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And in the Beginning …

The Rockstar was in a state of extreme confusion as Don, the band's manager continued to guide him forcefully through the wings of the stage to an unknown destination.  His mind vacillated between images of Mark lying on the stage, Miss O’Connor sitting in the front row of the Saddledome concert, the chaos on the stage and fragments of the vision of the farewell concert. 

Questions raced through his tortured mind. What happened on stage?  Where’s Mark and my bandmates?  What’s going on?  Why are we secured in this dressing room with security guards at the door?  With this outburst, the Rockstar slipped back into a blurry view of a distant past, a manifestation of severe shock.

The Rockstar’s mind seemed to rest a collage of events that transitioned his musical sojourn that lead to his first performances.  He was transported via flashback to the seeds of experience had led to the last concert.


"Why is that alarm clock ringing?", snarled the raspy voice of the Rockstar’s piano teacher.

"It is the end of today's piano lesson Miss O’Connor," whispered the Rockstar in his timid 7-year-old voice.

"I determine when your piano lesson ends young man.  Not the clock!  Don't you ever forget that!"

"But Miss O'Connor, it is Saturday afternoon and my friends are waiting for me to come outside to play!"

"Play the C scale right now.  Piano is much more important than playing with friends."  Crestfallen, the Rockstar’s right hand moved up the keyboard of the old upright piano in his family's small living room.  Scales and learning the notes of the piano keys did little to kindle the Rockstar’s fledgling passion for music.

As time progressed, the Rockstar began to explore the potential of the piano keyboard albeit constrained by his extremely limited skill set.  He was able to play the simple Grade 1 level of tunes taught beginners after hearing them once.  The old standards of ‘Chop Sticks’ and ‘Row Your Boat’ seemed even pedestrian to the 7-year-old. 

The Rockstar began to explore combinations of notes that seemed to resonate deeply from within his soul.  To other members of his single parent family, it sounded more like a cat walking about the keyboard.  One day a magical combination of notes was played.  It evoked a strong feeling in the soul of the little Rockstar.  His mother stopped what she was doing and came to the piano.  "Play that one-handed song again for me," she said with a genuineness the Rockstar had always heard.  The Rockstar complied and the melodious sound of the single-handed tune roamed through the house.  "Son, that was beautiful!  I love the way that tune makes me feel, sad yet hopeful.  Please play it again!”  The Rockstar did so and was surprised how it made him feel inside.

The Rockstar practiced his composition over and over.  He added simple variations including a chorus and a final single-hand chord, a new experience for him.  He was unsure of what to do with his song.  His Mom asked him to play it often and affirmed each time it was offered.  His younger sister listened to the song on one occasion and said she was really getting tired of hearing the same old song.  Mom came up with the idea of playing it for Miss O’Connor at the Rockstar’s next piano lesson on the upcoming Saturday.

The Rockstar rehearsed his new tune faithfully until its debut for Miss O’ Connor.  The refinements made during practice caused him to feel very proud of his creation.  The affirmations from his Mom further built his confidence.  Very soon the big day for his first concert arrived.  He made sure the alarm clock was nowhere in sight and for certain the alarm would not go off.  The concert became the focus for the day as he eagerly awaited Miss O’Connor’s arrival.  When she did, he greeted her at the door which seemed to make her suspicious.  Once the obligatory question sequence Miss O’Connor used every Saturday to determine how much and specifically what the Rockstar had practiced was over, he shyly asked if he could play her a tune he had been practicing.  Miss O’ Connor skeptically agreed.

The Rockstar played his tune with a passion he felt welling up inside of him.  He was transported to an imaginary stage with a crowd of people all watching him play.  Front and centre was his biggest fan his Mom and right beside her was Miss O’Connor.  The notes he played rang true with a depth he had never heard come out of the old piano.  The notes flowed together naturally conjuring a sense of metaphysical connection.  The sensation had an immediate visceral impact on the fledgling Rockstar.  The tune was drawn to a close by a two-fingered chord using his left hand for the first time.

