Once upon a time in Chicago, there was a woman who loved music. At an early age she was given various musical instruments by her father in an attempt to see which one would sing out the songs that he knew were in her heart.
Like Stevie Wonder, she was given a harmonica, but it hurt her lips and the only notes she could coax out of it sounded like the squeaks of dying rodents. Neighborhood cats would gather to peek into the basement windows when she practiced.
She was given a wooden chantor from a bagpipe, but it tasted funny and her fingers were too small to cover the holes. Her grandmother replaced it one night with a large peppermint stick and said the fairies needed it.
There were the two green leather octagons with a cloth covered Slinky holding them together. It was called a concertina. It made better sounds when it was rolled down the stairs than when she attempted to play it.
When she held her dad’s Gibson acoustic guitar on her lap, she was so small that she couldn’t see over it to strum the strings, so he bought her a ukulele. After lots of plucking and plinking, she bashed it over the neighbor boy’s head because he said her version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" sounded stupid.
Weekly piano lessons lasted for years and years. She knew that she was no Liberace because her family didn’t own a candelabra or fancy sequined clothes. Hearing Ramsey Lewis play "The In Crowd," she ran out and bought the sheet music. She quit lessons shortly thereafter because her version was more out-takes than "In Crowd."
Trying to build on that success she had found with four strings, she moved to the violin and played in the High School orchestra. But like many high school musicians, she was told that maybe she should find another hobby. The college she went to did not have a music program. Her instrument was put aside.
She tried to make music her day job. She worked for Lyon and Healy Music Company, renting pianos and later Carl Fischer selling sheet music, but to no avail. She went into the corporate world and spent many years drowning out the office Muzak by listening to smooth jazz on large Sony headphones, long before Dr. Dre made them stylish.
She even worked for a public radio station, thinking it would be nirvana, but they were in the process of changing their format to all talk. The next blow to her love of music was when her favorite smooth jazz station got changed to mariachi music. Then, just as her music life seemed bleakest, a perfect niche was found. Instead of notes, she uses words.
On July 24, 2014, Rick O’Dell gave me the opportunity to blog for Smooth Jazz Chicago!
Thanks Rick, for giving me a place to use my real music voice.
To all my readers, Happy Anniversary! Never hesitate to contact me about stories – pro or con - I promise that I don’t bash folks with Ukuleles anymore!
~Lydia Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: One of Lydia's early inspirations has a milestone of his own coming up soon. July 31, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the release of this classic track.