"Came into this world with nothin' and so far still have most of it!" :o)
I was born in the forties in a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in a very Hungarian home. I almost thought my real name was "kis takony" (Hungarian for "Little Snot" :o) or just "A.J." I never knew what those two initials stood for till I started kindergarten. (and needless to say, I was mortified!)
When I was six, I heard my Dad almost play Suwanee River" on an old flattened out harmonica he found in a toolbox. When I heard him zip up the scale to the "nee ri-ver" part, I was hooked! Next thing I knew, I actually had the old guy talked into buying me a brand new $1.49 Hohner diatonic from old man Kessler's hardware store. I soon realized that flattened out Marine Band had really gotten Dad in the mood to start playing again. He figured he'd buy it and get it for himself after I played with it for an hour and got tired of it, but I fooled him. Anyway, Dad showed me the old tongue block/thump and a few other things and I was off and running. After a couple weeks Pop gave up on the idea of getting it back cuz I was playing better than he was. Now that I think of it, Dad turned out to be my biggest fan. My dad was the only family member who actually liked to hear me play something like "Suwanee River," while all the rest just wanted me to play the "Far Far Away" part. Even my friends were kind of split on the issue. Some would ask me to play while others just called me an idiot. Maybe I was, but of everyone I knew, I always had the most fun. :o)
I might have been the only nine year old, diatonic player in Cleveland.
Now, in spite of that minor and dubious accomplishment, I would almost fall into deep depression every time I heard Leo Diamond or the Harmonicats on the radio. I became enamored with that silky sound that I just knew I would never get out of that ten holer I was carrying around in my brown corduroys.
One day, Mom told me walk up to St. Margaret's Church after school for some "Bake Sale" bakery. On the way over there, I passed a little music shop (you know, the kind that used to be an alley between two buildings?) Looking in the window, I saw a big "64th Chromatic" with what looked like a hundred round holes and a "button!" A Button!!?? What the heck was that? My heart stopped! I hadn't the vaguest idea what that button did, or how hard it would be to play, and it didn't matter a bit. I had to get one, period! That day, my life changed. The thought of that gleaming monster even began consuming most of my quality daydreaming time. I was terminal! Although that music store was in the exact opposite direction of my house, I would find myself walking over there a couple times a week, and I'd look at it (real hard) Thinking back, I'm sure I left hand and nose prints on the store window. Needless to say, I soon lost the love for the ten holer as I realized the Chromatic was the one that pushed my buttons.
Chromatics however, were big bucks to poor kids, so I had to wait about a year to get that one. I mean, we're talking about a very serious, twelve dollar harmonica here! Meanwhile, even though he never intended to play the thing, one day Dad surprised me with a brand new five dollar, ten hole Chromatic. It was absolutely gorgeous! It took me fifty years to find another one like it, but here it is and I still think its one of the pettiest harmonicas ever built.
Anyway, over the next year or so, I played it to death. After the funeral I graduated to that big 64th Chromatic with my shoeshine money, which I still have by the way, (the harmonica; not the money) and you can see, after some TLC and a "restore" it still looks good, and plays pretty nice too. The big Chromatic was great but turned out to be a little too big for an eleven year old to carry around in his pocket. After some "big kids" in school took it away from me and blew in it like a couple of idiots, and threw it in the weeds I decided two things. One was to grow about two feet and kill both of them, and then bury their bodies in the field behind my buddy's house. The other was not to take it to school anymore. (The "other" turned out to be more practical)
Growing up, I played anywhere they'd let me; school productions, YMCA camp, amateur TV and radio shows and then in my own little rock 'n roll band. Yeah, I was a guitar banger too in my teens, but I still used the Chromatic to play the slow mushy stuff. (Except of course for "Sleep Walk" - some things, you just don't mess with ;o)
I didn't start playing diatonic again till more recently. The guy at the recording studio kept calling me to play Country & Western and Blues stuff, so I guess the decision to play "suck-harps" again was generated for the need for "filthy lucre." ;o)
I went to California in 1969 to "bust in to the music scene." Sure enough, I soon found myself playing in bars and topless go-go joints and, in short, doing all the rotten stuff I always wanted to do.
Warning! Religious content in blue! Aaaaaggghh! :o)
As it turns out, I have an older sister who, along with her friend, were fasting and praying that I would turn my life over to Christ and come home, instead of staying in California. Since, as the Bible say's: "the prayers of a righteous man (or woman) availeth much," doing all that "fun" stuff made me totally miserable instead of successful. Instead, I began writing poetry about a Savior I didn't know, and that bugged me even more.
