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A Musing about Guitar Tuning - Midweek Musing for 11/2/22

Hebrews 13:1-2 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Matthew 19:13-14 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” If you ever were to look at my music playlists, you would think perhaps, I have some sort of multiple personality disorder. I have everything from rap to classical to the Beetles and James Taylor to the Preservation Jazz Hall Society to Bluegrass and Gospel. Some names you would find familiar like Elton John, Kenny Rodgers, Billy Joel, and Michael Jackson. Others are a lot more obscure to most of the world – David M. Bailey, John Paul Walters, Homer and Jethro, Suzanne Vega, Bob Geresti, and Lonzo and Oscar.

From that obscure list, I doubt anyone reading it other than my wife and maybe my children know all of them. In several cases, the artists above are Montreat Conferences related. One, Bob Geresti, is a concert pianist who lived across the street from my parents for years until they moved. (We could even hear him practicing on his baby grand piano on summer evenings #free concert.) I got to know Homer & Jethro and Lonzo & Oscar because I love to laugh. Both of these duos were known for their humor. I started to listen to them in middle school! My favorite of all their songs is I’m My Own Grandpa which was recorded by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947.

Of course, the geek I am I also got to know some facts and stories about each of these artists. One story that stuck with me was about Lonzo Green from the duo Lonzo and Oscar. I have heard/read it from a few sources, so I feel good that it is more than an urban myth.

The story is a great example of how we never know the impact we might make especially among young people. And as it certainly fits the scripture passage above, I would like to close by sharing my summary of this story from Lonzo Green’s life with you.

Lonzo Green always enjoyed his time off the road and when he got this time off he would often visit his family. Much of the country music singer's family lived in and around Memphis, Tennessee. When he visited he would stay with relatives who were always glad to have him. Usually, it was at the home of his nephew Jimmy.

Jimmy’s parents were always excited when Lonzo visited they would have celebrations and Lonzo was always glad to perform for the neighborhood. When Lonzo was in town the house was full of music and high spirits.

Jimmy enjoyed music and the attention it drew him. All of his friends wanted to come by and meet his uncle, but one friend had a special request. He had an old second-hand guitar that he did not know how to properly tune. He wanted to know if Lonzo could teach him.

Jimmy asked Lonzo if he minded and he did not. Jimmy said that there was a problem because Jimmy’s friend wasn’t allowed in his house.

His parents felt the boy came from the wrong side of the tracks. His family lived in public housing and the people from over there were all considered to be “poor white trash.”

While Lonzo didn’t like the rule it wasn’t his home. However, Lonzo remembered growing up in poverty himself, so he came up with a solution. Lonzo said that they could meet outside - they could sit on a park bench or just on the curb. That sounded great to Jimmy and thus plans were made. It was a beautiful afternoon when Jimmy brought his classmate to meet Lonzo. It was a perfect day for playing guitar outside. Jimmy’s guitar was indeed second hand, and it used twine for the guitar straps. The strings though were new. The youth had worked odd jobs to save up money to buy them – he simply had no idea how to tune them.

Lonzo patiently taught this shy boy how to tune it. Frankly, the kid was a natural at it. After teaching him how to tune it the boy was so grateful, thanking him profusely. As he got up to go Lonzo sat him back down. He said, “what’s the good of a tuned guitar if you don’t know how to play it.” So there on the curb of a street in Memphis, the master guitar player Lonzo Green taught this barely teenage boy some chords and strumming patterns and a few simple songs. He was so taken with the young man’s polite and congenial manner that he sat there with him playing until dark.

When Lonzo and Jimmy returned to the house they were met with some disapproving looks but didn’t care. They were just playing music and helping a school friend of Jimmy’s. They were just being kind to a humble kid.

The legend says when Lonzo walked back into the house, he looked at those who were clearly critical of his activities and reportedly said, “You’ll be hearing from that boy again someday. I think he is going places.”

He was right -that boy would go places.

In fact, there would come a day when that shy, poor, white trash from the wrong side of the tracts, who had not been welcome in Jimmy’s family home did come back and visit. By then he had a new guitar that he like Lonzo Green had mastered playing.

Actually, this musician went into lots of folks’ homes including a night on September 9, 1956, when he was welcomed into the homes of 82.6% of Americans who had a TV – a little over 60 million people to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. It would be the largest television audience for any broadcast in the 1950s.

The musician would sing songs we still know today – “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” and “Love Me Tender.”

Thank goodness Lonzo Green helped Elvis learn how to tune that old guitar.

I am sure Lonzo had no idea his kindness would change the world. I don’t know if you would say that Lonzo was entertaining an angel but certainly he entertained a future king.

May we remember every encounter we make may be life changing.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.

-- Clay Gunter

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