Music has always been a big part of our families, first with Howard then passed along to Debra. Howard was raised on a farm where entertainment was family and friends-oriented. Singing and “making music” were a part of many evenings, especially Friday and Saturday nights.
Howard’s older brothers and sisters played guitars, mandolins, banjos, pedal steel guitars, harmonicas and all sang to accompany playing. Rhythm was provided by strumming the guitars and an occasional “gut bucket” bass.
Howard got his first guitar when he was 8 years old; a Sears and Roebuck special which arrived in a cardboard box. He recalls, “It was the happiest day ever. Until then he had played his older brothers’ guitar ONLY with permission and great care. Howard learned cords by watching them play and then imitating when he could use the guitar. Since his hands were small, he had some difficulty in forming cords and first learned to play the mandolin. But guitar was his dream. So he continued to play guitar and joined his first band when he was 16 years old. The first band was a country and western band called the “Mel-O-tone Playboys”. His mother let him play at the Saturday night dances since his older brother Robert (Red) was also in the band and would serve as a chaperone. Later, he formed a small band while in high school and played for school dances and at the local YMCA teen night dances. It was a trio with a fine piano player, drums (double on Stand-up bass) and guitar. Howard and the piano player did the vocals. In 1952, he joined the Air Force and always managed to find a guitar and some guys who liked to play. While in Japan in 1952, several of them formed a group and played at the Airman’s Club on Saturday nights.
Music was one of the ways he paid for his college expenses. He played in several bands, sometimes two or more gigs per week. He learned to play and enjoy many different kinds of music from country, blues, folk music of the 60s, pop, swing, to the mellow tunes of Nat King Cole. In the 50’s, Bill Haley and Comets were his favorites.
When Debra came along, she grew up with music. Her mother loved to play piano and Howard and his friends spent many hours playing guitars, banjos and having “hootenannies” at home on the weekends.
Debra got her first guitar when she was eight. She learned to play, sing and make up songs. She loved The Beatles. She wrote her first song that has lasted through the years when she was nine years old. Debra and her Dad Howard enjoyed many evenings playing the guitars and singing songs together. Howard noted that Debra had soon passed him in musical skills in both the guitar and singing. As time passed, Debra went her way to follow a career in music and has created 5 of her own CD’s.
One of their shared dreams has always been to do some recording together, and in the summer of 2006, it happened in Santa Barbara, CA at 7 South Studios. Debra and Howard recorded 22 songs, and released the 2 CD set recently. The title of the first CD is “Catching the Dream”. The songs for the two CDs are tunes that Debra selected from their musical past. They are divided into two groups: The first CD is a mixture of old songs Debra grew up hearing Howard and his friends sing, and is performed with a band. The second CD has songs the two of them used to sing together, and is simply their two guitars and voices. In the early days, these were songs primarily from folk and pop groups. This second CD is called “Turn Around”, named for one of the songs Howard used to sing to Debra when she was a little girl, who’s title captures the energy of the whole project.
Howard's thoughts on the album:
An old English/Scottish/Irish folk song. I love melodic ballads and the introduction and simple cord progression really caught my ear. We would sing this song around the fire in the evening with everyone harmonizing and enjoying the moment.
Dylan was an enigma. On the one hand his songs really expressed the mood of the time and the college crowd was off and running with his music. I liked the poetry and would sing this song often with friends who would visit to play and sing the evening away.
The simplicity of this Donovan song with its lovely melody really grabbed our group. It expressed the futility viewed by many in the 60s as a truism. I found the lyrics expressed the desperation many of my students talked about, particularly as it related to the Vietnam war.
My country roots keep pulling me back to songs that tell stories. This one was not only fun for us to sing but one on which you could really work the guitar accompaniment. It was a lively change from the ballads we were singing at the time.
I really loved Gordon Lightfoot’s music. He told it like it was and sang it with feeling. Finger picking was a big part of the folk guitar and this song allowed us to do it in style. We Bill Fuller played this one on his 12 string and it rang through out the sessions.
We were living in Wisconsin when this song appeared as a radio commercial in the “Dairy State”. It was fun for Debra and I to sing together. One of the lines with the word “feel” repeated made it called the “Feel Feel" song by Debra.
When I first heard "Pastures of Plenty", it was from my friend Ted Tetzloff in WI. I liked the minor key with the hammer-ons and the message, and so Bill Fullmer and I learned it and began singing it regularly in our living jams at the Parkview Hills house. In our original version from the 60's, Bill would sing melody and I would sing harmony, and then we'd switch off.
By George Nowak (the Barefoot Man) I first heard this song while visiting Grand Cayman in the early 1990s. The” Barefoot Man” was playing at a beach party at Rum Point on the north east side of the island. Dancing in the sand helped along with rum punch made the song one that I just had to learn. It was not only fun but sooooo true.
Ian and Sylvia really caught my ear. They seemed so “down home” and sang songs about the land which all of us in the 60s seem to be searching for. After Neil Young recorded it, we just had to have it a part of our song list. Debra would often join Bill, Ted ( A Canadian buddy) and myself in three or four part harmony.
I loved this one from the very beginning. Debra was my first child and immediately stole my heart. I would sing this song to her as she grew from babe to a young woman. It still has a very special place in my heart.
We had Peter, Paul and Mary's vinyl record from 1962. When Deb was 6 years old she would listen to it every Sat. morning after cartoons, and learned it on my big guitar after I taught her the first 3 chords, D, A and G. For Christmas that year she got her first Harmony guitar. We would practice it together in the living room at the Parkview house.