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Guitarbum Music

Vocal and instrumental guitar centric music that is a original blend of rock, blues, jazz, and country with a vintage vibe and guitar harmony.

Songs about life, dreams, and things that go bump in the night. 

Music has always fascinated me. My earliest memory was of a man playing the piano when I was still just a baby.  My next memory is from several years later: (that piano made a huge impression on my brand-new brain!)  We had a few records in our house and a tiny little round screen TV.  I listened to whatever I could on the radio and the few phonograph records we had.  I would listen to any kind of music including some opera albums we found at the garbage dump.  At age seven I discovered that if I got up early on school days, before the local TV station came on the air, they would display a test pattern (if you remember test patterns, you qualify as an "oldie") and while the test pattern was displayed, they would play classical piano music.  I would get up early, turn on the TV and lay on the couch listening to piano music through a tiny speaker.  I thought it was amazing.

Through my early years I started following Top-40 radio.  I had an old antique organ and a cheap accordion that I would mess around with but never had any formal music training so it was just trial and error to plunk out a simple melody.  My grandfather was a musician and he played fiddle, mandolin, and banjo.  He had these instruments just setting around his house and I found them fascinating and I just wanted to hold them and pluck the strings.  They were so cool.

I first took an interest in the guitar in 1962 when I was 11 years old.  I heard a recording of Muleskinner Blues and when that distinctive guitar break came on I asked my mom what that was.  She said; “that's an electric guitar.”  Wow, just the sound of it was so cool: an ELECTRIC guitar.  I certainly had noticed that Elvis and other singers played guitar but those weren't electric and they didn't make a sound like the guitar on Muleskinner Blues.  After that I started seeking out the electric guitar.  I would read the entire TV Guide looking for what few guitar players would actually be featured on variety shows.  I started noticing not just the front men in a band, but the electric guitar players in the backup band.  And then I discovered The Ventures.

The Ventures really turned me on because here was a whole band devoted to the electric guitar.  It was no longer a back up instrument or a solo act like Chet Atkins, but a band where the electric guitar was front and center. I suppose in 1962, the Ventures were the Joe Satriani and Steve Vai of the day. While the Ventures were pretty simplistic by today’s standards, they were playing rock-like music and the guitar was the star of the act.  Certainly there had been a great number of jazz giants on guitar since the 30s and 40s, but a young kid growing up in the mid-west I had no way of exploring jazz guitar as this was way before Al Gore invented the Internet.  But the Ventures were accessible, and I could find their music at the record shops.  Like a lot of other young guys in the early 60s, The Ventures made me want to play guitar and it gave me the motivation to actually get started.

I told mom and dad that I wanted a guitar more than anything else in the world.  So they put me to the test and in the summer of 1964 I spent a week scraping and painting our garage and in return my dad ordered an acoustic guitar from Sears and Roebuck that cost a whopping $13 with the promise that IF I learned to play it, he would buy me an electric guitar.  Of course the deal didn't include any lessons.  I was expected to teach myself something that I had no knowledge of.   I also lived in a small town and unlike today, not everyone played the guitar, so I had no one I could turn to for even basic orientation.

In those days any guitar under $75 was a piece of crap, and a $13 guitar was a major piece of crap.  Parents always wanted to buy something cheap for their little wannabe guitar players, until they see if they are really serious.  The problem with that philosophy is that in those days, cheap guitars were very hard to play.  They were so hard to play that even seasoned guitar players could hardly play them.  They hurt your fingers and sounded terrible.  For most kids, it was a guaranteed dead end.  The guitars would get abandoned and the parents would then feel they had done the right thing because he obviously wasn't serious.  Thankfully these days, even the cheap guitars are pretty decent and easy to play.  It's a completely different world in that respect, but up until the 1990s, cheap guitars were a bane for new players.  But amongst all the would be guitar players that abandoned their worthless first-guitar there were a few who were so determined to play that they stayed with it and rode out the pain.  I was one of them.

But my dad was true to his word and less than a year later he bought me my first electric guitar:  A Gibson Melody Maker and a tiny little Sears Silvertone amplifier.  The amp was pretty useless, but the guitar was very serviceable and collectable today.  I started organizing bands with other kids that were experimenting with guitars and drums.  It wasn't long before I got my first real amp, which was a tube Silvertone with two 12-inch speakers.  It had reverb and I finally could get that Ventures sound.  Throughout Jr. high school I would jam with other kids and we would play a song or two at the school dances.

