Today is June 1st, my Mother's birthday. She would have been 94. I am writing to honor her and her unpredictable influence on my life's path...
I was 8 years old when I must have mentioned, this part I've forgotten, that I wanted to play guitar. I can't remember the inspiration, but my mother had hers. She loved Jimmy Dean and Ricky Nelson, and thought I would make a good third addition to them if I took lessons. Off we went to the Red Bank School of Music in Red Bank, New Jersey where I ended up studying with Vito Maraschio, a quiet, wise and gentle Barber and part time musician. He taught me all the basics and how to read and write well, and then pawned me off on another teacher, Bill Matthews, when he couldn't teach me any more from the many Mickey Baker, Hy White, Johnny Smith and other books at that time. I met Tal Farlow then and he showed me a bit, but he was too busy to spend time teaching.
But before all that, on about my tenth lesson, I changed my mind. It hurt my fingers, it was too hard, it got in the way of baseball, I didn't like learning Down In The Valley and Red River Valley. Enough with the cowboys, I wanted it fast, easy and happy. Like baseball. Well I clearly remember my mother looking right at me and sternly telling me that she had paid 2 dollars a lesson for almost 3 months, and she wasn't letting that be wasted just because I thought I couldn't do it. And that was that; hello Vito, but in a year she bought me a single pickup P90 4" sunburst body Guild jazzbox, and that I liked and everything changed.
That guitar was stolen in Manhattan in 1965 much to my distress, but I kept on. By that time I had been awarded a Downbeat Magazine scholarship to Berklee College at age 16, written stage music for 3 seasons at SomersPoint Playhouse and Berkley Playhouse (NJ & MA) and had played more events than I could remember. I never understood if these things made my mother happy or proud as she played her emotions close to her, but she did, through her persistence and insistence, set me on track for a life of adventure, learning, wealth and diversity that I could never have imagined or planned.
Just being a simple guitar player took me to Europe, Africa, across the USA and led me to film work (in various roles as director, writer, composer), advertising/marketing, and the acquaintance and friendship of people I feel privileged and honored to know and work with. I also have a BS in Business, but nothing has yielded greater profits than what my mother did for me.
Her name was Veita Lauren Cottrell Barr, and I am her only child. Happy Birthday Mom!