A Musician's Journey





Eric Sykes


 
Copyright 2020 by Eric Sykes



Photo of Eric.

I grew up a product of divorce from the age of six. I suffered from chemical depression, which was properly diagnosed much later in my life. Somewhere in those early years, I discovered music. It must have started with soundtracks to the movies Grease and Saturday Night Fever, not to mention the car radio which was harboring contemporary artists like the Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, disco tunes, and significant one-hit wonders of the '70s.

My grandmother was a lounge musician in her day and understood the importance of music. She gave me various bands on vinyl, like the first two albums by the band Men At Work. My mother contributed as well by going into record stores and asking, 'what are the kids listening to nowadays?' Which turned out to be Cheap Trick and Queen on 8 track. I also had a stepbrother, who I thought was the coolest, and he was listening to Ozzy Osborne and Rush. To top it all off, the T.V. shows Solid Gold and Hee Haw were huge hits and MTV was on the verge of changing everything. All the influences were merging.

One hot Summer night, Some friends and I were walking around the neighborhood and we came across a group of older kids listening to a cassette tape of, AC/DC! I'm telling you I was HOOKED! Up until this point, the other bands and artists helped me to feel something, and escape a pretty depressing childhood, but this was the music that made me want to do it! I wanted to be a musician. I HAD to be a musician! I wanted a guitar.

Later that year, much to my dismay, my family moved cities. New school, new friends, and soon, an event that would forever change my life. I took a theater arts class not knowing what in the world it was. Just figured it would be kind of a blow off class. A cool looking guy was sitting at my table and we started talking. He said something about AC/DC coming to town and he was going, 'front row!' Kids our age could go to concerts? I said I liked AC/DC and I wanted a guitar. He said, 'You have a guitar? What kind do you have?' I corrected him by saying, 'I wanted a guitar.' He said he had a Gibson SG, the same type the guitar player for AC/DC played. A kid my age had a guitar? It was possible!

One day I heard our school was putting on a talent show of sorts and these guys were auditioning with an 'air band' version of the song Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC's biggest hit, with Alex on guitar of course. I was like, 'Damn, I would love to be involved with that,' but the line up was set. As luck would have it, the singer dropped out and Alex asked me to replace him. But I didn't sing! I didn't know the words! I wasn't even that familiar with the song. He encouraged me. He wrote out the lyrics and we all got together after school to practice.

We auditioned and we made the cut! Now, even though we weren't actually playing, I took it seriously. I was going to be in front of the whole school for a live performance. It was a forward movement towards a dream I didn't even know I had yet. It was a sign of things to come. I was scared but excited. Fast forward a few weeks and the curtain opened. Nothing in this blue world could have prepared me! The adrenaline rush, emotions I had never felt, everyone screaming for us, etc! Again, I was hooked. I was flat out addicted! Now, how do I get a guitar?

My mother was a single parent of two, so I wasn't sure that was an option. I got an odd job here and there, but I also spent as I went. I had to make a choice. Save up my lunch money! I was allotted $10 a week for food. So, everyday I would get a Nestles drumstick ice cream cone for 35 cents and that left me several dollar to use towards my guitar goal! Give or take the occasional weakness for a steak finger and french fry basket.

Before I knew it, I had $170.00 for my first guitar. Cheap and crappy as it was. Christmas rolled around and my father bought me a small Peavey practice amp. I was good to go! Or so I thought. Our house was robbed a few months later and my guitar and amp were stolen. But then, we got the insurance money and my mother bought me another set. Again I was good to go! Or so I thought.

I started taking lessons at a local music store. For a year and a half I learned to read music and play from a classical standpoint. This was not rock-n-roll! I wanted to quit every other week. I changed teachers at one point, which made a bit of a difference but not much. This was going to be harder than I thought.

At the age of 15, I decided to go and live with my father. Another new school and new friends. I signed up for lessons with my 3rd guitar teacher and the planets must have been in alignment because he became my mentor! My hero to this day. The biggest influence in my life. He was in a band and he knew how to rock. And, he taught me AC/DC tunes!

Not having much to do at my new location meant I played my guitar A LOT. I was obsessed! I played everyday, took lessons, sometimes twice, a week, I bought guitar magazines, I worked at a music store, and I went to tons of concerts.

Around this time AC/DC had a new album and they were going out on tour. I had to go. I bought the album, camped out for tickets, and made plans for the show. This was a huge highlight of my life. I saw the band live. The first of many times. A so-called religious experience for me. An energy I can't express in this writing.

Fast forward many years. I graduated from college with a bachelors degree in Music Theory, I got married, had a family, bought a house, and continued my journey as a musician, not the easiest task. To make money I taught and started playing bass guitar in an 80's tribute band. We played all of the music I grew up with. It was a blast and I was getting paid!

Social media became a thing and one day I came across the profile of the drummer that played for a local AC/DC tribute. We communicated and the band contacted me when they needed a sub-bass player for a few gigs. I jumped at the chance. These were good paid gigs and I needed the money. Not to mention the self-esteem boost. The gigs went great! So great, they asked me to be the new bass player for the band. That was a definite yes from me.

Tribute bands were becoming more and more of a thing. I was playing all over the U.S., making money, and I got my famous fix. Booking agents were putting on huge tribute festivals and I was told we were booked to play one in our home town. At the same location, I saw AC/DC so many years before. The same stage. The same spot the bass player stood. The same songs I heard them play as a teenager. This was going to be insane!!!

I played the gig. Do to the excitement, I honestly can hardly remember it. Forty-five minutes of jamming the tunes that made me want to play music in the first place. The term surreal can't describe it. I was numb. At the end of the set, I put down my bass and walked to the front of the stage and waved to the crowd. They waved back. I held back some tears, packed my gear, and went home.

My musical journey has not ended, but nothing has matched that experience. I can actually say I have played gigs on some of the same stages as my heroes. I even got to open and hang out with a few on occasion. The music business has changed and so have I, but I can not forget or give up on the dreams that helped me to feel emotion for the first time. Therefore my journey will continue. I will enjoy the ride, the music, and of course, playing my guitar.

Eric Sykes was born in Dallas, Tx. on May 23rd, 1972. He began playing guitar at the age of 13 and continues to this day performing/teaching in the area. He has written/directed/produced four short films and has plans for a full-length feature in the near future. He has one daughter, Jazz Wilder Sykes, who dedicates her life to teaching and helping the underprivileged.




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