Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Frank at
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
by Frank Shortt
A place for intelligent readers
2017 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
The hills of Appalachia are a breeding ground for good musicians, especially guitar pickers. All one has to do of a Market Day is to go to the local Flea Market and there will be men and boys of all ages strumming their favorite instrument and singing the songs in harmony as if they had practiced together for months.
They start guitar pickers young back in the hills! Some say they cut their teeth on ivory tuner pegs. They use the strings for dental floss while lounging on a moonshine keg. Corn is raised for just one thing, to squeeze out the juice for the potent, favorite drink of old time hillbillies. After a swig or two of White Lightning, they play music from the rising of the pale moon until the sun is peeking over the eastern horizon. Those guitar pickers can stand the abuse!
I am one of those hillbilly pickers! I have played the guitar all over this land of America. In the Hills of Pennsylvania, clear out to the Rio Grande, in Nashville, Branson, I played and sang, but I did not make it to Carnegie Hall. I’ve played with the worst, and I’ve played with the best, but am still just a Hillbilly Picker. I also still have my good-old Southern drawl. One lady told me recently, “You sure have a country voice”! That was the greatest compliment she could have paid me, whether or not she meant it as a compliment.
The late, great, finger style picker, Chet Atkins, said that his first guitar was one he traded an old pistol and some days of work for. The first guitar he played had wire from an old screen door for strings and the nut of the guitar was a nail. The guitar was so bowed that only a few frets could be used.
The first guitar I remember strumming on was an old Stella, made by Harmony, that lay around our house until I left for the Air Force. It was so hard to fret that it is a wonder I didn’t give up in disgust and decide that I did not want to be a guitar picker. Later instruments were a little easier to play, thank God, and I was able to learn enough to accompany myself when I sang.
When I succumb to enter the “silent halls of death”, I would like to have my ashes placed in an old Gibson or Martin case and be buried underneath an old Maple tree. I do not want my family to despair about what to do with my remains. They have enough problems with the cares of life.
Out on some lonely Hillbilly farm, they’re raising up another guitar picker just like me. He’ll be as good, or better, than the one he is succeeding. It would not take much for him to be better than me. If the upcoming generation knew the problems of being a performer, they would run the other way like a rabbit from a fox! Hank thought he had it bad!