Sometimes, the greatest parables can be found in everyday situations. What you’re about to read is something that happened to me in August, 1964. It’s the story of an encounter between me and my father, Eola Hinson.
I’ll never forget the lesson he taught me that day … it’s one that I’ve passed down to my children, and to others. It’s my hope that someone will find the lesson in it, as well, and pass it on to those who can use the wisdom he conveyed in this.
This story has been published before, but, thankfully, I still retain all rights to it; after all, it was an episode of my life that I'll never, ever forget. I hope you enjoy it.
A LESSON FROM AN OLD GUITAR
Years ago, when I was just barely into my teens, my dad came home from work carrying a battered, old guitar. He knew I wanted to learn to play one – I’d seen folk groups, country acts – even some new group called “The Beatles” playing them, and it looked like so much fun. In fact, while these performers were on TV, I’d watch carefully for the close-up shots, and (using a baseball bat as a “guitar”) I’d mimic their fingering, position of the chords and timing.
When he gave me the acoustic guitar, I sat down and, propping it up on my knee, began to position my fingers on the neck, just as I had seen the performers do. I just knew I was going to be the next Elvis or rock superstar!
But he did something that I’ll remember to my dying day: He took a big, calloused hand, put it over the fingerboard and stopped me from playing! Then he said,
“Son, wait a minute. Let me tell you a little story.
You see, Life’s a lot like that old guitar you’ve got, especially when it’s time to pay your dues. And, just like the sounds you can make on that guitar, the ones you make in life are entirely up to you. We can’t stop you from framming away at it like an off-tune madman any more than we can stop you from playing beautiful music. When you get to be an adult, it’s going to be the same thing when you’re ‘out there’ in the real world. Nobody can stop you; it’s your choice as to what type of ‘music’ you give them.
Now, you see those strings, and how you’re holding them down with your fingertips? Each note is meant to create harmony with each other. That's your goal in life, son … learn to place each thing you do …each step you take … so it’ll be in harmony with mankind. Otherwise, just like with the guitar, you’re gonna make such a noise that nobody’ll want to hear you.”
I listened intently; this was good stuff!
Then he continued, “And, by and by, you’ll learn how to sing with that guitar – maybe even write a few tunes yourself.
When you do, remember that a simple tune does better when the words are from the heart. Make them easy for people to learn … to keep in their mind. And you’re painting a picture with each one. Son, remember to do the same thing in your everyday doings, and you’ll make friends and be happier than you ever thought.
And that ‘song’ that you sing … the one you show everyday in your actions … will be the one that’ll go ‘number one’ with your friends and others. Just leave the lyrics open to your brother’s and sister’s point of view, and they’ll be humming that song long after you’ve gone.
Now … let’s hear you play …”
I kept this lesson with me during five great years of performing. Though a stint in the Army interrupted those, it was the prime motive for continuing my musical career in producing, promoting and rock journalism when I was discharged.
Today, as I continue the journalism and promote two UK acts, I still keep this in my mind at all times ... for we all have music within our soul.