I was talking to a coworker a couple of weeks ago about local bands/performers who were never famous enough to receive the Grammy’s Best New Artist Curse, and I remembered my brush with an almost famous guitarist.
For my 13th birthday, my dad gave me the acoustic guitar I had been wanting for the past few months. You see, I had this crazy idea that when I turned 18, I would move to NYC to be come a singer. So this guitar symbolized the first step toward realizing my dreams.
My dad played guitar, and I suppose that’s why he took it upon himself to see that I knew what I was doing. However, his repertoire was limited to “Wabash Cannonball,” “How Great Thou Art,” and other country and gospel favorites. They were songs that had lulled me to sleep on many nights, but they would get me laughed out of New York.
So my dad knew that I needed lessons. Luckily, the place where he bought the guitar offered lessons for $8 a week. He called and scheduled my first lesson for a Tuesday night at 7 pm.
We arrived a few minutes early for the first lesson. The store was stuck on the end of an almost-abandoned shopping center beside an ABC Jeans. (Those of you who lived in Greenville during the ’80s should remember that name. It was the cool place to buy your jeans.)
We waited in the music store, and a couple of minutes before seven o’clock, a kid walked out, and a few steps behind him was a young man with long blonde hair that was spiked on top. He wore a sleeveless T-shirt and ripped blue jeans.
“Are you Carla?” the blonde guy asked.
I nodded, wondering how much mousse it took to get his hair to stand up like that.
“I’m Joey. If you’re ready, we’ll head on back and get started.”
The look on my dad’s face was priceless. I could almost see the first idea pop into his head of grabbing my arm and dragging me from the store while muttering that when I start dating (which will now be ten years later than he originally planned) I had better never bring home a boy who looked like that and that (limited repertoire be damned) I was going to get very familiar with “Wabash Cannonball.”
Then, I could see the next idea — that he would accompany me back to the room to make sure that this guy would stay at least three feet away from me at all times (as if a metal-band wannabe would even try to grab a feel of a chubby 13-year-old girl who had posters of Rick Springfield and Duran Duran on her wall).
However, Dad stayed where he was, although he probably came close to pacing a hole in the tiled floor in just 30 minutes, but he had nothing to worry about from Joey. He was a perfect gentleman. He was a guitarist for a popular local band called Torn Lace.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when they thought of that name.
“No, no, not sexy enough.”
“No, no, not tragic enough.”
“Wait! I got it! Torn Lace…”
“Dude, that’s perfect!”
I took lessons from Joey for a few months. Then one day, when we came for my lesson, Joey wasn’t there. No apparent notice for his pupils. He just quit, and his replacement — while sporting a more conservative appearance, raised the price of lessons $2 per week to $10. Plus, if I were to miss a week without notice (unless it were an emergency or the fault of my new teacher), we would still be responsible for paying the $10.
Dad is not a big fan of having change thrown upon him. I know this because I have inherited this trait, and on this particular evening, he was less than thrilled with what was going on. He expressed his disapproval, but the new guy’s reaction was pretty much, “Tough shit.”
So I took my first and last lesson with the new guy. The next week, Dad found a new place for me to take lessons, and while they also charged $10 a week and had the same Missed-Lesson Policy, Dad found comfort in their pleasant manners and the fact that we were changing things on his terms.
I never saw or heard from Joey again. Hell, I never even heard a Torn Lace record on the radio, but every once in a while, I would hear that they would be playing at a club close by, and I would fondly remember the guy with the spiky blonde hair who tried to teach me how to play “Stairway to Heaven.”