Bill’s Bio – Chapter 4

February 22, 2008

Enlightenment

Posted 2/22/08

IMPORTANT!!!!  To hear the result of 44 years of practice and experience, PLEASE click on the link below to hear my present day rendition of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

Mary Had A Little Lamb

But I digress, or rather, progress beyond the limits of this chapter.  I just thought you would like the opportunity to see how far I have come since my eyes almost rolled out of their sockets after seeing my $1.59 plus tax “investment” get shot to pieces…  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much with that particular number…

At any rate, there I was, once again, hanging ten on the precipice of melodic disaster… (That’s surfer lingo.)

And once again, I managed to keep myself from wiping out…  (That’s surfer lingo, too. Dude.)

I said to myself  “Quick – do something constructive… Play er, uh, the first 8 notes of ‘Cupid’ – that’ll make you feel better!”

And so I did.  And so it didn’t.  But it didn’t make me feel any worse, either, so I figured I had bottomed out emotionally.  And when you have bottomed out, it can only get better from there.

“OK”, I told myself, “let’s assess the situation… I have a real guitar… I have employment so I can pay for the guitar… I have a book that will show me how to play something other than the first 8 notes of ‘Cupid’…” I decided to turn another page in the “instructional” book…

As is often the case with fate, that one little act of hope taught me a great lesson and made a huge difference in my life…

The lesson? As long as you get up again after being knocked down, you win.  You only loose when you stop getting back up…  (Well, 99% of the time, anyway – something about “living to fight another day” comes to mind…)

(*For example, if you are lying on the ground because some kid 3 times your size was pummeling the snot out of you, and he vows to continue to do so if you get back up, and not stop until you are completely devoid of snot, it’s probably a good idea to stay there until he goes away  – Hence the “living to fight another day” exception to the rule.)

Had I given up at that point – if I had let my disappointment turn to despair – If I had just chucked it all right then and there and said “The heck with it – I’ve had it!  I’m taking up crochet!  Mother, buy me a needle… No, wait – make that two needles;”  if I had done any or all of those things, I would not know how to play “Camp Town Races” today. 

But more importantly, I would never have learned how to play an “E” chord.  Because, you see, on the page facing “Camp Town Races” was the chord chart…

So What’s the big deal about an “E” chord?  Well, if I hadn’t learned how to play an “E” chord, I would not have bothered to learn to play an “A” chord.  And if I had never learned how to play an “A” chord, I would never have learned to play a “B” chord.  And If I never learned how to play a “B” chord,  I would never have learned how to play the “F”,  “G,” “C” or “D” chords.  And If I had never learned to play the “G,” “C” and “D” chords, I would never have learned how to play the rest of “Cupid”…

Yes, after a mere couple of days with “The Book,” I had figured out the rest of “Cupid”…  And my musical life changed in an instant.

It was at this exact moment in time that the very genesis of my understanding of 50s and 60s rock and roll (and most of it since that time) started genesising…  It was not unlike the scene in “2001 – A Space Odyssey” where the apes started to become “aware” after their encounter with the monolith… 

… A faint spark…  Then a flicker…  Then, a slight glow…  A little breeze and then flame… 

It was almost Biblical (Refer to the Book Of Numbers – Also known as the “Begat Book” – A somewhat boring, but actually very important book in the Bible).

“Mary Had A Little Lamb” begat “Clementine” begat “Camp Town Races” begat “E” begat “A” begat “B” begat “F” begat “G” begat “C” begat “D” begat “Cupid” begat… 

…Holy Moses – All at once it was revealed to me…  And I was in complete and total awe… 

…It was the dawning of my understanding of rock and roll… I had awakened… and in one great flash of light I understood the One Great Truth, the one Axiom above all other Axioms, the First Commandment, the Central Doctrine of Rock and Roll…

  1. Ms. Kathleen Ann Margaret Kammerer Marsh! Says:
    February 25, 2008 at 9:49 am   editI can’t stand it when stories leave you hanging…for goodness sakes, what was your epiphany?
  2. Patrick Says:
    August 4, 2008 at 8:12 am   editBill,

    Did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble do a great bluesy version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on their “Texas Flood” album? I bet you did. And, of course, Stevie Ray is a guitar god in most people’s books. Thanks for this chronicle!

