Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Guitar Slim Effect

"Pardon My Heart"
- Neil Young

"Did you ever wake up to find, a day that broke up your mind?"
-The Rolling Stones

Yesterday I experienced such a day. It was partially by my own design. Two extremely difficult and heartbreaking situations in my personal life were dealt with, or at least put into motion. One involves my son, Lincoln, who is eight years old, and telling him the news that he and my ex-wife will be moving far away. 1000 miles to be exact, and I won't be able to join them. He didn't take it so well, but I think he's getting used to the idea. I'm not sure how I feel. The other, involves a woman, whom I love very much and have been apart from for a few weeks - or dare I say broken up with - it remains to be seen how this other situation will play out, depending on the depth of my denial and or the luck or cruelty of fate.

When my son was born in 1999 he spent the first few days of his life in the intensive care unit. His mother's labor ended with an emergency C- section about 36 hours after her water had initially broken, thus causing an infection and requiring antibiotics for mother and son. It was during this time, that the customary tests were performed on the baby, and a nurse matter of factly informed us that Lincoln had failed his hearing test, and wouldn't be eligible to take another for three months.

At the moment of his birth, the doctor exclaimed, "WOW!" at this huge nearly 10 pound, 22 inch child who was in my eyes perfect in every way, mother and son were wheeled away separately to require additional medical care. I retreated to a wall in front of the hospital where I sat and smoked a cigarette while weeping uncontrolled tears of joy.

I found out about the hearing test the following morning, after returning to the hospital on a few hours sleep, I was troubled by this news, but elated by the birth of my son. "We'll just wait and see." I told myself. Now any new parent will tell you, that these first days back home with your child can be racked with anxiety and wonder. "What now?" When you leave the hospital they give you a take home bag filled with a blanket, onesies, and various other items including a CD known as "The Mozart Effect." Scientific studies have shown that exposure to certain pieces of music can increase brain activity in infants, especially in the development of spatial relations. I was troubled by this notion that maybe Lincoln was deaf, and "How would I be able to share all of this music with him?" I tried the the Mozart. No response. I snapped my fingers, whispered into his ears. Non-conclusive. There was always something playing in the background. Popular in our house at this time was Summerteeth, by Wilco and somewhere there is a video I shot of me cradling him in the kitchen while listening to Good As I Been To You by Bob Dylan. I wasn't convinced. Finally, one day in his second month, frustrated and looking for results, I got out the headphones and put them on the boy. I started thumbing through my LPs looking for something of substance to pass on to my progeny. There it was: Guitar Slim, The Atco Sessions. I put it on, quietly, and watched. Slowly I turned up the volume. He cracked a smile or maybe it was just gas. I don't know, but something in my heart told he he was listening. A few days or a week later, I can't remember, he took his hearing test and passed with flying colors.

Today, Lincoln is versed in all kinds of music. His favorite (of course) is The Beatles, but he caught my attention one day, when we were listening to Chuck Berry and he asked me who the piano player was. I was taken aback that he even noticed, since that and most of those records are driven by the guitar, and this particular one featured the great Johnny Johnson. He often goes to bed listening to Monk's Dream, his choice not mine. I took him to see a taping of a Jerry Lee Lewis Special for PBS, and he was appropriately blown away. While making photographs for Steve Earle's Washington Square Serenade CD, I took him along to Electric Lady one day, where I made this top photograph of him in Studio A. This record gets a fair amount of airplay in his bedroom as well. So far he's mastered only the harmonica, and plays with perfect timbre and rhythm. Piano lessons are in store for him, after the move.

So, as for Guitar Slim? Yesterday while doing double duty on my heartaches, I reached for those sad records that make me feel better about feeling bad: Slim sings with more heart than than just about anyone else. He's not technically a great singer, and his guitar playing is sloppy but says exactly what it needs to. A smile crossed my face, or maybe it was just gas.


"Down Through The Years" mp3
by Guitar Slim, 1956
available on Atco Sessions

"It Hurts To Love Someone" (That Don't Love You) mp3
by Guitar Slim, 1956.
available on Atco Sessions

"Sufferin' Mind" mp3
by Guitar Slim, 1954.
available on Sufferin' Mind

"Trouble Don't Last" mp3
by Guitar Slim, 1954.
available on Sufferin' Mind


"Pardon My Heart" mp3
by Neil Young, 1975.
available on Zuma

"Sway" mp3
by The Rolling Stones, 1971.
available on Sticky Fingers

"1000 Miles" mp3
by Clare Burson, 2007.
available on Thieves

"I'm Always In Love" mp3
by Wilco, 1999.
available on Summerteeth

"Tomorrow Night" mp3
by Bob Dylan, 1992.
available on Good as I Been to You

"Martha My Dear" mp3
by The Beatles, 1968.
available on The Beatles (The White Album)

"Drifting Heart" mp3
by Chuck Berry, 1956.
available on The Chess Box :Chuck Berry

"Before The Night Is Over" mp3
by Jerry Lee Lewis with B.B. King, 2006.
available on Last Man Standing - The Duets

"Day's Aren't Long Enough" mp3
by Steve Earle (with Allison Moorer), 2007.
available on Washington Square Serenade

"Monk's Dream" mp3
by Thelonious Monk Quartet, 1962.
available on Monk's Dream

all photos © Ted Barron


Anonymous said...

