I have these obscure folding “leg-o-matic” chairs I found many summers ago in Rockport, MA. I live in Seattle, so I found these chairs about as far away in the US as one can get. But at the time, I lived in a little 900 sq ft early 1900s craftsman house, and these little folding chairs were perfect. I had them shipped to Seattle and still have those chairs today.
I also have a small collection of vintage furs and handbags that I've found while thrifting over the years. I don't really wear or use them often (and I'd never buy a new fur) but I love these treasured items of old. The furs often have hand embroidered initials of the women who originally owned them and I often wonder about the festive cold nights that these furs must have seen. I even have one that coincidentally has my initials in it. And when I do wear it, I smile to myself thinking about whether the original “TY” was anything like me.
And then there are the items of old that we keep and treasure as artifacts of the lives we miss so close to us. One of my most treasured are these hand sewn dresses with matching dress coats that my mother made for herself. They have classic “mid century” styling. Audrey Hepburn could have worn them. Luckily mom and I are the same size and when I wear these dresses today, I almost feel like she and I are one person. Except, of course, she was classier...
So maybe that’s why those three words, “He bought it!!!” are such a delight. It isn’t even my purchase, and to be truthful, I don’t even really know the purchaser, although he is a well-known person.
"He” is Mr John Oates and for the better part of a year now, I’ve been studying his life through his memoir, Change of Seasons. Thanks to some unexpected Facebook interactions, Oates’ co-writer, Chris Epting, graciously encouraged me when I had an idea to start a Facebook book club for the memoir. The Change of Seasons Book Club has evolved to become a true joy for me, and gives me a wonderful reason to study the book and learn more about Oates’ story and his amazing half-century career in music.
In the Afterword of Change of Seasons Chris Epting writes about the "voices and spirits (that) live in this book, which is as much a celebration of the American music experience as it is the memoir of one man."
And so for some months, I have been researching and posting about things I've learned about many of those “voices and spirits” – some of the key characters in Change of Seasons. One of the most important is Oates’ guitar teacher and renowned bluesman Jerry Ricks.
I was searching the web one Saturday, reading articles about Ricks and old interviews Oates has given in recent years, often talking about and honoring Ricks. I found one article from a guitar magazine in which Oates was asked what guitar he would own if money were no object. His reply was that he wished he had this old Guild F-30 guitar that Ricks had loaned him to record the first two Hall and Oates albums in the early 70's. Ricks had received the guitar from the legendary Mississippi John Hurt when Hurt died in 1966.
Hurt’s music and playing style are at the core of Oates’ musical origins. Jerry Ricks embodied and passed on that same thread of inspiration as Oates’ guitar mentor in the late 60s and early 70s, when Hall and Oates were just emerging. With both Hurt and Ricks deceased, the article implied that Oates had no idea where that guitar was today (article was from 2015). So, just for fun, as I often do while hunting for interesting tidbits to post about the book, I googled something like “John Hurt Jerry Ricks Guild guitar”.
I was worried about overstepping the boundaries of a respectful fan. I slept on it. But the next morning, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Then I realized if Oates didn't have the guitar and the information was real, I couldn’t forgive myself for not passing it along. I sent the email.
Chris' response: "This is a good one - let me pass on. Great work T !"
My heart leapt - but still I was convinced there was no way it could be so simple. That day was sprinkled with back and forth emails. Bottom line, Oates was looking into it. He didn't have the guitar and of course, he still wanted it. Late that night, I panicked a bit. What if I had started a wild goose chase? The guitar could have been sold long ago, or not be the right guitar at all. I mean what are the chances this could really all come through on a silly fan-girl-book-club Google search? I was worried I'd now be “that crazy fan” that sent John Oates on a dead end chase.
The next day I was incommunicado on a flight for some hours. When I landed, as my phone switched off airplane mode, there was a message from Chris:
"He Bought It!!"
What a thrill! It isn’t my purchase or treasure and I don't even understand what a Guild F-30 is...but I get why John Oates wanted it.
When I put on one of those handmade dress of Mom’s, I viscerally feel connected to her, her life and what she gave me as a person. When John Oates plays this guitar, I'm betting he’ll tangibly feel the musical lineage in his hands, heart and soul - the perfect instrument befitting his place as a son of Hurt and Ricks. And the timing is impeccable as Oates is about to launch a new album, Arkansas, which he has said is a tribute to Hurt.
A couple of months later, Oates told the story and debuted the guitar in Nashville. I was in the front row. It was unforgettable.