I sing. I have sung to myself since the tender age of 12, when music first reached me. I begged for a guitar, and one finally came at Christmas time. A couple of days beforehand, I did a devilish thing. Searched our apartment while Mom and Dad were out. Found the guitar underneath their bed, already wrapped. Peeled back the tape, and opened the box. I was fascinated, thrilled, and guilty all at once. By the time they came home, I had taught myself the opening riff to “Day Tripper” and had put everything back as it was.
That was more than fifty years ago, and, since then, I’ve always had a guitar of some sort. I have played and sung for my own pleasure, and (shyly and tentatively) at campfire gatherings and such.
A decade ago, I started a new job, and became friends with a fellow who happened to be a player as well, although I did not know it at the time (nor did he know that I played). He invited me to his home for a get together, and showed me a music room that he had set up downstairs. He and a couple of other fellas had kind of an informal band, and they had been playing together for some time. I enjoyed sitting and listening to them, and my wife and I were invited back again, as they had a monthly music night.
One night, he and the band were practicing “Paint it black” by the Stones. They were getting the guitar parts down pretty well, but had trouble with the vocals, whereupon my friend Michel said “Lee, why don’t you get up here and try it?” It was a song that I knew well, and, struggling with stage fright, I stood for the first time in front of a microphone. I passed the test, carrying the tune the way it was supposed to be sung, and was eventually asked to join the band.
Since then, we have practiced each month, and have performed in public at such venues as churches, school functions, and as a part of outdoor concerts.
If you have ever been part of a band, you will know that there is a group dynamic at play, much of the time. Seldom (at least, in our case) is there harmony. Pardon the pun. Personalities clash, there are disagreements on how to play, who should sing, and it sometimes becomes a competition. I know that each of us wants the result to sound good, but it frequently takes a long time, with many false starts, and, occasionally, the dropping altogether of a song that we cannot come together on.
At our monthly practices, we are fortunate to have a certain captive audience, composed of spouses as well as friends who come and go. Many times, there are guest musicians who join in with us. Michel has a big dining room, and, with the addition of some makeshift tables, sometimes upwards of 30 of us sit down for potluck dinner on music nights. Each December, we have gathered for Christmas carols at his sister’s house.
These are just some of the things that I do so look forward to in life.