Stephen Arnold Music

The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America

Category Archives: Stories

Open Your Ears – and Get Recharged with Music!

We all remember them. The songs we heard in the summer when we were 15. The tunes we loved cruising to as we abused our Dad’s car. The tracks we put on our favorite mix tapes and CD’s in high school. Those were VERY impressionable times. I mean, our hormones were running wild! And that music we listened to as we “came of age” is forever emblazoned in our memories…and connected to the experiences we had at the time. I still can’t hear Tower of Power’s “What is Hip” without drifting back to the packed dance clubs in college – baggy bellbottoms, wedge heels and all.

Yet many of us remain locked in those times, still only listening to the music that resonated for us back when we were teenagers. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still great music – whatever the artist, style or genre was at the time. And it speaks to the intense, indelible and emotional connections that music created for us.

But … do we still wear those bellbottoms? De we still wear the acid-washed jeans and turned up collars on pink polo shirts? Of course not! So why do we still listen to the same old music?

There is a HUGE treasure-trove of music out there yet to discover! Older stuff – back to Billie Holiday, Bix Biederbeck and Benny Goodman – incredible music from wonderfully gifted artists. And wow … is there a huge variety of newer stuff out there! Rap, indie, metal, pop, folk, jazz … go ahead – pick your poison. (except for opera. You just can’t pick opera. Trust me on this one. Ha!)

So just get on Apple Music, iTunes, Groove Music, Spotify, or SiriusXM … you’ll discover an INCREDIBLE range of great music right at your fingertips … much of it capable of being the new soundtrack to the wonderful experiences you are NOW having in your life. Just open your ears, mind and heart to older and newer artists. This music can be the creative bookends to the tunes that you listened to as a kid. Exposing yourself constantly to new music can re-inspire you, get you out of a rut, and bring newly-found excitement to your life! Sure … keep listening to that music that inspired you when you were younger. But do yourself a favor. Explore the vast array of newer and older music that will create new, emotional and indelible memories for you – for years to come!

Reboot Your Summer

Summer is such a beautiful time for TV folks … and for the music people that support you. In the Spring we’re all busy prepping for & executing the May book. June is conference season – I went to four! And then many of us take much needed breaks in July. These breaks are really important to catch up on sleep, eat well, get outside, and enjoy some tunes! 

Music is the emotional shortcut to your soul. As part of your mid-summer “reboot,” rediscover and play your favorite music you haven’t had time for. Download new music that can inspire and excite you. Pick up that instrument that’s been in the closet the past few years and re-discover the passion you originally felt to play it in the first place. We need these breaks to allow us to come back to the office or studio inspired and productive. 

While colleagues are out and the office or studio is a little quieter, it’s also a great time to clean off your desk and organize your electronic life. Wouldn’t it be great to have a clean desk and an empty inbox again? Even if it only lasted a few weeks? Or hours? That’s what I’ll be doing this month anyway. Recharging my creative energies and getting organized again. Happy July everyone! I hope you are all having a beautiful summer.

“Why in the world would you want to give away your own guitars?”

The summer is definitely heating up here in Texas, so naturally we’re sending anyone that can go to this year’s Promax events: PromaxBDA in New York City and, of course, our annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for Station Summit!  If you get a chance to attend either event, you’ve got to check out our “Guitar Gods” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” (Beatles) guitar displays – and be sure to drop your card in for a chance to win one of the 5 (yes, FIVE) guitars that Stephen will be giving away.

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Now, you may ask yourself, “why does Stephen Arnold have so many guitars?” – which is a very good question.  Or, like me, you may be asking “why in the world would you want to give away your own guitars???” – which is an even better question!

I can’t pretend to know why someone would want to give away guitars, but I can speak a bit as to why Stephen feels the need to give each amazing guitar a home whenever he sees it hanging in a guitar shop.

