This photo was taken was just a few months before our youngest sister, Kathy was born. My brother Jim (the tallest one in the back) was almost 17, my sister Patty (on the right) was almost 12, I was 3, and my brother John (on the left) was 13.
Today would have been John's 62nd birthday. He was an amazing artist and musician who taught himself to play flamenco guitar as a teenager by listening to Jose Feliciano and Carlos Montoya records. He'd often lock himself in the upstairs bathroom for hours to practice, because he said the tiled walls created great acoustics. I remember thinking he was cool because he painted the fingernails on his right hand with Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails to strengthen them.
He taught me to play a few tunes on the guitar, and inspired me to take lessons from the guy around the corner at the music store for a little while.
He put up with my sister Kathy and I, (she adored him, and he was a softie for her, too) but he also took every opportunity to tease us unmercifully. He used to shut us in the basement and turn out the light while we crouched by the door at the top of the basement stairs, wailing "JOHNNNY! Let us out!!!!"
Torturing your baby sisters was a big brother's perogative, after all...but he was also our protector of sorts. If we got in trouble with neighborhood bullies, we'd run home and John would come shambling out with his pigeon-toed gait and by then, shoulder length black hair and full beard, and whoever was chasing us would turn right around and high tail it home. He looked a little like Rasputin in those days, and we used to tell our friends that he kept pigeons in that beard.
John went on to play flamenco guitar professionally using the stage name Juan Roscoe (there was already an actor named John Russell), landing a job with the road company of Man of La Mancha. We saw him in the play in Los Angeles in the summer of 1967 while on vacation. My ten year old self was so proud of him, I thought my heart would burst!
Like a lot of incredibly talented people, my brother was emotionally troubled, and had a tough time managing to live in the real world. He died in 1977 at the age of 30, a bright spark for the short time he was here.
Happy Birthday, John.