Bill’s Bio – Chapter 9

In The Cold Again

Posted 4/1/08


So once again I was without a mentor.  I was mixedly emotionalized – on one hand I was totally jazzed with myself because I had out-taught my teacher and in only two lessons I had “challenged the course” and beat it.  On the other hand, I was fairly well bummed out because I had out-taught my teacher and was back out in the cold world of having to find another one.

Well, at least she had given me a lead on a “more advanced” instructor.  Hopefully, I would be able to be slow enough so that he wouldn’t feel obligated to pull the eject lever after the second week. 

I got into the car and told my dad that he wouldn’t have to shuttle me to this location any more, and told him why.  No need to go into his reaction to this news, it was pretty tame.

When we got home, I put my stuff away in my room.  Then I went to the kitchen, pulled out 8 slices of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of strawberry jam and a knife and built my customary snack of four PBJs and a couple of glasses of milk.  (For some reason, I ate everything in groups of four when I was a kid.  But I burned it all off somehow because I was as skinny as pencil lead – in fact, when I graduated from High school, I was 5′ 11 3/4″ tall and weighed one hundred forty pounds – and I stayed that way until I went into the Navy and gained forty-five pounds in boot camp.)

Once my starvation had been remedied, I pulled out the name and number of the prospective next guitar teacher.  I pranced over to the phone on the counter and dialed the number.

Ring… Ring… “Hello.”

“Hello.. Is this Bob?”  (Probably not his real name, but I really don’t remember – Sorry “Bob”)

“Yes, this is Bob,” he replied.

“My name is Bill, and Mrs. ___________ gave me your name because you are a more advanced guitar teacher than she is.”

“I see,” he said.  “How many lessons did she give you to get you to the point where you need to advance?”



“Yes, two.”

“How long have you been playing?”

“About a month.”

” A month?”

“Yes, a month.”

“Are you some sort of prodigy?”

“No, I’m Catholic.”

At this point there was a short pause in the conversation…

“Well,” he said when he resumed, “lessons are once a week for thirty minutes and… “

I had heard this part before, and was ready to ask him how to get there when he said

“… they are $15.00 per lesson.  And there’s a book that costs $10.00″

At this point there was another pause in the conversation, this one lasting a bit longer… In fact, I hope he’s not still on the phone waiting for me to respond….

Invoking my superior mathematical capabilities once again, I made the mental calculations… $15.00/week x 4 weeks/month = $60.00/month.  Add to that my guitar mortgage payment and that came out a whole lot closer to $70.00/month than to $13.00/ month.  Plus the cost of the book…

I looked at the name on the slip of paper, wondering if I had misread it – It didn’t say “Johnny Rivers”.  It didn’t say “Bo Diddley”.  It didn’t say “George Harrison”. 

It said “Bob”.

I realized that I would not be needing directions to his house.  I’m not sure, but I think the next sound that Bob heard was ‘click – buuuuzzzzzz’.

Wow… I was back in the frozen guitar lesson waste-lands  (Guit-Arctica, if you will) without a sled and a team of dogs to carry me out…

I started considering my next move… What were my current assets?  Let’s see…

  • Guitar – check
  • Means of paying for the guitar – check
  • A guitar book – check, check
  • Complete chord chart – check
  • The ability to make chord changes – check
  • Time to practice and build on what I have already learned – check

OK, what were my options?  I listed them…

  • Look in the paper for another teacher and hope to:
    • Find one listed.
    • Find one listed who would not severely and negatively impact my plan to pay off my guitar early and bank some cash toward future hard expenses (new guitar?)
  • Call Mrs. __________ and see if she had any other instructors to whom she might refer me who met the qualifications listed in the immediately preceding option.
  • Keep practicing on my own and get good enough to join a band.
  • Find some guys to learn to play with and see if we can actually help each other learn.

Well, the third option won out, mostly by default. 

  • Newspaper was a bust. 
  • Mrs. ___________ couldn’t help. 
  • What guys?

I started buying records and playing them with my guitar in my hands, stopping them mid song and picking up the chords and little lead fills and things by ear.  (Yes, the rumors are true… At this point I became – and remain today – an ear man.)  I ruined a few records, but learned some of the melodies and runs that the “pros” were playing on their recordings. Unfortunately, I ignored real music theory and basics by doing this, so I really didn’t learn anything important – like scales… (Oops… Are they important?)

BUT it was just me – I had no-one to play with and, therefore, no-one to learn to play TOGETHER with.  That meant that I could play all the songs ever written for guitar by myself, but if I were to try to play WITH someone, I would be back at the noise making stage.  I would prove the validity of this down the road a ways…

Then one day about half way through eighth grade, Balboa Jr. High School (now Balboa Middle School) had an after school dance. And they were going to have a live band!  Oh Yeah… Live Music…

Basically, four guys in my class had formed a band and they were going to perform for the dance.  Obviously I decided that this was too good an opportunity to miss… I went just to see the band. (This, interestingly enough, became my habit down the road – I don’t think I have ever gone to a dance to dance – just to watch (or play in) the band – more on that a few chapters down the road.)

I got there and they were just getting started. I remember the first name of one of the guitar players – Steve – and the full name of the bass player – George Hawkins – follow this link to read about George Hawkins:

We didn’t know each other that well, just enough to say ‘hi” and use our respective names when doing it. We would run into each other in various “band” situations a few times down the road, but that’s another story for another chapter.

The important thing here is that these guys were playing together and they sounded good. They didn’t sing, but they played a lot of the popular “surf” instrumentals of the day.  And, again, they did it well.

That was my first exposure to a live band, other than the usual school bands that played at assemblies, etc.  And I learned a LOT just by watching what they were doing – I actually recognized the chords they were playing – and I learned that if I was going to do anything with music, I needed to find some other guys to work with.  And I decided that if these guys could find each other, I could find a few other guys with whom to join and put something together.

And that’s exactly what I did… But not at Balboa Jr. High School…

  • Ms. Kathleen Ann Margaret Kammerer Marsh! Says:
    April 7, 2008 at 9:03 am   editI didn’t know anyone in Ventura became famous other than you. Who’da thunk.
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