Jim, Charlie & Me

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It seems funny to me that I recall significant moments when my life changed with great clarity. Let me tell you about a few of those moments. I was only 6 years old when Jim Croce was killed in a plane crash. He was someone I never knew; yet, someone who also had a profound effect on the direction of my life. Let me explain…you see, living in Tampa in the early ‘70s I was just a normal kid living in a middle class family when I experienced something amazing! I saw Jim Croce on TV performing ‘Operator’…it was a game changer for me. Jim was onstage finger picking his guitar and I sat there mesmerized. There was something about that mysterious box with six strings that spoke to me. I asked my mom and dad for a guitar.

I think it was the next Christmas that I got a guitar…nothing spectacular just a department store steel string but it stayed in tune and was playable. No one would have called me a prodigy because I found that it was a lot more difficult to play than it looked on TV. Through fits and starts I began the long process of mastering a song. I mostly took group lessons at the local public recreation center. By the time I was nine I could play ‘Camp Town Races’ and most of the repertoire in the Mel Bay Guitar Book 1. I struggled to learn bar chords…but I kept practicing…I was hooked.

It was around the time I turned 10 that we moved to Gainesville, FL. It was my dad’s hometown and a great place to grow up. At this point, I was practicing daily and bugging my parents to let me play in public. Of course at this age my only audience was our local church. I’m actually grateful for the fact that smart phones didn’t exist back then!

So, I could pick a melody and strum a few chords while singing, but little did I know that the real magic was still yet to come. My dedication convinced my parents to find a private teacher for me…his name was Charlie Bush, Jr. aka the ‘Local Living Legend.’ From the very first lesson Charlie and I just clicked. He showed me that the guitar is an instrument of endless possibilities and had the ability to show me the techniques that made those possibilities a reality. I practiced even more. I learned to finger pick…to play melody and accompaniment at the same time. I learned jazz chords and improvisation. Charlie inspired me and mentored me to become a musician…someone dedicated to making music for a living. He was only in my life for a short time, passing away in 1984 when I was 16. Yet, I think he lives on…every time I play.

By the way, Charlie made two albums in his life both on vinyl…if you can find the “Local Living Legend” LP buy it. It is an instrumental jazz masterwork by a master musician at the top of his game.

When people ask me why I’m a musician, this is it. For me, it isn’t about record deals, albums sold or tours…it’s about the magic that happens when I pick up my guitar and just play like I did back then. I didn’t care about anything else other than getting lost in the music…and making a connection with the listener.

It seems strange to me that those days are more than forty years in the past. I don’t feel that old (most days) but they are days that anchor me and give meaning to my music. Since then, I have recorded and released 3 CDs and a single. I’ve worked as a director of music in a church; and I’m currently a touring performer with the Dynamic Catholic Institute. I have performed music for thousands of people. I have played in venues large and small all over the United States and Canada. I won’t tell you that it has been easy…it hasn’t. Yet, I’ve been able to make a living playing music full time for the last two and half decades. And, the reason I do this crazy job is because of two guys, Jim and Charlie…and the chance to make a connection with you.

By giving you a small window into my life, I hope that I can inspire you to do something that will matter in a positive way to someone else. We are only here for a short time but each of us can matter to somebody.

I thank you for taking the time to listen to me and share in this adventure. If you want to hear my latest work I hope you will check out my contemporary Christian CD “Start a Fire” and let me know what you think of the music. 

As always, I want to hear your stories and comments. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments box below or shoot me an email.