Being a kid at summer camp in the late 70’s was cool for a whole bunch of reasons. For me, the biggest one was turning onto the amazing rock music that was blasting out of the transistor radios of the day— The Who, Zep, Petty, Springsteen, Billy Joel, Journey, Styx. These were the summers when classic rock was born.
When I got back home to suburbia I begged my mom to buy me an electric guitar. No dice, no way. But if I took lessons on my dad’s crap acoustic for a year, she’d think about it. Fine. Whatever.
I spent Tuesday afternoons for the the next six months with ‘Mr. B.’ This guy was from a bygone era. He was militant, utterly humorless and really into classical fugues. I was a tween slacker. I just wanted to rock. Needless to say, my passions quickly dwindled and I gave it up.
A few years later I was slogging through my teenage years, getting into trouble. My mom informed me that I needed a hobby. I thought for a moment. How about a guitar? An electric guitar. And I pick the teacher. To my amazement, she agreed.
A week or two later I had a piece of shit electric, a tiny amp and a re-kindled dream.
I somehow enlisted the long haired twenty-something stoner from local music shop to be my teacher. When we started he told me a few things about himself. He said he failed pretty much everything in high school. But he loved music and loved playing guitar. And he could teach me to rock if I worked hard at it.
This guy could seriously shred. I stared at the fretboard while he’d wail out Van Halen solos, Def Leppard riffs and insane Rush chord progressions.
I explicitly told him that I was not interested in learning to read music, study theory or anything else that reminded me of school. He was fine with that. He didn’t want to be reminded of school either.
For the next two years this guy showed me how to play so much amazing music— Ozzy, Bowie, U2, Quiet Riot, Sex Pistols. Then I’d disappear into my room and practice until my fingers bled. Literally.
Since then I’ve kicked a fair amount of ass writing, recording, producing and teaching music. To this day, I barely know any theory. At least academically. In fact, in some ways, I barely know what I’m doing. In other ways, I got it going on. There’s more than one way to rock, ya know.
What’s my point? At the end of the day, that long haired metalhead got me all fired up and turned on in a big way. My rock n roll dreams would have died with Mr. B. if that high school drop out hadn’t taken me under his wing.
Our teachers, our inspirations, and our guides, come in many forms, many disguises. They certainly don’t need degrees. Or a hot shit resume. Keep an eye out for mentors, magicians and undercover change agents. Approach them when you feel the calling. They are the secret weapons of the creative world.
What are your secret weapons of the creative world?
Who was your Mr. B.?
Who are your magicians, mentors and/ or undercover change agents?