Giving new meaning to the term 'happy together'

By Kevin Gibson

I bought a guitar when I was about 17, but every time I learned a new chord I would forget the one I'd learned before and would have to start over. So I sold it.

When I was about 20, I bought a set of drums, but I could only play three rhythms at a time. Every time I tried to start a fourth beat with the high hat cymbal, I would mess up. So I sold them.

For years, I wondered if I could play bass guitar, but I didn't want to become a dealer of used musical instruments, so I never bought one - until my birthday in March. Now, I can't feel my fingertips anymore because of the blisters and callouses.

But I don't mind, because this way if I burn myself on the stove it doesn't hurt as much. And this time around, I have a bassist friend who is giving me a few tips, so at least it isn't another case of the tone deaf leading the tone deaf.

His most useful tip was that I should learn the bass line in "Smoke on the Water" immediately. "Learn that and you're wife won't be able to resist you," he said.

So I did, and now every time I play it she screams and rips off her clothes. I really have to stop taking that guitar to the grocery store with us.

In all seriousness, if you've always wanted to learn a musical instrument and haven't, you should. And I'm not just saying that because it will improve your marriage.

Truly, there is a feeling of accomplishment; it is especially rewarding because now I can play along with almost any Elvis Presley song I want to. I don't know if that makes me the next king of rock 'n' roll or if it just shows how simple those songs were.

Either way, I hope I don't die on the toilet.

But getting back to what I was saying, I feel good about myself in an old-dog-learning-a-new-trick kind of way. My playing has a long way to go, but you don't have to be all that good to sit down and play the most basic three-chord blues lines. And nothing sounds cooler on a bass guitar than, say, John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom."

I even named my bass, in the tradition of great musicians like B.B King, who named his guitar Lucille. I decided to name my black and white Fender-Squier "Happy," partially because I feel so good when I play it.

Also, my friend/mentor, when he first picked up my guitar, said, "This is a happy bass."

Best of all, it's hilarious to watch the looks on people's faces when my friend asks, "Did you play with Mr. Happy last night?" and I say, "Oh yeah, I slapped Mr. Happy for over an hour."

Then he says, "I'll come over tomorrow night and we can take turns slapping Mr. Happy." It's about then that the room clears.

We just have to be careful when he does come over to teach me new techniques; I hate to think what might happen if he played "Smoke on the Water" in front of my wife.