july 12, 2011
Gerry (Bird) Ptak
Not long after i turned 18.....25 years ago, I walked into a music store on pima rd. in tucson to buy my first professional grade guitar. How could i have known that standing behind the counter was a man who would become as true a friend as I would come to know in life? Gerry asked me what i was looking for, i told him i wanted an acoustic ax that would last me a lifetime......"like willie". Gerry smirked and pointed out a taylor guitar with a four digit serial number and opened the door to the soundproof acoustic practice room..."this guitar will sell itself , it looks good, sounds good and even smells good....it's a road guitar".$750. I'll never forget or regret the conversation. thirty minutes later he walked back in the room as i was playing "my" taylor guitar and singing a song i was in the middle of writing...."if these walls could talk". gerry asked about the song and about me. six months later, although still weak on guitar ability Gerry called me to sing in one of many impromptu "pick-up bands" he would formulate for specific occasions at resorts and guest ranches, private parties. this time gerry needed a country singer to front the band at a resort in tucson. he told me not to worry about playing guitar as he had a band full of aces..........."just sing and hold the guitar (like a prop) on songs you don't know ....like george strait does". I was knocked flat on my cowboy ass by the talent gerry displayed as a singer, band leader and bass player. the talented players gerry had assembled for the stage......... world class......... and i was by far the the least experienced or talented. It was to be expected....the" initiation" that is.............after the gig..... as i was falling over myself apologizing to all the band members for any number of musical screw-ups i had displayed and as we all were loading out (thru the resort's kitchen and out to the dock by the dumpsters) here came the comments from the seasoned musicians giving this cowboy kid some shit.........funny shit!. comments like "you know, you could not have played those songs any better" or " we really appreciate what you were trying to do there" or " as i try to describe your talent words fail me". Gerry let me suffer thru it and i'm proud to say we played and wrote music together on many occasions over these last twenty five years. I must have earned my stripes...still playing the same guitar on a similar stage years later as gerry would be feeding me alternate lyrics to sing ...mid- song....during roger miller's "king of the road" gerry tells me he thinks this song should be about a guy in an arizona mining town who likes to dress in drag......."queen of jerome". Sing "queen of jerome" or i'll never work with you again! Gerry Ptak was great at everything he ever did. Family man, friend, teacher, songwriter, musician, businessman...did it all with humor and class. no subject was safe from gerry's humor, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, you name it....all the while one of the most generous and beautiful human beings i will most likely ever know. If i am ever again brought to laughter so strong that i am unable to breath, unable to see thru the tears or keep my chair.......in that very moment is when i will remember gerry the most as that is where gerry lived. bye gerry. i love you.