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Bill’s Bio – Chapter 3

February 16, 2008

The Adventure Begins

Posted 2/16/08 

 

Now that I was, once again, gainfully employed, it was time to attack the second of the things that weren’t great at the end of chapter 1 – somehow I had to convert noise into sound and then into – dare I say it? – MUSIC… I had to learn to play the guitar, if for no other reason than to keep the Fentons calling me back to baby-sit.  What does my ability to play the guitar have to do with remaining employed?  Well, the logic goes like this:

1)     Their kitchen window was just opposite my bedroom window.

2)    My bedroom was the only place in the neighborhood where my parents would allow me to “play” my guitar. 

3)    The only actual “music” I knew how to play were the first 8 notes of the Johnny Rivers version of “Cupid” (that was THE part of THE song that made me finally decide to give up the drums – to become a real musician).

4)    How much of the first 8 notes of “Cupid” could you listen to before you started to wish that the electric guitar had never been invented?

5)    What would be the best way to make sure the guitar went away?

See my point?

Up to this time, I had pretty much relied on Professor Harold Hill’s “think system” to learn my chosen instrument.  It seemed the most convenient and economical way to get the job done…

So, I thought…  I thought a lot…  I thought day and night…  I thought about all kinds of things… Winnie The Pooh had nothing on me – I didn’t even need a tree to think…

Here is a sample of my thinking:

          That guitar of mine, that guitar of mine

          I cannot play that guitar of mine

          Could I play it if I had the time?

          Yes I could play it if I had the time,

          How I could play that guitar of mine

 

          Could I play it if I felt so fine?

          If I felt so fine, if I had the time

          Yes I could play that guitar of mine

          How I could play that guitar of mine

 

          Could I play it if I walked the line?

          Could I play it while my parents dine?

          While my parents dine, if I walked the line, ,

          if I felt so fine, If I had the time,

         Yes I could play that guitar of mine

         How I could play that guitar of mine

 

        Could I play it if I broke my spine?

       Wow… I don’t know…

So, as you can see, I (and the Fentons) was stuck with “Cupid.”  For the first, though not the last, time in my musical life, I was in a rut… I was in a rut… I was in a rut…

          I’m in a rut, not in a hut

          I have a dog, but he’s just a mutt…

 

Uh… Sorry…

 

Anyway, I needed some sort of help. I went to a music store. I asked if they had some sort of “this is how you play the guitar” book. They did. I took $1.59 plus tax out of my “severance pay” and invested it into my future as a rock star.

 

I was so excited – really, I was! All the way home I was salivating like Pavlov’s dog – hyperventilating in anticipation of learning the deepest, most profound secrets of all of my personal guitar heroes. I had in my hands the Mount Everest of rock and roll knowledge – this was surely the best $1.59 plus tax I had ever spent – or would ever spend – in my life… I was almost in tears…

 

I got home… I stole away to my bedroom “studio,” closed the door and the window… I went to the closet and  pulled out my life’s most prized possession… I plugged it in and turned on the amplifier… I fought to control my emotions and my breathing… I took a deep, cleansing breath and closed my eyes for a moment of thankful prayer…

 

I was ready…

 

With a quivering hand, I opened the plain brown paper bag, in which the sacred document was wrapped… I set it down on the drum and stand my father had bought me in an earlier, misguided time… I was about to lay eyes on the Hope Diamond, the Arc of the Covenant, the actual Ten Commandments of guitardom… After another moment of self-preparation, it was time… It was the moment I had been born for, and for which I had waited my entire life…

 

I could wait no longer… With my eyes closed, I opened the scroll… I took one more breath… I opened my eyes and – behold!  There it was… The song that would launch me into Music Immortality… “Mary Had A Little Lamb”

 

What??!!! What the-? “Mary Had A Little Lamb”?

 

There must be some mistake. I turned the page… “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine ”!!!

 

 

And what are all these dots and lines???  Come on!!! Where’s the music???

