Are There Still Songs In That Old Guitar?







“I got my first real six-string 

Bought it at the five-and-dime 

Played it 'til my fingers bled 

Was the summer of sixty-nine” 

                                  Bryan Adams “Summer Of ’69” 







More like ’65 for me but the same memory. Mowed lawns to buy a Cortez bass, killed my fingers but I had to have it. I spent the first few weeks walking up and down the same street in Endwell, New York with the bass (no case) slung over my shoulder hoping Mary Spring would come out and ask me if I was a musician. Didn’t happen, and for the best too, as I couldn’t play a note yet. 


Fast Forward 

Forward, well, a whole bunch of years and I’m reading this article about Guitar Center being a billion dollars in debt. This quote, “A report released last year by the Washington Post revealed electric guitar sales have plummeted over the past decade from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars”, the report said. 

And this… 

“Most of what’s really selling today is rap and hip hop,” said George Gruhn, owner of the Gruhn Guitars shop in Nashville. “That’s outpacing other forms of music and they don’t use a lot of recognizable musical instruments.” 

I’ve got nothing against Rap and Hip Hop and I think anything that inspires is valid. But I have to be honest and say this article brought a tear for something I worry will be lost forever. 

Hard to imagine. Now I’ve written with drum loops, tons of samples, ProTools and Logic, love my MacBook Pro and every app I can find but I always come back to my guitar. Its a tactile thing. I can feel it. I can take a Tele, plug it into a Vox AC30 and make some serious noise. I can still grab a Gibson J200 and get lost for hours. I know if a song sounds good on my guitar chances are pretty good it will hold up. 

The owner of Mugzey Music in Canyon Country, spoke to the shifting demographics: 

“Rock is almost dead,” he said. “It’s almost nonexistent. And with guitar there’s almost no one to look up to anymore – no one to get you to want to learn. I have three or four guitar students who are about 12 to 14 years old, and I told one of them she should find someone in her class to play guitar with. She said, ‘No one else plays the guitar, and people think I’m weird because I do.’ ” 

Wow…how did we go from “Clapton Is God” in the 60’s to this! John Mayer, John Lennon, Pete Townsend, Bonnie Raitt Jack While, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Susan Tedeschi, Eddie Van Halen, Keef, The Edge. Weird? 

Power To The Weird! 

And then theres this article, 12 reasons why chicks dig guitar players:-)! 


I’m no guitar God but I do know that the guitar has been my constant companion. Its probably responsible for most every lasting relationship I’ve ever had as well as my partner in crime for all these years. I can't count how many I've had  ( and how many I wish I had back!). I subscribed to the old songwriter joke that we sell guitars when theres no more songs in 'em. 

There is really nothing like imagining an idea while trying to find the right notes and chords with this thing on your lap. It’s a communicator and it doesn’t matter what language you speak or even how well you play it really. Three chords and the truth as they say. 

My Hope 

So here’s hoping those young ones, guys and girls, get weird , have bloody fingers once in awhile and make music. 

Here’s the whole article from the Los Angles daily News Business section. 

P.S. Something that always gives me hope for the future. I do some judging for Belmont Universities music events every year here in Nashville and as soon as I get near the campus I'm seeing tons of young adults with guitars on their backs. When the weather is nice you can see them in groups trying out songs with! 

Mark Cawley 

Nashville, Tennessee 

Image: Shutterstock 

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About Mark Cawley 

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.