The Rockstar paused for several seconds awaiting his audience of one to react.  Miss O’Connor cleared her throat and in her raspy high-pitched voice announced that it was time to work on scales!

Though deeply hurt by the lack of Miss O’Connor’s support but undaunted after the lesson, the Rockstar continued to enhance his first tune after the lesson.  He added new runs to replace a few that he intuitively knew weren't achieving that which he was unconsciously striving.  His work culminated when an opportunity arose at school.  His Grade 2 teacher announced that on the last day of the week, any student who wanted to share something she or he had accomplished could do so in front of the class.  Feeling good about his work as a fledgling pianist and composer, the Rockstar offered to play his tune for the class.  His teacher thanked him and added his name to the list.

When Friday rolled around, the Rockstar knew he was ready.He had practiced hard for his first performance.  He even had excluded what Miss O’Connor had left on her list for him to complete before his next lesson.  He eagerly awaited his turn.  His classmates had shared stories and poems they had written.  Some showed crafts they had made.  Finally, it was his turn.  He strode to the piano confidently.  His teacher introduced that he was going to play a song he had written. 

The Rockstar put his heart and soul into playing his composition.  The song transported him to a place of great joy.  The notes flowed from his heart through his fingers.  He could not see his young audience but knew they were enjoying his rendition.  At the end of his song he paused and appreciated the polite applause from his classmates.  He had his first taste of what it was like to perform for an audience.

The teacher then announced that Jean Hansen would also be playing a song she composed.  The teacher added that Jean had been taking piano lessons since she was 5 years old.  Jean sat down at the piano and pivoted to speak to the audience.  She announced the title she gave to her song and why she wrote it.  The Rockstar wondered why he hadn’t done either of those things.  Jean turned to face the piano and began playing a complex tune that was fast-paced and required the dexterous use of both hands simultaneously.  The Rockstar was shocked by how well she could play.  At the end of her song, Jean was rewarded by a loud applause from her classmates and an effusive comment from the teacher.  The Rockstar experienced a big lesson about audiences and self-concept that would serve him well in his journey to become a musician.

The Rockstar remembered experiencing the day of ambivalence which leapt to the fore in his currently random mind.  It was "the day the music died" as captured by the lyric of Don Maclean in ‘American Pie’!  The dreaded time had come for the Rockstar’s mother.  The piano she had been storing for a year for an old friend was being returned to its owner.  Mom was sad her children's opportunity to take music lessons was over.  As a single parent supporting two young children it was the loss of an opportunity for them to have a foundational educational experience.  She could not afford to buy a piano and had to pinch pennies to have Miss O’Connor give them piano lessons.  The Rockstar was ambivalent!  He was overjoyed to not have to spend 30 minutes every Saturday being discouraged by Miss O’Connor.  He had tired of her relentless focus on basics in a forum devoid of encouragement.  He would, however, miss the countless hours each week he was able to explore note and chord sequences and experience the inner joy of creativity of music.  He would not miss sitting at the piano on warm Saturday afternoons when he could be playing with his buddies.  He would miss a poetic world where patterns of notes and lyrics created images in a way that seemed to touch his soul.  Out of the ambivalence, emerged beginnings of a passion that awakened in the Rockstar.

The next few years became transitional in the music journey of the Rockstar.  It was not characterized by events as much as it was happenings.  His  passion for music grew, particularly when his father formally departed from the family and gave the Rockstar an old radio as a goodbye gift.  His own radio opened the world to commercial music as driven by post World War II styles of tunes.  The diversity of music was somewhat limited but that mattered not to the Rockstar.  He began to experience sophisticated music beyond his original meanderings of the year of piano lessons.  He listened to music of the big bands.  He reveled in the complexity of many instruments coming together and contributing each in their unique way to the song.  He loved jazz especially when the keyboards were highlighted.  Rhythm and Blues numbers offered the Rockstar a perspective on music and instruments he never thought about.Simple chord progressions and instruments that highlighted the vocalist’s voice and the lyrics piqued his expanding music interests.

