About a year ago, on a visit back to my parent’s home in Wisconsin, I began hearing news about our neighbor Joe. At 95 years old, he was no longer riding his red bicycle everyday, and his quant red brick home was becoming too much of a responsibility for him alone. His son Jay was coming over more often and plans were being made to move Joe into a small apartment, something more manageable for this new chapter of his life.
Back when I was still living on Oregon Street, and running around with the other boys on the block, Mary and Joe would make their presence known, especially Mary. Mary didn’t trust us boys much, and I don’t blame her. I’d be concerned as well if kids were hitting real golf balls with clubs around the neighborhood, or launching paint balls across yards. However, our interactions with Mary and Joe weren’t always out of concern. We were in awe when Joe showed us his model train track that took up half their basement with miniature towns and grassy slopes and even tunnels and bridges. And there was that summer day Joe taught us how to make an unusual, yet effective paper airplane model. However, like all neighborhoods, the years go on. Neighbors move out as other move in, new and unfamiliar boys and girls are seen running around, and older folks, like Mary, pass on.
Joe’s son Jay likes to tell stories, and now that he and his wife reside in the quant red brick home next door, I get to hear a story occasionally when I visit my parents in the old neighborhood. One story that tickled my fancy a few months ago was one about a guitar he’d been keeping with him for years.
Over 40 years ago, when he was 18, his mother Mary brought home a small guitar that she had purchased at a rummage sale for $10. He dabbled with it, but never got into playing it much. However, he kept it around because he loved to share it with his buddies who could play it. They’d always be impressed by the sound of this little guitar. About a year ago, one friend prompted Jay to get this guitar looked at, because it was an old Martin Guitar. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these guitars, the old Martin Guitars have become quite the collector’s item these days. I wasn’t ready to see it the first time he mentioned it.
The next time I was in town, I walked over just to see this guitar of Jay's. He took it out for me, and his friends were right, this was an impressive guitar. Jay was so generous, he said, “Go ahead and take it with you for a day or two, and use it at your gig if you’d like.” Madeline fell in love with it. We’d actually been talking about finding a smaller guitar, but this one was out of the question. I went to return the guitar just before hitting the road back to Nashville, and when he opened the door I said to Jay, “Can Madeline and I take this guitar down to Nashville with us?” I knew the guitar needed some attention if it were to be played seriously, and Jay must have seen the twinkle in my eye.
The guitar needed the neck and frets reset, but all in all the guitar was in unusually great shape according to our friends at Cotten Music Center. Andrew the luthier said, “Buy this guitar. If you don’t have the money, find someone to borrow it from.” That’s the story of many musicians it seems. Kees Kooper, the Danish concert violinist I mentioned in a previous story, comes to mind. At 18 years old he borrowed $50,000 for his first “real” violin. Fortunately, the kind of money we needed to find was just a fraction of that. We found the money for the guitar and it’s repairs, which we are still paying back, but we’re very happy to have added this 1926 0-18 Martin Guitar to our family of instruments. Jay seems pretty happy as well. He was recently waving to us from his front porch, just above his freshly laid concrete walkway.
Madeline Fendrick and Brian Peck
We're happy to share with you stories from our journey as artists. Stories from the road, and stories from our home base in Stoughton, WI.
Logo Art by:
Robert Peck (Brian's Dad)
Cover Photos by: