Sunday, March 2, 2008

This Old Guitar (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

Thanks to a couple of dear blog buddies who happen to be far more than buddies to each other, Kelly and Sylvain, I was reminded this week of an old friend with whom I have spent almost no time in years. She stuck with me through all the travails of my 20's and 30's, never once smirking at some of my silly decisions or foolish choices through the years.

She is a good bit younger than I am, yet she has such an unbiased view--free of the close personal involvement which most of us find skews our judgment--that I know when she speaks, I am to listen.

Sylvain mentioned this week that he was thinking of getting back into playing guitar, and his blog post coincided perfectly with stirrings inside of me to let my guitar out of her case for the first time in years.

She is my Ovation Custom Balladeer, a magical acoustic guitar created in 1977, and my most-reliable friend through all of the years since. She and I were the perfect match, as I had not a clue what to do with a guitar when I purchased my Ovation--I decided on a whim to learn guitar on my own--and she is not a snooty, high-end guitar, but a friendly, easy-to-play, full-of-joyous-sound guitar. Anyone who has played an Ovation acoustic guitar knows I speak the truth: no one else's guitar sounds even close to the same. You may love it or find it annoying, but you can tell it blindfolded by the unique sound it produces. Rich, smooth, full, and sparkly, a crispness to the sound even as it is so mellow to hear...a player as much a rookie as I was then could manage to make pretty music with her.

I honestly don't remember what I paid when I bought the guitar, but I know it was well under 200 dollars. We spent hundreds of hours together, and most of those hours were just the two of us. After some months, I was able to share her with other people--I was once a quite-good impersonator of Cat Stevens, enough so that my Brit friends would bring new arrivals down to my dorm room to insist on a demonstration, which I would provide after payment was duly received and quaffed (Heineken--we were in Germany, and it was available across the street from the dorm in the formula which was the native, Dutch version, not the imports to the US which are not very tasty...really, not very, at all. Don't go there).

We will be a bit nervous when she first emerges after the long slumber, but after a bit of reacquainting, I'm betting we could do this song again. It was one of my favorites sung by a Colorado boy now long gone, John Denver.

My research turned up the fact that almost every serious guitar player who also writes songs and is of a certain age has written a song named "This Old Guitar." Neil Young has a song by that name on his most recent album. I remember this particular song, the feelings I have for it, and the joy it brought me when I was, exactly as the song states, in need of help through some lonely nights.

I'm a bit of a different sort in the way I care for things, so my "old guitar" is indistinguishable from a brand-new Ovation (she is a discontinued model, is my Ophelia. But I am, too, so it's okay). She never, *ever* suffered any sort of abuse at my hands, and heaven protect the crazy person who would bring her harm! None of the folks I have let touch her have been that insane, fortunately. Heck, the pick guard looks like it was attached to the guitar yesterday. I know, I know...real guitar players would laugh at the idea that a guitar, one which was truly loved to death by the player, could possibly look as good as mine with no restoration work at all. It's okay...I never pretended to be a real guitar player. I am a real singer who is not good enough to sing without an instrument leading the way, and a guitar is much easier to tote around than a baby grand.

These lyrics, then, are dedicated to Ophelia, my Sacred Sunday focus today. May she and I, once more, create beautiful music together. This is for her, and in memory of John Denver. And, thanks to Steve Goodger, who, as far as I can tell, had absolutely nothing to do with the writing of This Old Guitar.

This Old Guitar

This old guitar taught me to sing a love song,
it showed me how to laugh and how to cry.
It introduced me to some friends of mine and brightened up some days.
It helped me make it through some lonely nights.
What a friend to have on a cold and lonely night.

This old guitar gave me my lovely lady, it opened up her eyes and ears to me.
it brought us close together and I guess it broke her heart,
it opened up the space for us to be, what a lovely place and a lovely space to be.