The fifties burst into the music scene with the advent of rock and roll.  The Rockstar began to feel the need to become an active participant in music rather than being a passive listener.  Feeling the music was right up his alley.  All music seemed to touch the Rockstar and that easily translated into dancing.  One had to feel the music in order to dance. The beat was key but is really so much more.  Attending teenage social occasions prompted the Rockstar into music in a big way.  Teen dances were the catalyst.  Socially, teen boys are notably delayed compared to girls in their teens.  Teen girls liked to dance and boys didn't.  It made sense to the Rockstar that if he was able to dance, he might have a social advantage with girls.  Thusly, he learned to dance.  His younger sister jumped in to help him learn to jive, as prompted by rock n' roll music he had seen in movie clips.  He got to be very good but lacked the other key ingredient, confidence. 

His 1963 Junior High grad dance put this phase of his musical journey to the test.  After the ceremony there was a dance!  Girls in their grad frocks lined one side of the school gymnasium while the boys festooned in shirts and ties lined the other side.  Conservative rock music blared through the sound system yet nothing happened on the dance floor.  Eventually, a couple of girls started to dance together somewhat awkwardly.  Everyone watched.  Finally, a smattering of girls started to dance as individuals in a group.  Swallowing all the terror that was welling up inside of him, the Rockstar walked across no man's land and asked his Grade 2 nemesis Jean Hansen to dance.  He gently guided her in the fundamental jive moves he had mastered.  Her musical talents enabled her to learn quickly and soon they became the poster dancers at the grad.As they danced much in awe to the remaining wallflowers, the Rockstar felt some vindication for his second-class music performance in the class piano recital many years before.

From there the Rockstar asked other girls to dance.He specifically chose the wallflowers such as Sandra Woods as he figured what it was like to never be chosen if you had too many pimples or weren't socially desirable enough.  Soon other guys tried to dance but none could match the Rockstar’s skills.  The Rockstar experienced his first taste of stardom, albeit limited in its scope.  He intuitively knew one day he had to distinguish himself beyond the dance floor in a school gymnasium.

The greatest trade the Rockstar ever made to propel him in the direction of greatness was when he was a teen.  A neighbourhood friend was a legend in the community.  Benny Fishman was the son of a successful businessman.  The Fishmans had money and Benny had good stuff.  He always had the best of stylish clothes and was allowed to drive his father's Cadillac when he got his licence at 16.  Benny never had an electric train when he was younger and always hankered for one.  The Rockstar had one as his mother had scrimped and saved to give him a train set as a Christmas gift when he was younger.  One day Benny and the Rockstar were hanging out.  Benny was wearing a black and white vertically striped button-down collared shirt.  The Rockstar was smitten by the shirt.  He knew his Mom could never afford to buy him one so he proposed a trade – Benny’s shirt for the Rockstar’s electric train. The negotiation concluded with Benny throwing in an acoustic guitar his parents had bought him.  The Rockstar was ecstatic.  He now had the means to continue his passion for music through the exploration of a new instrument.

No trade happens without repercussions!  The Rockstar’s Mom was most distressed with the trade of his now little-used electric train.  What upset her the most was that the deal was made without consulting her.  The little family did not have any discretionary funds to buy items like train sets let alone trade them for a shirt.  The dark side of the trade was further evident to his Mom when the Rockstar wore the shirt to school for the first time.  The shirt was so out of character for him as well as its garishness in terms of what other high school students were wearing.  The Rockstar became the brunt of many hurtful comments like "Hey jailbird when did you get out?" and "Hey ref, you working the basketball game Friday night?"  The shirt was never worn again and lay in a pile of unused clothes at the back of the Rockstar’s closet.

However, the guitar acquired in the trade was a significant game changer!  The Rockstar had his means to achieve the vision that was starting to be framed in his mind.  He could see himself on stage as an entertainer.But first he had to figure out what to do with the guitar.  He knew his family could never afford for him to take guitar lessons.  He didn't know  anything about a guitar let alone playing one.  So, he did the first thing that came to mind.  Taking furniture polish used in his household chores, he cleaned and shined his new guitar until it gleamed.  He noted that one string was missing and the 5 remaining strings were horribly out of tune with each other.  What to do?  The local public library probably held the solution.  Off the Rockstar went to find the answers to the plethora of questions about guitars that surged through his mind.

