Passion: Creating and experiencing memories through music
Background: For this conversation, I am going to introduce you to my dad, John Shultz Jr., who has been sharing his passion with me for 32 years and counting. He’s the reason that my favorite type of music is singer/songwriter, and that I listen to genres spanning all styles and generations from the 1960s to the 2020s.
John has always been drawn to music. From a young age, he listened to songwriters who could speak to him through good times and bad. There was always a song, an artist, or an album that resonated with him.
There is an obvious trail in John’s life that leads to his ultimate passion for vinyl records. As an eighth-grader, he had a box of 45s. For a high school graduation gift, his mother asked what she could get for him and his answer was easy: a Juliette AM/FM 8-Track Record Player with two 6” speakers… ‘the same one that Peewee Webb had who lived right behind us.’ And, when John wanted music to follow him on the road, he installed a REALISTIC 8-track player below the dash of his ‘69 Camaro. Finally, after experiencing a whole new wave of music in college in the 70s, he acquired the turntable that he still spins 50 years later, his Thorens TD160.
My conversation with John could center around his collection of vinyl albums he continues to accrue, currently amassing over 700 albums, or it could focus on the investment he has made in the search for hard-to-find records, but those parts of collecting vinyl are not John’s passion.
His passion goes deeper than the numbers or the hunt. It is about the way music freezes time and reminds him of a person, a time, an experience, or a feeling. Music is not just an escape, it is also a way for John to fully experience the present moment. Music is like a series of bookmarks in the story of his life; John can recall special moments by listening to a song.
John’s memory is impeccable, but it is not about ‘living in the past.’ It is celebrating the moments in life, big and small, that are worth remembering and cherishing. John’s passion for music is also a zeal for life, and you’ll see it in the way he excitedly tells the details of each story.
In this conversation, John takes us on a journey and shows us what it’s like to experience life through music. He has a memory of every concert that he’s seen, and who he’s seen them with; all of it triggered by the sound of one voice or one instrumental riff. For example, when he hears a song from Santana, he thinks of his first road trip to see a concert in the 1970s. He’ll tell you that they made the trip in a powder-blue Buick to St John’s Arena, and he’ll also recall that he hung his feet over the edge of the first row of the balcony, with his arms crossed on the railing.
For John, music isn’t just a hobby or an interest, it’s a way of life, and I hope from our conversation that you’ll see that it’s a special way for him to cherish people, places, and times.
“When I was in 8th grade, I had 45s and a record player. When I graduated from high school, my mom wanted to know what I wanted for my graduation present. The Juliette is how it all started. She bought me The Guess Who’s ‘Greatest Hits,’ and my cousin Diana gifted me Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s ‘Deja Vu.’ To this day, Neil Young is still my favorite singer, songwriter, and storyteller.
I took a couple albums to college and about four 8-tracks, and that was the start of my music. Other people had stereo systems, when I lived at the fraternity house, so I waited to buy a turntable until I could get something that was high quality, which was this Thorens TD160 in 1975.”
“I had my reel-to-reel in college, everybody else had the albums. I had a deal for anybody who bought a new album when I was in college. I would offer them a dollar if I could be the first person to play the album. So, they would buy a brand new album for five dollars, and I would give them a dollar if I could be the first person to play the album on my stereo. Then, I would tape it on my Reel-to-Reel. I have this book from college. It’s the ‘Table of Reels,’ and it includes all of the records that I taped while I was a senior in college. I didn’t have vinyl records yet in college, but I had 200 albums taped on my reel-to-reel. And, they were in pristine condition because they were recorded from the first time it had been played.”
“What’s cool about going to record stores now, is I’m trying to find that elusive album that I don’t have in my collection yet. I may have it on 8-track, or on iTunes, but I don’t have the vinyl. Back then, if the vinyl came out and you didn’t get it, then you just missed out. They never reissued stuff.”
“When I talk to people now who like classic rock, a lot of the guys are 30 or 40 years old. So, I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I saw them in concert,’ and they are shocked... But I'm like, ‘Guys, it's because I'm an old guy. I saw them when there were only a couple albums out. Before they were a big deal.’
Back then, most people went to concerts.. It was one thing you could do for $5, when that was the price of a ticket. All these bands were just starting out when we were going to concerts in the early 70s. They might have only had one or two albums out. We saw the Doobie Brothers and they only had one album out, and now they are still playing. Same thing with the Eagles. When they started out, we could go see them pretty easily because there were only a couple of albums out. Now, they are touring their entire catalog and the concerts are huge.
