The Garden December?

     I have many musical memories from my childhood, from car sing-a-longs, to my father singing to us while playing his guitar, to my grandfathers both singing to us, and my mother regaling us with stories of playing the french horn. I had dreams of playing tuba in the Penn State Blue Band, dreams of singing on stage next to John Denver next to a campfire, and dreams of singing fractured nursery rhymes to any kids I might have. I have fulfilled one of those dreams, thank you Grandpa Evans for the inspiration. Evan loves them. 
     I have a great uncle who nicknamed me Lem. My family knows this but few others do...until now, I guess. I'm thinking of this because tomorrow is December 7th, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. My grandfather and his brothers all served in World War II, including my uncle who gave me the nickname. I recall family gatherings where these brothers had legendary farting contests, or what we thought were legendary farting contests. They might have been joking for a minute or two then the legend began to snowball in our minds. My brother used to give incredibly hilarious recounts of the events while the rest of us rolled in laughter. So what does this have to do with my music? Almost everything....
     Some of my other early musical memories bring me back to listening to John Denver on headphones in another aunt and uncle's living room. on a very impressive stereo. My song of choice, repeatedly? The Garden Song by David Mallett. John Denver performed what is perhaps the best known version, but Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger also did great variations, among others. Around the age of my listening adventure, someone gave me a yellow toy banjo, made of plastic. That banjo became my sidekick for a very long time. The song I played on it? Well, it was either Clementine or the Garden Song. Now when I say play, I mean I sang the song and randomly picked and strummed the instrument, in no discernible pattern. But I sang it with feeling and that's what counted. The headphone uncle later gave me an old guitar that would never hold a tuning but I loved that thing and played it in the same manner as the banjo. I don't know what ever happened to either the banjo or that old guitar but I'm sure I'll never see them again. 
     So how does the Garden Song come into these memories? I've found myself listening to David Mallett a lot lately. I've had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions. We were kind of neighbors for awhile, as he lived in the next town west of where I was living at the time and we'd run into each other occasionally. I was playing at a pub in Dover-Foxcroft one night and he came in. A friend of mine began taunting me to play the Garden Song while Mr. Mallett was there but I just couldn't do it. I joined him on stage in October of 2013 in a fundraiser for Lac Megantic, Quebec, and a group of us all sang the Ballad of St. Anne's Reel with him, including his regular bassist Mike Burd, a really cool guy and great musician in his own right. Some of David Mallett's newer songs that have been sticking to my brain lately include Artist in Me, Angel Standing By, Fire, and Living on the Edge. Check out his website,, and pick up some of his newer stuff. It's really good. (His sons also front the Mallett Brothers Band, a great act that you need to catch live. Trust me, they're great) On top of all this, David Mallett is a really cool, down to earth guy who is still writing music, still touring, and still living the dream in rural Maine. 
     So how does this all come together? I know, I've been avoiding the connections for several paragraphs now and you're all wondering where I'm going with this. I have been reexamining some of my childhood idols (He-Man has been left off the list for this one). I have had some uncles who not only served their country, but also influenced me in subtle ways that have had a pretty big influence on my life. One might have been joking around by calling me Lem but the nickname gave me the first inkling of a dream of singing in front of people, and it encouraged me. Another uncle let me use his headphones and patiently let me listen to a song over and over again and planted a seed that would grow inch by inch. My son has an uncle who absolutely adores him and the feeling is mutual. We don't get to see each other often but these relationships have impacts, now and in the future. I know I'll always value the memories of plastic banjos, headphones, and yes, I'll answer to Lem even if I pretend not to like it. 

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