My earliest memory of playing guitar for the very first time was when I was only a small boy back in the nineteen sixties. I sat inside that small neighborhood garage on Ridgeview Drive all those years ago, sitting with my childhood friends Phil and Larry Reeves, their father, and some of their family’s friends. The recollection is that they would gather neighborhood friends from time to time to play music inside the garage of their house. I think my brother and I were guests in their home while my mother was having surgery, and my father was overseas fighting the war in Vietnam, where Mr. Reeves was at home recuperating from his injury he sustained on duty. My mother was in the hospital for what might have been a week, so the Reeves’ would care for us during that time. We all participated in playing country and gospel music in that small garage on Ridgeview. We were neighborhood friends, and we spent a great deal of time together during those years my father was away at sea. The first time I believe I picked up a guitar was when I was only a boy of maybe 7 years old. Phil and Larry were from Mississippi, and their father was partial to country music.
We the kids watched the adults play various instruments around those country jam sessions back in the sixties. They had guitars and ukuleles, and possibly a bass guitar in those sessions. I think there were even both electric and acoustical instruments. There may have been different instruments but my memory cannot recall what they might have been. The first song I ever learned was Hank Williams “I Saw the Light”. My first chord I learned to play on the guitar was an “E” that I learned from playing that song. I still remember how much fun it was the first time they offered to have me play with them in those sessions. Mr. Reeves most likely helped us along with the chords, and the rhythm while he sang along to everyone playing in unison. Funny my concentration was so intense that I don’t remember my brother playing with us, or even Phil and Larry, but they must have been there, and must have participated. To this day I still recall the ambient sounds we made coming out of that small suburban garage. The coolness of that evening was offset by the warmness of the company we kept inside.
My memory of having Mrs. Reeves’ hometown influence upon my brother and myself was quite a bit different from my own mothers touch. When you’re that young and not used to other maternal styles you think nothing of it. She was a direct women with a strong southern accent, but took good care of us kids. My father loved country music as well, but my mother liked the more conservative classic songs of the time like Bing Crosby, Dorris Day, and orchestral types. Memories of watching “The High Chaparral” before going to bed was a highlight for us kids when we stayed over at their house. Our families were only a few blocks apart, Phil’s age was close to mine as Larry was a bit younger, and my brother was a year older than all of us. We were childhood friends one does not forget about. Our fathers both served in the Navy, we all went to the same school, and we all lived in the same neighborhood. The few years that we were friends still leaves an enduring impression on me to this day. Sadly I remember them packing up and leaving town when Mr. Reeves either received new orders or possibly they decided to move back to Mississippi. I still have the flashback of their Van driving away from me from their home never to see them again. I once tried to look them up, but had no success.
In those years I considered them my best friends. I learned to play guitar from that experience and I have never forgotten those childhood years. I would not have ever guessed that the experience of playing old country songs in a small garage back in the sixties would have had an influence on me for the rest of my life. I could have never calculated its impact, but isn’t that what makes it special?