Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 1, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


Bob Dylan. Easy Chair


“I look at the world and I notice it’s turning,

While my guitar gently weeps,

With every mistake, we must surely be learning,

Still my guitar gently weeps.”

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

Pleased to meet you. My name is Washburn. I have six strings, a sleek neck, and a body that has brought many people joy, principally its owner, who doesn’t fret about much these days.

Len has owned three guitars since he started playing back in the mid- 70s so I guess one could say that I’m the third generation who has suffered at his torturous hands. Actually, that’s a bit unfair. He’s an ok player – a strummer and not a picker, and in all these years, he has never spilled a beer on my wooden body.

He bought my grandfather, Yamaha when he first learned to play. Grandpa had seen lot of years before Len acquired him. His strings were a mile off the neck requiring extreme force to make a chord. In the early stages, Len drew blood regularly trying to master his first set of songs from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Gord’s Gold”. Reminds me of the Bryan Adamas song – “Played it ‘til my fingers bled, was the summer of ‘69”.

In the early going, he had the temerity to actually offer his school students guitar lessons. Talk about the blind leading the blind. One of his guitar students became a very accomplished musician as did his student’s daughter.

Len only taught for three years in Alberta before lugging me back to Nova Scotia. He had built up the princely sum of $975 in his teacher’s pension plan and decided to cash it out, never imagining that he would be a school teacher again. He made his way to the Halifax Folklore Centre, that wonderful emporium of guitars and other musical instruments. He traded grandpa for my father, Martin, a D-18, 1970 model in mint condition. Len had no illusions about becoming a great guitar player. That was never in the chords! He was just tired of having bloody fingers from pressing the bejeezus out of Yamaha’s strings. Many years later, he would add the offspring of Martin, a cut down Martin traveling guitar.

Over the years, a guitar has rarely left Len’s side. He has played in a number of musical groups. He has played at weddings, wakes and funerals. He has performed at variety shows, concerts and in pubs and family gatherings too numerous to count. Speaking of wakes, a party to end all parties occurred at Len’s mom’s house the night after Melvin Hibbs (my late niece’s husband) died tragically in a plane crash. He and Martin played non-stop in the kitchen for 5 hours with half of Newfoundland in attendance. The old floor shifted under the weight of so many grieving people in one small place.

Len’s son, Peter became an outstanding guitar player and many moons ago, Len gave Martin to Pete in exchange for me. A Martin guitar played by someone who actually knows how to play, is a wonderful thing. Sadly, after playing at a gig in Halifax one night, his bandmates’ car was broken into and Martin was found smashed to smithereens on a sidewalk. At the time, this vintage guitar was valued at about $4,000.

It was my good fortune , for around this time, Len got itchy feet and started to see the world, always bringing me along for the ride.

There are a lot of stories embedded in my wooden body. In Edinburgh, Scotland, he was attending a conference hosted by Standard Life. At the closing dinner at Edinburgh castle, a formal affair, he went from table to table (dressed in his kilt, of course) and regaled those in attendance. The president of Standard Life was a wonderful singer, and no one enjoyed it more. It should be noted that Len was NOT an official musician at the event. Some day he might share the full store. You may not be surprised but wine was involved!

On a golf trip to Ireland with his brother and a gaggle of lawyers from Vancouver, he played me in a wonderful Irish pub called O’Flaherty’s (my mother’s maiden name).

Len tells me that one of his greatest joys was performing at International Women’s Day in India with 15 young girls studying to become sisters. They sang The Beatles tune, “Let it Be”.

Barbados, Bermuda and Florida. He played me in some hot countries and cool places.

In 2019, I was heartbroken when Len sat me down to tell me that he wouldn’t be taking me to Spain to walk the Camino. Walking over 700 kilometers on blistered feet with a guitar strapped on his back didn’t sound like much fun. When he came home, he told me that there was always a guitar hanging around the alburgues (hostels) and he was never shy to pick it up and start a singsong.

Speaking of cool places, Len has shown me a part of Canada that I’ve never seen before. He took me to the norther village of Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec in November of 2019.  Talk about cool places. It is positively frigid in the winter. One day last year, the temperature hit -53. Most of the time he keeps me in his classroom where he plays for his students on a regular basis. Occasionally, he wanders the hallways singing and playing. Recently he was asked to join a group of young singers, drummers and throat singers as their guitarist. He took me to the local FM radio station a few days ago where the group played live for an hour. Sharing music with young people is one of his greatest joys.

Sharing his music with old people (like himself!) has also given him much happiness. A few years ago, he was hired by a nursing home in his hometown to provide music for the residents. Often small concerts were held in common areas in the home and the rest of the time was spent in rooms with people who were bedridden. Privately, Len tells me that of all the music he has performed in his life, none was more gratifying than playing at the bedsides of the elderly who were dying. He would take me and sit near the person, singing softly. Many times, family members would request a song or two that the soon to be departed loved. All solemnity was tossed aside as we heartily sang Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash or Charley Pride.

There are not many days that Len hasn’t picked me up. He goes to the school quite early in the morning and will take me out of my case to sing a few tunes before starting his workday. He tells me that it puts him in a positive mood.

Music has been a huge part of Len’s life and I have been happy to be his companion.

Have a great week.



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