This old guitar gave me my life my living all the things you know I love to do
To serenade the stars that shine from a sunny mountainside,
and most of all, to sing my songs for you, I love to sing my songs for you,
yes I do, you know, I love to sing my songs for you.


ladybug said...

good for you!

My instruments (although I love them dearly) don't get the attention they deserve either...maybe I'll end my Sacred Sunday by pulling out my little mandy for tune or two. :)

Julie said...

You have the coolest stuff, Rick-:)

foxycat said...

The song you have quoted was definitely written by John Denver - what led you to believe it wasn't?

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks to you all for stopping by!

Monique--you should include your little mandy when you do your first vlog!

Julie--I will say I think the stuff I have is cool, just like I think the clothes I wear are perfectly fine. My lovely wife takes issue with the clothes part on a regular basis.

foxycat--I'm going along with your firmly held assertion! I have already modified the blog text.

Here's the story of my error:
Note that they say the songs with an asterisk next to the name were written by JD. Note on the live album that This Old Guitar has no "*".

Acting on that hint, which I now agree was a mistake (at can you trust, these days??), I found this:

...and went with it.

So, upon further, more-careful study, I see that the asterisks are somewhat random on that page in the John Denver website. The studio album on the same page does credit Denver with writing This Old Guitar, and the evidence is contratictory regarding Grandma's Feather Bed. Maybe they get all done listing the songs, and then have their kids sprinkle some asterisks wherever they want. I don't know.

In any event, thanks very much for setting me straight, foxycat!

Rick Hamrick said...

To either further confuse or clarify, the albums in question are "An Evening with John Denver" and "Back Home Again." On that dadblamed JD website, they done me wrong by telling me This Old Guitar was not written by the man himself...on An Evening with JD. Yet, immediately above it in the discography list, Back Home Again says he did write it.

Most importantly, foxycat says he did, and that's good enough for me.

Rick Hamrick said...

Okay...this is the last comment I'm writing regarding my silly mistake. Isn't this fun, though??

Steve Goodger, I now believe, was simply the author of the tablature which that second link takes one to! He just didn't fill out the form correctly when he put it on the website, so it looks like it says he is the author of the song.

Which, by the way, he is *not*. No way.

John Denver wrote This Old Guitar. And that's final.

foxycat said...

Those asterisks do appear a little "random"! That site is run by John's ex-manager but unfortunately contains mistakes :-) If you go to and click on the picture you can see and hear John explaining how he came to write the song.
He didn't write Grandma's Feather Bed though - that was Jim Connor.
I run the UK JOhn Denver club, by the way, and have been a fan for 35 years!

Sphincter said...

I am such a John Denver fan. I spent a lot of time on the roads between NH and RI (en route to library school) with John cranked at high volume! And that was 2005--he's timeless!

Rick Hamrick said...

FC--we date our fanhood to the very same era. I, too, date my fondness for John Denver back to when Rocky Mountain High hit the charts. Hard to beleive it has been 35 years!

Fascinating to learn that you head up his UK fan club! Do you have a website I could visit?

Sphinc--He did do a whole bunch of great travelin' music, that's for sure. Back in the day of free-wheeling, download-whatever-you-could-find music, before the Music Nazis cracked down, I captured huge amounts of music from my era of the 70's and early 80's. Lotsa Denver in that collection.

Anonymous said...

How nice to have this old friend still with you. I don't still have the instrument(s) in my life from long ago, but I have a new friend sitting patiently in the corner of my room waiting for the day it will be time for me to get to know her.

Sylvain said...

Rick, I am just now catching up on bloggin and I had not read your post until today. I'm so glad I inspired you to re-acquaint yourself with your guitar. I have made plans to go shopping for one when my buddy gets back from Florida next week. He plays, and is more than happy to come with me and help be select something right for me. The signs are all around me to do this. I went to pick up some wine for dinner yesterday. My choice was a wine called "Red Guitar". And honestly, it was the best wine I've had in a long time.