 

I had been bamboozled by some phony music store clerk who probably didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a rhinoceros. 

 

This was humiliating… What was I going to tell my friends? “Hey guys, come on over and let me regale you with some heart thumping ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ – bring your own milk…” ?

Where’s “Johnny B Goode”?  Where’s “Peggy Sue”? Where’s “Pipeline”?

 

And where, in the name of all that is Holy, is the rest of “Cupid”?

 

 

 

  1. breakouteagle Says:
    February 16, 2008 at 1:16 am   editHa maybe you could play Mary Had a Little Lamb in power chords, that would rock! Good story.
  2. colleen Says:
    February 17, 2008 at 4:23 pm   editstill waiting to hear about the band i remember…
  3. Debbie Bronson Says:
    February 17, 2008 at 7:37 pm   editBill- I printed out all three chapters and read aloud to Brian and the boys as we drove up to Disneyland yesterday! We laughed so hard we cried. We’re not sure what we enjoyed more, Space Mountain or your story:). We are looking forward to more family entertainment! As your youngest sister, there certainly is a lot of information recorded that I did not know. It does explain a lot. Actually, now I’m feeling a little bit jipped on my infant and young childhood naps. As I’m sure they were shortened by your early introduction to “music!”
    I love you, your stories and your music,
    Debbie
  4. billkammerer Says:
    February 17, 2008 at 8:36 pm   editHey Mary C – I’m just getting reved up – The band comes in a couple of chapters down the road… B
  5. billkammerer Says:
    February 18, 2008 at 2:08 am   editHi Debbie – Hopefully, nobody was drinking Root Beer while you were reading… B
  6. Tim Kammerer Says:
    February 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm   editI did not know Dr.Suess played such an important role in your reasoning.
    I can’t wait for chapter 23 when you learn to light your guitar on fire and play it at the same time.
    Seriously, I am enjoying reading your bio.
    Tim
  7. Corky Mitchell Says:
    February 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm   editHere I am, supposed to be working, and reading an amazingly funny story about an amazingly funny guy. It was nice to break up the day with some humor. I am looking forward to the next chapter. Thanks for sharing!
  8. Ms. Kathleen Ann Margaret Kammerer Marsh! Says:
    February 19, 2008 at 9:52 am   editYou know the sad thing is, I don’t remember hearing you play your guitar in the bedroom. I guess there was so much commotion, what with 10 other kids, a plethora of various pets, the TV and the various transistor radios broadcasting the latest Beatles music, who would have known you were playing your guitar?
  9. AlexM Says:
    August 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm   editYour blog is interesting!Keep up the good work!

 

Bill’s Bio – Chapter 2

February 9, 2008

Quandary Resolved

Posted 2/9/08

So there I was… Without a job… without income…  and unable to make the $7.00 monthly guitar mortgage payment to my dad… 

Life, as I knew it, was at an end.  My music career was not far behind it.  The one thing you might call a bright spot (I’ll just call it a “spot”) was that Mr. Powers granted me what today would be referred to as a “Severance Package” – He paid me for the TIME I had spent destroying his tomato garden – $5.00 – on the condition that I never set foot within 50 feet of his house again.  (This was to come into play a few years later when I decided that I actually liked Terry Powers for more than just her dad’s tomatoes – but that’s another story, and is not within the scope of this current biography.  Hence, no further mention of this shall be made at this time – maybe for ALL time.)

OK, so here’s the situation: I could make the first payment to my dad, but after that the prospects of me living up to my agreement with him were bleak… You have no idea the things that were going through my mind. 

I thought of asking him for an allowance.  He was a Democrat at that time and I thought it might fly.  I decided against that course after thinking about it a little more.  It was a bad idea at so many levels, but the bottom line was that his shoe was somewhat larger than my butt.

I actually thought of selling the guitar back to him and asking if he would loan it to me for an indefinite period of time when he wasn’t using it. 

You’d have to know my dad…  suffice it to say that neither of those ideas would have succeeded.

