My Boy

Written by Lydia Benedict.


My son Clancy turned 16 earlier this month. For his birthday, he really wanted an electric guitar. Clancy has been playing piano for 10 years, but more recently started learning acoustic guitar. He’s hooked. He disappears for hours and reappears only to show me some song he’s “figured out.”

So when he started asking for an electric guitar (a friend had loaned him one to get started), I told him to check Craig’s List. He quickly found one he liked: it was a beautiful blue Epiphone six-string. I told him to make arrangements with the seller.

It was a Saturday afternoon when we arrived.

Clancy was greeted by a burly man, “So, is your dad Jeff Benedict?”

I was caught off guard. So was Clancy. The seller, a military veteran, quickly explained that before he gives out his address, he likes to know who he is giving the information to. One of his comrades was in intelligence and had looked up Clancy and said, “I think this kid’s dad is famous.”

It turned out that the man selling the guitar had read Jeff’s book, The System, and we ended up having a brief conversation about college football before he and Clancy talked music. When we got back into our vehicle, Clancy had a guitar.

Clancy practices on his new guitar

In the days and weeks since, Clancy has spent hours practicing each day. I’ve had to remind him to still make time for piano, but I’m thrilled to see how much he is enjoying another instrument. Clancy has an ear for music. He’s even practiced with some adult friends, Billy Campbell and Steve Martin. And our chiropractor, Randy Short, is a drummer and one day he started drumming while Clancy picked out the opening cords of “Highway to Hell.” For a moment, I thought I was at an AC/DC concert. Between help from these friends, YouTube videos, and listening to some of his favorite rock and roll bands, Clancy is picking out the guitar part in classic songs like “Every Breath You Take,” “A Horse with No Name,” and “Take it Easy.”

Meanwhile, Maggie, Clara Belle, and I spent most of March in Washington visiting my family. Clancy texted me a recording of a U2 song he had been learning. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about playing guitar. Still I thought he sounded pretty good considering he only started last fall. (The following is a recording of him practicing.)

And just when I wondered if he was keeping up with piano while I was on the opposite side of the country, he sent me a recording of some music he made using Garage Band software. By the time I got back from the Northwest, he had turned our home office into a recording studio by hooking up his electric piano to our iMac computer. He could hardly wait to show me how he uses the computer software to record tracks which he then adds his own piano cords and melodies to.

Clancy making music on his electric piano

He also told me excitedly that his new piano teacher, an aspiring film score composer, was teaching him music theory. As he explained the basics, I thought music theory sounded a lot like math and was glad he was learning it and not me.

I receive so much joy listening to my tall, skinny blond boy strumming his guitar or watching his fingers fly over the piano keys. His finger dexterity is also obvious at a computer keyboard; he can type 130 words per minute with 99% accuracy! Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that this is the same boy, who as a toddler, unstrung tape cassettes, was more interested in the hospital bed buttons than his new baby sister, and otherwise seemed fascinated with the mechanics of electronic objects. While such curiosity in a child requires patience in a mother, curiosity is a great motivator. I don’t know what Clancy will ultimately do with the skills he is gaining now. But I know that I love “rocking out” with my son.