40 years ago I became a bass player!

It was a cold and gloomy Illinois January afternoon in 1980. I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school, in a new town, sitting in the locker-room changing into my street clothes when someone the row over had their boom-box playing. The music I heard gave me goose bumps. I was dumbfounded, shaken. What is this amazing music I’m hearing? It was unlike anything I had heard before. It was massive, complex, and overwhelming. I had to know, so I shouted out over the gym lockers, “What band is that?” The reply was, “It’s RUSH!” Rush? That’s a strange name I thought. But it did give me a rush as I listened. I then announced, “Wow, must be 10 people in that band!” The unknown boom-box owner replied, “Nah man, there’s just three guys in that band.”  I was shocked and dismayed. How can this be? I was hearing things I’d never heard before. It defied everything I understood about music. I then asked, “What are the instruments being played?” He replied, “Guitar, bass guitar, and drums!” I said, “What’s a bass guitar?” There were no replies. The locker room went silent and I left in awe. What had just happened?

The song was “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush.

On the bus ride home that day, I told one of my best friends Jerry about a band I’d heard that day. Jerry said, “Oh yeah, RUSH rocks!  Do you wanna come over to my house and check out the new bass guitar I just got for Christmas?” What?! I get to find out what a bass guitar is on the first day I’d ever heard such a thing existed? I was overcome with anticipation and got off at his bus stop. We went inside his house and Jerry pulls out this amazing instrument. It was a brand new Gibson EB-3 four-string bass guitar. He played it for a bit then handed it to me. The bass felt alien to me, yet at the same time mysteriously familiar. Jerry showed me how to press down on the strings to make a note and then how to pluck the strings to make the note make a sound. I was hooked, and time seemed to slip away. Jerry started getting this strange look on his face while watching me play his new bass guitar, and then he exclaimed out of excitement, “Lenny, you’re a bass player, and you didn’t even know it!” 

I used all my lawn cutting money to immediately buy a JC Penney EB-3 copy bass guitar and then I found a little bass amplifier at a local flea market. Nine months later I was in a band, called Prysm, playing to over a thousand people for my high school’s annual talent show and I haven’t stopped playing bass since then.

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