The Guitar

I have a confession to make.  I lied when talking on  +CBC News about what inspired the idea to give a perfectly good electric bass away to someone.

It wasn't sitting there thinking about what to give my kids for Christmas that inspired the flashback of me 20 years ago when I got my first bass.  It was a lie.

What really inspired it was a beautiful sunburst 2003 American Standard +Fender Guitars Stratocaster that I purchased on November 25th 2011.   Its story was too fresh an open wound to discuss publicly when doing the interviews.  I'm ready now.

My mother died in October 2011 only four months after being diagnosed with cancer. It wasn't the best time in my life to say the least. Many things that occupied my daily stream of brainpower, previous to my mothers diagnosis, seemed to fade in priority and many things which I had forgotten about bubbled to the surface in clear picture and sound, screaming at me like bright sunshine exploding in a dark room after opening closed black curtains.

One of those things was music.

How sad. I had forgotten about music. I mean, I would put my iPod on once in while and I had played the odd gig here and there and I was teaching bass at UPEI but other than that - music was not part of my life.

How sad.

At one point, it used to be all of my life. I let it leave. Slowly. Slow enough not to notice. Until a week before my mother's death, the day my aunt and my mother's cousin sang melodies of some modern church hymns to my mother in her bed at palliative care when she was trying to pick the music for her funeral.  The music and the moment collided and I remembered what music could do to a person.  With silent tears streaming down my face, it awoke something in me.  It lifted the earplugs from my musical soul just enough to prepare me for the day of my mothers funeral when Terry Hatty, whom mother specifically asked for, sang the upbeat and uplifting tunes that she had picked that day.  These songs didn't make people feel like they were at a morbidly sad event - it made people feel welcome to celebrate my mother's life. I sat four feet away from my mothers casket thinking "she knew exactly how perfect this combination of music and vocalist would be"... I know people were moved. I know I was moved beyond just tears and sadness that day - I was moved fully back to life - musical life.

I took much needed time off after Mom died. Where did I turn? Music. I kept picking up the acoustic guitar and strumming. During the day, when Elizabeth and the kids were at school, I blasted music. I drove around and blasted music. Elizabeth and I went to see The Heartbroken at Babas.  Elizabeth and I went to my aunts kitchen party and I played guitar all night long.

Music came back. It filled places I had forgotten about.

So now what about this guitar I mentioned before? Well I had a bit of insurance money left over from my mothers policy after covering the funeral costs. I could have put it on the visa, or fixed our bathroom or something "practical" but everything I thought of, every useful thing was meaningless.

And then I thought.... "what about an electric guitar? ..... No... that's crazy, I don't need one" I unconvincingly tried to say to myself and put it out of my head. But each day that thought would come back stronger and stronger.

At one point in my life I used to play electric guitar more than bass. I played in several indie bands between 1992 and 1996 ( highschool and early university ) as well as the intermediate jazz band at colonel grey and I used a Charvette which was a Jackson style metal/heavy rock guitar that I paid for by cutting grass that summer.

It was baby-puke yellow and glowed like nuclear waste. I wanted the 3-tone sunburst American Fender Stratocaster on the wall of the music store but the spit-up guitar was in my price range. I hated the color so badly ( and the usual comments I would get ) that in grade 12 I sanded 10 layers of paint off by hand using sheets of sand paper - it took all day. I painted it with a thick floor varnish and it looked like hell but it was better that the yellow. To be extra cool I scratched FAH-Q in the back. Yup.

I sold this guitar to my cousin in 1998 and he eventually sold it as well and I haven't seen it since. I missed it. And as I was listening to a lot of music after my mother's death that I used to listen to when I played that guitar, I once again yearned for an electric guitar. I hadn't purchased a new instrument since 2003. I forgot what it was like to hunt, to find, to acquire a new instrument.... and I knew exactly what I was looking for: the 3-tone sunburst American Standard Fender Stratrocaster I wanted when I was 15.  I was on a mission.

In early November I put a note on Facebook "Anyone selling a Strat?" - not much response.  I started to frequent the pawn shops around town.  Everything I looked at was substandard.  I looked at the brand new ones and price was a little out of reach.  I almost gave up 3 weeks into my search but then on a whim I placed a kijiji ad with a description of exactly what I was looking for: American Fender Stratocaster - Sunburst colour.  Nine hours later I got an email "Hi. I have one for sale. It is a 2003 model. It is also a hardtail, which is quite rare. It's sunburst as well. It is in very good shape."

Within hours the guitar was mine.

I took it home, handling the hardshell case like it was an infant carrier with my fourth child, being careful with each step from the car to my livingroom, careful not to bump against the doorframe as I carried this new member of my family across the threshold of its new home.  I took it to my livingroom and carefully placed the case on the floor, unlatched the sturdy handles and opened the top to let my new baby breathe.  I picked it up gently, one hand supporting the body and the other hand supporting the neck, and then just sat on my couch... just holding it.

I had forgotten.  That feeling.

Anyone who has purchased a well deserved and sought after instrument knows what I'm talking about.  They may not admit to it in the semi-creepy "is he talking about a guitar or a human" kinda of way I just did, but they understand.
I eventually did play it of course and even though I didn't have a guitar amp this day, the sound was full and resonant in the way only an instrument crafted with good wood and skilled hands could.


And so it was that feeling of getting a new very loved instrument that flashed me back to a memory of me 20 years ago getting that red harmony electric bass for the first time, sitting on my couch, just holding it with an unstoppable grin, clueless to where this little bass was going to take me in my life.  I thought, everyone should experience this.  Then I thought..... my Yamaha electric bass, sitting there in the closet, unused... how sad.  So I went to my computer and I wrote the blog that eventually put the bass into appreciative hands.

I have no idea or expectation for where that bass will take him.  I can only speak for myself.  I can tell you this... it's been like being a 14 year old again and clueless to my future, and each day I've played this guitar I've completely enjoyed the ritual of opening the case, attaching the strap, plugging it in, and then letting it take me somewhere that isn't here.  Somewhere that isn't a place where I'm honouring my deceased parents by playing an instrument I've acquired in their memory.


  1. What a crossroads, Deryl. Nice post, and best of luck.

  2. Wow Deryl! what a cool story. I understand completely what you are saying here. My father was a musician (guitar mostly) and started teaching me to play when I was about 10 years old. He had a G&L F-100 3 tone burst electric that I learned on and loved the way it felt. Just before I turned 14 he passed away. I played constantly. In bands or just whenever someone needed a fill in. Fast forward a few years and I had gotten married had a couple kids (All wonderful) and ran into some really tough times financially and had to sell that G&L to make ends meet. I got away from the music for the most part just working through life but something just kind of clicked in me one day not long ago and I had to get the music back. It had to be apart of my life again. Long story short I went on a similar journey looking for that guitar again and found it in a 3-tone burst american standard strat which i just purchased. Playing it reminds me of when I used to sit with my dad as a kid and play. It's amazing how it effects you and how it brings the music and the memories back. Great post and I hope you enjoy that beautiful guitar for many years to come as I know I will enjoy mine.

    1. Hi Nate ( are you a Nate that I know? I know a couple possibly haha ) ... thanks for your comment ... very cool that you had a similar experience ( there's something 3-tone eh? ) ....

      " It's amazing how it effects you and how it brings the music and the memories back. "

      That is spot on - exactly!


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