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Harry Sterling, Guitar BORN: New Orleans, March 18,1958 Danny Barker's only guitar pupil; played tuba with the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band; currently plays guitar with BigAl Carson's Blues Masters Interviewed at 3621 Burgundy Street, October zooz My mother and father were Laura and Harrison Sterling. I am the last of five children. None of the others are musicians . Originally, I hadplanned to be a meteorologist. When Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleansin 196$, it was fascinating to me that something like that could rock my parent's house. Watching the news, they showed radar pictures, although they werepretty crude back then. I got interested in the weather and how it moved. I would make makeshift maps of the United States, and when the weather came on TV, I would mark down what wasgoing on. I was sevenyears old then. When I was in elementary school, getting ready togo tojunior high—this would be around the age of twelve—I was at my cousin's house. Wewereflaying ball in his front yard, and I heard the sound of a banjo—the soundjust caught my attention. I was looking round and musing the ball. I said, "What's that noise behind me?" He said, "That's Cousin Danny"—that's what he called him.I said, "We don't have no cousin called Danny, not that I know of." Anyway, he brought me over there to meet him. I wasfascinated at the way his fingers moved up and down the neck—he had switched toguitar by then. I was mesmerized. He waspracticing, and he and Miss Louise weregetting ready to rehearse. She was in the kitchen cooking. When we got to the back door, this big raspy voice comes out of the house, and there's this lady standing there. I had never heard a woman with a voice that deep before, so she kind of scared me. She called, "Danny, Raj and his cousinHarry are here." Sowego in thefront and we sit down. I'm not saying anything—Ray's doing all the talking. I'mjust looking at Danny and thinking, "I'vegot to do that." Two days before my twelfth birthday, it had been on my mind for about a week. I knew I had togo back around there and talk to this man about learning the guitar. I 54 mustered up enough courage togo into theiryard and stand at the back door. And this scary woman with this big raspy voicecalled, "Danny, it's Ray's cousinHarry." She had remembered my name! He said, "What can I dofor you?" I said, "I want to talk toyou." So we went into thefront room, and I asked where hisguitar was. He said, "It's in the back. What can I doforyou?" And I told him I wanted to learn toplay. He said, "Areyou sureyou want to?" I said, "Ohyeah."'Itwasfixedin my mind. He asked me if I ownedaguitar. I said I didn't, myparents couldn't afford one.He kind of put his head down, and he told me that theguitar was a very wonderful instrument, but it takes a lot ofpractice and a lot of patience to learn. He explained about how aguitar was strung and what thefrets were for. I was absorbing all of it, and I had a smile on my face. Then he shouts, "Louise! Make this boya sandwich!" I'm like, "I don't want a sandwich. I want to learn toplay theguitar." Anyway, Miss Louise comes out the back with this sandwich—ham and cheese, on toast, lettuce, and tomato,pickles,potato chips, and a Coke! I thought, "Well, I can't insult thesepeople by not eating it." While I'm eating the sandwich, Danny Barker comes out the back with this little acoustic guitar and this chord book with fingering charts in it. He explained as well as he could that each dot representsyourfinger, and the strings go down, and thefrets goacross. Heput myfingers on theguitar, and it sounded terrible. He asked me if myparents were home. I told him my mother was home, but myfather was out at the church. He asked me where I lived, and I told him right around the corner,on St. Denis, 1265, and I gave him myphone number. LeroyJones livedjust down the street from me. By now, my finger was beginning to hurt terribly, but I didn't care. Afterwards, I was walking down the street, wondering how I wasgoing to explain to my...


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