In my younger days I fancied myself a singer-songwriter. I banged out chords on a nylon-stringed guitar and, later, a 12-string guitar that I bought with $59 (or was it $79?) I scraped together from my first full-time job in the summer of 1975.
Over the years, in part through the miracle of multi-tracking — beginning with recording from one cassette machine to another in my bedroom — I created 20 (!) albums of homemade songs, some of them pretty good and most of them, I imagine, rather forgettable. I gave the albums names like “Crying Over Spilled Thyme” and “Folks Songs” and called the singer-songwriter “w.p. bluhm” because I’m such a fan of e.e. cummings.
When we built this house in 2012, I bought a couple of specially-designed hooks so that I could hang the two guitars on the wall — the better, I thought, to haul them down and plunk on them. Oddly, it had the opposite effect, and the guitars became another piece of artwork on the wall, collecting dust more than anything.
Every so often I would take one or the other down and strum a few songs, but — other than a burst of creativity that led to my 20th album in 2010 — I haven’t made music for about a decade and a half.
I remember back in 1984, when I wrote a new song for the first time in a couple of years, and it was like reconnecting with a part of me that I thought I had lost. It was a simple little folk song (“Train Song,” for the handful who might remember), but I had written a song, and it was a relief to put words and music together again after so long.
When I moved across the house to the new office this fall, I put the guitars in their old cases and set them against the wall next to the 1941 Philco radio, in hopes that taking them off the wall might move me to pick them up and play, since I didn’t manage to take them down and play very often over those years.
Sunday morning, I picked up the old 12-string and an old notebook. There were words on one page that I’d written in June 2007, a couple of verses to a song, and a line that I added in October 2020, and words for another verse and a bridge that I wrote in June 2021. The hint of a melody has lingered in my mind over all that time, but I never set down chords for it. Sunday morning, I married the words to music.
Imagine how I might have felt back in ’84 when a song came out for the first time in two years. Now imagine how I felt Sunday morning when a song came out for the first time in 12 years.
Actually, I don’t think it’s done. It feels like there are at least three more verses out there waiting to be pulled from the ether. It has a name — “Song for My Daughter” — but it’s not ready to be shared.
But w.p. bluhm is back in the room. And that’s kind of exciting.