Last night I played my Telecaster, man.
I’ve got this Telecaster – it’s aquamarine, a color I do not like, with a wood neck I do – that I bought at a pawn shop so long ago that it probably didn’t cost much. At first, way back when, I thought an electric was easier to play than an acoustic because it was easier to get it to make noise. That was a beginner’s snap judgment. When I got better at acoustic, I stopped playing the electric so much. Part of it was because I could play an acoustic in the living room, and it didn’t require an amplifier.
I also have a mandolin, which is easy to play basic chords on. I haven’t played mandolin in a long time, principally because I busted a string, and usually when I bust a string, I replace the whole set. (Actually, that mandolin string was the last string I busted. Now I usually replace the strings when they start sounding dull. For whatever reason, probably that I’ve grown fond of playing with my fingers instead of with a pick, I just don’t bust them anymore. Knock on wood. Or strum over it.) Anyway, restringing my cheap mandolin is a pain, and I don’t have an extra set (8) of mandolin strings, and I can’t seem to remember to buy some. To summarize, I haven’t played my mandolin in a long time.
But I digress.
I think it was Super Bowl Sunday. It may have been the day before. I was bored with a basketball game, or determined not to watch the Rolex 24 Hours of Super Bowl Pregame, and I discovered that “Woodstock” was on one of the satellite channels.
Here’s one of the oddities of guitar. When one plays guitar, it doesn’t matter how bad one is. One nonetheless becomes absolutely obsessed with watching other people play guitar. It always seems as if it’s possible to do what these virtuosos do until one sits down and tries, at which point the reality is ridiculous, and one realizes that one could play guitar around the clock for 10 years and never be able to play anywhere approaching that way.
But one can dream.
Inspired by “Woodstock,” I suddenly had a hankering to play my Fender Telecaster, which was in its case, buried deep in a closet. I dug it out and plugged it into the guitar amp in what is otherwise my home office. I had a ball. I sort of updated my electric-guitar playing to what little I’ve learned on the acoustic in the past six months.
I started playing Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Jackson Browne, Buddy Holly, the Eagles and Elton John. Then I started rocking away at my own songs. Changing the kind of guitar changes the way I sing. I start yelling a lot more. It’s fun, especially as an alternative to Super Bowl hype.
I kept on playing around with it all week. It may have been the best thing that happened. Most everything else was work except for having supper with some friends and going to a Presbyterian College basketball game.
On the second and fourth Fridays of each month, local musicians (and even I) get together at El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant for “Jamlisco,” which is part open mic and part jam session (and part cold beer and part Mexican food). I took the Telecaster last night and worked up a sweat. I went up and played whatever I wanted to at the moment I decided to. (Does that make sense? Hmm.) I only played a few of my songs. I did imitations for a while – Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Charley Pride, Buck Owens – and not just different verses of the same song. I sang snippets of “Omaha,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Tennessee Whisky,” “Invitation to the Blues,” “Devil Woman,” “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here.” I did an Buddy Holly medley (“I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Oh Boy,” “Raining in My Heart”). I played 30 minutes, rapid-fire, and worked up a good sweat. I felt energetic and relaxed.
I still like playing acoustic guitar better. I’m not packing the Telecaster away, th
ough. As Dudley Moore (as Arthur Bach) once asked, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?”