While it's heartbreaking that he'll be 1000 miles away, it's a wonderful story how he overcame the prognoses and became a music lover. I don't have any children, but I was at the birth of my nephew. I'll never forget the shock that went through me after I held his small body in the palm of my hands. Later, my brother asked, "This is the best thing I've ever done, right?" After I confirmed that it was, it hit me how special the connection we have with our children is, the most important one in our lives.

The fact that Lincoln was aware of Johnny Johnson's playing brings a big smile to my face. That's one cool kid! You've taught him well. In the meantime, start collecting those frequent flyer miles, you'll be using them.

Anonymous said...

My best wishes to you and your son during this difficult time. My shared musical bond with my father was extremely strong and created much common ground - especially when we needed it during my teenage years. I think it provides resiliency; I hope it does for you two as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you and Lincoln will be apart. I can only tell you from my own experience that your child will always love you and need you, and that it will all work out okay for you both over time.

Anonymous said...

You are a cool dad, Ted.

Days Aren't Long Enough is on heavy rotation here.

What is it w/ 8 year olds and the Beatles?



Anonymous said...

Very nicely written. You two have made it this far - you will figure it out.

Nice picture.


mandotodd said...

I like your blog very much. However, I am at the moment sort of reeling: my wife and I recently had a terrible labour that ended in a C-section and I did everything in my power not to see anything on the other side of the surgery curtain. So, I'm scrolling through your blog and "Hmmm, what's this?" look closer and BAM! yikes!

I'm not upset - just a bit shocked and somewhat disturbed.

I know you must have felt that it was the thing to do to put that photo in there, but I sure wish you hadn't.


sroden said...

sorry to hear about teh blues. after a split my dad was several thousand miles away for much of my younger days as well. my mom never talked crap about him, and he sent me lots of letters with drawings of the batmobile, the beatles, etc. which in many ways meant more to me over the years than him home in what probably would've been a less positive situation. good luck with it all, you seem like a darn cool dad, i'm sure the bond is stronger than physical distance, particularly if shared music is involved...

Ted Barron said...

thank you everyone.

Anonymous said...

now THAT was a post !

Anonymous said...

it's a very good compilation, sorry, i can't find the track 1. can you help me?

Ted Barron said...

the track numbers correspond to the month not the post. this one starts at # 2

Anonymous said...

seems a rermarkably heartless thing to do, move 1000 miles away from a child's dad. How can that be justified? Oh well, I don't know the situation so shouldn't judge but I live about two miles from my ex and my kids are with me 3 days aweek so I guess I'm lucky. Hope it works out for you both. very cool about the Johnny Johnson thing, get him some Pete Johnson to listen to. ( Joe Turner )

Anonymous said...

Best of luck. A very powerful post. I'm glad you and your son can share music.

Kid Richter said...

Man, that is one moving story. Thank you for sharing it with your fans. All the best to you!

Anonymous said...

Compelling indeed, Ted. Communication is the key and judging by your post, I don't think you'll lose that connection with your son. He's a lucky kid to have such a cool dad.
Nice job!


frankenslade said...

I wish you and your son the best with the challenges ahead. It sounds like you've already established a deep bond. Keep at it!

Anonymous said...

just a note from someone who never did pass the hearing test [only 50%], who first heard monks dream at 10 and has loved it ever since, and who is also missing a certain girl, and a son very badly...

thank you for the amazing some ways its like a knife in my heart, but that can be good thing ya know?...

i tend to think bonds once made are always there...

Anonymous said...

Ted, I know that two years have now passed and hope that things have worked out well for you and your family. I just wanted to let you know how much I can relate to your sense of loss on the day that you wrote this post. I've had two such episodes in my life which unfortunately weren't happily resolved.

Also, I've worked my way back through your posts to this point this morning. Thanks so much - Fluville is in my top three destinations. I get so few comments on my site, I sometimes wonder if people just snatch the music and do a runner because the posts just aren't as interesting. P.S. I added a link to the Daily Pixel today - love your work.