By the time I was in the 10th grade we had formed what might actually be called a real band.  We played rock and roll for Friday night sock hops at the area schools, proms, and homecoming dances, and wedding receptions.  By this time I was gaining some level or proficiency.  I had a strong background in country music and I could fill in with area country bands when their lead guitar player was sick or otherwise indisposed.  Between these gigs as a substitute and my own band, I had gained enough experience by the time I graduated high school to make the decision to play music full-time.  So I abandoned all thoughts of college or a normal life and dedicated myself to a career in rock music.  This was a rather brash decision that had major impact on my life. I had no formal music training and I didn't really understand the first thing about running a band as a business.  In those days we were convinced that just being cool guys in a band would assure our future.  With that profound thought, we forged ahead.

In some ways we were lucky.  We found ourselves in a band named "DAWG" in the middle of Michigan's rock and roll history period.  There was a lot of great music coming out of Motown, but in addition to the success of soul there were some great Michigan rock bands, some of which rose to fame and prominence that lasts to this day such as Bob Seeger, Ted Nugent, Dick Wagner, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk, and many more that went on to hugely successful careers.  In 1969 you could book a good rock act all year long at concerts.  There were concerts everywhere in those days in Michigan:  Huge outdoor venues with thousands of fans and bands that would play from early afternoon until late at night.  Promoters would book theaters or roller skate rinks and have 2 or 3 bands play the shows.  There were tons of teen nightclubs in Michigan such as Daniel's Den in Saginaw or The Blue Light in Midland.  Even the small towns had venues for rock bands, Francis Grove in Sanford or the Patio in Harrison, The Sweetnote in Chippewa Lake, and there were literally dozens more of these clubs in Michigan and almost everywhere there was live music.  And it wasn’t about dancing, people came to hear the bands and the atmosphere was more concert-like.  All the area bands, including the big names and many who would become big names all played these same clubs. There are references and books available on all these bands and clubs on the Internet and it was wonderful to be a part of this musically historic time and place. 

I eventually started a band called The Wild West Show (WWS). The WWS was for the most part an "Eagles cover band" along with as much original material as we could get away with in nightclubs.  The WWS had a long run and there is a long list of band alumni.  I was the only member in every incarnation of the WWS.  The WWS had wonderful fan base and we worked steadily, logged a lot of road time, and enjoyed great success.  We had a lot of fans and made a lot of good friend during those years on the road. Those were some of the best days of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  And to all you old WWS alumni  and WWS fans that might be reading this – Thank You!  I love you all and miss you dearly.  Please write! daryl@DarylCrowley.com

Eventually, as happens to most working bands, we became unionized, got an agent and started working the nightclub circuits. For those of you that haven’t done this, this is the side of the music business that get’s defined as “work”.  As Mark Knopler points out in is MTV song… “That aint workin..”; and he’s right - for concerts it’s too much fun to be work.  However: 5 – 7 nights a week in a nightclub is hard work that get’s extremely old after a few years.

In those days southern rock, and country rock were big thanks to groups like the Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Loggins & Messina, Pure Prairie League, Marshal Tucker Band, CSNY, etc.  That was our forte and our love of that music made the job a little easier to bear. We recorded a few songs, did concert openers, and hung out with some of the rich and famous, even though we were not so rich, and not nearly so famous.

I eventually married the girl of my dreams (no kidding, really!) and it was hard to leave her at home and continue life on the road so I finally “retired”.  Some of my old band mates went on to successful musical careers or returned to “civilian life”.  One of the more notable successes was my old band mate and good friend Dan Schafer (see the links page for Dan’s web site.)  Dan went on to tour with Barbra Mandrell, Lorrie Morgan, Shinia Twain, and an impressively long list of Nashville’s finest.  Almost everyone kept at least a hand in music, while retiring to a simpler life style.  Guys like Rex Raymond, with a voice that can make you cry, went back to civilian life, but kept playing steady and has a CD out that you should really get a copy of (see the links page for Rex’s website.) 

