I was born in Colorado, the youngest of four children. My dad met my mum when he was stationed in England during WWII. They married and moved to New York with their baby son and Dad resumed work on a singing career that had been interrupted by the war. Later we moved to Denver where he was offered a job in the advertising business. His dream of a music career had passed.
But he never stopped singing. Growing up, we had a large collection of LPs of all kinds of music. Mario Lanza, Carousel with John Raitt, The Fantasticks, The Norman Luboff Choir, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Judy Collins, and a brief but intense phase of Englebert Humperdink. Later, we kids introduced our own music like Elvis, Bob Dylan, The Band, Gordon Lightfoot, Peter Paul and Mary. Bonnie Raitt, John Raitt’s daughter, was among everyone’s favorite.
On family trips in our Oldsmobile station wagon, Dad would sing and we would join in. We sang show tunes, cowboy ballads and old folk songs. I recorded one of these, “The Fox," on my latest recording project called The Keeper.
My dad Holden was one of the best ballad singers I have ever heard. His phrasing and powerful interpretation of song influenced me greatly. I wanted to be a singer before I knew what it meant. Then came the guitar. Dad brought home an old battered six string he’d found at a junk shop. After he repaired it, I picked it up. My sister showed me three chords to an old English folk song and that was that. My guitar became a companion for the rest of my life.
In my early teens I took my first solo adventure to babysit the daughter of some friends at their cabin in the high desert of Wyoming. I boarded the bus in Denver at midnight. When I arrived at dawn, the bells I had sewn on the fringe of my buckskin jacket jangled the other passengers awake as I lifted my guitar off the overhead rack. At the cabin I discovered two song books, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. Babysitting became a bother. All I wanted to do was play and sing.
My first paying gig was at the University of Idaho Student Union coffeehouse and later at Pengilly’s Saloon in Boise, Idaho. Soon I was playing the “steak-rock-circuit," singing in restaurant bars around the Northwest. Playing four hours in a bar grew my song-list and performance experience. I moved from Colorado to Idaho to Seattle to Texas to England following family, school, romance and music.
Finally, life on the road started to lose its luster and I started to think about getting a “real job”. I went back to school to study language, linguistics, psychology and education. My first teaching gig was in Star, Idaho in a second grade classroom. That year was as terrifying as any rowdy bar crowd I had encountered but I found I had a secret weapon. Music.
For twenty years as an educator, in every classroom, there was always a guitar hanging on the wall. Music became a tool for teaching. It could reinforce a concept, enhance any subject and most of all, bring joy.
Years ago I heard a song called “How Can I Keep From Singing?” It was on an LP called Precious Friend by Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. I was so moved by it, I was soon singing it.
I still am because really, how can I keep from singing?
Thanks for listening.
My video features The End of the Afternoon, a song from Trumpet Vine, and was shot during an album release party in 2015 at El Korah Shrine in Boise, Idaho. In the band are Dave Manion on electric guitar, Jay Multanan on bass, Casey Miller on drums, Thomas Paul on acoustic guitar and Lisa Theo providing harmony.