Random Things that Fall Out of My Head

Frank Michels

Frank Michels
Location
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Birthday
March 29
Bio
Frank Michels is a songwriter, musician, and producer in Nashville, Tennessee. He likes to dig in the dirt and plant flowers, cook tasty things, walk his dog, and play really fast riffs on a telecaster guitar.

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JULY 13, 2011 7:38AM

How I Became a Guitar Man

Rate: 18 Flag

                               Frank (center) in 1967 

 When I was eleven, my parents sent me to a summer camp run by Christian Brothers in Southeastern Maryland. There was the usual swimming, hiking, and softball, but what really caught my attention were the campfire sing-alongs. Two teenage boys had guitars, and could play the popular folk songs of the day, such as “Michael row your boat ashore” and “If I had a hammer.” I had never seen live musicians before, and I was fascinated by their ability to strum chords and make those wooden boxes with strings come alive. 

Later that year, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. My dad showed me an article in The Washington Post about it, with two small photos side by side, of Paul McCartney and Moe Howard from the Three Stooges. I guess that’s the only frame of reference they had at the time for that kind of haircut. Anyway, I was camped in front of the TV on Sunday night when the show came on, and after the Beatles played, I said, “That’s what I want to do.” (And so did thousands of other kids just like me.) 

I hounded my dad to get me a guitar. He kept saying, “You’ll never learn to play it, it’ll just sit in the closet.” But finally, he took me to a pawnshop and bought me a $13 “Stadium” brand acoustic guitar. It was a pretty crummy instrument, but I immediately started to learn some chords and simple rock riffs. I remember sitting on my front steps one day with my guitar when a neighborhood kid walked up and showed me how to play the opening riff to “Secret Agent Man.” I thought that was so cool. I played it over and over again until I drove my family crazy.

 

Frank and Fender Jaguar   

In eighth grade I got a used electric guitar, a Fender Jaguar, and formed a band with some of my friends. We started playing at teen clubs and school dances, with a repertoire of songs like “Louie Louie” and “Gloria.” Those bands were really rough, with everyone just having the most basic skills on their instruments. 

When I entered high school, it was the age of the singer-songwriter, and I sold my electric guitar and got a Yamaha acoustic. I taught myself to fingerpick and sing harmony by listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills and Nash records, and formed a folk group that played at school functions and retirement homes.

 

 

Frank in 1972   

After high school, I went to college, but I wasn’t much of a student, and I dropped out after a year and went to work for the Post Office. I really just wanted to play music, but I didn’t have any idea how to go about it. Then, a guy I had known in high school, Steve Yudowich, called me up and convinced me to quit my job and move with him down to Roanoke, Virginia, to form a band with a guy Steve knew. We rented a house up in the mountains from an old farmer, and spent a summer writing and rehearsing, until we had a falling out with the other guy and Steve and I moved to Richmond, Virginia. We formed a duo, called “The Turkeys” and played at the campus beer joints around VCU.

 

Steve Yudowich and Frank   

After that, I bounced around for a couple of years, playing at crab shacks in Ocean City, Maryland and coffeehouses in Virginia, until I landed a steady gig with a trio at a Holiday Inn lounge. Playing five nights a week, I honed my guitar and singing skills, and made enough money to buy a new car and upgrade my equipment. 

I had become a professional guitar player.

 

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Nice story!

At age 45, with no experience in guitar, I decided to study flamenco guitar. Flamenco teachers are pretty rare, but fortunately there was a local flamenco guitarist who both performed and taught.

I had no idea what I was getting into. The guitar is a very difficult instrument to play well, and my childhood piano lessons were no help at all. Any time I played, my left hand hurt a lot; this pain lasted for about a year.

More than a decade down the road, I still play almost every day on an expensive handmade instrument. I try to get in a couple of hours of practice every day, which I consider to be the minimum for flamenco. Paco de Lucia doesn't have to worry about me cutting into his CD sales. But for an untalented geezer who never picked up the instrument until middle age, I'm not too bad. Even so, I wouldn't call myself a "musician."
I loved the story and the pictures. Congrats on the EP, too.
Great tale. I did much the same in the early '70s. Met Doc Watson in Deep Gap, JD Crowe and the New south in Saratoga. I guess those are now the good Old Days. That looks like two D-28s in the bottom photo. Hope you still have yours.
Steve's guitar is a Martin D-28. That was a sweet guitar. Not long after that photo was taken, Steve had a fight with his girlfriend and smashed the guitar in a fit of rage...I was dumbstruck.
You and me both Bro. My college geetar buddy was Rusty Mason, perhaps you've met him. (but Nashville is a BIG place so ... maybe not)
Rated
Fun tale. Any chance of embedding a recording here?
If you click on my link on the left for my demo service website, one of my guitar, fiddle and banjo instrumentals will play when the site opens. I played all of the instruments on the tune.
I can listen to the opening guitar riff from "Secret Agent Man" all day long.
RRR
Great story. I have a cheap (but actually very well made) large body acoustic classical guitar that needs some serious neckwork (after 34 years) before I can really pluck and strum again. I taught myself and don't consider myself very accomplished.

