Author: Martin, George

Passing it on

I have two grandchildren, both boys, ages six and three. I would kind of like another one or two (maybe a girl in there somewhere?) but itís not looking like thatís going to happen. Theyíre both bright, active, healthy boys, for which I am most thankful. And they live fairly close by (oneís just a half-mile away) so I get to see them regularly.

Naturally Grandpa wishes the best for them. Whatever they want to do in life, Iíll do anything I can to help make it happen. I just have one teensy little hope: please make them pickers.

Back when my own two sons were young, we had a schedule conflict that I believe made me miss the boat with my own children. Our extended family and friends vacationed every June at Camp Mather, which when it isnít hosting the Strawberry Music Festival is a family camp owned by the City and County of San Francisco. It was hard even then for non-San Franciscans to get in, so we always picked the first week of camp, which, alas, began on the Saturday before Fathers Day.

So there were a bunch of years in there when we stopped going to Grass Valley. And my boys missed out on the festival experience.

I did teach my older son to play guitar. He picked it up pretty quickly, but as soon as he got good enough to jam he plugged in and joined a heavy metal band. My younger son didnít want guitar lessons because his brother was already ahead of him; he tried electric bass for a while, but then it dawned on him that the guitar player is usually the star and the bass player more the supporting actor, so he gave that up, too.

If they had been around bluegrass more, I wonder if they would have figured out that banjo players, mandolin players, guitar players, etc., are pretty much equal stars in the firmament.

Luther (thatís the younger one) switched to drums, and eventually assembled a huge kit with two kick drums, floor toms, snare, roto-toms, and multiple cymbals, which dominated our living room until I finally cleared out our basement and installed in down there with all the amps and sound equipment I had collected over the years. About 3:30 p.m. most days our house would suddenly erupt with blasting metal music. Iím amazed the neighbors only called the cops once in those years.

I bought each of the grandsons a ukulele for their first birthday. I figured just having it around as a toy would be a good thing. Six-year-old Cassens has since gotten a small electric guitar and has learned a few chords. Now my son and I are on the same team: we both want another musician in the family. They live about 40 minutes away, so I donít see them all the time and I canít really tell exactly how interested the child is in music.

Three-year-old Oliver has a toy guitar, too, which has lost its bridge but still makes a sort of snare drum sound if you strum it. It lives at our house, while the uke is at home, and a few weeks ago I got the first indication that I may have a little picker here.

I began attending Tuesday morning story time at our local branch library four years ago when we were babysitting the older grandchild. Miss Sheila, the childrenís librarian, is a remarkable woman; great storyteller and relates so beautifully to the children. There are anywhere from 15 to 25 or so kids there each week and she knows them all by name.

I mentioned to her back then that I was a musician and knew a lot of childrenís songs, and since then I bring a uke or a mandolin or a banjo or guitar and sing a song or two in the middle of the hour.

Two weeks ago I picked up my guitar as we were heading out and little Oliver said, ďI want to take my guitar, too, Grandpa!Ē Well, sure, I thought as I loaded it into the car.
When we got to the library, Oliver couldnít wait, ďMiss Sheila! I brought my guitar, too!Ē

Sheila, bless her heart, struck while the iron was hot. Instead of waiting for our usual spot in the middle of story time she said to Oliver, ďDo you want to play right now?Ē

He was ready, so I got my guitar and we did ďTeddy Bearís PicnicĒ with Oliver keeping a nice steady beat on his rattly, bridgeless (but thus not out-of-tune) guitar. The next week we had other things to do and skipped story time, but this past Tuesday I grabbed my uke and he went and got the toy guitar like it was just another gig.

Years ago I had hopes of a family band. That didnít happen, but now a family duo is sounding pretty good to me.

If either of these boys ever seriously gets into music, theyíll never have to worry about where their next instrument is coming from.

Itís coming from Grandpa.
Posted:  5/9/2013

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