In 1964 I went to Lafayette Elementary. This was a different time; DC public schools were places where learning actually happened. I still remember much world geography from Mrs. Jenkins’ fourth grade class, and English grammar from Miss Fernsner. When I started Lafayette, a couple of years earlier, the school still sported the ‘civil defense’ posters left over from the Cuban missile crisis. There was a bomb shelter in the basement of the school, which I illicitly explored, undetected. At some time in the year of sixty four, I also explored the attic of the school. I was 10 and incorrigible. Most DC public schools have a functionless, albeit appealing, steeple atop the building. I went up the tiny ladder to the very pinnacle. My name should still be up there. Upon returning to school in that Fall of ‘64, the black top conversation was mostly of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but during the summer, a British TV show had replaced some forgotten usual show. It was also a hot topic of conversation. But it was not the show that had everybody’s consideration; it was the show’s theme song. I remember talking to Maury Abraham (who by the way sported a Beatle Cut) about the opening guitar lick. Maury and I were “in a band”. At the time I wasn’t sure what that meant. Maury did. Since I was clueless, he later banded together with a singer named Andy Williams, (not of Moon River fame) and a focused individual who played guitar, named Josh Bolton. They were called The Ocelots. Mr. Bolton is now the Whitehouse Chief of Staff. That kind of stuff happens in DC.
A DC greaser who lived on Legation St near Lafayette played guitar and taught me that opening lick. I wish I knew who that greaser was, he probably became someone famous. Maybe he was Link Wray. The opening riff, of Johnny Rivers’ hit of Secret Agent Man, should be in every rock and roll guitarists’ arsenal. That opening lick is still a staple lick for every guitar player. All this went through my mind yesterday as I taught the lick to Charlotte, who is one of my many high school aged guitar students. She actually practices. She writes songs.
Every town in America had kiddy bands back in those days, mostly inspired by the Beatles, DC was no different. I like knowing that playing the three chords on my acoustic Sears guitar in Maury’s basement was the beginning of something I might call my music career. Maury is just as much a part of that as Charlotte is. DC is not just the government or the political machine, or the law, or the murder capitol, or whatever anyone else knows it for. Most importantly, especially for me, it is the home of Link Wray, Trouble Funk, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peaches and Herb, Duke Ellington, Minor Threat, Good Charlotte, Danny Gatton, The Flying Shards, Grin, Scream, Rummy and the Upsetters… This list can go on and on for days, and it will go on and on for years to come, because first and foremost DC is a music town. But don’t tell anybody, that’s our little secret.