It is now 2017. I am living in Phuket, Thailand.
Recently I received an e mail from an old friend, Bill Stanley aka Paco Sevilla who is a professional Flamenco guitarist. I have known Paco for 40 years.
In his e mail he asked me how far into Flamenco guitar I was in my earlier years and why I had stopped playing.
Below are my answers.
Reply to PacoHi Paco,
I have spent days trying to remember the Flamenco years of my life. I still play a bit, but these are not my Flamenco years. These are the Thailand years. You asked about how deep I was into the music back then.
I can tell you that, from 1962 when I first heard someone playing Flamenco (it was a fellow student at SDSC who was playing some crap like Malaguena and told me it was Flamenco. He was playing a Mexican Paracho guitar which he bought in Tijuana) to the year 1980 I was determined to be a professional guitarist. It turned out that I had, and still have, perfect pitch. That is, if I hear a note played on a piano, I can play the identical note on the guitar. I have been tested about this and it's very unusual and was very helpful learning off 33 LP records!
Within a year, that is, by 1963 I was teaching at The Blue Guitar in Mission Beach. I don't remember how I got there, but there I was. Ed Douglas, a retired cop, owned it then. He was kind enough to let me "Teach Flamenco" there, but I really knew nothing. I did have a natural ability for the music and for playing the guitar, but nothing like Joe Trotter as you remember.
I was making about $50.00 per week back then and going to school. In school I studied Television/Film just in case I couldn't cut it playing the guitar. Imagine, Film and TV as back up! Also, my mother said she would cut off my funding (very little, I had to mop floors in the cafeteria) if I dropped out of school.
It was at the Blue guitar that I met all the guys we know in common. Trotter, Cheney, Yuris and others who I can't remember. Also, in 1964 I impregnated my girlfriend by accident (the "Pull out!" method does not work) and had a beautiful baby daughter named Lisa. Her birth was a seismic event in my life and was the driving force to stay involved in movies and TV so that I could make money to feed the two people who were 100% dependent on me. I was never sure I could do that with the guitar. Neither you or any of the guys at Blue Guitar have a had a kid, so you really can't fully understand the effect it has on you.
The responsibility drove me to leave San Diego, move to Hollywood and get a job in a TV station there. Teaching Flamenco was incredibly satisfying, but there was no money in it. When someone, like Trotter, says, "You sold out" they should have a kid and see how that feels. Also, I never got "sidetracked". I started a career in case I couldn't make it teaching and playing Flamenco. That was the responsible thing to do.
So, at the age of 22, in 1964, I was working at KTTV Los Angeles a local TV station in L.A. and practicing Flamenco about 2 hours per day. I was not giving up. I even took my guitar to the TV Station and played for the crew at lunch one day and they were blown away. I kept practicing at night and working by day for the next 12 years.
My dream, as I moved up the ladder of TV Production, moving to Universal Studios and entering an apprenticeship program in film making beginning as a 2nd Assistant Director (on Dragnet) (4 years)1st Assistant Director (The Streets of San Francisco and many others) (8 years), Production Manager (15 to 20 years), was to get out of the business, move to Spain and play in Bodegas in Andalucia.
In 1976, I made the break. But, as an aside, let me tell you something that you will find very, very interesting Paco. Let's return to 1963. I was 21 and teaching at the Blue Guitar and advertising in the SDSC paper as a private Flamenco guitar instructor. I was still a film and TV student at State.
One afternoon I was at home in my one room flat just off campus when the phone rang. It was an adult woman calling and she asked me if I would teach her 15 year old son Flamenco guitar. I said, "Yes, of course". So, next day she arrived with her kid and I proceeded to start a series of lessons with him.
On the first day, he said, "Tell me about the Gypsies". So, I made up a lot of garbage about how free and fun and free living the Spanish gypsies were and, at each lesson I would give him a bit more bullshit about them and their history and adventures. The lessons were more about the gypsies than the guitar!
That kid was Rod Holman, age 15. His mother was the woman who had called me. Rod and I knew a few mutual people, Yuris might be one, I can't remember, and I asked about Rod every so often through the years.
After that first year of lessons/bullshit stories from me, he totally disappeared. No one knew what happened to him. The next year, about '64 or '65 I was told by someone, I can't remember who it was, that he had robbed a gas station and fled the country. Believe me, I knew where he had gone. In an odd way, I had told him where to go.
I did not see him again until 1978, 15 years later, where the story continues. I got fed up with working in movies and TV and flew to Madrid. One of the items on my check list ( the check list was: learn Flamenco, buy a cool guitar, meet a Spanish woman and fall in love, explore the country especially the south) was to find Rodrigo Holman.
So, I got to Malaga and stopped at every single bodega on the coast road between Malaga and Gibraltar. It took me months, but I loved it. I was driving an old Vespa and I was 36, so what I was driving was just fun and didn't cost anything to run and was perfect for the warm weather of Southern Spain.
In each Flamenco bar I would give the bartender a piece of paper on which I had written "I am looking for an American guitarist named Rodrigo. Do you know him? I am his old guitar teacher. My name is Edwardo".
After two or three wonderful months of searching I was near Torremolinos somewhere on the coast road and today's bar tender said, 'Yes, I think so, but you will have to wait for a few days". Bingo! I had found him!
I rented a tiny room near the bar and waited. Two days later there was a knock at the door and there was Rod, standing there looking very happy and healthy and he was carrying a beautiful baby girl on his shoulders. He grinned and said, "Edwardo how are you?" He introduced me to his baby daughter and, for months after that, he taught me Flamenco guitar.....correctly.
I have done a lot of stuff in my life, but that search and the finding of Rodrigo and his daughter is the one story I think would make a great movie. Some day.....
So, as you remember, I stayed in Madrid for two years, met Paca and worked teaching English at the General Electric company. Those were the the two best years of my life.
During that time, I continued to practice daily. In fact, it was intense. I played about 4 hours per day. Practiced my ass off. Spent a lot of time with Archangel Fernandes and started speaking pretty fluent Spanish.
Finally, three things happened in fairly close order. First, my 13 year old daughter came to Madrid to visit me. You have read that account in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Sailor on my website.
Next, Archangel took me aside in his shop one day and said, with deep seriousness, "Edwardo, I want to go back with you to Hollywood and be in the movie business with you. You are so lucky to be able to do that. I can be your assistant! I don't care if I never see another guitar again. Take me with you". I was thunderstruck. I almost cried. He was a good friend and was humbling himself, one of the greatest guitar makers of all time, before me. I knew he didn't mean it, but I took him as seriously as he intended it to be. I told him, "Don't be silly. You are great and you can't stop the work you are doing" or some other totally inadequate response.
Finally around the end of 1979, I was hanging around in Archangel's shop and in walked a guy I had never seen before. As I remember he was Japanese. He knew Archangel and asked to play one of the new guitars. The guy picked up that guitar and proceeded to play for about 15 minutes non stop and blew the roof off the shop. He was fantastic. A virtuoso. And he was NO ONE.
As he played, with crystalline notes bouncing off the windows and walls of
the shop, I thought, "Jesus, I will never be able to play like that". So, I
walked out of the shop of my good friend and bought a ticket to the States
and the rest is history. I pretty much stopped playing in 1980. I still
fart around a bit on the guitar, but rarely. OK, you're probably tired of
this so I will end it. It's all true and I have left out a ton of stuff,
but that's how deep I was into Flamenco in those days.
It's pretty hard to look back. But, you asked. So, adios Paco.