recluse. Music did more than help me break out of my bashfulness. Unconsciously, music taught me teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and patience. I learned how to persevere through all of those hours of hard practice, and I came to understand what every musician knowsâthat for every minute onstage, there are hours of lonely practice that no one sees or appreciates. That is a lesson that served me well in speaking, writing, and every endeavor of which Iâve since been a part.
I played in several local rock and country bands through high school. I mostly played bass (an instrument that I would take up at age twelve because it became apparent that a lot more guys were playing guitar than bass, and if I learned bass, I figured my chances to be in a band were better). I also played drums for a while, but the guitar was my first and greatest love when it came to music.
A few years later, after I got married and found out that my wife, Janet, was pregnant with our first child, I was forced to make a very tough decision. Janet and I were hanging on by a thin thread financially, since I was trying to go to graduate school and work part time. Paying our rent each month was a challenge. We paid things on time, but only by being disgustingly frugal and never going into debt. When John Mark, our first son, was born, Janet had to quit her job to take care of him, and we were forced to take things day by day just to keep food in the house. The only things of value we had were my two guitars and the two amplifiers that powered them. I had been able to trade up through the years thanks to working at the local radio station and getting a few bucks from time to time for playing gigs, and now I owned a 1967 Gretsch Tennessean and a 1968 Fender Jazz Bass. They were valuable then, but years later they would have been worth enough to send my son to college. But at that moment in 1976, we were just trying to feed the boy and would worry about college later.
There was really only one optionâI needed to sell the guitars. I put an ad in the local free âshopperâ paper in Fort Worth, Texas, where we lived at the time. Calls came immediately for both, and within days, I found myself without any guitars for the first time since I was eleven. I cannot describe the pain of seeing someone gather up my prized equipment and take it away. I didnât ever let on to Janet how much it hurt letting go of those guitars; I knew that my priority was taking care of my family, and I never looked back, knowing I had made the right decision. A few years later, I was able to buy an old Yamaha acoustic at a pawnshop and would pick around on it and play it at church youth camp occasionally, but I knew that one day Iâd like to have a bass guitar like the one Iâd once had. Exactly twenty years later, Janet called me one day while I was in my office at the Capitol. I had been governor only a few weeks, and Janet and I were settling into the Governorâs Mansion. She said she had been driving down the street and seen a bass that looked a lot like my old one, just a different color. She had gone in to ask about it and was calling to see if I thought it might be a good deal. She told me the year modelâa 1967 Fender Jazz Bass. When she told me the asking price, I was sure she was mistaken. She repeated it to me. Thatâs when I said, âGo back in there and write them a check for that amount and get out of there before they realize what that guitar could be worth.â I was back in the bass business!
There were others on my staff at the Capitol who played instruments, and for the fun of it, we would gather in the basement of the Governorâs Mansion to have jam sessions and blow off steam with music. We played a couple of songs for our staff at the 1996 Christmas party, and the fact that no one threw food at us was all the encouragement we needed. Capitol Offense, the band I still play in today, was born! The band
Jessica Clare, Jen Frederick