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Happy Father's Day--a little late

Posted at 9:24 PM on June 20, 2006 by John Zech
Filed under: The blog

My dad died of lung cancer 17 years ago, but hardly a day goes by that I don't think of him, and with Father's Day still visible in the rear view mirror I wanted to say a quick thank you for how much music he gave me.

Luther Zech was a smart, self-made man who spent his whole life as a farmer in my home town. He came from a do-it-yourself generation: as a boy he made toy cars out of a coat hanger and two spools of thread (carving notches in the wooden spools to make the "treads" of the car tires). He made all kinds of fine things out of wood: jewelry boxes, gun stocks and even violins. He was a self-taught gunsmith, too, and if he couldn't buy a part to fix a gun, he made it himself, sawing and filing and grinding until it fit.

My day also made his own music. He grew up in the days before electricity, when you listened to the radio on a "crystal set" and when just about every house had a piano. Without any music lessons he taught himself to play the harmonica, button accordion, banjo-ukelele, tenor guitar, and he could chord on the piano while he sang. For a number of years he sang bass in a male quartet that had many gigs (not a word he would use) performing at weddings, funerals, farmers' association and creamery meetings and some other events.

I learned to sing harmony with my dad, although usually he made me sing melody so he could sing tenor or bass. I studied the trombone from 5th grade right through college, but I never acquired that spontaneous music-making my dad had. However, I did have his love of music all around me, and for that I will always be grateful.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father's Day.