BASICS by Paul Chasman
My dad likes to tell the story about when I was a kid and he was getting ready to plane a door in the bathroom. Not being very handy, he wanted to model his manliness for me in doing something mechanical. He called me and I didn't answer. He called again. No answer. The third time he called, I yelled across the house, "Just a minute! I'm writing a poem!"
To my dad's credit, he left me alone. For my tenth birthday, my folks bought me my first guitar and sent me off to Harriet Williams and Molly for folk guitar classes. The beginners got Molly and then we advanced to Harriet. They taught us D, G, and A7 chords and we sang "Tom Dooley," "Old Paint," and "Streets of Laredo." I thought I was really hip when I could sing and play "The MTA Song."
My stint with Harriet and Molly came to an end when I got nodes on my vocal chords from singing too loud. It didn't help that my voice was changing, either. I spent a summer taking speech therapy and being so hoarse I could hardly talk. That pretty much ended my singing career. In fact, I developed a phobia around singing. I was scared to death that I would sing off key or make some stupid sound, and I resigned myself to being a mute guitar player.
I've been through many phases with music over the years: I played in rock 'n' roll bands, surf bands, blues bands, bluegrass bands, jazz ensembles, played ragtime, classical, and composed music that was all or none of the above. But my guitar roots go all the way back to those first guitar chords and folk tunes with Harriet and Molly. They go back to countless nights at the Ash Grove in LA, sitting at the feet of masters like Doc Watson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Brownie and Sonny, Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, The New Lost City Ramblers, and shaking my head in wonder.
So after traveling many musical miles, I feel like I've come home. Hand surgery forced me to rethink how I play guitar, and I began writing songs. I've overcome my singing phobia (although some might wish I had kept it), and I've returned to basics, hence the CD title: BASICS. Back then, I cut my teeth on a 1963 Martin D28 which I will always miss, but thanks to Suzie Stewart Nunley, I am playing her mother's 1959 D28, built the year before I started playing guitar. I'm writing songs, singing them, and having the best time of my life!
And I never learned to plane a door.