When I was 16 years old, I needed an acoustic guitar. The old acoustic guitar that I was using in those days sounded bad and it couldn’t be plugged into an amplifier, so I couldn’t use it to play in the yearly variety show that my high school sponsored. A family friend named Caleb Williams caught wind of my predicament, and he called me to make an offer. “Hey Bud” (he called me Bud). “If you paint my garage, I’ll buy you an acoustic guitar.” I immediately agreed.
Within the week, I was on a ladder painting Caleb’s garage. He insisted that I use oil-based paint, and if you don’t know this, oil-based paint sticks to everything. Forever. I was an amateur painter and although I tried to be careful, I still spilled my share of oil-based paint on shingles, on pavement, and on myself.
When I was done, Caleb thought that I’d done a pretty good job despite the spills, and he made good on his promise. We drove 80 miles to Brewer, Maine where he bought me a Yamaha electric acoustic guitar for $125. It’s the guitar that launched my interest in playing professionally, and I played that Yamaha guitar for years. I played in high school shows. It traveled with me to college where I performed with my band in and around Portland, Maine. And it followed me after graduation to help supplement my lousy salary working at NBC.
In 1992, I was preparing to move to Missouri. By that time I had two guitars, but the train I was taking from Boston to Kansas City would only allow me to take one. I sold that Yamaha guitar to a great friend of mine, and I was happy that I was leaving it in good hands. Twenty-One years later, I stumbled on a Facebook picture of that friend playing the old Yamaha electric-acoustic guitar. I immediately asked if he would send me a picture of the guitar, and he kindly obliged.
Caleb has since passed away, and he left behind many legacies. While he likely thought that buying me that guitar was a small gesture, it was one of the most formative gifts I have ever received.
By the way, to this day if you go to 17 Somerset Street in Millinocket, Maine, you’ll find oil-based paint staining the shingles and the pavement on and around the garage. Like legacies, it sticks to everything. Forever.