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Let me explain. I was born in the middle of the 1950's. Today that seems very close to WWII, but for us kids the war was already a legend. Our favorite TV show was called Combat and we re-enacted episodes from it, using dried clods of dirt for hand granades, in the woods and abandoned properties around the misunderstood small town where I grew up. Dad had a Rustoleum Green metal trunk containing his uniform, there were photos of the Taj Mahal and some taken from a Liberator over North Africa, and a Luger on a shelf in his bedroom closet. Then someone shot the president.

The school principal made an announcement over the intercom and we went home. This was followed by days of grim grey newscasts. There was live television coverage of the former president's journey from the cathedral to the gravesite. There was a slow, steady drum beat, and my brother got upset with me when I played along, for not being solemn. I wondered why everyone called him Jack.

After the assasination things got strange. We got a World's Fair, muscle cars, and promises of a wonderful future, but the bolts holding those things together had come loose. Everything was waiting to fall, or already falling, apart. Welcome to the 1960's, kids.

At least the 60's had a great soundtrack. I grew up listening to Ray Charles and Elvis, Little Stevie Wonder and Willie Nelson. It was all on the radio, free. I didn't buy my first record until 1966, when, because the fun police had it pulled off the air, I saved up my allowance for They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haaa!, with the entire song in reverse on the flip side.

A couple of years later my taste in music got a little more down to earth when girls got interesting and making music was a way to meet them. Following the example of a kid a grade ahead of me, who I felt was succeeding with his harmonica playing, I got myself a harp and learned to bend a note. I didn't know it at the time, but that blue note changed everything. It was my crossroads.

One day while grazing through the cut-out bins at Arlan's discount store I found a 50 LP of Memphis Slim playing blues piano, which inspired me to try to emulate him on the family upright. Things fell into place. At sixteen I was asked to play harp and keyboards in a band doing recent songs by Joplin and Mountain and Cream. That band was called Kimberlake, named somehow after one of the bass player's many girlfriends. I was still clueless and didn't understand how this short, red-haired, somewhat obnoxious but sharp-dressing guy, with a job in retail and a car, was in such high demand. I was getting by solely on my looks, which is to say, not so much.

Girls love poetry, am I right? I tried writing poetry to my crush in biology class, but it was awful, nothing like the stuff Crosby, Stills, and Nash were putting to music, like Guinnevere and Pre-road Downs. Thinking that adding music would help put my feelings across, I wrote my first song, Slip Sleep Smile, for the biology classmate, and recorded it on a battery-powered reel-to-reel tape recorder. She may have been impressed. That was her song coming out of a tinny speaker, like a radio. That, or maybe just the fact that I was making an effort, got me a date.

careering