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RAT, the early years

Filed under: RAT-Tales ! — rat July 26, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

I was born into a musical family so I had access to various instruments laying around from the earliest time I can remember. I started trying to play them before I was even big enough to hold onto them. I remember people would say to my mom “That’s cute, do you pick?” Mom would say “Yes I pick. I pick them up here and move them over there, they are always laying around !!”. We had an old Kay acoustic that my dad bought in the 50`s, very large bodied guitar and I had a hard time holding it and it was hard to chord, but my dad wouldnt let me play the Gibson J50 (also bought in the 50`s until I was older. My older brother who could play well showed me my first chord: E minor. It’s the easiest one by far, so while he was playing the “good guitar” playing bar chords of all sorts and singing real songs, I would play along (loudly) in my only known chord (E min) !!! , this had to drive him nuts !! My dad showed me G, C, and D which led me to playing real songs myself. I had full access to bluegrass and country (all that was heard at my house) music tapes, records, etc., so I taught myself to play all that was there and by the time I was 9 I was playing at a local weekly getogether called “Hickory Tree”, was a gas station where bluegrass lovers came from all over to play and listen. I used to cry and pitch a fit when I could not go ! There were musicians there that went on to be big names like Raymond Fairchild, and Leon Kiser and the Holston Mountain Boys who used to let me inside “the circle” to pick with them. “The circle” is how bluegrass is played, everyone around one mic taking turns moving in sync to be near the mic for singing lead vocals, back-up harmonies and lead instruments as the turn was needed, it’s quite a choreography. Along with the many parkinglot bands that are found at most all bluegrass festivals and events which my dad took me to alot as he liked to collect recordings of it all, there was always the oppourtunity to wander around and stand close, listen, and play along with the different musicians. Eventually I got pretty good and upon hearing me, most all would open up “the circle” to allow me inside to join in and show off my skills. Of course there were problems, mainly, I was so short that I couldnt reach the mic and when I tried to hold up the oversized guitar, then I couldn’t pick fast enough. Eventually this was cured by my dad realizing my talent and responsibility for taking care of a guitar, he gave me the smaller bodied, much better quality guitar, the Gibson J50. Was I in Heaven then ! This gained me more respect and they started lowering the mic for me, plus I was starting to sing some. My dad still reminds me of my first song I sang there (that he recorded of course), “Bringing Mary Home”. All I remember was how nervous I was and how good it felt to have the complete attention of everyone there and all the applause at the end ! From that time on I was hooked and there was not enough festivals to go to which I started competing in and winning alot, played with some prominent bluegrass bands as an early teen, did some gospel music stuff, always sang at home with my mother who could sing high tenor to a siren, but then that all changed with puberty, yes it was the 70’s, the time for Rock and Roll ! I was old enough and good enough to play in my brothers band by 1973, so we had several bands playing country (where the money was) and rock for many years off and on, opened shows for some big names like George Jones, Hank Jr., Greer Craig, etc., until eventually in 1993 we landed an agent to pick us up and went on the road full time playing some very large high paying venues as a renamed band called “West 67”. (Check back for the story of how we got the name!!)

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