FAMILY ALBUM Backstory Part 2: A New Generation
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
I came along in 1979. For as much as music was not a part of Dad and Jack's home life growing up, it dominated mine. One of my most constant memories is Dad playing guitar around the house, and I remember a lot of the worship music he led at church.
My dad started teaching me to play when I was nine. Seeing La Bamba and The Buddy Holly Story biography films inspired me to want to play those 50's rock 'n' roll tunes. Just like him and his brother with their Beatles records, Dad started me out with a cardboard guitar. Slinging that two-by-four necked, rubber-band-stringed ax over my shoulder, I'd mimic the mannerisms and performance style of Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens. The first one he made me was modeled after his custom blue Fender Strat and can be seen in the back half of this 1988 VHS remake of La Bamba.
Another notable first appearance in that "Ullman Production" (as the opening preadolescent, hand-scrawled title card announces) is my five-year-old brother Brian portraying "Bobo," Del-Fi Records founder, and Ritchie Valens producer and manager, Bob Keane. Between this and a revised version we attempted a few months later, my little brother Brian would also play Ritchie's older brother Bob (and Buddy Holly!) with great glee—and an understandable amount of bewilderment at times, as I was feeding him the lines from memory out of the side of my mouth.
Brian caught the music bug in middle school. He started by plucking out simple bass lines from things like the Violent Femmes' song on The Crow Soundtrack and quickly moved on to fronting a four-piece rock band of his own and playing the same gymnasium The Bushmen had thirty years prior. In the two years chronicled in the Enormity Anthology (1996-1998) video collection, you can see the youngest Ullman Boy take his basement band from that small stage to capacity crowds at Cleveland's Odeon Concert Club.
I was mostly concentrating on making movies at that time. I even attempted to direct a music video for Brian's band. Though I lacked the skill to edit it together back then, I completed it for the Enormity: Live at The Odeon (1-31-1998) legacy release in 2018.
Though the frequency ebbs and flows, since 1988, music has always been a steadfast outlet for my creative expression. Before filmmaking became my focus in the early '90s, I channeled my passion for 50's rock 'n' roll sparked by those Columbia Pictures biopics into a series of cassette albums I recorded using first my dad's Panasonic RQ-2739 Slim Line Portable Cassette Tape Recorder and later my own prized Sony Sound Rider Dual Cassette Radio Boom Box. The Sony unit made it possible for me to overdub a harmony vocal like I'd learned in The Buddy Holly Story, or layer a lead guitar part over a rhythm track. Unfortunately, in a misguided attempt to "grow up" in middle school, I threw these tapes away. I do remember I used to spell my "stage" name, "Davyd Ulman," and I would draw the cassette covers modeled off of either Buddy Holly or Amy Grant tapes. I can also recall Dad doing the lead guitar solo for my version of "That'll Be The Day." The only two originals that linger in my memory are "Move Over Elvis" (sung to the tune of Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy") and a Beach Boys rip-off that included the lyric, "if you've ever been to California / then you know what I mean / the girls are cute, and the boys are mean." Whenever I'd get excited about a certain song, I'd ask Dad to teach me the chords. Eventually, I got to where I could figure things out on my own.
While Brian's group was winning studio time in battle-of-the-bands competitions, I was beginning to play a lot of Pearl Jam covers and relishing the outlet of belting out Eddie Vedder's emotive lyrics around the campfire with my friends. At home, Brian would often join me, filling in the spaces by playing the more complicated phrasings he was learning that complimented my open-chord strumming and imitative vocals.
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