Skates, Smokestack Lightning and Scott Joplin

Just the other day, my oldest son and I were talking about music and how it has been such a big part of our family life. Can you imagine the cacophony of sounds in our household as four stereos blared each particular kid’s favorite music? 

George recalled how his love of music evolved, aside from listening to music at home. It started at Skate City in Yorktown during the ’80s. He’d go with friends on the weekend, skating for fun and paying a steep price: blisters and numerous falls, which produced many bruised elbows and knees. He said it took him a good two weeks to get on an even keel and skate without going “butt over teakettle.”

One Saturday evening, we decided to go down and watch the action at the rink. I moved over to the side of the rink to join the other onlookers; I couldn’t help but notice a young man executing some wild moves with poise and skill in the middle of the floor as everyone applauded. As he jumped, landed gracefully and spun around, I looked at his face: 

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“Oh my God! That’s my kid! How did he learn to do that?” I was so proud!

George watched and learned from the DJs at the rink. They taught him well as he soon became one of them. I remember the album collection he accumulated at home. He set up turntables in his room and practiced for hours. George soon was invited to DJ at a few private parties.

“Nice to get paid for something I love to do,” he told me.

About that time, brother Matt, who was already a guitar devotee, suggested that George should buy a cheap bass guitar and amp and give this instrument a whirl.  He did just that and dug in practicing for hours—as he did to become a DJ. When George visits Matt and Helen in Florida, in between rounds of golf, they jam at Guitar Center with the owner and a few of Matt’s friends.

Then came the “big time.” George and several of his musician buddies pooled their talent and ideas and the band Smokestack Lightning was born. They played Southern rock and the blues: Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels Band and the like. The few times they rehearsed at the house—and loosened tiles on the kitchen floor—they played “Call Me the Breeze” just for me. By way of thanks, I served donuts and coffee.

One weekend, we went to the bar where the band was playing. We dressed the part and made quite an entrance. The Magnificent Seven strolled in wearing cowboy hats and leather jackets; Art wore an authentic black Stetson straight from Oklahoma—he could have been J.R. of “Dallas” fame.

Just before Christmas a few years later, George asked if I’d consider selling my keyboard. I didn’t want to do that, but an idea was born. Art thought it would be a great gift for him. I wish I’d captured the look on his face when he tore the paper off the box and saw what it contained. His talent and love of music then moved on to the keyboard—he is self-taught and very, very good. After months of practice—he doesn’t read music—he mastered Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.”  Often, he will play at an open mike at a local sports bar—the keyboard or bass. 

I am amazed, proud and in awe of George’s talent and his dedication to and passion for music and these instruments; he has dabbled in creating his own music. I truly reap the benefits. When he visits, I am rewarded with a private concert and maybe a hint of what is his next triumph.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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