I come from Mishawaka, Indiana. When I was 10 years old I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan TV show. The next day we were all on the playground during recess deciding what instruments we were going to play in the band we were going to form. I was going to play harpsichord but that didn't work out. Now my buddy Chuck had a $20 acoustic guitar with a big note painted on the top. He showed me some chords, and after his parents bought him a nice Gibson SG Chuck let me borrow the big note guitar and his chord book. I remember that the "D" chord was really hard for me.
In those days I would take the AM radio from the kitchen into my bedroom and listen to the music on WLS and WCFL every night. I found I could pick out the bass lines of those British Invasion groups. I noticed that if the bass note was an A, chances are the chord was some kind of A chord. I've had a good ear for music ever since.
I would play my riffs and my friends would flip out and say I was great. I would think, "What's wrong with YOU?" I learned that people are easily impressed, and it was a little disillusioning. I liked playing, however. I knew there was more to music than this, and that I was not going to find it in Mishawaka.
I went to college and it was awful. After a year I went to New York, stayed with friends and tried to be a rock and roll guitar player. I lasted two months. Of all things, I got homesick. New York was fast, the people were fast, I wasn't sure I could hang. Small town boy. Back in Indiana, tail between my legs, and my Dad found me a better school.
Junior year, I finally heard Joe Pass and George Benson. I had pretty much become this blazing rock player, but Jazz music hit me right between the eyes. This was it. I wasn't going to be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try to learn Jazz guitar. So I finished school to avoid breaking my parents' hearts, then I moved to Chicago.
In two months I was studying with the great Jack Cecchini, who owned the guitar shop where I worked. Money was tight, but I lived simply. I delivered pizza so that I could eat. I began teaching, and when I had 30 students I quit the pizza job. Jack would occasionally talk someone into giving me a gig. I would go and everybody would be all friendly and smiling and then the phone wouldn't ring again for four months. I worked hard, but boy, I was green. I worked 5 nights a week in a lounge band while teaching days and didn't sleep for six months. VERY slowly learned the jobbing thing and played with cordovoxes and accordion players and violinists. This went on for seven years before I got into the good circuit and REALLY found out how bad I was.
Got married, became a father. Studied Jazz Improvisation with Joe Daley and Voice with Bill Rush. Did all the gigs and jam sessions. Sat next to many great players and observed the ways they did things. Learned the tunes, learned to read, and figured out how I wanted to sound. That's about it.