|The Legendary Bill Monroe|
|Me and Maggie|
You probably know Willie Nelson has an old beat-up acoustic guitar he's played for decades--even with a hole he's worn in it from decades of use, he continues to play it. Jerry Lee Lewis put out a collection of duets some years ago called "Last Man Standing." The first time I listened to the CD was in my car during a long trip. As one of the songs started and Jerry Lee was singing, I was wondering who the duet was with--but then in the background I heard the distinctive sound of that old guitar and Willie's unique playing style and knew instantly who would be singing the second verse.
|Me and Lucille--I used to be skinny.|
Of course, that was before I saw Elvis' gold piano, and ignored a couple signs and a velvet rope and was nearly arrested for sitting down and playing Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" on it. My girlfriend Valerie managed to get me out of that jam (one of many reasons I married her), and commented later they wouldn't have been nearly as pissed off if I'd played an Elvis song. Why would I do that? Elvis didn't have any great rock and roll piano songs...
If you think I'm exaggerating this relationship musicians have with their instruments, ask a serious musician sometime if you could play their guitar, or their fiddle, or their mandolin, and see what kind of reaction you get. A guy I played with for a long time probably put it best when that request was made of him. He said, "I'd be more likely to give you permission to date my girlfriend." It got a big laugh, but I'm not that sure he was kidding. And another friend of mine years ago did let a guitar player sit in with the band and play his beloved guitar. The guy accidental scratched the back of it with his belt buckle during a particularly rambunctious version of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll"--I don't think those two have spoken in twenty years.
|My two hands and Maggie's 88 keys--a working partnership|
Over the last fifteen years, I've been with Maggie. She is a perfect instrument, and the best one I've ever owned. We don't get out much anymore, but she still sounds as good today as she did the day I brought her home. And we still make music together, often on breaks from writing my books--she's only a few feet away from where I write as you can see. Music is, and always will be an important part of my life. And in 15 years, I haven't even managed to chip a key on Maggie.
I think that's what I'm enjoying the most about Michael Shirley's A Craftsman's Journey series. It really gets at this relationship between a musician and his instrument. I've always understood that part, but there's another part of the story I hadn't really considered--the relationship between the craftsman and the instrument he creates. That's the real story. Long before a musician falls in love with that instrument, the craftsman has already been there, and has loved that instrument, too. I think you'll enjoy it.