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Column: Even 'easy guitar' types appreciate Pickett


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I own a couple of Beatles songbooks, for “easy guitar,” that I bought at a Bloomington music store in the fall of 1971 when I was a freshman at Indiana University. Each book bears a sticker verifying it was purchased at Tom Pickett’s Guitar Gallery.

Back then I had no idea who Tom Pickett was, but I appreciated the fact that his store sold songbooks that allowed even beginning guitarists like me to enjoy playing and singing Beatles tunes in our dorm rooms.

During the next nearly 30 years I pulled those songbooks out quite often, fondly remembering the day I strolled down Kirkwood Avenue and discovered Tom Pickett’s Guitar Gallery. But I would also feel a twinge of sadness, knowing the store was no longer there.

Then, in 1990, I came to work at The Republic and quickly discovered that Tom Pickett was alive and well in Columbus … and had been all along.

Since then I’ve spent a fair amount of time at Tom Pickett’s Music Center, most of it drooling over the guitars and wishing I were independently wealthy. I have also spent a bit of money — quite a bit if you believe my wife — at Tom’s on guitars, amps, drums and lessons.

While I’ve always enjoyed visiting the store, whether just to drool or to actually buy something, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Tom — and Chris Campbell — equally as much. They certainly have many customers who contribute much more to their bottom line than I do, yet when I walk through the front door I always get a friendly, “Mr. Showalter, how are you?” usually quickly followed by “Hey, have you heard the one about … ?”

If I’m lucky, I’ll also hear a great story about some famous musician Tom knows or the history of the Gibson Les Paul or the Four Freshmen.

By the time this column runs, many of Tom’s former students, including the governor, will have honored him with their words and music. I’m envious of all these talented players. I’m envious of not only their talent, but of the fact they grew up in a town with a Tom Pickett in it.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never took the time to properly learn how to play the musical instruments that have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Why would a kid who is mad about guitars and drums and music not buckle down and learn the skills needed to get the most out of playing them? What a shame.

Perhaps it would have been a different story had I grown up in Columbus. Maybe if my first guitar teacher had been Tom Pickett, I might have been up there on that stage last Friday paying tribute to him with my guitar instead of sitting in the audience.

But alas, there was no Tom Pickett in my younger years, and I doubt whether the audience at The Commons on Friday would have been too impressed by me strumming “Ticket To Ride” from my “easy guitar” book.

So allow me to contribute my humble two cents. Thanks Tom, from me and all the other “easy guitar” boys, girls, men and women.

Though we never made it big in the music business, our lives have been enriched by your store, your teaching skills, your vast knowledge, your jokes, your stories, your history lessons, your support, your encouragement and your friendship.

Whether we can play blazing lead guitar, whip through jazz changes at break-neck speed or barely strum an E chord without string buzz, you always make each and every one of us feel like a musician, whether we actually are or not.

I may not know a G7 from a G8, but I know an impressive legacy when I hear one.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or dshowalter@therepublic.com.

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