In Memoriam of Emil Pflaumer

Unlike most of the rock bands and artists I usually write about, my grandpa was not famous, but to me, he surely was a big rock star as well!

While I enjoy sharing my thoughts about rock music, I rarely write about personal stuff. Today I’d like to make an exception and reflect on an amazing man who had a deep impact on my life and my love for music: My grandpa, Emil Pflaumer.

He was instrumental in enabling me to learn the guitar. When he heard that I wanted to start taking lessons, he immediately supported the idea and paid for my first instrument, a Spanish guitar. In fact, I think he was very happy that one of his grandchildren had discovered what was near and dear to his heart – music!

Music was my grandpa’s passion and profession. For many years, he was a music teacher at a high school in Heidelberg, Germany. In addition, he was an accomplished pianist and piano teacher, as was his wife, Klaere Pflaumer. With so much music in the family gene pool, perhaps it’s no wonder that I got bitten by the music bug as well!

My grandpa loved classical music, though as a very tolerant man, he was always open to other styles. Every time he visited my house, he asked me to play something for him on the guitar.

While it’s safe to assume he preferred listening to the simple classical pieces my guitar teacher had taught me, he also wanted to know what else I could play. I would happily oblige and play for him the latest Beatles songs I had learned. Later on after had I gotten my Ibanez electric guitar, which my grandpa also financed, I would expose him to my attempts to play Deep Purple, putting my overdrive pedal to maximum distortion. And even though it was probably pretty awful, my grandpa was always a great sport and patiently listened. To my defense, I was a young teenager!

My grandpa also spent a lot of time with me while I stayed with my other grandma in Heidelberg during nearly every school break. He took me on long hikes through the woods and to the public swimming pool where he taught me how to swim.

During my vacation stays in Heidelberg, I also oftentimes visited my grandpa’s apartment. A particular attraction was his music room. Among others, it had a grand piano. At around the time I started taking guitar lessons, my grandpa showed me how to play the melody of two simple German children’s songs, Alle Meine Entchen (rough translation: All of my ducks) and Kuckuck, Kuckuck, Rufts Aus Dem Wald (rough translation: ‘Cuckoo, Chuckoo,’ Coming From the Forest). As I grew older, I tried figuring out Imagine by John Lennon and a few other piano-oriented pop songs. Needless to add that without any formal piano training, I did not get very far, but I enjoyed it anyway!

Another thing I well remember about my grandpa’s music room was his stereo system and a sizable collection of vinyl records with classical music. Admittedly, symphonies by Beethoven and Mozart were more of an acquired taste. One record I liked from the very beginning was Peter and the Wolf by Serge Prokofiev. The composition’s main theme caught my immediate attention. I also liked the fact that it had a narrator telling the children’s story.

As I grew up, my grandpa kept supporting me in buying additional guitars. After the Ibanez electric guitar, which was a pretty good copy of a Gibson, he paid for my acoustic guitar, also an Ibanez. I own that guitar to this day, and it still sounds awesome, though I’m playing it much more rarely than I used to and have become a bit rusty.

When I discovered the electric bass guitar in my late teens, my grandpa also paid for my first bass – yet another Ibanez. Yes, I suppose I really liked that brand! Without getting the bass and an introduction from my great guitar teacher, I would likely not have joined a band and missed what became an important period during my late teens and early twenties.

I still oftentimes think of my grandpa, even though he passed away more than 20 years ago in 1992 at the age of 91. I feel very fortunate to have known him. The many beautiful moments we shared will always stay in my memories.



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