Fender Music Foundation: Cycling to help “Give Music Life”

Have your ever heard a song and immediately started dancing and singing along? What about that song you heard that reminded you of a special time, a special place, a special someone? Did a song you hear ever make your skin prickle with goose bumps, or make you laugh or make you cry? Well I have and because of that, I’m dedicating this tour to riding for a cause, Fender Music Foundation: http://www.fendermusicfoundation.org. My goal is to raise awareness to the need of keeping music in our school systems and musical instruments in the hands of young people, the future of music. I hope that by doing this ride, I might inspire people to make donations to this cause that I believe in.

On all of my crazy adventures, I was often asked, “are you riding for a cause?”. Sadly, I always said “no.” While riding one day on our TransAm tour with a couple of friends, one of whom was riding for a cause, they were saying that they were inspired by my thru hike of the AT and were congratulating me for such a fine accomplishment. I thanked them but said that I didn’t think that what I did was all that important and didn’t contribute to world piece or anything earth shattering. My friend ended up with donations over $10,000 for her cause and that got me thinking, maybe I could do something for a charity as well. I’d like to thank these young folks for getting me on the right road and making something I do, mean something to others and not just to myself.

Now I had to come up with something that I thought was important enough to me to make this effort. I thought about things that made a difference in my life. Music. I’ve played music since I was in the 5th grade. Started with the trumpet, then switched to baritone horn. We couldn’t afford another instrument so I played one provided me by my schools. These instruments were of course donated or bought by money provided to the school systems for that purpose. I played through high school and college. I’ll never forget a concert in high school when we played 1812 Overture and there was a standing ovation and thunderous applause at the end. How good that made me feel, giving something of myself that made people happy. Once, my brother asked, “if you could play like any musician, who would you be”. Without hesitation, I said “David Gilmore” lead guitarist for Pink Floyd. What a trip to play for thousands of people who where moved by something that you loved to do.

After college came work and life. Not much need for a baritone horn player except around Christmas time. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I started playing harmonicas. I was suffering from herniated lower back disks and was in pain. I couldn’t do any of the activities that I loved. I had to do something so music became my new hobby. The back got better and the music continued. I sometimes think that the back problems were some of the best things that ever happened to me because of this. Later, my brother encouraged me to play the guitar. I thank my friend Roger Bennett for giving me lessons and letting me sit in with his band the Choir Boys every Friday evening. Eventually, I learned to play the harmonica and guitar at the same time, and finally after much convincing, I started singing. About 2 years ago, we needed a drummer so guess who became a drummer? Me!

If you know me, then you know that I love an audience so I had to find a willing one. Of course there were my friends and family but they were kind of obligated to say nice things. They did of course which really encouraged me. It wasn’t long before I started playing for nursing homes. It was such a joy to me to be able to help people forget their pain and troubles if only for a moment. I’m sure I got much more that I gave and I loved playing for those nice folks so much.

So, riding for a music charity was a no brainer for me. Fender Music Foundation (FMF) seemed like a good fit. I was looking for a charity where the CEO wasn’t making millions of dollars off the donations. FMF covers it’s administration fees, by auctioning off instruments and paraphernalia of famous musicians. For instance, if Taylor Swift uses a guitar in a concert, she might sign it and donate it to FMF. They auction it off. Since all administration fees are covered all of the donations you might make, go toward providing grants and putting instruments into the hands of students who need them. They are also involved in music therapy programs. If you are interested, you can read more about them on the link provided.

So, as I tour the country, I’ll be handing out cards and talking to everyone I meet who will listen. I’ll be playing music in campsites, beside the road and the occasional bar if I can to see if I can raise donations to help these kids. I am not being sponsored by FMF and they are not providing any money toward my ride. That is my donation to them. Also, I’ve done what I asked everyone else to do and donated one of my drum sets to my local high school this month.

I hope that this tour will inspire many people to do something that they’ve always wanted to do but for some reason have put if off. It doesn’t have to be something this big, just a long term desire. I hope that you will consider donating something to FMF. You might consider an amount per mile. I will warn you that this ride when completed will probably be over 12,000 miles long and a penny a mile could be $120. Perfect. Thats an instrument for two students in need. Maybe you have a penny jar or can. You know, that place where you have been putting spare change in for so many years. Well, you aren’t using it now, and its money you really don’t think about having or using. What a great donation it would make to FMF. Whatever you decide will be just fine and greatly appreciated. You can donate on their web page by clicking the donation tab, indicating the amount, and if you would, as the card says, make it in honor of me, Mike McGhee so I can keep up with how I’m doing and hopefully thank all of you individually for your generosity.

One last reason for doing this. There’s going to be that time on this tour when I say, man, this is hard. I’m not really interested in riding hard rollers all day long into a 25 mph headwind in 100 degree temperatures. Then I’m going to think of a kids face lighting up with a new instrument in hand ready to become the next musician that thrills you with their music. That will get me through those days and many more.

Here’s a video of me and my friend Bob playing music in a bar in the Sierra Mountains during our Reunion Ride in California. We actually scored a pitcher of beer and I think about 7 dollars, but more important, we had fun and those whose listened seemed to have fun too.