'Tis of Thee
I was on the ball field with my brothers and friends nearly every day in the summer of 1957, playing as if it was the World Series. Once a week, a certain lady in a '57 Studebaker Golden Hawk would come rolling up our driveway. Out of that shiny, sleek car she'd climb and into the back door of the house she would step, welcomed by my mom and the usual snack of tea and cookies. Then it came...I tried not to notice... "Paul...get in here, it's time for your piano lesson.", my mom shouted out to me. If I thought it could've worked, I would've asked the great god of the earth to open up the ground and swallow me into it at that very moment. Instead, though, I dropped my bat (if I was up) or my ball glove, suffered the humiliation and embarrassment in front of my friends and slowly left the game towards the house for the piano in the family room. At the beginning of the session, while the old piano teacher gorged herself with mom's cookies I was forced to play what I had learned on my own since the last lesson...whatever song I had been able to listen to and then play, not using sheet music...by ear. "This boy doesn't need me...he's learning more on his own by ear than I can teach him from books.". Those were (more and more) the words out of my piano teacher's mouth each time she came for another one of my piano lessons. So, mom spoke to dad and they agreed that the lessons could stop. Man, I was never so relieved! Now, there would be no more interruptions to the great games; no more humiliating exits from the ball field in the back of our house only to go inside and play the piano in front of a nice but, very annoying and pleasingly plump lady. But, then, as time went on and to everyone's surprise I kept on playing songs...ones that I'd heard and could pick out without too much sweat. When the weather got cold, I'd sit at the piano and pound out song after song, especially just after supper. For some reason, unknown to me food always seemed to breed music and the desire in me to play it. Besides, it got me out of dishes. Most of the songs on this album (that's what we used to call them) were written in the early 1970's and then, more intensely, in the spring, summer and fall of 1976 when Dave and I were living in Columbus, Ohio and playing in the lounge at an Italian restaurant. Both of us would spend our afternoons reading. Dave read science fiction novels and I read anything to do with 19th century American history. Coffee table books with grand paintings in them filled me with romantic notions of what it must have been like to have lived in those places of the past. I sailed into songwriting. 'Tis Of Thee is the result of those joyous hours. Incidentally, the songs which comprise this CD are actually a songtrack to a musical stage play (more precisely, a montage) called...you guessed it...'Tis Of Thee. The songs are embedded in their own scenes, complete with characters and dialogue. There's a central narrator who kind of glues it all together. I never envisioned it as a fully-scripted play but, with the expert help of a new-found friend (who's called, 'Farley' by mama) it just kept on going. Heck, I just thought I was writing songs, not more than that. Who knows, maybe it will see a performance someday...on a real stage. For now though, just listen. If you like this, thank Dave Allen (my guitarist, partner and long-time friend), my mom, my grandmother and my lovely, old piano teacher. I wish I had that Hawk. Paul Yuellig - Allus Cats.