Tuesday, September 13, 2011


During the past six weeks, since his collapse and heart attack, our family members keep Roy in our thoughts and prayers. Each of us has heartwarming, funny or thought-provoking stories to tell about Roy. Now is a good time to write them down to share with one another. So, Roy D. the younger, starts us thinking with this recollection of Roy D., the elder:


I always think of my Uncle Roy as a musician. He is, of course, many other things as well; a multi-faceted person if there ever was one, but my earliest memories of him are of him plyaing that large cello-shaped electric arch-top guitar, and the sound that came from the wonderful box that lit up with glowing vacuum tubes in the back of it - called an amplifier. Uncle Roy plays very expressively. His foot taps, his head bobs and his expression changes at the turn of a pretty sounding chord.

We always had some kind of musical instrument at (my) home, be it a keyboard or a mandolin or a ukelele or some other guitar-like thing. I used to pick out little melodies and chords - just sort of 'trial and error.'

Then when I was around ten years old, my mother, who was a bookkeeper for Lyon and Healy in Chicago brought me home a three-quarter size acoustic guitar and a "How to play the Guitar" course that had written material and phonograph records. After that, I spent a lot of time with my guitar and a phonograph trying to play what was on the records. Every time we went to visit Uncle Roy, I brought my guitar.

By the time I started 7th grade I was taking guitar lessons at "Burke's Music" in Wheaton, Illinois - where I gave lessons many years later. Burke's music was a short walk from the train station and my friend Alex and I were allowed, once a week on Saturdays, to take the train into Wheaton for our lessons.

We were the cats! Getting on and off the train with our guitar cases and walking to and from the music store that was full of musicians, some of them pros, listening to the stories they told and looking at the instruments they had for sale in the store - all against a background of tuning, playing and little bits of songs that came from the lesson rooms. At the time, I wanted to learn to play everything the Beatles ever did - which was a good thing because, in their career, the Beatles covered nearly every style of music you can think of.

At around that time, my mom and dad gave me the sheet music to the Erroll Garner song Misty and said to me, "If you really want to be a musician, learn to play this one!" Misty was written in the key of E-flat and was full of lush sounding jazz chords with names like "E-flat-major-seventh" and "A-flat-seventh-flat-nine," about which I had no idea. So the next time we went to visit Uncle Roy, I brought the sheet music to Misty and my guitar in hopes that he could show me how to play it. Of course, Uncle Roy knew how to play Misty, which is one of the 'standards,' that is to say, a well-written song that has been played and recorded by a great many artists over a long period of time.

Uncle Roy showed me how to make all those complex chords in the song that I eventually learned to play, and that opened up my ears and the guitar neck to more things than I can name. Uncle Roy has always taken the time to show me something whenever I asked him. "How did you do that?" - and those times were many.

Another valuable lesson I learned from Uncle Roy is that a good player is easy to play with - and always makes the other guy sound good. So, I still bring my guitar whenever I visit Uncle Roy. He makes me sound better than I am.

* * *
Roy and Uncle Roy have provided musical entertainment, sing-alongs, dance tempo, classic solos and listening pleasure for the entire family at the annual Thatcher Family Reunions every August since 1983 - that's 29 reunions!
And the beat goes on... Thanks for the memories... I could have danced all night...
Whether e-mail or snail-mail, send me your "Uncle Roy" story.
I'd like to read it - We all want to read it!

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