Lucky Breaks

I think of myself as a working stiff, a musician who has made his living
with a guitar in his hands since 1976, the year my wife and I moved to El
Paso, Texas. It may be helpful, or at least entertaining, to pass on to you
what I've learned, from beginning an instrument to sustaining a career. Why
don't I kick it off by telling you how I got started, about some of my early
mentors, and how I seem to be one lucky guy.

Lucky Break #1. What if that friend hadn't offered me his old guitar for 15
dollars? After I bought it nothing else mattered. My life before guitar, my
life after guitar - it was that black and white. After a couple of months,
another pal and I played open mic night at a coffeehouse in St Charles, IL,
my public debut. Not that I was any good, in fact, friends would invite me
to parties, but make a special point of asking me NOT to bring my guitar.
That didn't faze me, I only worked harder. Away in college, I had a
housemate whose brother played drums in a band that was losing one of its
guitar players, courtesy of Uncle Sam, this being the time of the draft and
Vietnam. I've always suspected the reason I was asked to fill in was
because our house had a big basement and the guys, along with the girl
singer, were desperate for a place to practice. The story goes that Bill
Wyman was asked to join the Stones because he came along with a big amp at
just the right time. Being invited into the band was Lucky Break #2.

My main recollection is of drowning, being in way over my head, but did I
learn! This was music university, the crash course. The other band members
were older, experienced players who knew a whole lot more than I did. I was
expected to catch up, and quick. The bass player was a math genius who knew
music theory up one side and down the other. I got turned on to Duane
Allman, Jeff Beck, Larry Coryell, Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton, and Jerry
Garcia, and was immersed in music 24 hours a day. Several other guitar
players spent time in the band, each with a guitar case full of knowledge
for me to absorb. The University of Illinois in the early 1970's was a
hotbed for music - Duke Tomato, The One-Eyed-Jacks, Slink Rand, Dan
Folgelberg (he was in my first Geology class), REO Speedwagon, Head East -
these were all good local acts. Our band rented a house together for a year
in Champaign, but the hard partyin' and dope smokin' eventually got to me.
Lucky Break #3 was having the good sense to split.

Acoustic guitar - the unaffected natural wooden tone, how it could sound
like a little orchestra - had started to fascinate me. My work at this time
in acoustic ensembles laid the foundation for what I do today. Hearing
acoustic masters like Leo Kottke, John Fahey and Norman Blake at this
juncture was Lucky Break #4.

Having the opportunity to write a regular column for El Paso's "What's Up",
and being able to share it with guitar9 is something like Dan's Lucky Break
#1273. When I got back from playing in London last winter, I contacted
"What's Up" over a story I was in the middle of writing about the trip.
Secret Wherett, the editor, said "sure", then later we talked about doing a
monthly music article and I was on my way. The folks at "What's Up" have
been nice enough to let me run these columns at guitar9, so maybe do them a
favor and check out their magazine. We'll see you next month. Get in touch with your comments and questions.

Dan Lambert is a guitarist, performer, recording artist and teacher out of El Paso, Texas with five CDs under his belt and another on the way.

His latest instrumental CD is entitled "The Double Drum Trio".

Dan Lambert