The library, as it turned out, provided the Rockstar with some good leads.  He figured out that his new emergent passion could not be yet played as it was missing one string and there was nothing he could do while holding and strumming the guitar to make it produce anything but a cacophony of horrible sounds.  A seldom checked out book on guitar basics gave him some clues.  He learned that each of the strings played a single note from the scale E A D G B E.  Each string had to be tuned to that note.  This conjured up the next problem he had which was tuning each string to produce the common sound for each note.  Before undertaking the tuning challenge, a replacement string needed to be found.  The information from the book caused the Rockstar to determine he had to procure a new “B” string for his guitar.  Checking out the book gave him at least two weeks to chart a course in learning to play his new instrument.

The Calgary telephone directory was the key to solving the missing “B” string problem.  There were very few music stores in the city in the early sixties and none were anywhere near where the Rockstar lived with his single-parent Mom and younger sister Lulu.  The store listed in the yellow pages that seemed to have a good selection of guitars, amongst other musical instruments was Perry’s Music Sales on 8th avenue.  Armed with the variable confidence of his mid-teenage years, the Rockstar hopped on the bus and rode it downtown.

Finding Perry’s, the fledgling Rockstar strode into a store replete with all types of musical instruments in a long row of showcases and wall cabinets.  Sheet music and browsing shelves of 45’s and albums occupied their own section.  At the back of the store was a small section with electric guitars and amplifiers along with a demonstration drum kit for rocker wannabees to try out new instruments.  As the Rockstar moved towards the back of the store he began to feel his confidence drop several notches.  Standing behind a counter was a balding man who the Rockstar would ultimately befriend and who would serve as a mentor to him even after his adventure of reaching local stardom.  “Hi young man.  What can I do for you?” asked the man in a most kindly fashion.

“I need a new “B” string for my guitar,” whispered the Rockstar.

“Certainly!” replied the kindly gentleman.  “My name is Walt and I would like to ask you a few questions.”  “Is your guitar acoustic or electric?”  The Rockstar began to panic.  He had no idea what acoustic meant as he had not read any of the pages that talked about types of guitars.  “Are the current strings on your guitar a light gauge or a bit heavier?”  Terror began to replace panic.  “Are you a fingerpicker or a strummer?”  The Rockstar had to summon all his remaining courage not to bolt from the music store to hide his embarrassing ignorance.

Walt, sensing the young Rockstar’s rapidly escalating anguish, asked if he had ever played a guitar.  “No but I have a guitar and will be learning how to play it!” whispered the Rockstar even though there was no one else in the store.  Having seen many young teens in a similar predicament Walt asked the Rockstar if he would mind bringing in his guitar so the right string could be selected.  Thus, began a friendship that would serve both very well over the years.  Before leaving the store, the Rockstar summoned the courage to ask how much a guitar string would cost, thereby unleashing but another problem.

Several days later, the Rockstar mustered his courage to talk to his Mom about the needed guitar string.  He knew she was still angry with him trading away his electric train for a shirt he no longer wore and a guitar that he couldn’t play.  He also needed her to lend him some money so, if he had to, he could replace all the strings on his old but shiny guitar.  He knew the family had virtually no unencumbered money as his deadbeat father did not always pay his alimony and child support payments.  The Rockstar had a clear understanding of what being poor was like and he felt badly about asking for even a few dollars.  One evening he sat at the kitchen table with his Mom after they had washed the dinner dishes.  “Mom, I need $10.00 to buy some new strings for my guitar.  Can we afford it this month?”

“Son, you know I just started my new teaching job and I haven’t received my first cheque as yet.”

“I know things are tight for us right now but I have none of my allowance left and I can’t even try my new guitar yet as it is missing the “B” string.”

