Well friends, it has finally happened. I am encountering my first bout of blog writer's block. I find that I awake today with very little on my mind. So, I have decided to write about my one enduring passion in life — guitars.
There are two things that should be said from the start: 1.) I am not a very good guitarist. 2.) I don't care that I am not very good. Okay, that second thing is probably not really true. I want desperately to be a better player and I am a better player today than I was 5 years ago, but only marginally.
I have become friends with country and bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs (search) over the last year. I once mentioned to Ricky that I believe great musicians are born not made. A lot of really good musicians bristle at that suggestion. They feel that they have worked hard to become exceptional musicians and their ability is not simply something buried in their DNA. I counter that I could spend the same amount of time practicing and never reach Ricky's proficiency on any of the instruments he has mastered. Either you've got it... or you don't. Ricky's got it... I don't. (Actually, Ricky believes his talent is God-given and anyone who has heard him nail a great mandolin solo would have to agree.)
I spent an afternoon recently in the studio with Ricky and his incredibly talented band as they worked on a new CD with pianist Bruce Hornsby (search). (Click in the box above to watch the video.) It was astonishing to see these studio pros at work and I learned a great deal about the colorful lingo of the recording studio: apparently to say that a recording has some "stank on it" — is a good thing.
Ricky's guitarist is a young man by the name of Cody Kilby (search). Cody is astonishing to watch. Fast, precise and inventive; Cody can hit more notes in four bars than I could hit in an entire song. I stand in awe of people who can do that.
This is why I admit I am so enamored with another of my Nashville buddies, Johnny Hiland (search). Johnny has been a guest on the Sunday edition of “Weekend Live” a couple of times.(Click in the box above to watch video of Hiland.)
This legally blind git-picker can do things with a guitar than no one else on the planet can touch. He has become one of Music City's top session players. The first time I saw him play, I was tempted to place all of my guitars in a pile and burn them. There was simply no reason to go forward with the instrument because anything I would try to do would be feeble and inconsequential in comparison. It was weeks before I could bring myself to enter my home studio and play again.
I have made my peace with the guitar. I have decided that playing the guitar is really a diversion for me. The deadline pressures of the day melt away within moments of picking up my trusty Gretsch guitar (search). I have 20-odd guitars — excessive, I admit. Each has its own personality and sound, but the Gretsch is my go-to axe. I find it impossible to think about Supreme Court nominations or the raging political debate of the moment when I have that finely crafted instrument in my hand.
Other people play golf, or jog to get away from it all. Sure, they might be healthier for pursuing those passions, but they will never know the unbridled joy that comes with laying down a really hot blues lick (or what passes for hot in my world).
Well, thanks for enduring that diversion. After spending Saturday refreshing mind and spirit with a little pickin' — I'll be rested and ready for the Sunday edition of “Weekend Live.” I hope you'll join us.
P.S. Some very nice notes are trickling in about my guitar column -- like this one from Pete:
“The story reminds me of the first time I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn live in 1980-81. I thought if I had to be that good I might as well quit...Glad I didn't. It has given me hours and hours of enjoyment.”
Mark agrees that guitar playing can be therapeutic:
“Nothing like playing some rock and roll and getting in the zone - the cares disappear. At the end of the day, my conclusion is that all too often, humans adopt unhealthy and destructive ways to seek escape from the daily grind. In the scheme of things, guitar collecting and playing (while expensive if we’re talking Gretsch guitars) is healthy, harmless and amazingly effective. Anyway, I always thought it was just me. Guess not! Again, thanks for all the great work you do and good luck with the playing!”
David from Texas is another picker who struggles each day to be a better player:
“I'm glad I'm not alone. I'm not an accomplished player even though I began playing when I was 14 (I'm 49 now). But I love playing guitar. I recently started playing again with a fervor in March this year.
I loved your article! It makes me feel a little less ‘out there.’ Please write more about your guitar experiences. I like reading them.”
Finally, this one from Bill in Tuscon pretty much says it all:
“Just reading your blog made me miss my guitar. I have a Fender Telecaster that I sometimes think of as one of my best friends. I play every day for at a few hours before I go to bed. Like you, I wish I was much better.
I was driving home last Saturday, it was beginning to rain. The man on the radio said it was going to rain all day. As soon as I got home I picked up my guitar and started playing. I was plugged into my Pandora, with my headphones on so I didn't disturb my family. The rain was coming down so hard I didn't want to venture outside. I was trapped in my house all night with my Tele.
The next day my neighbor mentioned how much it sucked to be stuck in the house all night because of the monsoon. He does not have a friend with six strings.
I hope it rains again this weekend.”
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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."