The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 4, Part 2 – Edgbaston, Summer 1961: New Coifs & My Music
[Note: The featured pic is an early sketch of Reggie that Robbin did. It was passed over for the cover of Walking Backwards for Christmas, and initially passed over for the cover of Bluebottle Boys (which will now be the cover for Volume Two, due out later this year). When we realised we’d need a different cover for Volume One, its big chance finally came. Sadly, Robbin, by then, had to take a hiatus, and Bogdan, the substitute artist who bravely jumped into the breach, took the sketch, combined it with an age progression of Reggie he did from Robbin’s depiction on the cover of Walking Backwards for Christmas, and created the Reggie you now see on the book cover for Volume One.]
Over summer, Stan and I’d adopted the same new hairdo. We’d intended to have a pompadour-like coif, rather like Cliff Richard’s (pictures of Cliff and his hairdo were, if possible, even more ubiquitous than his music). But, we ended up looking more preppy, along the lines of Bobby Vee.
Grammer moved home for good over Summer Bank Holiday. I missed her for a second time, though I was glad to have evenings under my control once more.
But my acquisition of Gramfer’s guitar had led to a decision on Mum’s part that I needed “proper” training, and that it also wouldn’t hurt for my piano lessons – abandoned after six months when I was six – to resume, also with a “proper” teacher. Thus, if my evenings were free, my afternoons were placed in a confinement as ironclad as East Berlin’s new forbidding wall, even if only for two or three hours a day: an hour a week each for piano and guitar lessons, two a day for practice – no exceptions.
The piano lessons were painless, on the whole. The teacher was amiable and, though I may not have played with any particular inspiration, I was a good mimic, my manual dexterity was equally good, and I’d parrot quickly and accurately whatever she played.
The guitar lessons were quite another matter.
I’ve no idea where Mum found my instructor, but it was instantly clear she hadn’t discussed him with Dad. The little ponce was a pompous, pretentious classical purist, with no use whatever for Dad’s hero, Django Reinhardt. Worse, he placed Reinhardt in the same boat as Lonnie Donegan, declaring both jazz and skiffle scourges compared to proper music. Pedant-like, he banged on about it sufficiently to set Dad against him from the start.
Far more irritating, from my perspective, he was dead set against everything Gramfer had taught me. To be fair, he did break me of a bad habit of barring or half-barring most chords, but he made it clear he’d be content with nothing short of my abandonment of all of Gramfer’s techniques in favor of his alone. I responded by defiantly squeezing in Gramfer’s expertise any time I had the chance.
Despite this test of wills, I did quickly learn all my assigned pieces.
This was doubtless due to a blend of diligent practice, magic from the guitar and St. Cecilia’s intervening grace. Saying I was nowhere near ready for Vivaldi, Paganini, Giuliani, Rodrigo or Sor, he assigned me Renaissance compositions: Dowland, Morley, Byrd, Rossetter and such. I mastered them all, but he had a vastly distinct opinion from mine about the reasons for my success.
“Reggie has an angelic voice,” he would say. “It will divert unwelcome attention from his playing – for now. In time, if he has sufficient and proper instruction, it’s possible that his playing skills will improve.”
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
Volume One of “The Bluebottle Boys” is coming — coming soon. Stay tuned for details.
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G. H. McCallum
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