“I’m so sorry son but we don’t have any spare cash.  What little we have has to go to groceries!  If it wasn’t for Grandma and Grandpa we wouldn’t have any fresh vegetables from their garden and those Sunday dinners with roast beef that we have with them.”

“Would you mind if I asked them for the money and promised to pay it off with additional chores I could do for them?”

“You do what you feel the need to do son but remember a promise to anyone is your bond that you must fulfill.”

The next evening the Rockstar walked over to his grandparent’s home to talk to his grandfather.  His grandfather was a kind and gentle man.  He asked the Rockstar questions about his request.  He asked why he needed the money and why he would want to play a guitar.  For the first time the Rockstar realized the depth of interest his grandfather had in music and his passion to learn to play the guitar.  Not to discourage his teenage grandson, the kindly white-haired gentleman removed a ten-dollar bill from his money clip and laid it on the table.  They then negotiated the terms of the loan which saw the Rockstar agreeing to trim the very large and prickly caragana hedge on both sides of his grandparent’s house.

The following Saturday, The Rockstar boarded the bus with his shiny five-string guitar to go and see Walt at Perry’s Music Sales.  The edge was gone in his teen arrogance and was replaced by a commitment to music.  Walt smiled at the Rockstar when he entered the store.  “I am glad you brought the guitar with you this time son.  We will be able to find the string you need very easily now.  Let me take a look at your guitar.”  The Rockstar surrendered it willingly.

Walt took the guitar with the practiced eye of a musician and a person who really knew about guitars.  “What’s your name son?” he asked without waiting for a response.  “This guitar is in nice shape,” he noted before the Rockstar could even answer.  “It has been well cared for.  Its finish has been well protected.  Have you been polishing it?”  Again, not waiting for a response, Walt went on.  “The neck is not warped and the fretboard is in good shape.  The bridge is solid and holds the strings a distance from the neck so it will be easy for you to play.  The soundboard is a good size and is in excellent shape.  The tuning pegs are okay and will need to be replaced eventually.  You will get a good sound from this baby.  Unfortunately, all the strings are shot and all will need to be replaced.”  Walt finally paused and waited for the Rockstar to respond.

“How much for a whole set of stings?” stammered the Rockstar.

“Guitar strings are based on many factors that affects price son.  The cost depends on the type of materials used to make the strings and  their gauge.  Light gauge strings are the easiest upon which to play and will emphasize the treble notes.  Heavier-gauge strings will accentuate your guitar’s base register and produce a deeper tone. Important to is whether you will be a fingerpicker or a strummer.  Finally, it depends on the winding type of strings you want.”

The Rockstar was speechless.  He felt like he was in school and was learning all about what he didn’t know.  One of his high school teachers had once told him that everything had its own language or jargon and to understand and learn you had to learn the language.  The Rockstar was experiencing a major lesson of the unique languages in music.  He paused for a moment and said, “What set of strings can I get for $10.00, as it is all I have?”

“Well let’s see,” said Walt.  I would recommend that you get a half round string as it is easiest to play.  We need to look at a lighter gauge string as they are generally easier to play and exert less tension on the neck of older guitars.  Finally, it should be an aluminum bronze string as it gives crisp highs and a pronounced bass.  I can sell you a set for $13.00 but I will take your $10.00 and you can owe me that balance when you make some money at your first gig!  In addition, I will string the guitar for you so you can learn how to do it.  I’ll even tune it for you.”

The Rockstar was taken aback!  Here was someone who was in the music business and saw something in the Rockstar in which he was willing to invest.  At that point Walt became a mentor and a friend.  The Rockstar left the store a very happy young guy but wondering if Walter even knew his name.

With most of his early guitar problems behind him, the Rockstar was ready to start learning how to become one.  He still wondered what he would do if his guitar ever went out of tune but that didn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle now.  His guitar looked and sounded wonderful.  He strummed it with one of the new picks Walt had thrown in with the deal he made for the strings.  The sound was magical but was a long way from music.  He wondered if his library book had something in it he could use to get started in playing.  Sure enough, one of the latter sections had the finger positions for a few basic chords.