I am the first Grandson of a real Irish Grandmother – from Ireland.  To say she was Catholic is something of an understatement – somewhat akin to making a statement like “You know, Clem, I think there are other planets out there in the solar system somewhere.” 

I only bring this up because to say I was influenced by her is somewhat akin to making a statement like “You know, Clem, I think there are other planets out there in the solar system somewhere.”  There have been very few times in my life when that influence grabbed me with the same veracity as it did at this time.  I began to pray…

“Dear God, Is there any way you can turn back time by a week, just this once?”

“Dear God, I don’t suppose you can loan me $99.95 plus tax and shipping, can you?”

“Dear God, Why didn’t you just let me use the Sears catalogue for it’s intended purpose (refer to “The Cowboys” starring John Wayne, Roscoe Browne and Bruce Dern – 1972) and strike me blind before I got to the “guitar” page?

They say that God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says “Yes.” Sometimes He says “No.”  And sometimes he gives you next door neighbors named Tom and Kaye Fenton with a newly adopted baby boy named Robert.  And sometimes they just have to go out for the evening and need a baby sitter…

Yep, that’s right.  I started baby sitting for the Fentons, God Bless them.  Wherever you guys are, I owe you my life, and I will love you forever.  (I hold absolutely no malice toward you whatsoever for finding a baby sitter who didn’t eat nearly as much as I did – you got me through a tough time in my life, and that year + was a great gig).  Thank you both…

Then Fentons referred someone else to me.  Then someone else.  And then everybody started referring everybody else to me – It was like Amway without the soap.  I was working steady for $.50 an hour – Week in and week out.  I pretty much had the entire East end of Ventura, CA as customers.  Once I even baby sat for 20 couples at once on New Years Eve (That actually about did me in – can you blame me for eating so much?  What I really needed after that was to start drinking – which I rarely have ever done – but that would have been a good time to start if I was going to do it)!

Well, long story short, I actually paid off my guitar within three months just from babysitting.  Oh yeah, and my “severance Package” from Mr. Powers…

Next:  The adventure begins…

  1. colleen (aka mary c) Says:
    February 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm   editi’m enjoying the memoir…drop me a note when you post chapter 3…btw, you didn’t have the entire babysitting buisness in the east end of ventura sewn up–i managed to extract about 5 bucks a week (at 50 cents an hour of course ) from my neighbors…
  2. Phillip Parker Says:
    February 11, 2008 at 10:03 am   editAnyone who has ever heard and/or been the subject of one of your famous and/or infamous birthday songs has a much better understanding of life. Chapter 4: Songwriting will focus on your unique rhyming abilities!
  3. Ms. Kathleen Ann Margaret Kammerer Marsh! Says:
    February 11, 2008 at 3:12 pm   editDidn’t Pat get mad at you for taking all the baby sitting jobs?
  4. Your mother-in-law-in-law Says:
    February 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm   editBill, you are amazing!!! What a gift of writing (and singing AND playing the guitar) God has given you!!! I always enjoy hearing from you!!!Keep the chapters and music coming!!

    Love you,
    Beckie

 

Bill’s Bio – Chapter 1

February 2, 2008

I Begin 

Posted 2/9/08

Born on a mountain top in Tenn – oh wait – that wasn’t me…

I was born in San Francisco, CA on January 9, 1951 at 7:32 in the morning, the first of 11 live births (and 3 stillbirths) in less than 15 years for my parents, William H. Sr. and Rosemary Joan Kammerer… No wonder I’m like this…

Raised in the woods so – wait a minute  – that other guy again…  Raised in Northern and Southern California – my dad was transferred a lot.  Went to 22 different schools before high school – we didn’t moved THAT much, but we always seemed to move to a place where there were schools either not yet completed, or just getting ready to change districts. One year I went to 3 different schools and never moved out of the house we started the year in.  (I mean, the house in which we started the year.)  No wonder I don’t have any childhood friends…

In the middle of the school year in school number 20 (South Whittier Jr. High School), we picked up and moved to Ventura – still my favorite place of growing uppance – and that’s when it bit – the music bug, I mean… I decided that I wanted to become a rock star in the 7th grade, and decided to play the drums. 

