The Christmas I Didn't Get What I Wanted & Was Happy!



Oh the hours my little brother and I would spend pouring over the pages of Sears & Roebuck Christmas Catalog. Spying out the newest in GI JOE’s, Hot Wheels, Johnny West…. and one particular year, drums.


It was 1972 - I was the wise age of 14 and that season I loved drums.

Secretly, what I liked most about them were the sparkles. Every drum set in those catalogs had sparkles all over the toms. Silver stars set amongst deep blue or firehouse red…just amazing to look at!


My parents, aware of my desire to be the next Ringo Starr, walked me into our local music store.

Christmas songs blazing away, big kids and little kids, dreaming of Christmas morning with the desired instrument of their choice.

One entire wall was filled with guitars.

But it a room all to itself, drums!

My dad and I worked our way through the maze of people, shelves, music stands and other useless paraphernalia of music related obstacles.


There they were – just like in the catalog. Silver rimmed, blue, or, red colored drum sets with sparkles. Cymbals attached to the toms were proof that these were the real deal. Big time!

I slowly ran my left hand around the outer edge of the snare, being careful not to touch the head, as I didn’t want to stain the beautiful skin of the snare drum. I looked up at my dad and he was just as enthralled as I was!

Big smile on his face, he asked, ‘Is that the one you like?’

I managed to get out a nod and a faint, ‘yea’.


But mother.


Mother was nowhere to be found in that drum room.


She was visiting the south wall, which was held up by hanging guitars.

Which, at the time, was a good place for them to be, hanging on a wall.


She called to me, ‘Dale, what do you think of these?’

‘I don’t’, was my reply from the other side of the building.


She continued; ‘Why don’t you come over and take a look at these guitars?’

‘Because, I don’t want a guitar, I want a drum set’.


She wouldn’t give up. From a mile away she was continuing the attempt to get me over there with the guitars.


‘Just come here and run your fingers over the strings of this one’, she smiled.

As if the smile was going to draw me away from the blue sparkle, three tom drum set, with two cymbals and plastic tipped wooden drum sticks.

After an hour of this, I grew a bit tense.

‘I DON’T WANT a guitar, mom!’

My Dad chimed in – in his aggravated tone, (which still echoes in my mind today),

“He doesn’t want a guitar, Honey! He wants a drum. The boy wants a drum set!”


He was on my side! My Dad was on my side!

He had a heart for music – he knew of the desire for a musical instrument that would accompany my singing of, ‘Heart and Soul’, ‘Back Home Again, ‘Country Roads’ and maybe some Alice Cooper.

I had spent months practicing the theme song from Hawaii Five-O on the bottom of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Container - which I had asked my Grandma to keep for me after she was done with it. It was round! Looked like a drum - It worked.  


The three of us left the music store without my mother visiting the drum room and without me strumming a guitar.


Christmas was three weeks away.

I searched the house in vain looking for a hidden drum set.

Every day after school, my younger brother, Steven and I would search the house from top to bottom, to no avail.


Then one gloomy day….

…I remember the skies were more gray than usual as we climbed off the bus. I remember telling Steven, ‘something ominous is about to happen – I can see it in the skies.’ He pushed me through the front door and we started tearing up the house looking for gifts.


I entered the laundry room and there, in the Northwest corner, not too well hidden, tucked between the washer and the wall, a white bedsheet, covering something…that did not resemble a drum set.

The shape of it looked more like…..a guitar case.


Steven and I stared at the sheet covered item for half an hour, before finally reaching out to uncover it.

‘Yep’ I expressed, as I heaved a big sigh – ‘It’s a guitar’.

My thoughts went everywhere. Maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it’s for Steven. Maybe a neighbor asked my parents to keep it for their kids. But we lived in the country, so the nearest neighbor was ten miles away. (Which made it very difficult for trick – or – treating. But that’s another story).


Steven dryly commented, ‘You got a guitar’. It was with that, the realization set in that I was not going to get the blue sparkle, three tom drum set, with two cymbals and plastic tipped wooden drum sticks.


I was getting a guitar.


I didn’t even bother to open the case to look at it.

I just covered it back up with the sheet and pathetically carried myself out of the laundry room.


Afternoon cartoons and cereal…a guy can forget a lot of things when he submerges himself in Popeye and Cap’n Crunch.


The next day, after school, there was no need to tear through the house anymore. I slowly walked into the laundry room, hoping that the guitar case had magically changed, but, even though it was the season of miracles, I was still getting a guitar.

I through back the bed sheet, saw the black cardboard guitar case and muttered, ‘Yep, it’s a guitar’.


I did this for a week.

Every day, after school I would go and draw back the sheet, look at the case, and cover it up again.


Then, something strange happened.


I can’t explain it to this day.

But, I got to where I would look forward to walking into that utility room and gaze at the guitar case for a minute or two, before covering it back up.


The week before Christmas, I built up enough nerve to unlatch the top of the case, just so I could see the tuning keys. I knew I shouldn’t and couldn’t take it out of the case. Just seeing those keys were enough.

By the end of the week I had decided to unlatch two of the clasps on the case, and I ran my fingers across the strings, one time.

It was a beautiful sound.


By the time Christmas came, I couldn’t wait to take it out of the case.

I played on it, without knowing how to play it, for hours and into the evening.

My and my Kay acoustic guitar.


