I can't remember exactly when I was first allowed to play dad's1930s Gibson tenor, but I do have a memory of sitting on the blue sofa in the living-room of the house we lived in when I was about 8 or 9, with the Gibson and an old songbook called 'Folk Song Favorites You Like to Remember' for guitar. The tenor was perfect for small hands, and dad must have taught me how to tune the tenor like a 6-string so I could learn from the guitar chord diagrams in the book. I think I learnt Old MacDonald first, but I definitely had a preference for the 'bluer' songs, and soon mastered Massa's in the Cold Cold Ground, Corrina Corrina, St. James' Infirmary.....
August 16, 1977 was two days before my 10th birthday. That morning Mum and Dad were talking excitedly at the breakfast table about some singer who had died. "Who's Elvis?" I asked. In the afternoon Dad went into the attic and pulled out an old suitcase-style wind-up gramaphone and a box of heavy, weird-looking records.
I don't know how many times I played those 78s - 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Jailhouse Rock', Hound Dog. 'My Baby Left Me' with that fantastic intro. 'King Creole' had a chip out of it so the chant at the beginning was always reduced to one "Ng Cre-Ole" before Elvis launched into his belly-roll 'Uh there's a man in New Orleans..." I was hooked! The BBC showed all the Elvis movies, and I watched every one, I think. I learnt how to say 'Thankyouverymuch' and 'Show 'em son' and for hours I practiced curling my lip in the bathroom mirror. I had a poster of The King on my bedroom wall. I home recorded all the 78s onto cassettes and played them over and over and over. And I bought a songbook and learnt all the lyrics and the chords - reduced down to 4 strings, of course, for the old Gibson tenor.
When I was older I learnt to play a 6-string, but I would always have a quick look in guitar shops if I passed one by to see if they had a tenor. I never found a single one. Then when I was 20 I went to America. One of the first things I did when I arrived in LA was check out a guitar store. They didn't have a tenor for sale, but the guy did tell me about a free-ads paper that had a lot of guitars in it and a few days later I bought myself an archtop Harmony tenor at a yard sale for 20 dollars. The guy selling it thought it was a toy. I didn't have a case for it, but tied a cheap canvas belt on with a shoelace as a strap and for 6 months I travelled all over the States and into Mexico with it slung it over my shoulder.
Several years later my travels eventually brought me to Tokyo, where I live now with my wife and 2 kids, (and my Harmony tenor.) I make websites for a living. A while ago I stumbled across the Tenor Guitar Registry, and suggested that we build a website. It turned out the rest of the guys were already well into it, so I just picked up from where they had got to, and tenorguitar.com is the result. If you have any questions about tenors, best to ask one of the others - I'm just an enthusiastic amateur. But if you have any problems or suggestions about this site, get in touch.
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