Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mum and her grandchildren Posted by Hello
Some Girls

In our very PC culture, I find that I get asked what it's like being a female. Especially when it comes to the guitar life. What's up with that?

I don't think I ever really realized that girls were different from boys. When I picked up the guitar, my world became two worlds -- those who played and those who didn't. I never realized that I was the only girl in my universe who played. I never got any special treatment. I carried and set up my own gear and rented the truck when I needed a truck.

One day I got a questionnaire from a feminist group asking me about my music. Did I have a message? Do I play to a particular audience? Have I ever been discriminated against because I was a girl? Stuff like that.

I answered honestly: I play to the crowd, my message is "lessez les bontemps rouler" and I have never been a guy, so I don't know if I've been discriminated against, because I only have the experience of being a girl. I am sure those were not the right answers, but they were mine and I mailed them back. I never heard from that group again. I actually felt that the feminists discriminated against me because I didn't answer the thing right.

Now that I'm older I still don't really feel I've ever suffered discrimination. I try to teach my girls that Job One is to go out into the world, be true to yourself, and be the best you can be to others.

It could be that I'm just denser than most. It could be that my mother - despite sharp warnings from her other immigrant friends - came to Canada and opened a retail store with nothing more than a bank loan. My mother probably was the only woman in her circle to do such a thing, but I honestly did not notice. She was a great boss - #1 in her shopping center in sales per square foot for many years, loyal staff, great Christmas parties.

It never dawned on me that Mum was the only one who sat at the card table with the guys while the other women watched TV in the den. Or that the people calling asking for my mum were Harry, Louie or Jack. Dare I dwell on it? Laissez les bontemps rouler!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

GuitarGirl and her 1963 Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville back in the Day. Posted by Hello
I don't know how it first happened, but I admit it -- I'm a cave dweller. I set up my music teaching studio in the basement; recording and writing gets done down here; my office is down here. There's absolutely no natural lighting, because the window boxes were covered over ages ago. So when a little light from the outside world gets through the cracks, it can illuminate the entire footprint of the basement. Sunlight down here would just plain be unhealthy.

I do my best thinking down here, because it's night all the time, and I can recreate my early days in the bars of Toronto, and later, the metro New York City area. My mum used to say that I was a "nine-to-fiver -- nine at night to five in the morning." Although, come to think of it, my latest late-night gig was in Jaffa, Israel, where the gig started at 1 a.m. and ended around 4. I used to go to that job from an early one up the street, which started at 9 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m. That gave me an hour's break for an early breakfast and coffee, plus a glance at the next day's newspaper.

Fast forward to now. I'm staring into the green glow of an old Ampeg jewel which has made its home in my 1968 Fender Princeton Reverb for at least 25 years. I know this because I swapped jewels with an old and unsuspecting Ampeg piggyback amp back then. The Princeton is my alter ego. It looks interesting and intriguing with that emerald jewel. I know that the years have passed but I am still that kid with the Princeton, playing Steve Cropper or Django Reinhardt licks as I sit in front of my parent's hifi with records scattered all over the floor. Gonna keep going 'til I nail it!

The first time I heard Los Lonely Boys doing "Heaven" on the kitchen radio, I basically did the same thing. I dropped the spatula and headed down to the cave and fired 'er up. I don't know a single guitar player who didn't do this.

I still have a handful of my erstwhile toys -- old amps, guitars, effect pedals, guitar picks. I pride myself on preserving my vintage stuff. Mind you, it was vintage when I got started collecting it, so I'm not panicking yet. And I don't have an outrageously gargantuan collection -- just enough to be slightly over the top.

One of my students last night asked me about my older stuff and I explained that although I do have some pieces from the 1950s and even the 1920s, I prefer collecting from the early 1960s because I was alive then. I even vaguely remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I haven't figured out why my students are so devoted and want to hang around with an old broad, but I take the compliment.

And meantime, here in the cave, in my solitude, I watch Arlen Roth instructional guitar videos while I do a couple of miles on the treadmill, just to keep me inspired.