autographs


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These are basically four note chords. Open strings to be played are indicated.

Okay, I feel like bragging. I’m gonna just put it out there. This is something I’m proud of. Whether I’m wrong or right – life is too short to not want to make a few mistakes now and then; too short to not want to have the dialogue. So here goes…

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I’ve been brushing up on my mandolin and guitar a little bit, recently.

For many years I played the guitar as a ‘lead’ instrument – meaning, for me, that I’d play mostly single note melodies, patterns and riffs.

When I realized what huge dimensions of the instrument I’d been missing – as accompaniment; or even as a more rhythmic, chordal or harmonic instrument – I was crushed. Crushed, I tell you! I pretty much put it down for some more years.

And, you know… it seems like any simpleton that ever actually tried to go out and interact with other players would’ve long since realized their limitations. It shouldn’t have been such a shock…

When I saw how beautifully some piano playing friends of mine accompanied singers, it really opened my eyes…

I was more of a loner; trying to do it all on my own. I was kind of ashamed when I realized how much of a loner I actually was!….

I don’t know. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
The way we shame ourselves

***

For me, then, trying to learn the mandolin – after years of that kind of guitar playing – was counter-intuitive. It seemed like a completely different instrument.

Be that as it may – or not.

Eventually, having a nice mandolin around; learning to appreciate it’s portability; listening to other mandolinists; trying to dig what their ‘thing’ is; and, well, just trying to grok the instrument – gave me a slightly more engaged perspective.

My guitar playing has also since been evolving into a more harmonic, chordal and rhythmic style.

So recently… having both mandolin and guitar close at hand – I found that learning things on the mandolin, just plinking around – opened up the guitar for me in a nice way, too. When you have to re-learn where to put your fingers on the new instrument, it brings a different focus on the first instrument, too.

That’s really all I want to say about the mandolin! Don’t let me confuse you! I’m really talking here about the kind of things that inspire me! The muse

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I have my guitar sitting out in my room. That’s supposed to be important; having your instrument close at hand for when the spirit hits you.

This morning I glanced over at it and visualized or heard a three chord progression. I picked up the guitar and tried to play something resembling what I had imagined. And – voilà – there you have it. (Although it demanded the fourth chord for resolution.) I’m not sure if this is exactly what I heard… But the fact that I could come up with something from out of the blue was very satisfying.

Don’t ask me what these chords are. I just think they sound nice together.

mandolin

Mandolin signed by Tom Rozum (top); David Grisman (Dawg, center); and Chris Hillman (bottom). Three of my inspirations, for sure!!

Mandolin signed by Tom Rozum (top); David Grisman (“Dawg”, center); and Chris Hillman (bottom). Three of my inspirations, for sure!! At Wintergrass, Tacoma, Washington, February 2001

One of my favorite David Grisman albums is Mondo Mando. It’s really atmospheric. It reminds me of a fall day – nice traveling music! Check it out.

Tom Rozum’s work with Laurie Lewis – The Oak and the Laurel and others – as well as his solo Jubilee – is very emotive.

D’oh!! [slaps forehead] And, oh! Ry Cooder’s mandolin playing is not to be missed!

Steve Earle! Don’t forget Steve Earle!!

Here’s something else I found inspiring – it’s a Josh Homme tutorial on YouTube featuring the man himself. I found the section from 2:27 minutes to 3:05 – about his use of octaves – to be especially interesting. There’s also some humorous comments – with a lot of humility, too – talking about guitar players’ ‘styles’ from 8:25 to 9:05

poster from Guitar World or one of those mags, signed by Dick Dale @ The Backstage in Ballard (Seattle), circa 1994

text on poster:

{BY TOM BEAJOUR

“I’ve only had the one guitar all my life,“ says Dick Dale of this battle-worn left-handed Strat, nicknamed “The Beast”. The guitar has served the self-proclaimed “King of Surf Guitar” faithfully on every track he has ever cut, from his debut single, “Let’s Go Trippin’,” to his latest album, Unknown Territory. And even if this guitar hasn’t fallen out of a plane on takeoff or been run over by a car, as Dale claims, it is a survivor; most axes would’ve been reduced to kindling by 34 years of daily use and abuse.