I always envied other kids that caught the bug and were allowed to explore it at an early age. And I appreciate them as well. They're the next group I'll be listening to on the radio or the internet.

Thanks for that walk down memory lane.
I'm sure you're a good musician Frank. That you " made enough money to buy a new car and upgrade.. equipment" is enough creds for me.
What I'm trying to figure out is Emily Holleman's fascination with you (assuming she's still "editing." We really have no clue now do we). The writing is decent, no doubt. Not exemplary but decent.
Is it the avatar smile? The Greg Allman-ish hair? Is it that your bio says you are a producer in Nashville? Inquiring minds need to know!
You have more EP's, including this one which to my mind doesn't stand out in such a way to warrant, on your first page of blogs than most do in forever.
Regardless, nice piece and please do carry on..
An enjoyable accounting of how you entered into the industry. To be able to support yourself while doing what you love is a great gift. My mom " bought" my first guitar with Blue Chip Stamps. I remember colleccting them from her purchases and licking them to fill in the books and being so thrilled when I finally had enough stamps to trade in for a no-name cheapie acoustic guitar. But it was enough to get me going on my life-long love of music and being a musician.
nice dude. great to hear of a musician that can make a living at it. see also my recent post on the fender squier stratocaster & Rock Band game
★★

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My husband was a guitar man when I met him. He played a Fender Mustang. Then he got a beautiful blue Rickenbacker, which he said was kind of like me. Well, he has long since sold that, but I'm still around!

Anyway, he's now working the other side of the microphone. If you ever need anything mastered, give Yes Master a call...

So many guys from that generation owe it all to The Beatles!
I've been coveting Jaguars for a little while - my current wish list guitar - so I was a little jealous of seeing you hold one, even if it was a few decades back!

Great story though.

I recently - maybe 2 months ago - pulled out the Fender Gemini I was given for my birthday 21 years ago - hadn't played it in over a decade. I've had a couple of others come and go, but I always kept that one in the closet. And it was a fun kind of weirdness to recall how I learned on it. Your post kind of gels with that for me. That guitar doesn't have the banged up quality that older guitars do when kept around for a while, I guess I loved it so much I was extra careful with it all the dang time. I saved up the scuffs and banged necks for my later lower end knockaround stuff.

Thanks for the read! Rated!
bitchin' cool, man.
Nice story. A lot of us started about the same time and have similar experiences. After all these years I'm still glad that I took the route I did. A large portion of my most fond experiences have come wrapped up in making music with my friends.
The Kryptics were super-groovy!!!!!!
Great post! You and I came up as guitar players at the exact same time, had the same influences. I love the pictures too. I'd still be playing that circa '65 Tele if it hadn't been stolen twice. (Bought it back the first time from a pawnshop; second time it was gone for good) I play a Strat now.
It's a lovely post. I am very happy after seeing it.

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I just wanted to thank you (and Steve) for influencing me when I was 17 years old, during the time you were hanging with my brother Chris in Richmond, VA. Remember coming to our beach house in DE? You taught me how to finger-pick "Anji" which was a cover song at the time on one of Paul Simon's albums. I must have practiced that song a million times! And then I sang (nervously) "4 & 20" by Stephen Stills for you and you told me that I could sing! After you left the beach house , I forced myself to head up to the boardwalk in Rehoboth and open up my guitar case and play to strangers. I was so nervous I could hear my teeth chatter. But I had seen you perform and realized that is what I wanted to do. Many years later, at 52, I am too, a full-time musician as well as a private vocal/guitar instructor. You helped give me the confidence to go to college as a vocal major and learn the mathematics of music. Your influence was life-changing. I am not rich nor famous but I love what I do and feel I make a difference for my students and listeners. So kudos! I hope to see you again someday.
It's interesting to find how others became "guitar men". My path was a lot different. Glad it happened for both of us! R
While your guitar gently spins history.