I have told this story a couple of times during concerts and would like to share it with you today.
Hope you enjoy!
Oh the hours my little brother and I would spend pouring over the pages of Sears & Roebuck Christmas Catalog. Spying out the newest in GI JOE’s, Hot Wheels, Johnny West…. and one particular year, drums.
It was 1972 - I was the wise age of 14 and that season I loved drums.
Secretly, what I liked most about them were the sparkles. Every drum set in those catalogs had sparkles all over the toms. Silver stars set amongst deep blue or firehouse red…just amazing to look at!
My parents, aware of my desire to be the next Ringo Starr, walked me into our local music store.
Christmas songs blazing away, big kids and little kids, dreaming of Christmas morning with the desired instrument of their choice.
One entire wall was filled with guitars.
But it a room all to itself, drums!
My dad and I worked our way through the maze of people, shelves, music stands and other useless paraphernalia of music related obstacles.
There they were – just like in the catalog. Silver rimmed, blue, or, red colored drum sets with sparkles. Cymbals attached to the toms were proof that these were the real deal. Big time!
I slowly ran my left hand around the outer edge of the snare, being careful not to touch the head, as I didn’t want to stain the beautiful skin of the snare drum. I looked up at my dad and he was just as enthralled as I was!
Big smile on his face, he asked, ‘Is that the one you like?’
I managed to get out a nod and a faint, ‘yea’.
Mother was nowhere to be found in that drum room.
She was visiting the south wall, which was held up by hanging guitars.
Which, at the time, was a good place for them to be, hanging on a wall.
She called to me, ‘Dale, what do you think of these?’
‘I don’t’, was my reply from the other side of the building.
She continued; ‘Why don’t you come over and take a look at these guitars?’
‘Because, I don’t want a guitar, I want a drum set’.
She wouldn’t give up. From a mile away she was continuing the attempt to get me over there with the guitars.
‘Just come here and run your fingers over the strings of this one’, she smiled.
As if the smile was going to draw me away from the blue sparkle, three tom drum set, with two cymbals and plastic tipped wooden drum sticks.
After an hour of this, I grew a bit tense.
‘I DON’T WANT a guitar, mom!’
My Dad chimed in – in his aggravated tone, (which still echoes in my mind today),
“He doesn’t want a guitar, Honey! He wants a drum. The boy wants a drum set!”
He was on my side! My Dad was on my side!
He had a heart for music – he knew of the desire for a musical instrument that would accompany my singing of, ‘Heart and Soul’, ‘Back Home Again, ‘Country Roads’ and maybe some Alice Cooper.
I had spent months practicing the theme song from Hawaii Five-O on the bottom of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Container - which I had asked my Grandma to keep for me after she was done with it. It was round! Looked like a drum - It worked.
The three of us left the music store without my mother visiting the drum room and without me strumming a guitar.
Christmas was three weeks away.
I searched the house in vain looking for a hidden drum set.
Every day after school, my younger brother, Steven and I would search the house from top to bottom, to no avail.
Then one gloomy day….
…I remember the skies were more gray than usual as we climbed off the bus. I remember telling Steven, ‘something ominous is about to happen – I can see it in the skies.’ He pushed me through the front door and we started tearing up the house looking for gifts.
I entered the laundry room and there, in the Northwest corner, not too well hidden, tucked between the washer and the wall, a white bedsheet, covering something…that did not resemble a drum set.
The shape of it looked more like…..a guitar case.
Steven and I stared at the sheet covered item for half an hour, before finally reaching out to uncover it.
‘Yep’ I expressed, as I heaved a big sigh – ‘It’s a guitar’.
My thoughts went everywhere. Maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it’s for Steven. Maybe a neighbor asked my parents to keep it for their kids. But we lived in the country, so the nearest neighbor was ten miles away. (Which made it very difficult for trick – or – treating. But that’s another story).
Steven dryly commented, ‘You got a guitar’. It was with that, the realization set in that I was not going to get the blue sparkle, three tom drum set, with two cymbals and plastic tipped wooden drum sticks.
I was getting a guitar.
I didn’t even bother to open the case to look at it.
I just covered it back up with the sheet and pathetically carried myself out of the laundry room.
Afternoon cartoons and cereal…a guy can forget a lot of things when he submerges himself in Popeye and Cap’n Crunch.
The next day, after school, there was no need to tear through the house anymore. I slowly walked into the laundry room, hoping that the guitar case had magically changed, but, even though it was the season of miracles, I was still getting a guitar.
I through back the bed sheet, saw the black cardboard guitar case and muttered, ‘Yep, it’s a guitar’.
I did this for a week.
Every day, after school I would go and draw back the sheet, look at the case, and cover it up again.
Then, something strange happened.
I can’t explain it to this day.
But, I got to where I would look forward to walking into that utility room and gaze at the guitar case for a minute or two, before covering it back up.
The week before Christmas, I built up enough nerve to unlatch the top of the case, just so I could see the tuning keys. I knew I shouldn’t and couldn’t take it out of the case. Just seeing those keys were enough.
By the end of the week I had decided to unlatch two of the clasps on the case, and I ran my fingers across the strings, one time.
It was a beautiful sound.
By the time Christmas came, I couldn’t wait to take it out of the case.
I played on it, without knowing how to play it, for hours and into the evening.
My and my Kay acoustic guitar.
In the coming months I would put on 45rpm records, listen for two seconds, then try to imitate the sound on my guitar. Months of taking the needle off the record, putting it back on, off and on, over and over. And my parents never complained of the noise, or, only hearing a second of a song, over and over.
My Mother was right – Me and my Dad came to appreciate that.
But then, my Mother was always a praying woman.
So she knew, before I did, what I needed.
Merry Christmas and may you receive, this year, what your soul needs and not necessarily what you think you may want.
Love and blessings,