Going Up To Cripple Creek with Grandpa

I pick up my guitar and strum a few chords. Try to come up with a melody or a run of chords which makes sense or sounds good. I don’t devote as much time to musical pursuits now as I used to, perhaps as I should. Time’s not my friend in this arena. I think back to my Grandpa at times.

He had arthritis in his hands as far back as I can remember. Being born in 1893, he was 57 years old when I was born…67 in 1960 where my memories of his banjo playing start. The arthritis hampered his playing but I remember some of the tunes: “Cripple Creek” “Home Sweet Home” “Swanee River” many more. I tried the banjo, but it never made sense to me…I was lucky to be able to learn to play the guitar. Grandpa wrote songs too. He had two hymns published and I have the songbooks where they are sitting there on the page in black and white. I’ve never sang them, but I should. Mom always wanted me too, but for some reason I never got around to it. I regret that.

Grandpa was a talented, but strange man. I don’t ever remember him wearing anything but overalls except on Sundays. He kept his wallet in the top center pocket and would get it out and count his money at least once a day. He had his pocket watch in the “watch” pocket of those overalls and checked it quite often. It was a good watch….I’m sure one of my kin got it, but I don’t know who. At one time he owned a lot of land up where he lived at, but by the time he died, he owned practically nothing and didn’t know who or where he was. He gave me the greatest gift that I could ever receive though, right there out on his clapboard front porch, and that was the gift of music….the gift of the love of music.

It was not only the times I watched him sing and play, and the times I sang with him, but the sheer amount of time he would listen to his little AM radio. It was the times he would take our his hymnals and practice for the upcoming Sunday for hours. I had nothing to do on rainy days at his house. No TV, just the books and the radio. So I listened to a lot of hymns and a lot of country music. I think I cut my teeth on one of his hymnals…literally..as I lived at Grandpa and Grandma’s house until I was past two years old. Chewed one of them up I was told.

A lot of times when I get inspired to sing, or play the guitar or write a line of a song I can hear in the background deep down in my brain:

“Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek, goin’ on the run

Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek t’ have a little fun

Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek, goin in a whirl

Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek t’ see my girl”

Read more: Bill Monroe – Cripple Creek Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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