In the coming months I would put on 45rpm records, listen for two seconds, then try to imitate the sound on my guitar. Months of taking the needle off the record, putting it back on, off and on, over and over. And my parents never complained of the noise, or, only hearing a second of a song, over and over.


My Mother was right – Me and my Dad came to appreciate that.

But then, my Mother was always a praying woman.

So she knew, before I did, what I needed.


Merry Christmas and may you receive, this year, what your soul needs and not necessarily what you think you may want.


Love and blessings,

The Road Back Home


ds1 ds2


The Road Back Home


“in the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade / and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down, or, cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame, “I am leaving, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains.”


In the early summer of 1997 Jim Ryser and I were standing outside the recording studio where he had just finished vocals on my song, ‘Speed of Light’ and he made a remark that has stayed with me.


“You’re doing it the right way” Ryser commented.


“How’s that”? I asked.


“You waited until you were older, had a family and now you’re getting into music. That’s the way it should be done”.



I had a son, my pride and joy, when I was the ripe young age of 20, and eighteen years later I was recording my first full album, that some expected back in the seventies.


It was 1995 when a friend asked me to play some music at his establishment in Nashville. Typically, for a musician, you wouldn’t think that this was anything out of the ordinary.


But it had been, roughly, twelve – fifteen years since I had ‘performed’, or, played somewhere.


I had spent a few years in the eighties leading songs in a small church. However, leading church songs and playing music / performing are two completely different things.


So, for a friend, I pulled out the twelve-string and practiced for a couple of days before going to play.


That evening, after hours of playing music, I realized how much I enjoyed playing again. Maybe it was time to get back to it, I thought. 


One thing led to another and in the summer of 1997 I started recording a CD called, ‘Speed of Light’.


It got the attention of some radio stations and throughout Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky the title track was being played on full rotation.


As time passed, my performing ended when it was time to focus on the family, again.


This was to be my second entrance into fatherhood as we had a little boy, my pride and joy and I felt blessed.


But shortly after my son turned one, his mother passed away and we were faced with starting a new life, with new priorities, and viewing the world through a different set of eyes.


I had only recently started an antiquarian bookstore, but, after much deliberation and by what I felt was direction from God, I decided to walk away from it and spend my time raising my son. Looking back, there are no regrets. It was the best decision.


After a few years, I had married again and my wife joyfully accepted the new responsibility of, not only being a wife, but also being a mother.


I then spent several years leading worship in many churches. Leading worship was a good position as it not only allowed me to use a gift that some believed was from God, but, it also allowed me to still remain at home to continue raising our young one.


By 2013, I had led worship at just about every denomination and non-denominational church that ever existed. But my times serving as worship leader was getting lean and those positions became difficult to find, locally. So I took on a position at a school, which allowed me to work our son’s school hours.


Every once in a while, someone would approach me and say, “Speed of Light” – And usually I would just nod and say, ‘yes, that was me’. But after a while I found that if you don’t stay in the eyes of the public, the public will forget you. And the summer of 1997 seemed like it was a world away. A different time - a different place -  and a different Dale Sechrest.


Just as Paul Simon’s ‘Boxer’ seemingly comes to his end and cries out, ‘I am leaving! I am leaving!’ the fighter in him still remains – I believe that the fighter in him is saying, ‘No, there is no leaving. You can try, but you can never leave - You do what you do, because IT  - IS – WHAT – YOU – DO’. Even when you don’t think you can do it anymore.


So, it’s 2015 and a dear friend calls me and asks if I would give a concert at his place.


Seems they have a church with a coffee-shop area and he would like me to be the first person to play music there. Not worship – rather, Dale Sechrest in Concert.


It had been 12 – 15 years since I had given a concert.


And my thoughts went back to 1995 and the invitation to play.


And much like what happened then, happened again.


Although, this time, I needed a full four weeks of rehearsing, and just as before, once it was over, I re-discovered the joy in playing and performing. Before I knew it, I was writing again, picking up the guitar late at night to strum a few chords and quietly play a few tunes.


And just as the invitation in ’95, led to the recording of a CD, I am again looking at the prospect of recording another CD. 18 years since the last recording - Only this time, working with a producer.


The road back to music has been hard.


I won’t say that I missed playing, because my life has been filled with other joys that music can never touch. But I’m looking forward to getting back to playing.


And as I look ahead, wondering where the road of music will lead me this time, I see that it’s foggier than before and the steps to take require longer strides and elements of stronger faith, just for the small things. Everything regarding music is different now than it was in the 90’s. So I have new things to learn.


Ryser’s words come back to me from time to time, about raising a family first – He makes a valid point. There are things that are more important and family is one of them. As my family is getting older, I think I will always be needed and I hope so too. But I’m also ready to start walking toward the road that leads to more music, more performing. It’s a place where I feel comfortable. A feeling that some would call ‘that feeling of home – a place where you belong’.


You can go back home.


Sometimes, it just looks different than it did when you left.


I’m anticipating nothing but good to come from recording again, if given that opportunity, and I expect great things in the connection with Michael Clark, the producer who says that I write like Dan Fogelberg and The Eagles.


And though I’m not planning on any major hit songs, I am planning on getting a couple of minutes of radio play, like before and I hope to find a couple of places where I can sit with my guitar and reveal my soul to whoever may be listening.








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