Talk about once-in-a-lifetime experiences! My Dad turned 100 on Oct. 19, and all the well wishes from fans and the folks who came to see him, both family and friends was really quite an incredible moment in time that continues to give! It was, of course, his encouragement that led me to playing the guitar, since he was always such a lover of Flamenco and Classical guitar music. I was already doing quite well on the violin for 2 years, but the rigidity and stiff structure of how it was taught and learned was really not for me, and I can remember feeling a bit “confined” by this old school approach that was supposed to be followed. In the meantime, I was starting to pick up the guitar by ear immediately, and armed with the physical ability I was getting for handling strings from learning violin, switching over to another string instrument really seemed like a natural transition for me.
My Dad, who is a well-known New Yorker Magazine cartoonist under the pen name Al Ross, was always the kind of guy who did and learned things on his own. He always spoke of artists that inspired him with their work, ad who influenced his art, such as Picasso, DeKooning, Pollock, Cezanne, Rodin, Van Gogh, Roualt and many more who he’s speak of the same way I speak of Mike Bloomfield, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Fogerty, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Clarence White and Merle Travis, among many others. So in a way, these are our teachers….the ones who came before and paved the way so we can take that influence and fly with it. Just a little “snapshot” of a new player’s style, and that would be all I’d ever need to help push my playing in a new direction. It’s still true to this day, whenever I hear a new and intriguing player I love. I don’t need to “sound like them”, but I may find some aspect of their technique that I can really see becoming a part of what it is I do overall.
Of course, growing up in a household with a cartoonist/painter father, and a ten-year older than me brother who was also an artist, I couldn’t help but find myself in the midst of all kinds of creativity that would eventually become part of my musical prowess, as well as other creative outlets for me such as the writing I love to do, and all the film and photography work I put into my Hot Licks series.
So in the end, it’s really all about the encouragement you get! I can remember when I first moved to my tiny apartment in Woodstock, NY, to really begin my musical career in earnest, watching my Mom shed a little tear, and knowing that no matter what I was about to embark upon in this new musical adventure, their love and guidance and most of all, approval, was always right there to back me up, and to catch me if I fell! Truly a real lesson in life, and how to love and to pass it on!