In order to not form any bad habits, the Rockstar read and re-read the fundamentals in playing a guitar.  His Mom even noted he paid greater attention to this learning than he did on his schoolwork.  He learned how to hold the guitar properly and comfortably.  He focused on using the tips of his fingers to depress the strings in the middle of the frets rather than on the frets thus enabling the notes to ring clearly.  He suffered through his fingertips  becoming very sore until callouses began to form and abate the pain.

In addition, the Rockstar began to explore the notes generated as he moved his hand up and down the neck of the guitar.  He did not know the name of the notes generated but, in his mind, he could remember the sound and the fret played on the low E string. 

With his confidence building as the days passed, the Rockstar renewed his library book for the fourth time and he began to strum simple chords.  He was amazed at how even a 3-finger chord emitted a full sound resulting from a group of notes being strummed at the same time.  He started with the 3-string E [major] chord.  Each time he worked on this chord, it became fuller and richer as his fingers found the correct position on the center of the 2 frets positioned nearest the headstock.  His mother and sister groaned after hearing this chord several times an hour.  Secretly they could hear the improvement he was making.  Next came mastery of the A chord.  It was not long before the Rockstar could transition from the E to A chord with escalating skill.  The D [major] chord came next.  Soon he began to transition between the 3 major chords.  Many basic chords were added to his expanding repertoire and proficiency.

The Rockstar loved music.  He listened incessantly to the radio his father had given his 10-year-old son as a parting gift upon leaving the family.  He listened to all types of music but was drawn to the popular music of the latter fifties and early sixties – rock and roll.  His skill with chording on his guitar progressed through hours of practice in his basement room of the family’s small home.  One evening the Rockstar noticed that occasionally he was practicing a chord that matched the sound emanating from his radio playing rock tunes softly in the background.  It caused him to turn up the volume on his small radio and continue his practice.  He even went as far as to practice one chord for several minutes in hopes that it would match notes in the music he could hear being played.  He rightly concluded that the notes in the song seemed to follow a pattern and he needed to figure out this pattern.

Practicing chording with a radio was difficult as there were frequent changes in the types of songs played and without repetition of the song, patterns were hard to discern.  The Rockstar realized he needed to solve this problem if he was to grow as a guitar player.  The solution was blatantly obvious!  He needed a record player so he could play a song over and over until he could figure out the chord pattern.  This insight created but another challenge in the life of the fledgling Rockstar.

RCA Victor unwittingly created the solution to the Rockstar’s latest problem.  This dominant corporation introduced the 7-inch vinyl record and marketed it simply as the “45”.  In addition, RCA sold record players that played the 45 rpm exclusively.  These small 7” disks housed 1 song on each side and sold from 70 cents to $1.00 each.  The Rockstar’s problem of the latter sixties by a cheap source of recorded music and a simple device to play a single song over and over again with ease.  All the Rockstar had to do was acquire a used version of a Victor 45 RPM Victrola and a few contemporary rock songs on 45’s. 

Having experienced the Victrola at a buddy’s house, the Rockstar started a search for one of his own.  Knowing his Mom’s current financial position and how she felt when he traded his electric train for the guitar, he knew he had to strategize a different solution.  Using his typical male logic, the Rockstar developed a plan to determine how much money he would need and then figure out how to acquire those resources.  He deduced that if he knew the amount of money he needed, he wouldn’t have to lock himself into a work situation that required a commitment to a lengthy period of time.  His life was pretty busy as it was with high school studies, guitar practice sessions and of course, the few girls he was hanging out with.

His first strategy was to visit his friend Walt at Perry’s Music Sales.  He knew Walt would give him some good advice and was very accommodating.  He pointed the Rockstar to a couple of pawnshops just a few doors down 8th Avenue that were nearby.  Walt reasoned that the Victrola went out of production 10 years ago and many folks might pawn these older, specialized machines for quick cash.  As the Rockstar was right there, he thanked his mentor and walked east along the avenue. 

