In the fall of 1964, Roy Orbison topped the charts yet again with “Pretty Woman”, Gail Garnet was singing in the sunshine, and Chad and Jeremy’s “A Summer Song” lamented that all good things must end. This was my mood as well, as I drifted along with the vaguely uncomfortable feeling of just waiting for what would come next. Despite looking forward to the coming change, and adventure I anticipated when I entered the regular Navy, I could not help a tiny feeling of unease at the thought of leaving Aurora and all that was familiar for what, at the time, seemed would be almost forever.
It was in this period that I met Andy, who despite being not much older than I, seemed infinitely more worldly wise. Andy had his own apartment on North Avenue, and importantly – to me anyway — played the electric guitar, and knew others who did so — quite well. Despite his age, Andy drank a bit, and my mother, night manager at the time at Stein’s Liquor Store and Delicatessen knew him, and his downtown friends, and disliked them quite a lot. Looking back, it must be said that deep down inside Andy was sort of a low-life. My mother saw it easily. At the time, I did not. Fortunately, I did not share in the drinking, and never met his seedier friends.
Andy quickly picked up on my interest in wanting to own, and learn to play, a guitar; in particular the rock ‘n roll electric version. At the time, my father’s nephew, George Philip – my cousin, although he was much older – owned a music store, then on S. Lake St. My cousin had “made his bones” with the accordion, an instrument that, with the exception of the Lawrence Welk Show, was from an earlier era. But one could go to his shop and purchase music lessons of all kinds, and of course the instruments as well.
But Andy assured me that he could provide the lessons, if I only had a guitar. So off we went to see my cousin who had, among others, a used cream-colored Gibson electric guitar which might just be within my budget — if I were to forgo virtually everything else on which I might spend my meager earnings.
I made a deal for the guitar, and Andy taught me a few chords and riffs — which oddly I still remember — but in truth I had neither the aptitude, nor the discipline to do what needed to be done to truly learn; that is to say, pay for professional lessons and start from scratch.
In due time, I revealed to my parents that I had a guitar and was learning to play. They listened to me proudly, but amateurishly, play the few things that I had learned. They seemed pleased at what I knew, and complementary, but nonetheless quickly sent me packing, guitar in hand, back to my cousin where I received a stern and disappointed look, along with a full refund of my deposit.