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Eighth grade terrified me. My teachers, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Ehn, had scary reputations that preceded them. Initially, I was scared to death of both of them. Prior to the start of that school year, I wished I could transfer to St. Cecilia or to any other school. Mr. Hoffman seemed very rough; but in the end, he turned out to be a cool guy. Mr. Ehn had initiated a classroom policy known as Siberia. Going to Siberia meant being kept in during lunchtime recess and having to write down every word in a dictionary, together with the essence of its definition. Afterwards, he would quiz us on the meaning of each word we had written. If we missed too many words, we had to repeat the process the next day. I quickly learned to work slowly in order to keep down the quantity of work.  By the end of eighth grade, I reached the age where the girlfriend thing began kicking in. Tuggerball was the big sport.

Musically, things were fairly non-eventful for the most part. I began studying music more formally, but was not really having much success. I was taking piano lessons from Tommy Sheridan, the well-known, high-society dance band pianist, who was also a respected music teacher. My mother arranged for the lessons with Tom, and I can still remember my first song, Beginner’s Boogie. Also at the same time, I was flirting with writing my own original songs. I came to realize that I was learning more from Tommy by memory than I was from reading the printed musical notation. This fact also became apparent to my parents, and they had a meeting with Tom. “He’s not reading the music,” my mother complained to Tom. To mom’s and dad’s surprise, Tommy told them, “Reed is performing from lead sheets (documentation) of the songs. Leave Reed alone regarding the note-reading aspects of music, interfering now could interfere with his innate ability to compose."

Looking back at that time, I discovered why I had a problem reading music. So much of music theory was based on mathematics. In school, I had trouble with math. Even today, people still ask me the same question. “If you can’t read music, then how do you compose?” To this, I reply, “I write songs. I don’t read the music; I just look at the pictures.” Yes, I had my own vision of what the music is supposed to be. Also, as I recall that time in my life, I was becoming increasingly attracted to the guitar, which (as I mentioned earlier), I had learned off the piano.

"Beatles" Performance

Still tinkering with music, I moved on to my freshman year of high school. It was during the summer of 1962 that I met Fred Hadler, who was experimenting with the drum set that he had. Fred lived on Sunnydale Drive in Thiensville. I would bring my guitar and small amplifier, and we would jam in the basement of his house. We would try to impersonate whatever song was happened to be popular on the radio at the time. After a while, it became evident that just playing together for ourselves was not very satisfying. That fall, we decided to expand our horizons.

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