My grandfather once told me a story.  He was trying to get his son out the door to school, and like many pre-teens, his son was obsessed with all things music – playing Beatles 45’s in his room and banging on his guitar – a cheap 1959 Sears Silvertone.   My grandfather yelled up the stairs, “Hurry up – and stop playing those records!” to which his son called out “I’m not playing any records!” My grandfather replied that he was going to the kitchen to get his coffee and when he got back, his son better be ready to go – and NOT be playing records.

When my grandfather returned to the bottom of the stairs, he STILL heard music coming from his son’s bedroom. So he marched up the stairs, opened the door and said “I told you to stop playing those records!”  His son was sat on his bed, guitar in hand and replied, “Dad, I told you – I wasn’t playing records!” He had been playing his guitar instead – and was already so good that his father couldn’t tell the difference between the recordings and his son’s playing!

Well, as you may have guessed, his son is my dad – Stephen Arnold.

And I have personal knowledge that the love of guitars has stayed with my father throughout his entire life. And he loves to share it with everybody, so it’s not surprising that he also loves to give away the thing that he loves – his guitars! It’s no wonder that the guitar is the unofficial symbol of Stephen Arnold Music.

Here are some of my favorites out of his collection:

 

“Can I borrow a couple of your favorite guitars for a few days?”

I remember back in the summer of 2011 getting a call from Texas photographer Chris Fritchie. “I have this idea,” began our phone conversation, “May I borrow a couple of your favorite guitars for a few days? . . . Trust me,” he said.  Chris has a passion for music – especially guitars – and what he always loved about talking “guitars” with me was that it was never about the most expensive or unique guitar, but rather how these instruments capture a moment, a place in time. . .

 

So he came by and I gave him two of my favorites – my 1934 Martin 018 and a 1969 Fender Strat. Then a few days later he called and asked, “by the way, are there any stories behind these guitars?”

 

I’d never really thought about the stories behind those guitars, but all at once the memories kicked in and I recalled how I got that ’69 Strat. In late July 2005, about a month before Hurricane Katrina, I was in New Orleans for some sessions for WWL-TV and found that Strat at a vintage music store.  Two things are special to me about this Fender:

1) I probably saved that guitar’s life, because the music store was destroyed a month later during Katrina (I’ve named the guitar Katrina… My favorite guitars all have names.)

2) I used the guitar playing all of the sonic logo harmonics on the Weather Channel’s “Storm Alert.”

“I Saved This Guitar’s Life” 1969 Fender Stratocaster

Then I recalled how I got the ’34 Martin which I always called my Wedding Guitar. I was best man at a close friend’s wedding in North Carolina, and we decided to take a detour that nearly made us miss the whole event. The morning of the ceremony, the groom insisted on driving out to an old barn he had heard about located “somewhere in North Carolina.” It allegedly housed a massive stock of vintage Martin and Gibson guitars. The wedding started at 4 p.m., and we made it back with a whopping 30 minutes to spare, looking a bit worse for wear. The marriage didn’t last, but I still have the Martin I bought that day. My “wedding guitar” rings like a bell, and has been pushed into service many times since then appearing on dozens of music packages.

“My Favorite Martin” 1934 Martin 018

“My Favorite Martin” 1934 Martin 018

After that, Chris thought it would be interesting to tell the story of Stephen Arnold Music against the backdrop of my guitar collection; not to “show off” the guitars, but to simply celebrate an amazing journey and share a life-long passion.

 

He always said: “The love is clear . . . who really has their first guitar?!”

 

It was a rare opportunity and we both seized the day.  I supplied the stories, memories and anecdotes, while the instruments helped illustrate the journey.  Chris’s images comprise a unique collection of art, all based around a simple 6-string . . . with a few 8 and 12 strings thrown in for fun.  All guitars were photographed on location throughout the United States, documenting a journey that goes back nearly half a century.

 

Thus began The Story Of Six Strings .

 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Few can deny that music is an indelible part in their lives. But how does that happen? When does it start? And why is it so persistent and pervasive?

