Thursday, June 12, 2003
Ft. Worth Blues
I have an old Martin guitar that I really love. I mean REALLY love. I have heard better sounding ones (like Larry's old '59 Brazilian). My Taylor plays better. Fact is, it is all sentiment and legend. The guitar belonged to my Dad. I spent most of my young years wondering why he hadn't called or sent a birthday card or whatever. He was a pretty lousy Dad but I don't think he could help it.
What I do remember is him being a fair picker and wanting a Martin more than anything in the world. He was living in Palestine (with a long eee sound) Texas in the mid '80's. The story, or a least the one he told, was that this fella blew through town and was lookin' to score some cash for what were certainly nefarious purposes. He had a 1980 Martin D-28 (likely stolen) he was tryin' to convert. Not surprisingly, this shady character managed to find my Dad who claims to have bought it out of the fella's trunk for $400 on the street right in front of his house.
My Dad worked for a company that built power plants all over the world. In 1990, he was working up in Fort Smith when his company told him he was going to Puerto Rico for the next five years. He was limited as to how much stuff he could take and told me he wanted me to keep his Martin for him. I bee lined it to Fort Smith a week later only to find that my Grandpa had shown up the day before and left with the guitar. I spent the next year learning to love the sight of my Grandpa, who dreamed of a Martin even more than my Dad, beam as he thumb picked old Jimmy Rogers or gospel tunes on the beautiful dreadnought. I have never seen anyone so pleased as he was. As glad as I was for him, I always played the thing with a touch of longing and regret.
When my Dad came back to the states, he swung through Russellville en route to Fort Worth to pick up the guitar. I saw it a couple of times over the next few years and fell in love with a Koa Taylor along the way, but...
You never forget your first love.
It was almost two years ago to the day that my Dad called to say that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. Just like David Crosby and Mickey Mantle. My Dad had begun killing himself over 30 years earlier when he started crawling into a bottle that he could never seem to find his way out of. When my Dad came up for Thanksgiving a few weeks later, he had the Martin with him. He pulled it out of his trunk on the gravel road right in front of the half completed home we were building. He gave me the Martin and said not to expect a Christmas or birthday present. It didn't feel like I thought it would. I felt kinda guilty. It meant so much to him.
For Christmas we got the worst ice storm in the history of the world and I got to weep over the death of my Grandpa from my bedroom in Little Rock because the storm closed the interstate to Russellville. In January I took my family to Fort Worth to bury my Dad. I also took his Martin.
I was amazed how much his buddies knew about me and my family. His best friend Butch approaced me in the funeral home (we had never met) and threw his arms around me. Through tears Butch said "I know you Mark...I know you and your family. I know your kids names, I know what you do for a living, hell, I probably know what's on your god-damn tax return. I know about the Martin too, son. Your Daddy was so proud for you to have it..."
The next afternoon, I pulled the old Martin out of the case and sang "Ft. Worth Blues" over my Father. Every bar maid in Cowtown wept as I sang a song that could have been written for him. I spent the rest of the afternoon weeping, not for what I had lost, but for what I would never have.
I can smell my Dad in that guitar. Nate and Dan have smelled it too. God I love that smell