I remember being about eight years old, I was sitting on my parents' front stoop with a crappy old Kay acoustic guitar that my dad won off of someone in a bet. I was going through an old book of sheet music I'd found in the piano bench, and I'd just had a eureka-moment: those funny grid-like drawings above the vocal line were actually guitar chords. I hadn't had any lessons yet, but, always the over-achiever, I was determined to play "Puff the Magic Dragon," with proper finger-picking and all. Most of the chords were simple enough, but the one I just couldn't get to in time -- or rather the chord that sounded like poo when I tried to play it -- was "G."
Then my mom's best-friend-since-childhood, Michelle, wandered up the steps to our house, probably on her way to the swimming pool around the corner. She was always on her way to the pool. She had played the guitar for years, and she knew how to play "Puff" perfectly. When she saw me trying that "G" chord, she showed me a "Sneaky G" or a "Cheater's G," which was infinitely easier and produced just about the same sound. She told me to just use my thumb on the low string and forget about the fancy fingering. (Who knows if this is actually how it happened... it's how I remember it, so that's how it shall remain.)
The next year when I finally started proper guitar lessons, of course, my teacher told me never to play G that way. I obliged, for the most part, and now I know all kinds of ways to play a G-chord. But sometimes, just for fun, I'll play a Sneaky-G, and I'll giggle to myself and think about Michelle and what an amazing gift that chord was -- the immediate ability to play every folk song in the world.
I don't want to write a morose blog today because that's not in the spirit of Michelle. It is always better to sing than to cry. Seeing as it is just about impossible to listen to "Puff the Magic Dragon" without crying, even in normal times, I don't think I'll try that song. I know it's Cyber-Monday, and I'm supposed to be buying strings and ceiling wax and other fancy stuff, but I think today, instead, I'll just play music and write songs. Michelle would have liked that game plan, I think.
And yet another funny thing about songs from my childhood ... a FB friend offered the correction to "Sealing wax" ... of course, when you're three years old and you learn the words to your favorite song, you go your entire life thinking it's a fanciful magic creation called "ceiling wax." Who knew?
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