The first pawnshop he entered caused him to realize this would be a different experience for him.  A bell jangled above his head as he walked into Sharky’s Pawnshop.  He found himself in a dark and dingy store.  There was too much stuff piled high on showcases that were crammed chaotically with far too many small items of a diverse nature.  Clothing hung from rope lines strung from beams of an unfinished ceiling in its ancient building home.  Other items such as guitars and gardening tools were hung on ropes on nails driven into ceiling beams.  The effect was to even further dim the meagre lighting that did little to supplement what light entered through barred windows.  Tall  displays of special deals designed to attract those who walked down the avenue further blocked natural light.  No one was visible in the store. 

The Rockstar edged his way through the almost impassable aisle leading to a dimly lit cage at the back of the narrow store.  There sat a bespectacled old gentleman hunched over a table studying a tray of gold necklaces.  Summoning up every ounce of courage he possessed, the Rockstar asked the old gentleman if he had any Victrola record players for sale.  The old guy who  the Rockstar assumed was Sharky, squinted and answered with a guarded, “Why”.As the Rockstar had no agenda in buying items from a pawnshop, he simply asked if he could see them.  Sharky came out of his cage and walked over and pointed to a box partially covered by a shabby and somewhat smelly old coat.  Gingerly the Rockstar picked up the coat and saw the box contained 7 Victrola record players piled therein.  He picked up one, looked at it and inquired about the cost.  Sharky told him each was $50.00 and the Rockstar could have his pick for that price.  As this was primarily a scouting trip, the Rockstar told Sharky he didn’t have any money at the moment but would return.  He then beat a hasty retreat from the pawnshop.  A quick stop back at Perry’s resulted in relating the details of his adventure to Walt.  Walt laughed and offered to give the Rockstar some advice if he decided to buy the record player from Sharky.  Shaken a bit from his new experience, the, Rockstar walked to the bus stop and pondered his next move.

Reflection prompted the Rockstar to craft another plan.  He knew many of his friends had the type of record player he was seeking and had a general sense of the value of these units.  Several reach outs to his neighbourhood friends garnered no success.  As was the case with many teens, all had got rid of their old Victrola record players.The Rockstar was dismayed but thought he would try once more to acquire the needed technology.

He walked over to home of schoolmate Sandra Woods a couple of blocks from his house.  She was one of the wallflowers he had danced with at the Junior High grad.  Sandra was a pretty young teen but lacked confidence in her good looks and managing her abrupt social skills.  The Rockstar had always liked Sandra for her innocence and her deep resonating voice.  Sandra was very intelligent and not the greatest dancer but was generally likeable.  The Rockstar figured he could leverage his dancing with her into making a deal for a record player he hoped she possessed.

Gathering all the courage he could muster, he climbed the stairs and rang the bell of the Wood’s home.  Sandra’s mother came to the door, much to the chagrin of the Rockstar.  He asked her if he might speak with Sandra.  Mrs. Woods looked at the Rockstar suspiciously as she pondered his request.  It was obvious to the Rockstar that not many teenage boys had come to the door and made such a request to see her daughter.  After several long moments, Mrs. Woods called Sandra to the door.  With a look of total surprise, Sandra appeared and in her sexy deeper voice asked the Rockstar what he wanted.  “I want to talk with you about music,” blurted out the suddenly speechless fledgling musician.

“Why would you want to talk to me about music,” asked the blossoming beautiful young teen?

“I remembered dancing with you at our Grade 9 graduation and you were a good dancer.  It seemed to me you could feel the music and I felt you likely listened to or played music.”

“I do both!” retorted Sandra.  Her suspicion was now evident in both her voice and demeanour.  “Why do you suddenly want to know about my music interests when we haven’t even talked since the dance several months ago?  You don’t even acknowledge me when we pass each other in the halls at the high school!”  The Rockstar knew this was not going well.  He had never looked at Sandra closely.  She was becoming a very attractive young woman.  Her piercing blue eyes and long blonde hair framed her very pretty face.  All of a sudden, Sandra’s penetrating questions emphasized by her resonant voice began to disarmed the Rockstar.

