One of my earliest childhood memories was holding my mother's skirts while she played hymns on her upright piano. As part of the music ministry of the local A.M.E. Zion Methodist Church, my mother practiced daily and there was always a hymn on her lips. She was truly a professional, known throughout the community for her singing ability, especially for the classics and popular songs. What a voice! My father would join in at times, doing solo renditions of popular songs that he knew and loved. He had a reservoir of untapped talent. How wonderful it was to grow in that environment and to have that support.
I can remember playing catch next to my home when I heard music coming from the radio through the bedroom window. I heard an instument that I was not familiar with and it stopped me dead in my tracks to listen. I ran into the house and asked my mother what kind of an instrument it was. She replied that it was a guitar. From that moment and time, at the age of six, music became an integral part of my life. My mother, realizing the interest I had in the guitar, immediately purchased an acoustic guitar (a Stella) for $47.00, and enrolled me in guitar lessons at a local music store.
After three years of studying, I pleaded with my mother to let me stop taking lessons and reluctantly she agreed. My grandmother heard of the news and before the week was out she said that she would buy me an electric guitar when I turned eleven years of age. I did not realize then that she was trying to maintain my interest in the guitar. She kept her promise.
I can still remember the older Rock and Roll players in the community who took time to show me riffs and ideas on the guitar. But the best education I got at that time was from an old man named Pleasant. He was a Blues man, a real honest to goodness Blues man. Pleasant could always be seen with his guitar strapped on his back when he was not playing it. He was a man with no real home except for the streets where he made his living playing for change and doing odd jobs. He began showing me riffs, chords, and other fingerings that I still find valuable today. In all, what I learned from Pleasant was something that cannot be found in a book. It came from his soul, life experience, and his love for music.
At age eleven, I joined my first Rock and Roll band. Although the band only performed several times, it gave me the experience I needed and it served as a foundation for things to come.
In the spring of my sixth grade term, two classmates, one a member of the school band, and the other whose father was a professional musician, asked me if I would like to jam with them after school. Of course my reply was, "Yes." The band eventually grew to six pieces including a lead singer. After having spent eight successful years of performing with the group, I can look back and see that it played a very important role in my musical development.