It’s hard to play the drums when you lack… well… drums, so I absconded with most of my mother’s Tupperware storage “drums” and started banging on them with some broom handles that, somehow, became really short…

Eventually, my dad bought me an actual snare drum for $11.00. I can still see it now – it was red and made of plastic, but it came with two wooden drum sticks, so how bad could it be? I was still using my mother’s largest round Tupperware storage container as a bass drum, and her metal pie plates as symbols, though.

Unfortunately, it’s also hard to play drums when you possess a lack of rhythm, or rather, the coordination to move all of your body parts in different directions and at sequential intervals and have them all end up where they are supposed to be at the right time…

For that reason and the fact that I still had only one “real” drum, and an entire trap set would cost several hundred dollars…

I decided to be a guitar player, which, interestingly enough, is almost impossible to be without a guitar…  Calling on past experience, I decided to build one – really – I did.

I went to the garage and dug up some wood (from an old table top, if I remember correctly), my dad’s Sears Craftsman Saber Saw, some nails, some Elmer’s Glue, some wire (with the consistency and thickness of heavy solder) and created something that resembled something that didn’t resemble a musical instrument of any sort…  But I had a great imagination and a stick with a big square part at one end, a skinny part at the other and 4 wires nailed in place and stretched between them (tuning was difficult)…  If I had only skipped the part where I actually constructed something, I could have invented the Air Guitar – I could be retired today…  (And if I had only been born 100 years earlier, I would have invented the paperclip – but I’d still be dead today, so what the heck…)

 

Moving ahead to 8th grade…

While I really enjoyed imagining that I could play the guitar and make the sounds that I had fallen in love with listening to the radio, there was still something missing…  Acutual sound… 

I had to find a way to get an actual, professionally built, six string with a cable and an amplifier and real picks (my mother discovered she was missing parts of some of her Tupperware) ELECTRIC guitar… Desperate, but intelligent about it, I started to look for a way to make money… I was willing to do almost anything to earn enough cash to buy my first guitar…

I figured I had become reasonably good at mowing the lawn, so I started wandering the neighborhood in search of employers.  It was a lonely time of life, at least for the next three hours… Then I struck gold – My sister had some friends around the corner – the Powers sisters – Betty and Terry… And they had precisely what I was looking for in a pair of girls – a father who had a lawn that needed mowing and who didn’t want to do it himself.  But it was better than that – he also had a garden in the back yard that needed tending (translate that to “weeds pulled”). He offered me $5.00 a week to keep the place up – I almost stopped breathing…

I just had to go over there after school a couple of days a week to get all the stuff done and I could pay cash for a new guitar in only 15 weeks! Wait a minute – that’s like forever to an 8th grader. But I had a plan – it was brilliant (meaning it was stupid)…

My dad worked for Sears – he was an executive – he had a charge card.  Not the ordinary Sears Revolving Charge, mind you – anybody  (except me) could get one of those.  He had a CLC (Check List Charge) card with no limit on it!  He could buy Neptune with that thing, if Sears could get the property rights. 

This is where the “intelligent” part comes in.  Now that I had a job, I would attempt to convince my dad that I could make the monthly $7.00 payments on the guitar, case with the built in amplifier, cable, strap and PICKS. I really could and still have about $13.00 left over to blow on broken strings, guitar lessons and, mostly, candy and soda pop. Somehow, he bought into the idea…  I had my first electric guitar. It was great! Except for two things…

1 – My first week on the job, I had put in a pile of time pulling weeds out of Mr. Powers’ tomato garden. Except the weeds somehow turned out to be tomatoes. Unfortunately, when you pull all of the tomatoes out of a tomato garden, two things happen –

1)    There’s not much work left to be done

2)  The owner of the tomato garden gets upset

Naturally, this combination of circumstances leads to early unemployment… I had no way to make the monthly payments on my prized possession.

2 – The second thing that wasn’t great was that, while I had become a guitar god with the above mentioned home made instrument, the real thing actually had 6 strings and made audible sounds (in this case, noise).  Now, I had seen The Music Man and honestly believed in the Think System.  (Actually, I still do to this day, to a point – you may recognize it in some of my earlier recordings.)