Many say we were first exposed to music through our mother’s womb, but I can’t say that Patty Page and Perry Como made much of an impression on me as a child! But it certainly starts penetrating our brains at an early age – through parents, siblings, etc. By the time we hit school, music has already carved some strong emotional connections with life events. To this day, I can’t hear Mantovani strings without feeling hopelessly listless as I lay sick with the mumps on the living room couch on a hot Sunday in July 1957, unable to reach the radio. Desperate times, indeed!

But kindergarten was fun; learning cadence, marching about with bells, tambourines and clapping in time. Even then, you could see the more talented kids, effortlessly feeling the beat as they experienced the joy of first making their own music.

Little boy pianoThen, in early grade school, the dreaded music lessons appeared. In my day, it was piano lessons. Skills and Drills, learning notation, scales, key signatures, all written out on those notebooks with the staff lines. But being “restless” and somewhat artistically inclined, I drew army tanks and planes instead of notes. BIG explosions – with sound effect words, too. My teacher, a full-fledged member of the Sisters of the Benedictine Order, was none too impressed, however. Exotic Catholic punishments ensued, until my mother yanked me out of lessons because I was wasting their money. It wasn’t due to lack of talent, however…I just didn’t see anything relevant in taking piano lessons at the age of 8. I was bored silly with the drills and the archaic songs I had to learn.

Fast forward 3 years, though, and music REALLY hit me – head on! The Beatles EXPLODED on the American scene and changed popular music forever. Suddenly, it was cool to sing, get a guitar, practice…anything to imitate these coolest of cool guys. It was literally a cultural revolution, with every British band immediately dominating the American rock scene. Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds and others ruled the musical roost in rock n’ roll, and ruled my life as well.

Music became everything for me – it was personal, it was part of my social currency. At home, I grew up with my raggedy Kingston guitar perpetually hanging on my shoulder, torturing my family with rudimentary versions of She Loves You, Paint it Black and House of the Rising Sun. And my parents put up with it, thank God. But most of all, this music became RELEVANT to my life. I was totally motivated to learn these songs, and my bloody guitar fingers showed it. This wasn’t the old classical stuff that was forced on me in piano lessons. It was new material from MY generation. It was fun, a bit dangerous, and our parents HATED it! (which made us love it even more) And of course, this music hit me during one of the most socially intense times of my life – being a teenager. Impressions and emotions ran rampant, and the music was my personal soundtrack for those impressionable times. Just a few notes can bring back vivid memories. Even today, I hear a song on the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album – and POOF! I’m running around on a lakeside dock in the summer playing ragtag with my friends…especially the girls!

So what’s the point of all this musical musing?

First, most people “connect” somehow to music, either consciously or unconsciously, and those connections are formed in different ways. But most importantly, they are all EMOTIONAL connections. Music can excite us, inspire us, soothe us, even annoy us – all emotional reactions. And we associate those emotions and related experiences with the music we were listening to at the time. And we build new associations constantly as we are exposed to more music. Music is, you might say, “emotional shorthand.” It can connect us to experiences and emotions MUCH faster than a photo or the written word. As such, music exposure and education is critical to our learning and creativity, and should be encouraged strongly in both our homes and schools. Take, for example, the Little Kids Rock program, which transforms kids lives through dynamic and exciting music education. At Stephen Arnold Music, we support this program BIG time. Check it out!

Second, I think it’s important for anyone exploring music and playing an instrument, that they be exposed to learning music that is relevant to their lives. While we all need to learn our scales, practice technique and learn the “classics,” being allowed to learn tunes that you’re excited about is essential to fueling and stoking that musical “fire” that can burn within. Look at this program that really gets the kids excited!

So if your child is just beginning music lessons, get them excited about also learning to play the songs they already love. Encourage them to just – kind of pick ’em out by ear. Believe me, when they string together a few familiar notes, the light will pop on and their eyes will widen: “Hey…this isn’t all work, this is FUN! Can I start a band in the basement?”

Hmmm…at least you’ll know where they are at night!

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