Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Musical Family

I haven't said too much about music here so far, but it has always been a part of my life. As far back as I can remember, I was singing. When I was fifteen I took up playing guitar, and kept singing. In high school I was in Concert Choir and Varsity Ensemble, as well as church choirs. And when the Hawkins family got together, we made music. My father played guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo (he had a couple of violins, too, but in his own words, "he never got the squawks out"). He had played in a few bands, working the bars around Harrison and Ross, Ohio in the late 1930s and early '40s (near Cincinnati). Once they got on the radio--live show, before the days of DJs. My grandfather played guitar and mandolin, my grandmother played piano and guitar. But I only learned last year that my great-grandfather, who died before I was born, had also played guitar. We were together, playing music, and my Dad sang one of his old songs that I'd remembered him singing over the years, but my son Caleb was struck by it and asked him to write down the words, then got him to talk about where he learned it--turned out that when he was little, his grandfather, my great-grandfather, had played his guitar and sung it to him!

My sons carry on the family tradition. Nathan, the older, plays guitar and electric bass. But Caleb, our youngest kid, took after my Dad--he wants to play everything. He started with guitar, then banjo, then mandolin, then fiddle. Added upright bass (he had one for a while, but sold it--they take a lot of room). He had dulcimer lessons from a friend of ours some years ago, now he has one--it's about the only instrument he's had formal lessons on. Also added harmonica and dobro recently. He's messed around with keyboards at times. Once in a while he plays the electric bass he got from Nathan.

We still take our instruments when we go to visit my folks. Dad will be 88 this fall, but he still gets out the guitar and plays with us, at least for a while. I'll sing and play a couple of their old favorites, and Caleb will either do something old or some of the songs he's written (unlike me, he is a songwriter). I've also been singing to our youngest granddaughter, born this year, and she seems to like it. Looks like the tradition will go on.