One of the truly most exciting things that ever happened to me in the world of music was when I also started my writing career. It all happened in a rather un-assuming way, when in or around 1970 Happy Traum asked me to write a section in his book “Flatpick Country Guitar” about my unique “pedal-steel” style string bending positions. I was so excited to actually be published and seen in a book, and of course, at the young age of only 19, it was really quite a thrill.
Around that time, I had also started to teach privately and at Eddie Simon’s (Paul’s brother) Guitar Study Center in New York City. I received a call from Happy and also Oak publications that they wanted me to do a section about slide guitar, another area of my expertise, in a three-part book that was to be about Pedal Steel, Dobro and Slide Guitar. Well, I certainly was excited about this proposition, and the first thing I was anxious to tell the editor in our initial meeting was that number one, these should all be separate books! They were unnecessarily grouping these three instruments and styles into one very expensive book, and I felt they all really deserved their own full-length books. Not only that, but the players out there would not need to get all three at once anyway!
Well, needless to say, I had a great meeting with Jean Hammons, the editor at that time, and walked out with not only a deal to write “Slide Guitar”, but I had convinced them to sign me for 2 other books, “Nashville Guitar” and “Blues Guitar!” Keep in mind now, I was only all of 20 years old, and was just on a cloud when I walked out of that meeting! It was a chance to already document, at a very young age, a lot of the unique techniques and knowledge I had garnered in a really very short time! Of course, this lead to other things, like writing a ten-year successful column for Guitar Player Magazine called “Hot Guitar”, articles and much more!
I guess what I getting at here is that writing about one’s abilities is a great thing because it’ll only make you more aware of what you are really all about and what makes music “tick” in general. I know I loved how when I was first doing research for my Slide Guitar book, I loved looking up and finding all the great recordings by early slide players I hadn’t really know about yet, and learning about their incredible styles! I was quickly acquiring knowledge about greats such as Charlie Patton, Bukka White and Tampa Red, all powerful and important musicians whom I had yet to hear of! Oh yes, and when I went to write the music for the book, all I knew was where the “G” note was, I figured out the rest on my own! It also gave me an early glimpse into what made me tick, because somehow, by the age of 20, I had already gotten to master several techniques that were totally unique to me, that I had to take apart to really understand! This all helped enormously with my own teaching, and as we all know, the more you give, the more you get! So, if you want to, maybe you’ll be inspired now to go on and do a little writing of your own. Lord knows there are a lot more outlets for you these days!