That was the reason — pure and simple — that Jeff Lounds gave for driving from his home in Lansing, Mich., last Saturday to present me with a brand-new electric guitar with all the bells and whistles for Akron’s Andy Holcomb.
Seven years ago, Andy was involved in a horrific industrial accident that claimed the lower half of his body, everything below the belly button, but he still manages to maintain his joy for life. He had shared in an earlier column his desire to learn to play the guitar.
Lounds read that online and phoned to ask me if Andy had a guitar.
After hearing that the 26-year-old Akron man — the former Eric the Viking mascot at Akron’s North High School — did not, Lounds made getting him one his personal project.
“I’ve had some licks in life,” Lounds reasoned. “But nothing remotely close to what Andy’s been through. … I just thought this would be something he would enjoy.”
Enjoy? Well, that turned out to be one whopper of an understatement.
Andy — who has been confined to bed lately due to trouble with skin sores — beamed with excitement at the sight of the guitar as older brother Gary Holcomb Jr. unboxed it.
The metallic red guitar — a Fender Squier Affinity SSS Strat Pack with Frontman 15g amp — came with stereo headphones, an instructional DVD, a chromatic tuner, guitar strap, gig bag, cable and pick sampler.
Lounds, who went back home without ever asking for a face-to-face meeting with Andy, said his only regret was not taking the time to paint hot-rod, yellow flames on the guitar. “I think that would look really cool!” he noted.
Andy agreed that the flames would have added an extra touch (“The flames might help me play faster!”) but he certainly wasn’t complaining as he attempted to play a few chords. He expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Lounds by phone.
“Good stuff! This is good stuff!” Andy exhaled. “This is a super-nice gift!”
Lounds was quick to credit Marshall Music Co. in Lansing — specifically Joe Cardenas, vice president of combo products, and store manager Bill Gourley — for giving him a handsome discount on the guitar after he shared with them Andy’s story.
Once Andy had the guitar in his hands and feeling a level of comfort with it, he began to produce some sounds.
Loud ones, I might add, causing his brother’s dog, Cabo, to run under the bed.
However, Andy’s three-legged rescue pug, Tre, stayed, proving he’s either over-the-top loyal to his owner or not quite the musical snob Cabo obviously is.
Andy — who has managed to maintain a healthy sense of humor throughout his journey — was wearing an Army green “Lt. Dan” T-shirt. Asked about it, Andy reminded me that Lt. Dan was the character in Forrest Gump who had no legs.
Mom Sheila Holcomb and Gary Jr. — who also are Andy’s caregivers — hinted that they will be encouraging him to plug in the headphones as much as possible so that only he can appreciate that sound he’s manufacturing, until he graduates to a more ear-pleasing tone.
An optimistic Lounds’ only requirement is that Andy “just have fun with it and enjoy.”
Granted, if Andy gets to the point that he’s proficient at it and does produce a CD, Jeff Lounds would expect the first autographed copy.
True to form, Andy is already mulling over what he’ll call himself if or when he reaches rock-star status, one thought being “Half Man, Half Guitar, 100 Percent Sexy.” Another idea would be “a sound like hands clapping or blowing into a bottle. You know, something that’s never been done before.”
What I’ve come to know about Andy is to always expect the unexpected. His philosophies on life he’s shared with me over the years certainly bear that out:
“I don’t believe you have to have legs to walk by faith.”
“Count your blessings!”
And the one that undoubtedly moved Jeff Lounds to do what he did:
“Instead of getting yourself a gift, randomly do something nice for someone else, even someone you don’t know. In other words, pay it forward. I do it all the time!”
The Greater Akron community did just that for Andy several years ago when it came together, shepherded by the Subcontractors Association of Northeast Ohio, to build a handicapped-accessible addition on his home.
Andy, in turn, grew his hair long and donated it to Wigs for Kids.
That makes him an inspiration to me and to so many others, nearby and obviously in Michigan, too.
While he goes about the business of mastering the guitar, Andy is very much looking forward to the time — sooner rather than later — when doctors can come up with something to address the breakdown in his skin, and he can have the mobility to get out of bed and out of the house.
That, dear readers, will be real music to his ears. And to mine.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or emailed at email@example.com.