When we went to see Joe Walsh and Barnstorm in October of ‘73 at BGSU, he only had two albums out. Before that, it was him and the James Gang. Then, later on, he joined the Eagles. These concert tickets tell the history of where these guys went and how the different groups started. Another one is Paul McCartney... I have never seen the Beatles, but I saw him twice with WINGS, and on his own once.”
“I always used to say that I had a favorite indoor concert and a favorite outdoor concert. They are both from 1976. My favorite outdoor concert was Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. It was the Eagles first tour with Joe Walsh, and it was Fleetwood Mac with the White Album, and it was Boz Skaggs promoting his ‘Silk Degrees’ album. My favorite indoor concert was Paul McCartney and WINGS. I have the album ‘WINGS across America,’ and at that concert, they played the entire album front-to-back. But, there were so many memorable concerts, like Led Zeppelin in ‘77, Eagles in ‘74 and ‘75 and ‘76.”
“For me, music is a timeline. It freezes time for me. When I listen to an album, I just think of that time I first heard it, or bought the record, or saw them in concert, etc.
When I hear the harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, I think of the night before my 21st birthday. August 31st of 1974, they came to Cleveland Stadium. Santana was there, The Band was there. There were 80,000 people in that stadium. They played for like three hours.”
“My memory has always been really really good. I can tell stories to my friends, and it triggers it for them to remember that part of life too. I reminisce a lot with my college roommate, Harold, who I still go to concerts with today. It has forged and reinforced a lot of friendships.”
“When the Electric Light Orchestra had released their new album called ‘On the Third Day;’ the news made it through our whole fraternity that Elmo (a fraternity brother) had been able to get the album. So, I can remember when 20 of us crammed into his apartment one night to listen to the album.
I never had the opportunity to purchase that album for myself. Then, forty five years later, I was at Amoeba Music in California, and I found that album and it still had the cellophane on it. So I had to buy it, because of that memory I had.”
“I’m also going to remember this past weekend when I went to Ada, Ohio with Harold and bought this Don Henley album. I know that when Karen, Kate, you, and I went to Boston, we stopped at a record store and I bought the Jethro Tull ‘Aqualung’ album. So, music freezes time for me. I can pull out any album and I can remember when I bought the album, or when I saw the concert, or when I was with certain people and listened to it. And it reminds me of that, and it’s a good memory. I can have the worst day at work, and come in here, throw an album on, and it relieves my stress. It just transports me to a better time and place.”
“In college at Ohio Northern University, they wanted to celebrate the grand opening of their new King Horn Convocation Center in 1976. They had put in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, 16 basketball hoops, and a press-box that overlooked both courts. It was huge, state-of-the art. They considered three bands from the Detroit area. It was either KISS, REO Speedwagon, or Bob Seger. They ended up choosing KISS. I had already graduated from ONU and decided to make the trip back for the concert. All of us fraternity brothers walked through the Fraternity Circle and went to see the concert together.
The school didn’t really know who KISS was at the time; didn’t know what they were getting into. They didn’t put any tarps down on the floor, or protect any of the new finishings in the gym. They had white girders up top, but KISS had big flames shooting up and scorched everything all black. ONU had to re-paint the whole ceiling. Afterwards, they counted over 600 burn marks from people dropping lit cigarettes on the new floors. They had to sand them down and refinish everything before it was ever used as a gymnasium.
That is still known as their number one concert, and they never went back to anything like that again.”
“I know that I brought you kids up learning about music… I took you to see Neil Young, Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, etc. And I took Kristy to see Springsteen; I took JD to see Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.
Then, you kids returned the favor and brought me into newer and different genres of music. JD introduced me to many indie-rock bands, which opened up a whole new world of fresh voices and sounds. You took me to see the Foo Fighters, so that showcased the next generation of rock. You took me to see Needtobreathe. So when I listen to those bands, I think of you guys. Again, it’s freezing time. We went to that Foo Fighters concert in 2008, and that’s what I think of when I play the record.”
“The idea is this is something that I’ve done for 50 years. And it seems like a lifetime, but it’s just something I do. I’m going to keep doing it. It’s a part of me.”