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Friday, January 22, 2010

Why I play the bass


I'm back! Got the dog out just in time. Anyway, I was talking about Suspended Animation, the first band I joined, with Rich and Ron, back in high school. It's easier to tell the story chronologically, by starting at the beginning. It was important to my dad that all of us kids have some musical training. I'm the youngest of 12. In fact, the same nun, Sister Carl, taught all 12 of us piano at the Sisters of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park! How's that for a story? Anyway before I was able to take piano I had to take violin for many years. I didn't like it. It was the Suzuki method which is supposed to be real good but I only got through like one book and you're supposed to do a book every year. The teacher, Sister Ricardo, was nice enough. Violin just wasn't my thing. Piano was alright. I learned enough. But what I really wanted to play was guitar. So when I was about 15 I bought a used acoustic guitar at a garage sale and went to the library to get a book on how to play and started teaching myself. That's when I discovered the guitar I bought was a 12-string. Boy, nothing like making it harder on yourself, huh? I must have gotten a normal six-string right after that because I remember taking guitar lessons from the music teacher at my grade school, Penny Michor. She was a great music teacher. I mean, I was a couple years out of grade school at this point, but I remember walking to her house to take lessons. One time I was walking and a guy in a van stopped and asked if I needed a ride. When you're 15, you're like, "Sure!" He said he was a roadie for Styx, which was very possible, because J.Y. lived in the neighborhood, or his ex-wife did, or something like that. J.Y. was the stepdad of one of the girls at school who was dating Paul, the leader of Suspended Animation. But I digress. I was going to St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago at this time, 1979-81. Looking back it was alright but at the time I hated it. Long commute for a white boy from the suburbs. I begged to go to LTHS and finally my parents let me. I was happy because LT had a great radio station, still does, and I got to be a DJ right away. By senior year I was program director and morning show co-host with Phil Shrock. Good times. Anyway at the radio station, WLTL, I met guys like Rich and Paul and Ray Hood, and somehow I got asked to jam with them. They had a bass player, Tom, so I started as guitarist. I had picked up a Les Paul-copy electric guitar that I loved to play in front of the mirror and pretend I was Pete Townshend. Actually I wasn't that good. I remember summer of '81 as the first time I jammed with a band, it was in my parent's garage, and I played "House of the Rising Sun." Well, Tom left the group, so I switched to bass. I was working in restaurants so I had money. I bought my Ibanez way back then from this guy Bill Woodward, who I thought was a pretty talented individual; he was really into Paul McCartney. Anyway, that's how I started playing bass. I still play guitar some but I'm still just OK. I can fake rhythm alright I guess but I've never learned to play lead. More on guitar playing in the next post. See ya!