Baby Boomer Bloomer

Baby Boomer Bloomer

Guitar Gavel Lick Of The Week with Ian Cowan


8.5 bars of pure Gilmour bliss. The professor is in and so is the Toxic Venom.

Run time is close to 17 minutes, but it’s worth every second. Thanks Ian, this is an amazing clinic!

Baby Boomer Bloomer

In this week’s newsletter I deviate from the “Guitar Story” format and bring you “John’s Story”. John Fitzpatrick is my father-in-law, also known as Jamz by his grandchildren, and his musical journey is one of amazement, mainly because his formal instrumental training did not begin until the age of 59. It started on the harmonica, progressed to vocals, and now to writing and recording. Two months ago John released his first album, “To The Light”, and in many ways he’s just getting in the flow at 70-years-young. Coining the phrase, “Baby Boomer Bloomer,” John wishes to encourage everyone to find their passion or pursue their current passion. I could not agree more and to help fulfill his wish I want to share his inspirational story. 

The backdrop for John's journey is his album release party on February 18 at Clementine Hall in Nashville, literally a lifetime in the making. The party itself could be a newsletter article so we’ll hold on that for now, but I’ve interspersed pictures throughout to highlight the night of fun and John’s accomplishment. If you are further inclined, here's a link to watch or skim the performance. Many of the performers on stage are family members including John’s children and grandchildren, others are national recording artists. His daughter, Jesse Lynn Madera, is one of the national recording artists and his son Travis Fitzpatrick is an accomplished boogie-woogie style piano player, multi-instrumentalist, and author. Both of their musical journey’s could also be the focus of a newsletter article and it’s important to note John’s desire to connect musically with his kids. 

From Audience Member to Arm Farter

John’s earliest musical memories were as a young boy, laying on the floor, listening to his mom sing and play honky tonk piano in his childhood home in Parkersburg, WV. Like many families in rural America of the 1950s one source of self-entertainment was playing music if there was a “musician” in the family. His mom’s side of the family, particularly her brothers, were musically inclined and they called front porch gatherings “sing outs.”

A self-described jock, sports became John’s thing as he grew older and that took up all his time, but music was always integral in his life. Afterall, there was a musical renaissance happening during his formative years… Elvis, The Beatles, and sock hops. 

I have to throw John under the bus for a quick moment in hopes to convey a little of his personality. When I asked him if he played an instrument growing up he said, “I just played arm farts,” which he affectionately taught his grandchildren. John went on to say he was so good he could arm fart the Star Spangled Banner.

The most important transformation in his musical journey occurred in the early 1970s when he married his first wife Linda. She was a great singer and played the autoharp and dulcimer. Her dad played the spoons, and claw-hammer style banjo, the front porch sing outs expanded and so did John’s musical absorption. 

Pathetically Like Rain Main

Fast forward from the 1970s to about 11 years ago. John always wanted to play a part in a sing out with his kids and told his son Travis he wished he always played an instrument. Travis said, “just do it,” and sent him a harmonica and a John Sebastian instructional DVD a few months before his 60th birthday party. 

Pretty much right off the bat John started taking lessons and developed a deep love and passion for the harmonica. It must be noted, John lives in Nashville and years before he started playing the harmonica his circle of friends included many professional musicians. Therefore, his access to jamming and playing out with world class musicians was almost instantaneous once he learned a few scales. John didn’t waste any time and threw a huge 60th birthday bash with a live band and John backing on the harmonica. To clarify, John wasn’t a 60-year-old prodigy, rather, it’s nice to have great friends. 

Around the same time John discovered the book, “The Outliers,” in which the author Malcolm Gladwell gives a prescription and clear idea how long it takes to become an outlier in anything. According to Galdwell, an outlier is someone who puts in 10,000 hours of effort into any endeavor and becomes great. John decided to go for it and estimated it would take five to seven years to reach 10,000 hours playing the harmonica. He did it in approximately five and a half years. “Pathetically like Rain Man,” as John describes it, he took a harmonica everywhere and unabashedly played for himself, not caring whether he was any good or not. We’re talking everywhere; in the car, in public places, walking his dog Gus, at dinner. I was a witness… and trust me it was tough :-). 

Back Porch

Soon into his journey, well before reaching 10,000 hours, John was introduced to Shannon Williford, a top-five harmonica player in Nashville at the time. They talked on the phone and Shannon invited him over to his home to play. He told John, “he was ready for the back porch,” and invited him to a weekly Pickin' Party at Nashville’s Centennial Black Box Theater. John has been a regular ever since. 

Now there are two seminal experiences from John’s time with Shannon that took place over several years. One was Shannon’s encouragement of John to start singing which eventually led to the two of them performing together. The other was Shannon’s coaching of John’s playing in which John describes, “no one ever taught me more about harmonica than Shannon”.  

Breathe Man, Breathe

Almost as important as learning to play the harmonica was John’s discovery of Wim Hof seven years ago, and the Wim Hof Method (WHM) of breathing. He was motivated by wanting to play rhythm as long as he could in one breath, and a Google search directed him to Wim Hof. What/who is Wim Hof? That’s an entirely separate can of worms, but here’s a quick summary from on the breathing component of his three pillared methodology- “The techniques are focused on deep and rhythmic inhalations and exhalations, also called controlled hyperventilation or power breathing. The breathing is followed by a retention period, where you hold your breath for a certain amount of time.” 

The other two pillars in the WHM are Cold Therapy and Commitment. John became as committed to breathing exercises as he was to reaching 10,000 hours on the harmonica and it paid off. John can chug on the harmonica for 5 minutes on a single breath and his PR for holding his breath is 20 minutes and 34 seconds. Yes, you read that correctly. 

Just Getting Started

To refresh the timeline, John started singing publicly about five years after picking up the harmonica. Clearly not one to be satisfied with “that’ll do”, he began formal vocal lessons and writing his own music shortly thereafter. John composed his first song in 2019, “All Good In My Neighborhood,” and you could say the rest is history. John’s voice teacher is Mallory Trunnell and of course since it is Nashville she is also a producer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist. As John’s musical prowess has grown, their teacher/student relationship has developed into more of a collaboration of writing and composing (albeit, Mallory does most of the arrangements). 

What’s next for John? He’s written eight more songs that are ready to be “Malloryized” and put together for a new album.



Thank you JP, I agree!


Wow! What an amazing story! Thank you.

JP Pierre Moatti

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.