Before anything, permit me to reveal some musical history and motives behind these words about songwriting.
When I was seven, my next door neighbor, Glenn Bombarro was 10 and he played guitar like his mother and father. I was so impressed and wanted to play guitar. My aunt Mary, who was still a teenager, bought me a guitar for $35 USD in 1960. It was a Harmony Stella guitar. Maybe a Sears & Roebuck version.
I tried to imitate songs on the radio but just could not, so I just made up my first song at age 8. By then, my guitar nut (the part that separates the strings on the top of the fretboard) was broken so I only had the first 4 strings. It was enough to make up a song. The song “Swingin’ Japanese” was a two-string song quickly followed by another 2-string song that was much better called “The Mountain”.
I then wrote about Pompeii, the volcano destroying the city at 9, I guess. I forget that song.
On the way home from school I would often stop at a music shop and look at this shiny, red guitar with a double F holes. My mother, a single mom, wanted to encourage my musical pursuits and said she had some money to buy me a new guitar. Yahoo!
We went to the store and I showed her my dream guitar which I had been staring at for months. She learned the price and told me I would have to pick another. At age 10, I cried right there in front of everybody. The guy worked it out with my mom to make payments. I don’t remember the brand but now with 6 strings, I started writing more songs with real chords and got big chunky calluses on my four left fingers.
50 Years Guitar Story – Never Bought a Guitar
Music was my passion but not my career, nor did I give it as much as I desired. I have owned a Harmony electric my dad bought me when my red one fell down and broke when I was 13.
A friend gave me his Contessa 12-string which I helped him pick a year earlier. Another friend gave me her Martin guitar when I was 22 years old so I gave her the 12-string. I sold that Martin in 1978 in California to pay rent but maybe 2 months later, I was playing at an event and a stranger, feeling prompted by God she said, put a check in my pocket knowing I was playing a borrowed guitar. With that $300 check I bought a Guild in 1978. A great guitar that I play today. In my entire life, I never bought a guitar.
50 Years Writing Songs
After 5 decades, I have easily composed more than 300 songs and forgotten half of those. My songwriting style has been as fickle as my taste in music. Folk music, rock n’ roll, classical, worship music, novelty songs, jingles, love songs, instrumentals, choruses, harmonies, blues, country and blue grass. A little schizophrenic but I love music.
Although I played professionally for a few years, I never aspired to be a rock star with adoring fans like many I have met in the music field. I I have genuinely loved the creation of something that soothes my soul, encourages me, captures something important or communicates.
I have played before audiences at events as a kid. I played in bands. As an adult in my late twenties, I played solo in restaurants and bars. Of note, however, is that I made a living for awhile playing ORIGINAL music which is unusual for small-timers in Fresno, California usually placing booklets of my lyrics on every table that said “Music Menu”.
Central Valley Songwriters Guild in Fresno, California
Later I founded “Central Valley Songwriters Guild” in California ( now extinct), literally flying in guests from Los Angeles, Hollywood, and one from Nashville. We had published songwriters as guests giving advice on how they broke into the business. We had record producers giving advice. We had attorneys on copyright law. We had recording engineers and other performers discuss their successes and how easy to NOT succeed.
At every meeting we invited our members (who paid for every attendance less than non-members) to bring a recording of their song (tape cassettes in those days). Everyone listened to the song not knowing who wrote it. Listeners answered basic questions anonymously on how they liked the title, the opening, the chorus, the lyrics, the ending, the music and could add any comments.
This was great feedback for songwriters and beneficial to those that were not egotistical, It is good to grow by learning and feedback.
No one was anonymous to me. I had access to all the feedback and songwriters. Without knowing what others thought or talking to each other about the song, most agreed what was good about a song and what should be changed. Surprisingly, the feedback was usually 80% similar. This was a great lesson for me and it surprised me.