Jerry arrives the next day with the Sears Silvertone and the amplifier that came with it. It’s a cheap red and black small solid-body guitar that is cheaply made with its solid-state transistor amp with the little 8-inch speaker in the amp.
I absolutely love it.
I strap it on and Jerry proceeds to show me the three-note thing I need to do during his solo on the song Draw the Line.
I am ecstatic.
He’s such a great guitar player and I’m nothing but a teenager that got the chance to sing with these real musicians and have a band, I’m just so happy. Things are really progressing. We’re building our repertoire and now I’m learning guitar.
He teaches me how to hold my fingers and do the notes to carry the rhythm. The guitar feels so good in my hands. A slender light electric starter guitar I can handle. It’s full of mystery and promise. This is what I’ve wanted my entire life. Why couldn’t my parents see this? Why did they waste two years of piano lessons on my sister Janice when I was the child who loved and craved music?
Maybe I needed to go hunt it down like the Keith Richards, Jimmy Pages, and the Paul McCartney’s before me. I want to walk in their footsteps. I’ll find my way like they did. Rock and roll isn’t born from sitting day after day taking piano lessons to please your father. Rock and roll is a little bastard sprung from anger and frustration and the blues. The blues rose out of slavery, rape, kidnapping, murder, hatred, oppression, and a people who had rhythm in their souls long before there were white people. We just took it and made it our own. The Rolling Stones, Elvis, The Beatles, all listened to black artists that really lived and breathed music and got it.
I was a weak, anxiety-ridden mess that was always a victim. Picked on at school, and at home. Just a pimple-faced, braces-wearing, greasy-haired loser that couldn’t throw a ball or even do well in school. School bored my creative mind. I hated it. School was a place I had to go by law that was nothing but torture for my mind in my formative years.
But music… Oh, my love. You always please me. You sound like my soul. You know me. I feel your fury. I will learn how to harness this instrument and feel better. I want this guitar so bad. When I hold her she’s like a sweet extension of myself. I can for the first time express myself with sound. I love music. I’ve drawn pictures, I’ve sculpted things out of clay.
But now I may have a chance to have a voice. A voice I’ve never had in this life. A weak frightened loser. I don’t fit into school or the neighborhood. I have few friends, and sadly they all look like me with our sad faces. Broken by our teachers, bullies, and worst of all our fathers.
But now I have this lovely instrument in my hand. She has finally come to me. I will learn how to caress her and love her, and I know I won’t be the fastest gun in the West like Jerry, or Page, or Hendrix, or Eddie Van Halen. I just want to learn how to make her sing in my arms.
I just want to dance with her.
Most of all I want to write songs with her. That’s my 2nd goal. Learn how to play a bit, then create. That’s it. That’s my mission.
When we play Draw the Line, I love to put her on and do my part. It feels better than a black and white milkshake on a hot day to just riff with the band. To be a guitarist in a band. It’s so little but it’s so big for me to play with this band. This is me emerging from a pit of shit was my life in puberty. I’m coming out. There is a solution. Things can get better. Your life isn’t just a series of fear and failure.
“Hey, Chaz, you like the guitar?”
“I love it, Jerry. I’ve been listening to my records and I got my sister’s piano books and I’m studying chords and I think I’m coming along.”
“I see that, and that’s good. But here’s the thing.”
“Oh fuck. What?”
“I have to buy a Valentine’s present for my girlfriend and I don’t have any money.”
“You can have the Silvertone if you give me $15 so I can get Rachel something.”
“Can you throw in the amp?”
“Yea. No problem the guitar and the amp are yours. I have to get her something and I don’t need that piece of shit anymore.”
I didn’t even check with my mom, I just went up to my room and go the money from my little safe stash. I worked as a busboy at the shore so I had a little bit of cash lying around and also in my savings account.
“Thank you! Rachel will be happy, thanks to you.”
“Thanks, Jerry. This guitar IS my Valentine this year.”
“Well, it’s yours now.”
This little Sears Silvertone would be my axe for the next year as I practiced relentlessly to learn how to play guitar. My friends would want me to come out of the house to hang and I would stay alone in my room, practicing the guitar and listening to my records, learning songs, and getting better.
I even went to a little music store down on Rising Sun Avenue and bought a better amplifier. It was a badass little amp that had a 10″ speaker in it and it had some cool effects on it like tremolo and reverb. It was made by a company called Marlboro. I look back on it now and I’m sure it was a shit amp but it was only $100 bucks back then (A fortune for a teenage boy in 1978) but it did the job. I even bought a pre-am box for it to make it louder and more distorted. (Love it!)
I even eventually bought a Univox super fuzz pedal just like Jerry’s. I wanted that heavy distorted sound he had. I didn’t know it at the time but I was writing songs and shaping a sound that would later be adapted by bands like Metallica. But I missed that boat… (More about that later when I go to L.A.)
This was a watershed moment in my life and would shape who I was in the years to come in Jersey and L.A.
We used to play this song from Aerosmith’s second record and I loved it so much. I liked it because it was by my favorite hard rock band, but it was sad and gentle.
Just like me.
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