I remember a day in 1969 – rummaging around in Taylor’s Music Store in Martinsville, Indiana. My older sister and I were both recruited to the marching band before we reached high school age and we were there so mom could float a second mortgage to get Leann a flute. I looked around at this and that – all pretty much out of my price range at 12 years old – until I came across a ukulele. I had enough paper route and lawn-mowing cash to afford a ukulele, a felt pick and a copy of Mel Bay’s Fun with the Ukulele instruction book. It was an impulse buy. I mainly played the Sousaphone in the marching band and made do with a model owned by the school as there was never a serious question of really mortgaging the farm to afford a Sousaphone or figuring out where, in our small and crowded home, such a thing should be kept! In retrospect, all my siblings got their own instruments – flute, clarinet, trombone, and saxophone! Was it my fault the band director needed me to play the biggest and most expensive thing? But – I digress. The uke was an impulse buy and I learned to play it (It’s not that hard!) Just a few years later two friends and I formed an impromptu junior church camp counselor band writing and singing our own material accompanied by guitar, ukulele, and a set of spoons. We called ourselves ‘Spoons, Strings and Other Things’. All the third and fourth graders we helped look after that week loved it. There were several local pulpit ministers involved in that week of camp and we actually got invitations to visit their congregations (and one county wide hymns-sing) to provide special music. The gig ran through the summer and into the fall. If Alan and Brad ever happen to read this, I hope they remember the thing as fondly as I do. Brad had recently acquired a new guitar and gifted me with his old one. Back to Taylors for a set of guitar strings, a plastic pick and a copy of Mel Bay’s Fun with the Guitar! Also, a harmonica – hay baling money by this time. I went off to college able to get along on all three instruments – and of course, the Sousaphone. My friends Roger and Sue – who subsequently married – and I played together a lot; some Cowsills tunes and the Christian Choruses popular at the time. Sue recently passed away but I hope she and Roger also remember those times with as much happiness as I. As I made my way into youth ministry, I worked harder on the guitar and, like my friend Brad before me, purchased better instruments and gifted Brad’s old guitar to another aspiring musician. I spent many years keeping up with the changing choruses and camp songs, led worship for a thousand weeks of church camp (in many of which little impromptu bands got put together), played for my own youth group, and formed a quartet with three other men from Harmon Chapel Christian Church in Shady Valley, Tennessee and another group with some of the members of the youth group there. Both groups got some invitations to sing here and there and we had a lot of fun – at least I did. If Tony, Kevin, Lonnie, Brian, Barry and Rob ever read this, I hope they’d say they did too. The time eventually came for me to become a Senior Minister and I took my first pulpit in Indianapolis. While there, I learned to play bass as part of a quartet called the Red Letter Edition. This group (with a bit of a shifting membership) lasted many years – outliving my decade long tenure at Drexel Gardens Christian Church – and travelled more than any other I have ever belonged to. We made a pretty good-sized splash at a national men’s preaching clinic in Oklahoma. Iterations of the group have even come to my congregation in East Canton, Ohio a few times. It was a blast. Harold started the whole thing and has also gone to be with the Lord many years ago. But I hope he, Will, and Richard – and then Bob, Wally, Dianne and a few others over the years were as blessed as I. I still play but it finally happened that the current praise music has moved on without me and I am no good at leading it. Mostly, I play mandolin and sometimes harmonica for our contemporary praise band – led by a young family man to whom I gave his first guitar lesson. My son – whom I taught, plays bass and sometimes guitar. I work with other youth trying to keep the music going into the future. I do some programs here and there and play guitar for a southern gospel team that leads worship for our congregation once a month or so. It’s still a great blessing and I hope the dozen or so folk I currently play with would all say the same. I have recently started messing with a five-string banjo. Maybe someday soon I will break it out at church but first I would like to meet the sadist who thought it was a good idea to put the high treble string out of order! I am not and will never be a professional musician – or even a particularly good one. But praising God through music has tied me to so many people over the years and been such a source of happiness. Passing on the blessing has been a blessing. Things should always work that way!
I write this particular blog because one of my grandsons has recently taken up ukulele and harmonica. I smile because he has no idea!
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church