I went back to school, older and hopefully wiser after the reality of a working musician.  I helped support my wife and I through my college years by forming a band and playing 3 nights a week all through college.  This helped solidify my opinion that club gigs are indeed WORK!  But we had a good bunch of guys and we had a lot of fun.  After I graduated with a Bachelors degree in accounting (yuk!) I quit music cold-turkey and I sold all my guitars.  I had made a clean cut from the past.

Fast forward 25 years….. My accounting (yuk) degree landed me working with computers and information systems right out of college.  It proved to be a good move because it got me out of accounting (yuk) and into the growth of computer systems.  I enjoyed a very successful career and my wife and I managed to raise 3 kids and life has been very good.  I became very involved in fly fishing and was fortunate to make friends with some professional fly fishermen and I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the country fishing and have made multiple trips to the wilderness of Alaska.  Fly fishing is still a major passion of mine and seems to be with a lot of musicians.

But what about music?  Once a musician, always a musician.  After I gave up life on the road, I immersed myself in contemporary jazz music.  I always had taste for jazz but my band career pretty much tied up my time working on original material and cover tunes.  So I stared accumulating jazz records, tapes, then CDs.  My wife and I attended many concerts and still do to this day as it's one of our favorite things to do. I love music and I want it playing around me all the time,

Over the years I was pulled out of musical retirement a few times.  I would borrow a guitar and do some solo stuff or set in with a band doing a concert, but I was pretty rusty.  I was saddened that I had deteriorated since my road days and this just served to kill my interest in getting back into music.  Like ridding a bicycle, you never forget how to play guitar, but if your not doing it every night for months and years straight you tend to get "a little off your game." 

Then there was a series of events that would greatly change my involvement in music.

My youngest daughter (piano player and killer vocalist!) had a boyfriend in high school that had several guitars and he loaned her a Fender Stratocaster to “plunk on”.  So there was the Strat in my living room and of course I would pick it up and play.  I started to wonder if it would even be possible to get the old chops back after such a long hiatus from playing.  So I started spending a half hour or more every night doing scales and exercises to see if becoming proficient again was even possible.  After a month or so I began to think, yea, it might be possible with enough work. (Thank you Dan D.)

That Christmas my wife surprised me with a beautiful guitar. It was a total surprise.  I was speechless and I damn near cried, and for those that know me, that’s pretty extreme.  Other than my children, it was the greatest gift I had ever received.

I fell in love with that guitar, it fit me like the proverbial glove, and it was like throwing gasoline on a dying ember.  Just like when I was kid, I couldn’t put this thing down.  My practice regiment turned into 3 hours every weeknight, and 6 – 10 hours a day on the weekends.  I was consumed by it in a way I hadn’t felt in many years! .  And now, I had many years of extensive exposure to blues, jazz and world music, so my brain had a whole new frame of reference to play guitar with.

My renewed passion for playing the guitar soon blossomed into several guitars, amps and a recording studio that I continue to upgrade and expand.  I started writing songs again and I found that my years of listening to a wide range of music had led my songwriting to reflect an eclectic array of influences. I have a hard time categorizing my music to any specific genre.  At times it will be rock or jazz or blues and much of the time it's all of those things at the same time.

But that's the beauty of writing songs that aren't intended to sell a million records to teenagers.  Unlike my days in the Wild West Show, I no longer play and write to become rich and famous; I do it for the joy and the satisfaction of making music.  The music I write and record is the sum of my experiences, my influences, and my idiosyncrasies: it's who I am. 

I've been fortunate enough to record with a number of people across the country the past few years and the caliber of independent musicians out there with recording studios is staggering.  There is so much great talent everywhere these days that it truly boggles my mind and we are all blessed with this bounty.

I'm a guitar guy, and there are literally millions of us.  You're likely one too.  There are millions of great guitar players and song writers, and another million that are way better than that and they're all worth listening to: both the famous concert artist, and the guy or gal down at the local honky-tonk.  We all play with the passion we feel for our music and that's what keeps us going.

I hope you will take the time to listen to the words in my songs, every one of them are there for a reason, like each of the notes in the melody.  As every musician will tell you, there is nothing greater than music and if there were only musicians in the world, there would be no war and we would all live in peace and harmony... and it's absolutely true!

Daryl Crowley