I left California On December 20 1969 with plans to be home for Christmas. I picked up a hitchhiker in Barstow named Fidel, who was going to Albuquerque to train as a boxer. I "preached" to him (non-stop) about a God I had yet to meet. When I dropped him off in Albuquerque, he was so excited; he was ready to go into the ministry! I just thought I must be pretty smart, coming up with all the neat "religious" stuff I told him. If I would have thought about it, I would have known the words I spoke weren't mine, but I didn't have time or the inclination to ponder the situation; I just wanted to get home.
Going through Oklahoma, my freshly rebuilt V8 engine started to develop what sounded like a rod knock. An emergency tear-down and oil-pan drop, in a pit, in a truck stop revealed that my friend, Sonny had installed #4 rod bearing cap backwards. (Till his dying day, he refused to believe he could have made a mistake like that) Anyway, crossing my frozen fingers, I flipped it over, re-installed it, put the "bottom end" back together, re-assembled my car, and was on my way again, back into the snowstorm that stretched all the way back to Parma, Ohio.
That annoying rod-knock returned in western Indiana, and in Indianapolis, it rudely informed me that I was NOT going to make home for Christmas. Over fifty hours without sleep (just bennies) lonely, flat broke and feeling worse than I ever felt in my life, was the perfect time for the Lord to push "rewind" and then He simply pressed "play." Wow!!
All the "stuff" I thought I made up for the boxer that I dropped off back in Albuquerque, was now being played back to ME, word for word, and it was cutting right to the bone. For the first time in my life, I sensed remorse for all the rotten things I had done, and it was tearing my heart out. That's when I asked Jesus Christ to forgive me and come into my heart and yes, be my Lord and Savior. I lay across the car seat and sobbed like a baby for a half hour. When I sat up I blew my nose and dried my eyes. I was still broke, I was still a few hundred miles away from my home and loved ones, I was still hungry, and so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open, but I could actually feel a silly smile on my face and something going on inside of me that I had never felt before, and for record, that feeling has never left me since 4:30 pm E.S.T. Christmas day, 1969. Wow! It's really great to be alive in Jesus!
One part that's even more incredible is that while in California, I spoke to my wife almost every day on Paul Newman's phone account (another long story) but none of those conversations contained any "spiritual" content whatsoever, and yet when I arrived home at 11:35 PM Christmas night (another long story) my wife had also just given her heart to the Lord. Both our lives were dramatically and independently transformed, without either of us knowing what happened to the other! Barbara got a new husband, and A.J. got a new wife. Was that cool or what?!
This was the second time my life changed, and it was a much bigger change than discovering the Chromatic harmonica as a 10 year old kid. So much so that I quit playing altogether for a few months. Every time I saw my Fender Jaguar or my harmonicas, my mind went flying back to the "Rock 'n Roll and Blues bar scene" along with all the booze, drugs and sin that could have easily cost me my marriage, family, life and eternity. (in that order) I suppose that probably has something to do with my borderline disenchantment with "Blues," cuz "I jus ain't got dem Blues no mo!" :o) and it's hard for me to play what I don't feel. Ha Ha!
I still thank God for a praying sister, and her friend, who cared enough to "Not give up on A.J." I ended up selling the Fender Jaguar and Super Reverb amp, but for some reason, the big 64th Chromatic just went into a drawer. One day I had a chance to give my personal testimony at a CA (Christ Ambassadors) convention in Wooster, Ohio. When I mentioned to the preacher what my background was. He asked if I thought I could play a Gospel number on the harmonica. I answered: "Hey, if you can hum it, I'll bet I can play it!"
As it turned out, that meeting in 1970, gave birth to a busy thirty year music ministry that has taken me through most of the mid-west, a three and a half month tour of Australia, five tours to Hawaii and one to Alaska (in November - in retribution for the one to Hawaii in February :o)
As I said above; I feel what I play, and my Gospel music is a little different; sounds a little jazzy, and my jazz may even sound a little Gospeley?? (if that's even possible) I believe all my stuff probably comes out as a musical interpretation of all the events of my life. It's been called "semi-sanctified-bluesy-jazzy-Gospelish stuff" and that's cool cause I'm the one who calls it that! I don't play out much anymore but I do an occasional TV show, benefits here and there, and special Church related events and stuff. For the record, I try to (and usually succeed at) thoroughly enjoy every note I play. If it ain't fun, or at the least, has the possibilities of being fun; I simply doesn't fit into my schedule.
Note: Now that you know that I'm a minister and all that, you may be tempted to think SlideMeister is a "Religious" site. Well, it's not. True, you're expected to talk and act as though there were "ladies and a few children in the room" (which actually might very well be true ;o) and if you can't do that, its probably better if you don't become a member to save the embarrassment of being kicked out. :o)
You'll notice that I also prohibit "religious and political" discussion just to keep us all "united" on what we all are supposed to be agreeing on, which is: the Chromatic harmonica.
A.J.Fedor (the old SlideMeister)