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Guitars and Sunflowers, Part One

April 3, 2013

dodie and garywith Gary Mockford


I first picked up the guitar when I was fourteen.  It was this guitar.

No, actually, it was an acoustic guitar.  But I DID get this guitar when I was fourteen.  My mom bought it for me, from a co-worker who was getting married.  I thought this lady was mad to give up such a thing because she was getting married!  I think it had to do with money and travel, but at the time, I was chafed.

This is how I looked with it in the living room as a teenager:




I was mugging here for my stepmom’s camera, but yeah, take away the Motley Crue makeup and I totally dressed like that in high school.

I was listening to progressive rock, like Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Yes, Rush.  I was listening to things with odd rhythms, like the Pretenders, or unusual sounds, like Big Country.  I wanted badly to understand and play the guitar.

But when I went to take guitar lessons, the teacher tried to make me play Mary Had a Little Lamb.  After three lessons, I got frustrated and gave up.

One day in a guitar magazine, I found the tabs to the Pretenders’ Back on the Chain Gang.  I wanted to play that song.  I tried and tried, so very hard, but I just wasn’t getting it.  I could not play the song.  I had everything laid out in front of me, in a chart, and I couldn’t play it.  I couldn’t make the chord changes fast enough, and I couldn’t jump to this part here, and couldn’t play that chord there, and….ugh!


dodie and scottwith Scott Skulmoski


So I never did truly play the guitar back then.  I toyed around with it from time to time, but what I really wanted was to sing,  And I didn’t have the courage to sing in public anyway, so what was the point?  I could just sing along to the stereo, in private.

The guitar got moved around a lot, until I ended up here at the Treehouse.  I rarely played it.  It was difficult, and I didn’t really understand it, beyond a few basic chords.  Besides, my old hollowbody was badly out of shape, and wouldn’t stay in tune.  For years, it served a decorative purpose, and eventually went high up on the wall, above a bookcase.


I decided to start playing guitar again with a bang.  I had a very bad day at work.  I no longer loved my job, and was ready to leave, but scared to give up my career.  I had poured my heart and soul into Human Rights work for eleven years.  I didn’t even know what else I could do with my life.

I walked out the door at the end of that work day, and instead of turning left to go home, I turned right and walked up to the pawn shops.  I was determined not to come home without an acoustic guitar, so I could finally start learning to play.




It was a Fender.  Someone had replaced the bridge with the end of a rat tail comb.  It cost $125.

I replaced the bridge the next day, and played my Fender every night for an hour after work.  Then I made dinner.  Then I played for another two hours.  Naturally, my fingers blistered.  I popped the blisters and put fabric bandaids on my fingertips.  I HAD to keep playing.  My fingers were bleeding, I was still playing.

What a little nutcase I was.  🙂

It was about 2 years after I started playing again that I decided to form my first band, Scully and the Mulders.  (They wanted to be Scully and the Foxy Mulders, but I nixed it.)  And I wanted to play some Pretenders.  Back on the Chain Gang was the first song on my list.

I still play it in my sets.   Every time I do, I feel a little shoulder-lift of triumph.  It took me a few years, squared.  But I got there.

I haven’t yet performed Back on the Chain Gang on the electric guitar I failed to learn it on, all those years ago.  But it’s on my list for Dodie Goldney & the Instamatics.  I only recently got the electric working again, which I will tell you about in Part Two of Guitars and Sunflowers.


gary and drummy and dodiewith Gary Mockford and Drummy Pryce


It’s only been within the last year that I started putting my guitar down sometimes, when I sing with a band.  Singing without it been a good skill for me to learn, both for my vocals and my performing skills. But I also find that the guitar and I have a symbiotic relationship that’s hard to separate.

The rhythm of my breathing when I sing is absolutely inter-meshed with the rhythm I am playing on the guitar.  Singing without the guitar makes me lose confidence in my timing.  It’s actually a lot harder for me to learn to sing a song if I don’t also learn to play it.  In fact, even on songs I don’t play on, I run the rhythm guitar through my head.  I almost want to say it’s like a metronome for my voice.  But more.

It’s funny that it took me so long to get there with the guitar.  Once, I didn’t understand it, and now, I can’t imagine I would ever want to perform an entire show without it.


Just because you are bad at something once in your life, it doesn’t mean you will be bad at it forever!  I am not a brilliant guitarist, but I am a competent one, and I can hold my own without a band behind me.  It may take some serious dedication, but I think everyone has the creative capacity to learn and push themselves to acquire a new skill.

One of the best things about music and other creative arts is that it’s never too late to start learning something new!



next up:  Guitars and Sunflowers, Part Two

Dodie Goldney

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related posts by Dodie Goldney:

The Insta-band

Creative Interpreting


Women’s Work is in the Home (Renovations)

The Grass is Always Greener Where You Water It


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Carole Goldney permalink
    April 4, 2013 10:36 am

    I remember, way back, when you would sit by the stereo and learning to play the guitar from your Def Leppard album – and the time their bus was loading up across the street from where I worked in downtown Vancouver and you hustled downtown to come and meet them – and they autographed your album for you before they hopped on the bus, Remember that?

  2. April 9, 2013 12:26 am

    That looks like an old Gretsch Duo Jet


  1. Heavy Metal Minuets | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney

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