by Daniel Harnett
I have my parents to blame for my addiction to music—from an early age I was singing along to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on car rides to school. In middle school my friends and I would exchange our favorite CD’s, comparing the genius of Rock n’Roll titans. But my life took a turn at age 15 when my father bought me my first guitar: a black and white Fender Stratocaster.
All my life I had felt uneducated in musicianship. I was required to take a music class in high school in order to graduate, but I didn’t take it seriously. I reluctantly jumped between instruments; from the piano to the violin it seemed unlikely that I would make any impression on my teachers. I imagine that I appeared clumsy in class as I handled each instrument with fumbling, awkward hands. I barely passed the class but what bothered me was I had no talent; I had no drive to learn what music was about.
One winter my parents hosted a New Year’s Eve party. Friends and family members gathered around Uncle Bill as he plugged his electric guitar into an amplifier on the floor. The guitar roared. Feedback bouncing between the guitar’s pickups and the amplifier gripped me. His head slowly rocked back and forth as he played the licks from my childhood; his connection to these songs were immensely personal. The music flowed while I sat on the carpet floor, and listened. I knew at that moment that the electric guitar would be my obsession.
I asked my parents for an electric guitar for my birthday, which was still six months away. My father—who played the drums in a band with his buddies called “Blue Larry”—didn’t ignore my request. He smiled and agreed to pay for the guitar. He brought me to a nearby Guitar Center and told me to pick out the “right” guitar. But where would I begin?
The store had roughly 200 electric guitars scattered about the store. Some hung on walls, other ay nearby in stands. Greasy employees wandered about the floors, casually chit-chatting with customers and other employees. There were simply too many options when considering brand, style and color. It took an hour before I picked the type of guitar played by my favorite rock star of all time: Jimi Hendrix. The “strat” seemed an obvious choice; it was a true classic, an absolute compliment of musical history.
As it turned out, I was equally as clumsy with the guitar as I was with other instruments. I dropped it a handful of times and broke a few strings here and there, though, miraculously, it still plays to this day. But what changed was unexpected; I was interested in learning and I felt a dedication toward my craft. For the next five years I studied up while my fingers callused and bruised, my ears heard music in ways I never dreamed possible.