According to Tom English of the Fender Custom shop, who went over this guitar with a fine-toothed comb while he was designing the new Dick Dale Signature Series Stratocaster, “The Beast” was built in 1960. The original electronics have long since been modified to suit Dale’s needs: an extra switch instantly engages the neck/middle pickup combination, regardless of what the five-way switch is set to, and all of the pots, except for one volume control, have been removed. Dale strings the guitar upside down with super-heavy bridge-cable-like .014-.060’s.

Although the guitar used to be sunburst, Dale claims to have refinished it at least nine times in order to foil would-be copy-alikes, who in the guitarist’s early-Sixties heyday, would paint their guitars to look just like his. “I used to go in and have it painted every week just to be cute,” he grins. “Finally, my buddy, who used to paint cars, painted it the first metal-gold-flake.” Dale affixed two stickers atop this last coat of paint; an American flag on the top horn, and a Kempo Karate emblem, which he received from his martial-arts instructor, whom Dale alleges was also Elvis Presley’s bodyguard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARJEAN NG}

*

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This is one of my most popular posts. I would infer that it’s the humility, energetic music and performances of Dick Dale that make him so enduringly well loved; as well as being an inspiration to many guitarists.

A reader wrote, “To back up a little bit, Dale was known as Richard Monsour when he was growing up in Quincy, Mass., and playing trumpet in the Quincy High band. Originally a drummer, Dale had first wanted to be the next Gene Krupa. His guitar work has always had a raw, percussive quality, and like his dad, Jimmy Dale, plays both drums and guitar.”

This really makes sense.
I don’t totally understand the use of guitar as a percussion instrument, although one day in the park I heard someone playing and it was very obvious. The piano is considered a percussion instrument, too; though, it is of course, so much more. I guess it’s just one of the many mysteries of music and the arts that makes life interesting.

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Wikipedia article on Dick Dale

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Guitarist Dick Dale performing at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 28, 2005. A really excellent photo, by Mike Burns

Transcribing the text on the poster got me thinking about my first electric guitar. Here in the photo you see my friend Kevin Travis from high school with my Fender Musicmaster guitar. He painted it in an American flag motif for me. Good job, huh? He’s standing in front of his 1940 LaSalle. I think it’s a cool picture; very iconic of the times.  From October 1971. Photo courtesy Kevin Travis

Other autographs:

Jimmy Dale Gilmore, also from The Backstage in the ’90’s

paperback book cover signed by Hot Tuna touring band at The Backstage circa 1996: Jorma Kaukonen (JK), Jack Casady, Pete Sears, Michael Falzarano and unknown (drummer).

I can still vividly see Jack Casady signing that in purple felt-tip pen, so fluid and artistic; what a hero of the bass, anyway! Jorma – gracious humility with fans.

The book cover – quite an interesting photo. BURROUGHS: “Now, the photograph, that was a picture taken in black and white of Pima Indians, taken about 1884. Photographer unknown — at least not credited. From the archives of the Colorado Historical Society. We tinted it. It’s a very good picture and I’m surprised it doesn’t have a credit. Whoever it was, the picture is very carefully posed.” [Burroughs quote from Reality Studio, A William S. Burroughs Community ]

In December 1984, the ship I was working on had a brief stopover in Seattle and I received a first edition hardback copy of this book as an early Christmas present.

Soon back at sea again, I was alone in my cabin somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when I read this passage on page 246:

“What’s the date?” Kim asks.

“December 23, 1984”

“I could have sworn it was the twenty-second… So what exactly are we doing here?”

It was that date exactly when I read the words. It was a powerful moment. I was stunned. It was magical.

I wrote a critique of the book and sent it with a photo to be autographed by Burroughs, which he did and returned to me.

This is one of my favorite books by Burroughs. His evocation of place, in little details; his ear for local dialect – particularly the Midwest; his depiction of the everyday interactions of  a real relationship; his combination of straight narrative with the fantastical, science fiction; his sense of humor; his social commentary – this is one of the real heights of his art, for me.

In another passage, Kim sings this little ditty:

“Possum ain’t far

Thar he are, thar….”

