My name is Gene Kessler, short for Eugene to the folks back home in West Virginia and I would like to tell you a little about myself and how I became the biggest fan in the world for an alternative style of playing the guitar.
It all started when I was about twelve years old. I wandered up on a fellow playing a song called “Stairway to Heaven.” O boy! I thought I was in heaven as I listened to him. Turns out he had his guitar tuned to an alternative tuning called Open E. I didn’t know there was any other way to tune a guitar. In fact, when my buddies and I started a band and we all tuned our guitars to Open E.
In 1961 I joined the US Army and met some *real* guitarists and also ran into some stars like Little Richard. I soon found myself in Germany however, and a few of us started a little group to make a few extra dollars in some of the Guest Houses around the base; then we heard of a talent contest in Nuremburg and the big prize was a trip back to the States. We decided to go for it, so we signed up for the audition. To our surprise we came in second place for the position of instrumental band. We had only three guitars, a base player and a drummer. The real guitar player in that group was none other than Jim Yester. You may know that name because when he went home to California he joined a little group call the Association. You know…the group that sang, “Never My Love,” “Wendy”, and many other great hit tunes in the sixties. As of last year I found his web site and he is still playing music, just not in open E.
We were paired up with a group of singers called the “Jive Five” and spent two years opening up for the USO groups that came over to entertain the troops. The highlight of that tour was the night Louie Armstrong showed. WOW! What a thrill! I will never forget it.
When I got out of the military I joined with old gang and spent the eight years playing with the Rhythm Kings. We made a few records and went on the road for about a year and a half. Some of our songs began to climb the chart in the tri state area and we were invited to open up for the Four Seasons in Charleston, WV with the hope of traveling as the opening act with the Mamas and Papas. All of that fell through when our lead singer Holley Hellems’ mother passed unexpectedly.
Later I became restless and went to a church. I was saved and have been in full time Christian service since 1981. I went to college in Chattanooga Tennessee. I now have the privilege of playing with a wonderful group of Christians. We have a great ministry to a group of retired and assistant living homes in Raleigh North Carolina.
What a great life God has given me and what wonderful opportunities I have had, just because I discovered a simple way of playing guitar. I’m ever grateful that I took the time to learn it.
You have that same opportunity at hand. I encourage you to pick it up and just play. It will bring much richness and joy all of your days.
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