"I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it 'til my fingers bled
Was the summer of '69"
"Summer of 69"
Although the specifics of that song don't match my experience exactly, the passion for playing music which is evidenced in those first words resonates with me. "Played it til my fingers bled." I was only 11 years old when I got my first guitar, and I found myself
hooked, irrevocably, and passionately. The desire to learn how to play was at times overwhelming. I *DID* play till my fingers bled, and then kept playing, sometimes with literal tears in my eyes from the pain, yet unable to put the guitar down.
I recall asking my mother what I could do for the pain. Her brothers had been musicians when she was growing up, and she recalled they had put their fingers in turpentine, so I put my fingers in turpentine. I don't know that it helped, but I did know that I was willing to try just about anything in order to keep playing.
I would get up in the morning and play until time to get ready for school. As soon as I got home, I would go to my room and play till I was called for dinner, and then after dinner, I would go back and play til bed, or until my parents wanted some quiet! Those early years of learning were often intense, as I was like a sponge, trying to soak up any information I could get, where ever I could get it.
There was no internet then; no YouTube to go and watch others teach techniques. All I had was my guitar, a few books of basic instruction ("Mel Bay" was the author of the books I had, as I recall), some books of songs, most of which I didn't know. They DID have chords, however, so I would sometimes just play the chords that were included, and make up my own melody since I didn't know how it was supposed to sound. When I would see someone performing on tv, or anywhere I might run into a guitarist, I was riveted, watching carefully to soak up as much information as I could.
In order to learn to play songs from some of my favorite artists, I would play the vinyl records, scribbling down the words, and stopping and setting the needle back, and then trying as best as I could figure it out, to follow along with the song, playing and singing with the record.
It seems like such a long time ago, and yet in some ways it seems like it was just last week. Through the many years I have performed and written music, the passion for learning, the desire to play and create music, has never abated. My fingers don't bleed so much these days, but they have hard callouses on the fingertips from hours of playing, day after day, week after week. There are days I walk into my music room, and look at my guitars much the way I looked at my first guitar: a most special treasure that I just couldn't put down... no matter how much my fingers hurt... For me, music was... and is... passion.. desire... life...