me something, shared a new perspective, and helped me grow up and stay young at the same time.  No longer can I vilify those I disagree with - they're too worthy of  my respect.  We've gotten to know each other through music, and guitar has been an ideal excuse to share in the bigger puzzle of trying to figure out how to live.

  A Green Day record spins on my turntable as these words appear.  American Idiot dropped right around the time all of this started.  Through this music - the "holy scriptures of the shopping malls", we'd gather around some wires and guitars and try to overthrow the average of Suburbia.  I feel that we all learned a lot in the studio.  Dealing with the suicide of a friend, the suicide of a student, how one might start to chart a path towards an ideal life, presidential elections, 12-bar blues, being black in America, lead guitar, the conservative viewpoint, healing from abuse, how to ask a girl out, songwriting, and  probably the best advice EVER:

Me:  Liam, I need to break up with this girl, but don't know how.

Liam (age 11):...uhhh...Maybe you...uh YEAH!  What if you ate a raw egg right before you have a date, and you throw up ALL OVER HER, and then she'll dump you!

(I should have done that, but I didn't.  Liam's dad had about equal advice.  I cherish those guys.)

  I'd sit in my chair, and they in theirs, and these exchanges and lessons would all take place against a backdrop of lava lamps, posters, and a seemingly average suburban landscape.  Sometimes they come back to visit, and it means the world.  They're off driving tanks and starting businesses and saving lives and grieving and growing, and they holler at me and heckle me with a smile and keep me honest.

  The lessons continue in my garage studio.  We've got a drumset (a gift from a former students' parents), a tea kettle, and a whole life left to figure out.  Influences are a big topic in my studio.  SRV, Hendrix, your friends.  Well folks, you've been many of mine.  One of the new recruits to the "Guitarmy" is 6 years old.  He saw my vinyl collection and guitars (mind you, that's all I have in the material sense, really.)  He looked up and said "wow, you're rich."

Couldn't agree more.  Thank you, thank you. 

See ya next week!

- Josh

PS.  Check out this new track I just recorded with a few of the comrades.  They're the faster guitar parts: