Tag Archives: Fender

Beautiful Music Together

I’ve made no secrets about the so-called “musicality” of my family.  We live in a musical household, my kids grew up with it and for years saw their father leave on many weekend nights to go play whatever gig paid a small amount of cash for his services.

Some would question whether all that effort was worth it.

The thing is . . . the last two years have shown me it’s completely worth it.

The musician and his daughter
The musician and his daughter

There aren’t a lot of things that you bring into a relationship that remain specifically and only yours.  That’s a good thing, for the most part, but my late wife’s inability to create or even understand the creative process for music was a hindrance at times.  A basis for knock-down drag-out arguments at others.  Why?  It wasn’t, for the two of us, a communal thing.  When we were dating it was neat, quirky and fun.  When we were raising a family she saw it as a nuisance.  That was her and I don’t say it as a criticism.  She had a million amazing things about her . . . that just wasn’t one of them.

But then she left.  Simple as that.  Not on-purpose, it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t really anybody’s fault.  Just one day she wasn’t there.  Suddenly everything that had become such common-ground for us was now a hindrance.  It was a reminder of her and the loss and the end of marriage and all of it.

Music wasn’t.

My beloved Dot
My beloved Dot

Music helped me heal.  Hell…it helped all of us to heal.  In the week after Andrea died I picked up my guitar and just played it.  Christ, I even beat on it.  It’s a wonderful testament to the Fender company that my green Eric Clapton model Stratocaster (affectionately dubbed “dot” from the green 7-up can color) survived those weeks.  I was soft, hard, angry, sad, and just miserable at times.  It got wet with tears.  It suffered indignity of broken strings from massive power chords beaten too hard on the pickguard.  Scratches still mar the 7-up green surface of the guitar with waxy residue from the picks I destroyed scraping the surface.

I have only begun to piece together the songs from the massive amount of writing and playing I did in those weeks.  Some have no lyrics.  Some were re-written.  Others had pieces of inspiration that can lead to better things.  It took me two years to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to be where I am.  Sadly, only one song of mine was completed so far, but it will make the newest recording session for my brother and I to release in the Fall.

But music wasn’t just written.  It was listened to, near constantly.  I decided if we didn’t have it playing and swirling around us before it should now.  When we eat dinner it plays – on the stereo, on the cardboard radio with an ipod.  Hell, we sing, we jam, I teach Hannah songs.  It’s one thing that ended up being communal.  Abbi sings.  Sam is in the school musical.  Christ, I even jammed with a singer-songwriter who I now consider a friend. (a term I never use lightly)

Music helped us heal.  We do make beautiful music together, even when we’re off key or off beat or what have you.  The world may never hear it, nor long remember what we play.  But play we do.

Nothing about what we’re facing is perfect.  But it wasn’t two years ago, either, so why try and apply life in the past to the future?  At the end of the day we have to do what works for us.

And for us . . . it’s making beautiful music together.

Before You Accuse Me

When I was just in a rock & roll band in 1989 I owned a Fender Stratocaster – because it was Clapton’s guitar of choice.  But when I found out he had a signature model – one that came with a warning sticker that Fender, the guitar’s maker, was not responsible for the damage that the guitar could do to your amplifiers – I was starry-eyed!  I saw Clapton onstage with a fiery red one.  He favored a pewter/silver one.  I tried one out, turned up the bottom tone knob and the amp blew even more volume and distortion out its speakers.

I wanted one!

I spent weeks . . . months even just scrimping and saving.  Every penny from every gig that didn’t go toward guitar strings and new guitar cables went to savings for that guitar.  Finally, at the end of the year I made a trek to Kansas City – the only dealer that had Clapton Stratocasters in-stock.

I walked in and went straight to the expensive, hands-off section. While it was a year old, never bought from the dealer when I got it, I had no intention of buying the sparkly, bright-green strat. I walked in looking for a Torino red or a Pewter colored EC. Then I saw her . . . a 7-up green strat, lace sensor pickups covering the normally exposed pole pieces, and it spoke to me. I had to ask to try it out and must have looked like a non-sale because they handed it to me and walked off.  I plugged it into a Fender amplifier like my own and started to play.  It didn’t take me five minutes.

I was hooked. Just a few weeks after owning it it fell off its guitar stand on stage and the wood of the neck split, right in the middle.  Fenders are known for durability.  I was beside myself.  I called the dealer who told me “too bad.”  I called Fender customer service, angry, and was connected to a man I thought was simply a member of the company.  He asked me the dealer’s name.  Then he asked me to send him my Clapton Strat.

“That’s an expensive strat, it shouldn’t do that.”  I agreed.  I sent it off and a couple weeks later I got a call . . . it was Fender’s custom shop.  A few minutes later I was on the line with the very man who’d taken my initial phone call.  He was one of their chief luthiers.  They’d “taken care of” the dealer, which made me smile.  Then he informed me that my strat had shown a flaw in their design . . . the bodies were routed wrong and put too much tension on the neck.  They could split.  He personally crafted a new body for me, grabbed a new neck off the line and then asked me what color I wanted.

I still said green.

It’s my favorite guitar, my old standby, the wood aged, the pickups perfect, and the neck fitting my hand like a glove. A couple years later my older brother looked at it and remarked that it was like the 7-UP commercials and their campaign with the “dot” in them.

From that point my EC was affectionately dubbed “Dot.” It’s been the reference ever since. I’d never seen a video of Slowhand playing a green one . . . until now.  To this day, it’s my old standby . . . and I pair it with the amplifier my brother Adam built . . . and it’s perfect!

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