This is part of one of Burroughs’ hilarious “routines”, little skits in his  conversation, writing and spoken word performances.

He incorporates his comprehensive knowledge and love of gun lore and creates a new, much more interesting vision of what the Old West was really like. He presaged by many years the sort of realism and humanity that “Brokeback Mountain” brought into the cultural vernacular.

I think Burroughs had started to mellow at this point. The hellish nightmare world of his drug addiction and the stifling mind control of the Fifties were no longer in such heavy play. He was older and wiser. He was starting to settle more comfortably in his achievements –  in the recognition of his revolutionary, groundbreaking body of work. He’d lived through some heavy times and had been one of the most important players.

The playfulness of his routines show the maturing of his art that he’d achieved. Everything was still inevitably gross-out humor. It was just… a little more tolerable, lol. And in reality, life is full of characters whose perversity is merely another facet of their persona, their essence. It’s an honest perverseness – compared to the moneyed class, corporate interests and warmongers that are presently destroying our society.

Recommended reading:

The Letters of William Burroughs: 1945-1959″.  This is the source for those interested in Burroughs’ biography. He urges Ginsberg to accept his queerness; chiding him, almost as you would a child. He writes about the depravity, the hellishness of his addiction – it borders on the unreal.

Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs“. A good biography. It often draws verbatim from his letters, which were subsequently published.

And do check out this video: William S. Burroughs, A Man Within (2011.) If you’re a Burroughs fan; if you wonder what all the hoopla is about, his place in literature, the arts, sociology, etc, check it out. It was lovingly created by the director with contributions from those that knew him, loved him and have great insight into his psyche, etc. I had to watch it a second time. For me, having had a long time interest, I find that this video is full of epiphanies and insight about the man.

This is a copy of the critique that I sent him. He sent me back the autographed photo I had sent him (below)

Burroughs’ autograph – I cut this picture from a poster advertising the then-named Naropa Institute’s 1984 curriculum. He wrote, “For Joe Hancock, all be best, William S. Burroughs”

the reverse side of photo, showing some of the teachers – quite a faculty!

This is a letter and poem I sent to Allen Ginsberg in  the summer of 1976 at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado when I found out he was teaching there. He sent me back my poem/letter with some comments he’d written on it.

I doubt I would still have the poem if he hadn’t sent my handwritten letter back to me, like he did. It shows how thoughtful and engaged he was; it speaks volumes about what a seriously astute/studious type of writer/poet/teacher that he was.  Not only did he take the time to answer my letter – as a matter of course, he included my own original writing, which puts everything in context; and for which I am extremely grateful.

On the back of my letter-poem were some comments written by someone named “Bodine”(?)

Notes about poem: Chris was a young student & housemate of mine at the time, who’d obviously made a strong/good impression on me. He was also a fan of the Beat writers.

The line “Cute junkie nitwit and sit on my face” was a direct cop from something I’d read in Rolling Stone Magazine. It was a short piece that gave humorous “nicknames” to musicians and/or other people. James Taylor was the nitwit and Carly Simon was the face-sitter.

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Dear Mr. Ginsberg,

Here is a poem that I would truly like your opinion of. I wrote it myself, and if I can get any encouragement from you, I will perhaps write more. I am also sending a copy to The Cottonwood Review here in town, and Rolling Stone Magazine.

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For Chris

Hair of the dog and bite of the cat

Squeal on the rat and sit on his hat

Eye of the newt and next to the kin

Favorite things and original sin

Armeggadon [sic] too, you’ll find it there

Dreams disappearing – right into the air

Cute junkie nitwit and sit on my face

Dogs yelping, cats yowling, on into space

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Comments written by Ginsgerg on the letter:

[written very big:]    Ah

[and:]  Read Whitman? Good old Walt?

And Gregory Corso? (Gasoline and Happy Birthday of Death)

– Kerouac liked Thomas Wolfe “You Can’t Go Home Again”

OK – Allen Ginsberg

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Comments written on back by “Bodine”:

Joe

You ever read Rimbaud?

yr pome reminds me of witches song

in MACBETH!

Don’t let the witches in the local learnery screw up Shakespeare for you.

En Avant,

ROUTE!

A fellow fellow

Bodine