“I never laughed when the other students were calling you the referee when you wore that shirt to school.  I felt sorry for you.  I remembered when you were the only boy who asked me to dance at grad and you seemed like a really nice guy.”  The Rockstar was now totally disarmed.  His mission did not seem to matter.  He had not an ounce of courage left to continue with his plan to acquire a record player, even if Sandra possessed one let alone had agreed to sell it to him.  He had reached but another pivotal point in his young life, one that would serve better to guide him in the future.  In that moment, he decided to tell Sandra what he was doing and not try to con her.

“Sandra, I am learning to play a guitar I obtained the day I also got my infamous ‘ref’ shirt.  I can’t afford lessons so I am teaching myself with the use of books from the library.  I have learned a few chords and can play along with a few tunes when they are played on the radio.  What I really need is a cheap record player and a few records I can strum along with and master the chord sequences for each song.  I thought you might have one that I could perhaps buy from you if the price was not too high.”

The look on Sandra’s face was one of total surprise.  “I didn’t know you played the guitar,” she said rather sheepishly.  “I thought you might have come over to get to know me.  I play the piano and thought you did too.  I remember in Grade 2 when you played your composition for the class.  Your love of music was obvious to me even though you were just a beginning pianist.  I am glad you are continuing to follow your music interest!”  The Rockstar was flabbergasted!  He had not anticipated a response like this.  Sandra went on, “I don’t have a record player for sale as I still use it frequently to listen to my record collection.  Would you like to come in and listen to some of my favourites?”

“I really would Sandra,” blurted the Rockstar.  “Are you sure your Mom would be okay with this?”

“I am sure she will be but wait here a few moments while I go and check.”  The Rockstar breathed a sigh of relief as he now had some time to figure out what he would do next.

Sandra returned shortly and stated, “It is okay but we have to play the music softly so Mom can hear what is going on and the door to my room has to be left wide open.”  The Rockstar agreed and followed Sandra to her room.  Thus, began a friendship that would be pivotal in both their lives.

The Rockstar and Sandra spent a marvelous hour together.  Sandra played her current favourite tunes on a record player exactly like the one he was seeking.  He noted that she seemed to like folk music with a smattering of R and B along with some classical music.  When Sandra played ‘Tom Dooley’ by the Kingston Trio, the Rockstar blurted out, “That is an E chord and G7.  I think I can strum along to that song!”  Sandra seemed to be impressed.

After listening to a few more songs, the awkward time of leaving this unplanned event arrived.  Lacking the social skills to end this fun time seemed to be eluding both the Rockstar and Sandra simultaneously.  Falling back on the social skills his Mom had entrenched in his psyche as a youngster, the Rockstar told Sandra what a great time he had and how impressed he was with her interests in music.  He hoped they could do this again sometime as he also enjoyed her company.  This seemed to trigger something in Sandra.  She responded with an offer of having him come over again, bringing his guitar and playing along to some of her 45’s.  The Rockstar ecstatically accepted this exploratory offer as it was exactly what he needed. It also offered the plus of being able to interact with a beautiful girl that shared his interests in music.  After a courteous and much warmer goodbye than hello to both Sandra and her mother, the Rockstar walked home with a bit of a new skip in his step founded on getting to know Sandra and the possibility of seeing her again.

Submitted: March 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 RoyBoy. All rights reserved.


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Criss Sole

Looks like music is opening up a whole new world for Rockstar. I had to look up what victrola record players look like. Glad to learn something new.
His friendships with Walt and Sandra seem very promising.
Even though money is tight at home, i think his future in music is very bright.
Great chapter.

Wed, March 17th, 2021 8:25am


Thank you Criss. Glad you enjoyed this chapter. This was one of my first and I was struggling with so many complex variables. I was trying to write as a teenager would be like in the 60's as well as experiencing a connection with a very complex young woman. Even though I lived through the 60's, a lot of time was spent on researching items and places of that time period prompted by my passion for authenticity. Hope you enjoy more of your read.

Wed, March 17th, 2021 6:24am

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