Back in Cleveland I’m trying to find my old friends. Tony was my guitar teacher – I loved that guy. He used to work at Sodja music but that place closed. He used to set up Jennifer Battan’s stuff in LA for a while. I mentioned him at a place that rented amps today. They were like yeah – Tony. They didn’t know where he was but they had a funny story about him. He used to say – Fast, Good, Cheap – You can get any two of those here. Fast and Good but not cheap. Fast and Cheap but not good etc.
I got a guitar at maybe the age of seven and got sent to my dad’s Banjo teacher, Bob McGuire, who wrote Moon over Parma, the original theme of the Drew Carey Show. Bob could play, but he was a Jazz guy and at seven I didn’t listen to a shred of music. It just didn’t happen, but I wish I hadn’t quit because I think music like foreign languages is best learned young.
When I picked it back up at 17 or so, my buddy Laird told me to go to Tony Martin, who probably wasn’t a great fit for me but a hell of a lot of fun. I wanted to be Pete Townshend in the middle of the Eddie Van Halen era. Tony, whose friends called him Crash due to his driving, would pick up my miniature seven year old acoustic, tune it, play some Van Halen runs, and say “Well, it works. Good enough for Rock and Roll.”
His hair added about eight inches to his height, and he must have gone through enough hair spray to keep Clairol in business for the next millennium. Even though he wasn’t playing my sort of music, I worshiped him, and brought my friends to see him play usually at the Akron Agora. He got stuck playing a bunch of lame covers that I’m sure he hated behind some less than manly lead singers (No More Words by Berlin comes to mind). The first time my friends saw him play, they were ready to walk out until he ripped through the solo at the end of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. He eventually went out to Los Angeles to try to make it, but after awhile he felt too old for the scene and came back to Cleveland. The first time I saw him with his hair cut, I couldn’t believe how short he was. My Rock and Roll hero looked like an accountant. That’s OK, by that time I was bald and he was at least six years older than me.
I once had a lesson with him and when I walked in he was playing with an effects pedal. He told me how he was drunk once and showed me how he figured out how to play Van Halen’s Cathedral. Then for the next 25 minutes he played all kinds of crazy digital delay stuff. Space invader sounds all kinds of neat stuff. Finally, he looked at the clock and said shit – I didn’t teach you anything. I guess I can’t charge you. I said Fuck it – I had a ball and paid him. Maybe that’s why I can’t play.
Anyway, my buddy Laird’s band got to play a short set at a punk club called The Cleveland Underground. At this time I could barely play. Hell, I can still barely play, but for some reason unsolicited Laird taught me how to play Gloria and let me play it at his show, which given that I’m pretty sure it was his first time playing out at a club, was a gesture almost Christ-like in its generosity. It’s the only time I’ve ever played in front of a crowd, and I’m eternally grateful.