Obviously, I was in a quandary… However, that was soon to change dramatically, as you will see in chapter two… 

  1. Ted Wilcox Says:
    February 10, 2008 at 7:51 am   editI am really looking forward to chapter 2!
  2. Phil Says:
    February 10, 2008 at 8:58 am   editWell, that certainly explains a LOT!!! Looking forward to the next installment.
  3. Bill Perry Says:
    February 10, 2008 at 2:10 pm   editVery good Bill. I really didn’t know much about you and your Brothers and Sisters. It didn’t seem like our families got to gether very much. Your Mother was a saint to put up with so many kids to keep track of. Anyway, the first chapter of your Bio was great. Looking forward to the next.
    Your cousin, Bill
  4. Koni Ritch Says:
    February 10, 2008 at 8:01 pm   edit… and you’re STILL charging instruments with promises of paying them off, later. Can’t wait to find out how this story ends …
  5. Ms. Kathleen Ann Margaret Kammerer Marsh! Says:
    February 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm   editThere’s a Chapter 2? I thought Mom was gonna kill you after the Powers’ tomato incident of the ’60’s! I can still hear her chidding you. It was rather funny, actually, ’cause you NEVER got into trouble!!!

Bill’s Home Page

February 1, 2008

Hey there! 

Welcome to my blog site! 

Links to all of the pages are found at the bottom of this page…

You’ll find some of my songs here, as well as the ongoing biography of my Musical Life.  Some of the songs are from my early days of trying to figure out how to record and some are more recent. They all have a story behind them, and I will be filling that out as time goes by. 

Most of the songs are of a spiritual nature, and were written for the kids at Church.  Some of them were written just because I was inspired to write them out of the blue, or because someone asked for me to do so.  If you are so inclined, you can listen to them by clicking on the “Songs with A Spiritual Bent”  link at the bottom.

Some others are just for fun. You can find them under “Songs to satisfy the Rocker in me”  at the bottom.

None of the recordings are “studio” recordings.  They are demos that I recorded using the computer I put together (read that “purchased”) specifally for that purpose and using a program called Cakewalk.

The Biography has proven to be pretty popular, and is written in chapters – It may go on forever or it may stop next week.  But no matter how long it goes on, people are having fun with it.  Disclaimer:  The bio is from my memory, and I may have a few details wrong, but by and large it’s pretty accurate. Same story – link at the bottom…

If you are a guitar player, especially if you started as a kid, you might relate to some of the stuff in the Bio.

I’ve also started a page with some of my favorite youtube music videos – be sure to check them out.  I’ll be changing them around every so often…  Hmmm… Where’s that link… Oh yeah – at the bottom…

Also some Fun videos – Short stories, old movie trailers, etc.  Film at 11.  I mean, link at the bottom…

AND stuff that inspires me… Link just below the second from the bottom link…

 If you find anything  you enjoy in here, please feel free to share it with your family and friends – (I actually started this for MY family and friends).

Bio Pages:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/links-and-first-lines-to-bio-chapters/

Non-bio musings:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/links-and-first-lines-to-brief-diversions-non-bio-related-musings/

Songs with a spiritual bent:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/my-songs/my-catholicchristian-songs-in-mp3-format/

Songs to satisfy the rocker in me:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/my-songs/songs-to-satisfy-the-rocker-in-me/

Fun Videos:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/fun-videos/

Some favorite youtube music videos:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/some-of-my-favorite-music-videos-from-youtube/

Stuff that inspires me:  https://billkammerer.wordpress.com/inspire-me-videos/

The songs are in MP3 format.  They are all copyrighted, however you are welcome to listen and/or download them if you like. At this time there is no charge to do so, but I reserve the right to change that policy in the future. I do not grant permission to sell, or otherwise distribute for profit, any original music or written material on this site, or any sites linked to this site.

If you would like to contact me directly, my email address is (Just click on it): 

billk@sti.net

You can also use this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to my update notifications.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you enjoy your visit! 

Bill K.

Copyright 2008 Bill Kammerer

 
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