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The Times
  • Gary Brown: Garage band dreams dashed, thanks Dad

  • I may be carrying the grudge too long, but I think my dad intentionally kept our garage small and cluttered in the 1960s so I couldn’t start a garage band.

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  • I may be carrying the grudge too long, but I think my dad intentionally kept our garage small and cluttered in the 1960s so I couldn’t start a garage band.
    My place in musical history was lost because of a lawn mower, a snowblower, bags of sand and salt, shelves of garden seed and oil cans, stacks of old newspapers, piles of board pieces, coffee cans full of miscellaneous nuts and bolts, a work bench, and a wall of lawn and garden tools.
    My dad was a carpenter, for heaven’s sake. He had the talent and the tool belt for building us a bigger garage. Pop could have constructed a huge garage, bigger than we’d ever need for a garage band. We could have formed a garage orchestra, perhaps even with a garage chorus.
    But, my dad knew from listening to records playing on the family phonograph that any band I formed with siblings or friends would be a rock band. So, he kept the same old small, dilapidated, detached garage that was filled up with the perceived necessities of home ownership.
    By the time he parked our hulking Plymouth station wagon in there, we didn’t even have room for a garage folk singer.
    Long before garage space became an issue, I’d asked for a guitar. My father bought me a ukulele. When I balked — neither Tiny Tim nor Arthur Godfrey were my role models — he traded it in on a banjo. I wouldn’t say that our musical tastes were as different as night and day so much as one of us was playing music in a completely different time zone. Maybe a different season.  
    What I really wanted was a drum set. Simply by growing my hair long and forcing an English accent, I was pretty sure I could be Ringo’s replacement. But, it only took one roll of dad’s eyes, a shake of his head, and a single question — “Why don’t you play the lawn mower? That makes a lot of noise, too” — for me to realize that my drumming dreams weren’t going to fly in this family.
    Since he loved me, and probably because he wanted me to stop harping about the drum, dad bought me a harmonica. He seemed to be happy about giving it to me. I think he knew it wouldn’t take me long to lose it.
    I finally got a guitar. It was plastic, practically a toy. Without an empty garage, I had to practice with it on the front porch. No kids ever formed a porch band.
    My musical career ultimately ended when dad put up a basketball hoop on the front of the garage. This attempt at a diversion probably was for the best. More kids in my neighbor wanted to block my shot than play back-up base in my band.
    Page 2 of 2 - Again, my dad likely had ulterior motives.
    One, he could keep the garage door down. Keeping the ball from bouncing into a garage and kids from running in after it seemed less like child abuse to the neighbors than locking a bunch of them — along with their sound — into such a cramped space.
    And, two, developing basketball skills seemed more practical to him. He would wind up with games to go watch and, down the road, he might reap some financial rewards.
    Athletes have a chance of getting a scholarship, after all. Musicians just wind up working nights and weekends,  growing beards and borrowing money for guitars and drum sets they never got for Christmas.
    Contact Gary Brown at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.
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