Wednesday, May 26, 2010

27 Days Until NMA Reunion

Still practicing away. Yesterday I took delivery on an effects system, variable speed CD player, sequencing software, and bass amp, all courtesy of the VA. I have to say that the VA has been good to me. Through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, they have or will acquire over $7,000 worth of instruments and equipment for me. I had to sell all my musical equipment a couple of years after retiring from the Navy in order to pay some bills... money was scarce. Now I'll be able to go back into the music biz with some quality equipment. Sure, I had to jump through a lot of hoops (the VA is, after all, a government agency). For instance, the business plan I had to draw up was over 20 pages of detailed plans and budgets and stuff. Tedious at best. But eventually I got it done and lo and behold it was approved.

"Lo and BEHOLD!" said Cradrevocsid, the Lady of Lake Taneycomo, breaking my reverie, "You have acquired lots of fancy gadgets," said Cradrevocsid. "I thought you said you were going to play 'no more crap!'" said Cradrevocsid. "Now here you are with all sorts of fancy-schmancy gadgets and... and... gizmos!!" said Cradrevocsid.

I had to admit... Cradrevocsid, although lacking in certain social graces, had a point: when Steve Abshire ( took me to hear Herb Ellis perform for the first time, I was impressed that he could play all this amazing music with just a bass player and drummer. Herb was playing his Herb Ellis model Aria guitar with one cable plugged straight into an eensy-beensy-teensy-weensy-schmeensy Polytone amp. Me? I was playing with the Naval Academy Band's rock band, Electric Brigade (I always thought it was a stupid name) with no less than seven huge effects units (remember, this was in the days before little digital units) into two 120 watt amplifiers. Playing guitar was half playing and half dance as I kicked in and out phaser, echoplex, distortion, etc. Cradrevocsid was reminding me that I didn't need all that equipment to make good music. I remember Mike Shepherd, drummer and yet one of the finest musicians I ever knew, who would intone in his gravelly voice, "A good musician can make good music on Quaker Oats boxes."

When I traveled to the now defunct USSR with the Sixth Fleet Band, I heard some incredible music out of the Russian Navy Musicians who were playing instruments which weren't much better than Quaker Oats boxes. The brass players didn't even have valve oil. The reed players were using reeds that were to our reeds as a golf pencil is to a real pencil. The guitar and bass players made strings out of whatever wire was available. Incredible! When my band left the USSR to go home to Italy, we gave them our whole box of spare valve oil, reeds, strings, drum sticks and such. By the expressions on their faces, you would have thought that we had given them gold! On an editorial note, we American musicians sometimes forget how good we have it in the USA as compared to a lot of other countries. In the USA, even a pimply-faced teenager can easily acquire decent strings.

I have a fine guitar in Axecalibur, a cable and an amp, and I assured Cradrevocsid that I was wary of my personal failings; that I know I still am a pyro-flatulant gizmo-holic. I promised her that I would remember the lessons of Mike Shepherd and Herb Ellis, and that I would not fall prey to the temptation to cover up musical incompetency with dazzling special effects.

Well... if I am to make good on my promise, I'd better get back to practicing.

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