In 1961, an eagle dropped a pomegranate seed in the mud along Southern Indiana’s Windy Creek, and I was born. I have one sister and five brothers, but they were all conceived the old egg/sperm way.
Thanks to older siblings, I grew up on the best rock music of the ‘60s. An early memory is standing on our ping-pong table “playing guitar” on a paddle to “Satisfaction.” I also recall my big brother Jeff singing “I Get Around” into the family tape recorder. We all thought that was funny as hell.
When I was five, Dad bought a Hammond organ and showed me how to make chords with my left hand to support melodies played with my right. It made sense and was fun. All was cool until a nun found out and wanted me to play organ in church in front of the whole school. So I had to quit.
In 1967, my oldest brother Tony bought Jimi Hendrix’s first album, Are You Experienced. We freaked out on Jimi. From then on big, loud guitar reigned supreme in our bedrooms: Cream, Mountain, Johnny Winter, etc.
In fifth grade, I began playing baritone horn in the school band. That year I took a solo to competition and won top prize for the state of Indiana. My rendition of “Glow Worm” killed. I played for the next 5 years, but I hated marching around in a giant furry hat. So I had to quit.
Around this time I discovered Frank Zappa’s music and became a total Zappa nut, as some people do. I bought a brown Gibson SG like his and started playing in a rock band called Maxwell. We played dances for teenagers who liked partying, booze, and dancing. Our big encore was a cover of The Tubes’ “White Punks On Dope.” It was a simpler time.
In senior year, I spent my life’s savings on a TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel and started making experimental tapes; mainly odd instrumentals or joke songs about my friends. I abandoned my goal of becoming a visual artist when I learned a person could study music composition in college. It seemed too good to be true. Eventually, I ended up at Indiana University doing just that.
In 1984, I formed a band with my big brother Dave on bass and my best friend Jerry on drums. We were called Skwee-Bee-Dee. A woman named Erin sang an audition and got the gig. Soon we were a couple, and we’ve been together ever since.
A couple years later, we formed a band called Lather, Rinse, Repeat. After that I played for a living in a bar band and joined an original music project called Sex Sells Magazines. In October 1990, Sex Sells Magazines was Playboy’s pick of the month. We thought surely that signaled our big break. Nope!
In Indianapolis, I worked doing sound and music production for video producers. I also started teaching the history of rock ‘n’ roll and classroom guitar on IU campuses in Indianapolis and Bloomington. Erin and I formed yet another band, this one called The Speakers. We released a couple CDs, but our timing was wrong. At each of our CD release parties, Erin was gigantically pregnant. Our little girls being most important, we let the whole rock band thing peter out.
By 1998, I’d developed more music history courses, and I was able to worm my way into a full-time teaching position on the IU Bloomington campus. We’ve been hunkered down here ever since. I now teach courses on the history of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, plus artist-specific classes devoted to Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beach Boys.
These days, I live in a quiet country home on the edge of the Hoosier National Forest where all I can hear is the incessant ringing in my ears.