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Old 08-25-2013, 02:53 AM
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As a youngster growing up in Fairmount during the early and mid-fifties, one of my most treasured toys was a slide whistle that I got for my third birthday. While I have absolutely no talent and a tin ear, I thought I was the world’s greatest musician, sitting next to the attic window, playing that slide whistle. I’d make a production out of puffing into that little toy, pushing and pull- ing on the slide rod, listening to the happy tunes I created.

I’d play what sounded to me like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, all aglow in a happy spirit, until my older brother would tease me, saying it sounded like a greased pig. I’d tell him I didn’t care, I liked it, and that he couldn’t have my slide whistle. I tried to convince myself that he was jealous, while all the time I think I knew I was just blowing hot air. I’d even play along with the music on the radio, never quite matching the tempo or the tone, nor the melody.

In time, I either misplaced that old slide whistle, or maybe my brother misplaced it for me, but that didn’t mark the end of my musical career. My father, seeing how unhappy I was without the slide whistle, replaced it with an ocarina, which he told me was also called a sweet potato, for some unknown reason.

The ocarina, which was made of a new material called high impact plastic, had a small oval hole you blew into, and five or six other holes, where you placed your fingers in varied combinations, to produce the music. My lack of talent made for many a sour note, but did not deter me from enjoying my efforts.

I liked the ocarina much more than that slide whistle, since the ocarina was really a musical instrument, where the slide whistle at least seemed like a toy. Songs could really be played on that sweet potato, in fact it came with a small booklet with numbered charts, showing which holes to cover for a half dozen songs. My young age, coupled with my lack of ability, precluded any concert appearances, but I now could produce tones that, when haltingly strung together, my brother recognized as music.

While I never got anywhere as good with my ocarina as Carl did on his trumpet, I played my fist-sized melody maker off and on for a goodly portion of my youth. At times, I tell myself I should try to find another ocarina, just for nostalgia’s sake, and I have an idea that I might just do that.

While I played a clarinet in my school band for a year, until my lack of talent got me drummed out, and later played at playing a harmonica, that ocarina holds a special place in my heart. I was always in a good mood when I made music with it, no matter how horrible my day had been. The halting refrain of Mary Had A Little Lamb was always music to my ears.

While I don’t harbor notions of late-awakening musical genius, I have decided to renew my quest to locate a new ocarina. If the joy it provides me is just a glimmer of what I felt as a youngster, my hobbled journey into my second childhood may become more of a pleasant stroll down Memory Lane.
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Old 08-25-2013, 05:07 AM
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Thanks for your post John, I was always into a real instrument, a harmonica that is still producing fine music almost 40 years since I received it. 40 years ago, I would have made you switch to a Sax, it's a real instrument and much harder to steal...
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Old 08-25-2013, 08:57 AM
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Hey---Kenny G had to start somewhere!
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Old 08-25-2013, 11:49 AM
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i have a couple peruvian ocarinas amongst my very modest instrument collection. they only cost about $1 each in peru. a lot of that is due to them being ceramic. it would be nice to be able to play some day.





i also have one of these... a harmonica with 20 blow holes. not sure how many tones you can make out of that... jon?



that one cost a lot... a little under $100 in 1998 dollars. like an idiot, i never learned to play. lips too big, maybe. i still have my danelectro, though-- every once in a while i take it out and make terrible music.
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