Read Diary of a Player Online

Authors: Brad Paisley

Diary of a Player (3 page)

Papaw: Why you datin' my gal?

Chump: She ain't your gal!

Papaw: We'll see about that.

Fight.

And . . . here I am.

Unorthodox? Sure. Obnoxious? Yes. Illegal? Well, a few times he got thrown in jail for this behavior, but you really have to hand it to the guy—there was a certain primal brilliance to his logic. Take out the competition. For the record, this is
not
how I eventually won Kim's heart. By that I mean there was no fighting.

I did stalk her.

In my mind, this crazy scene sounds like something right out of a great Loretta Lynn song. With my grandfather as Loretta Lynn. I suppose all is fair in love and war, but my grand-father's approach seemed to bring love and war a little too close for comfort. He wasn't an especially large man, but he
knew how to stick up for himself, and he was clearly ready to fight anyone for his dream girl. He had it bad. Beyond bad.

One story that got passed down concerns a time when my grandmother went out on a date with the son of the town's fire chief, and my grandfather knocked this prospective suitor right off his stool in the local drugstore. The police were called, and soon they threw both of these young men in jail for disorderly conduct. They got to share a cell and discuss what had just transpired. Of course, before long the other guy got out of jail because his dad was the fire chief—not to mention he had probably done nothing wrong other than to also have eyes for my smokin' mamaw. I imagine that my grandfather got to serve out the remainder of his jail time pondering just how he was going to
legally
win over my future mamaw's heart.

It was the beginning of World War II. So without much else to lose, Warren Jarvis (now eighteen) went down to the local air force recruitment office and enlisted. He would fight for the air force in the South Pacific for the entire war, in the Philippines and Guam. I imagine that as a soldier it helps to have something else to fight for besides Uncle Sam. I believe he was fighting for Dorothy Douglas, as he'd shown he was all
too willing to do. He tirelessly wrote a hundred or so letters to her from over there, even though she was not technically his to write to, and he always let her know what she meant to him. Somewhere, between the time he was gone and when he set foot back in Huntington, she must have actually missed him.

Because not long after he returned, she gave in and got married.

O
ther than the moment my grandfather somehow won my grandmother's heart, the most important day in the shaping of my future was undoubtedly that Christmas of 1980. As I unwrapped the largest gift under the Jarvis tree, it was clear what Papaw had given me. My grandfather had wrapped up his Sears Silvertone guitar with an amp in the case. That Silvertone guitar was so ugly it was beautiful—all cheesy black sparkles with a little white mixed in.

Truth be told, this may not have been the best first guitar choice for an eight-year-old kid. At the time, that made no difference whatsoever—I quickly plugged it in and tried my little hands at playing it, thrilled to make some kind of noise of my own. My grandfather was especially excited that the amp
couldn't get loud enough to hurt my ears—or his—which he proudly pointed out to my parents. They'd be putting up with a lot of racket over the next few years. Or more accurately, the rest of their lives.

That old guitar is probably worth less than $500 today—not a lot by classic guitar standards, but to me it's priceless.

From my perspective, a guitar is the most life-changing machine there is and offers the greatest return on investment you can get. Think about it this way: you can use the cheapest guitar to write the finest song in history. A good song can cost you nothing but a few hours of your time, and it can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Even the worst broken-down guitar can still give you a career and a very real chance to change the world in some small way.

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SOLO

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Brad Paisley is a strong part of the future of country music. He is a true superstar, a great stage presence, a dynamic performer, a great singer, and one of the most fantastic guitar players I've ever had the pleasure of picking with. He's not just up there onstage acting this out. He loves to play his music, and the people love
to hear him play his music. He's a-pickin' and I'm a-grinnin'.

—ROY CLARK

More than a quarter century after my grandfather gave me one of his beloved guitars, I recorded my first largely instrumental album, called
Play
. It's the kind of album I like to think that Warren Jarvis would have loved. In the liner notes for that dream project, I paid tribute to the man who made my dream possible:

When I was eight I got a gift from my grandpa. No coincidence that around that time I also got an identity. See, no matter how I have changed, learned, and evolved as a person, the guitar has been a major part of it, and really the only constant. A crutch, a shrink, a friend, love interest, parachute, flying machine, soapbox, canvas, liability, investment, jackpot, tease, a sage, a gateway, an addiction, a recovery, a temptress, a church, a voice, veil, armor, and lifeline. My grandpa knew it could be many of these things for me, but mostly he just wanted me to never be alone. He said if I learned to play, anything would be
manageable, and life would be richer. You can get through some real tough moments with that guitar on your knee. When life gets intense, there are people who drink, who seek counseling, eat, or watch TV, pray, cry, sleep, and so on. I play.

Tonight I will stand on a stage and play a song called “Welcome to the Future” that I wrote with my friend Chris DuBois. It's a song that sees the world through the eyes of someone my age as well as through the eyes of someone older. Sitting there in his cozy slippers and dress pants in that old chair, my papaw looked into a future that he would not live to see himself and helped to make a guitar man out of me. In the process, my grandfather somehow became my very first guitar hero.

Guitar Tips from Brad

LESSON # 1

Buy a strap. This is going to be a beautiful, bumpy ride.

2

TIME WELL WASTED

I sure soaked up every minute of the memory we were makin' And I count it all as time well wasted.

—“Time Well Wasted,” written by Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace

C
onsidering my current employment situation, I would dearly love to tell you that I took to my chosen instrument like some sort of natural-born guitar hero—a true and instant virtuoso. Unfortunately, that's not quite how things worked in my case. It actually took a little time for me to fully appreciate the gift my grandfather had handed to me.

Sometimes I can be a little slow that way.

I really didn't have much of a chance to say no when it came to playing guitar because, as my grandmother could tell you, my grandfather was clearly not a man who liked to take no for an answer. Even though he wasn't necessarily all that great on the instrument himself, he didn't play to be great; he played for fun. My grandfather's enduring musical passion was for the vivid styles of the greatest country music guitar gods like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis, and that great love
of his is in large part why I'm a country guitar player today. Papaw's dream was always to learn this very influential and extremely difficult thumb-picking style in which the player is supposed to keep a bass line going throughout the whole song. I remember Papaw sitting there trying to play songs like “Freight Train” or “Cannonball Rag” but he could never quite figure out their style. So he played them his way. And boy, did he love it.

However he played the guitar, Papaw knew what a gift music was, and that's why he couldn't wait to hand that gift over to me. He couldn't afford very expensive equipment, and he had natural ability, although he was never good enough to take it farther than his own living room; he didn't care. It was one of the purest appreciations for a musical instrument that I will ever see. There was no better way to spend an hour (or four), in his opinion, than picking on that thing. He understood in some instinctive way that playing guitar was the very definition of time well wasted. I also think that something told him that it was my calling.

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