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Monday, April 23 Opinion

The Home Team / My thing with music

Let's be clear. I'm not a musician.

When I was 10, and an Elvis fan, I begged for a guitar -- and guitar lessons. Week after week after week my parents listened to me butcher "Lightly Row" and "Aura Lee" and "The Camptown Races." I never made it to "Jailhouse Rock." My instructor told my mom and dad my fingers were too small to reach the chords. Code for "Your son ought to stick to his day job."

I worked my way through the Temptations and the Beach Boys and the Beatles and the Stones and The DC5 as a high school kid, then moved on to Cream and Creedence and Hendrix and Joplin in college. But I never really "graduated" from pop music. At various times in my adult life I tried, but failed, to "get into" classical. And jazz. When I was in school, I thought the coolest thing I could do when I grew up was to be the drummer or lead guitar player in a rock and roll band.

Still do.

You can tell who's home at my house by the volume of the music. I've been instructed so many times by my wife and my sons to "turn it down" or "turn it off" that I don't even bother playing my iPod when anyone's around -- so what you'll hear is quiet. (Or if the boys are around, SportsCenter.) But if you hear tunes blasting from every floor, every room, every speaker, at summer-party-rock-on decibels -- that's me, home alone.

And in the car? Same thing. A lot of you know that every September, for the past three years, I've driven from Connecticut to California and back, with no one for company except my (recently dear departed) beagle. People ask, "What do you do all those hours in the car?" Well, Ricky would snore. And I listen to music. With a big smile on my face.

Carol knows well this hypnotic effect music has on me. When I pull into the driveway, grinning, she'll see me and say, "Music, right?" Similarly, if she notices I've zoned out of a group conversation, she'll say, "You were just thinking about a song, weren't you?"

I've decorated the walls of my study and my bedroom with framed album covers. "Horses" (Patti Smith). "Born To Run" (Springsteen). "Private Dancer " (Tina Turner). "Damn The Torpedoes" (Tom Petty). "Parallel Lines" (Blondie).

I get into heated arguments over music. When I "published" my 100 Favorite Songs Of All Time two years ago, both in this space and on my blog, my friend Mark went nuts. "Are you kidding me?" he screamed in an e-mail. "Five Stones and only one Beatles!?" And my buddy from Pennsylvania sputtered, "Are you telling me there isn't one Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Four Tops, or Temptations song you like better than three Taylor Swift songs?"

I've got to admit my conversion to country music (including T-Swift, if you want to call her country) about a decade ago has gotten me into a lot of hot water. So what if 95 percent of the time they sing about beer, Jack Daniels, tight blue jeans, tan lines, pick-up trucks, and Friday nights? Ever hear Brad Paisley's answer to that gripe, "This Is Country Music"? You ought to go listen. And besides, my favorite lyric of all time comes out of country: "I'm so miserable without you, it's almost like you're here" (Billy Ray Cyrus).

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I'll never forget the rip-roaring screamer I got into with my friend Mike after we'd seen a Zac Brown concert in Tampa. I mentioned that country artist Keith Urban, who'd already released an album that year, was about to come out with another one. "That's because it's much easier to make a country album than a rock and roll album," Mike said. "No it's not," I answered. "Yes, it is," he insisted. Back and forth we went, for at least half the ride from Tampa to Fort Myers. Neither of us had any idea what we were talking about, but that didn't matter.

Live music events dot my calendar. Next month I'm going to hear Trish Murphy, my favorite singer from Austin, at Hill Country in NYC. In July I'm traveling to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the legendary venue outside Denver, to hear Dierks Bentley. I went to Charlottesville to see the Band Perry and Chicago to see Little Big Town. And Camden, N.J., for Miranda Lambert.


Told you I like music.

"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.