My name is Donald Girard Makowski but my friends call me Dee. I am 65 years old and have been a musician, among many other things, for most of my life. In 1960 I was 7 years old and saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show on a Sunday evening. I remember that well because The Wizard of OZ was on but my cousin Barbara was at the house and insisted on watching the Beatles. I wasn’t too interested in that and just wanted to see the rest of the Wizard! I do remember seeing how crazy the audience was and how these guys affected them. That was cool! My first album purchase came the next summer after hearing the song Windy by the Association. My mom bought it for me and I listened to it over and over and over until I drove the rest of the family nuts! My parents were music lovers but neither of them played an instrument. They were too busy trying to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.
My dad loved Gene Krupa and I think he secretly wanted to be a drummer. My brother and I wanted to play the guitar and we begged my dad to buy us each one. We would look at the sears catalog and dream of having one of the electric guitars with the switches and whammy bar. They looked so amazing! My dad had other ideas though. He insisted on buying a drum set for me! My brother did get an electric guitar and I started liking the idea of playing the drums. I remember the red sparkle Slingerland set dazzling my eyes! I would lay in bed and look at it and dream of becoming a good drummer…someday!
I took drum lesson for a couple years and started getting the hang of it. My brother took guitar lessons and our futures were so bright! We had neighborhood friends who wanted to start a band and we would set up our stuff outside and have mini concerts. What a great and exciting time it was!
Years later after sitting behind the kit and watching guitar players screw up the parts I got really mad and said I was going to learn to play the guitar. I was sick of crappy guitar players who sounded terrible and I knew I could do better and I did! My brother switched to bass guitar and I got his electric and took lessons for a couple years from a teacher in Erie named Basil Ronzitti. He had a very strong Italian accent and was hard to understand but he was scary and I knew I had to practice to avoid getting yelled at. Getting into my teenage years, once again, we were playing small venues and jamming our hearts out. Good times!
I started getting serious about the guitar when I was 16. I took lessons from Ed Russell (Ed Pooton) in Erie at Markhams Music. Ed was a great teacher and we became friends. He took me through the Berklee books and taught music theory. I totally revered the guy! He is in NYC now and still plays. I graduated from Markhams and was offered a guitar teaching position at Becker’s Music in Fairview,PA. I didn’t have a car and had to hitchhike to work which was about 10 miles away. That was a real trip and I have some crazy stories about that! After teaching there for a few years Ed called me and told me he was moving to New York and asked if I would take over his students at Markhams. I was thrilled!
I enjoyed teaching at Markhams but as life happens I fell in love with a very special lady and soon had to find better employment. I ended up at General Electric and put off my musical aspirations while trying to be a good father and provider. I eventually got laid off and decided to go back to school to learn a trade. I took drafting and design at Triangle Tech in Erie and was soon working as an injection mold designer. This type of work requires much mental skill and I credit it for allowing me to learn how to think better.
I was in my early 40’s and my kids were teenagers so once again I had some freedom. Back to the band scene! My brother still played bass and I had continued to play acoustic guitar so it didn’t take long for us to form a band called Sibling Rivalry. That was fun and we were ready to start playing gigs when our drummer’s child developed a brain tumor. We tried like hell to find a new drummer but it just wasn’t happening and that band was done. I got in with a couple local guys and played with them for a few years in a band called TJ Rocks. The drummer was an alcoholic and I couldn’t take that and had to move on. The next gig was as a drummer for a band called XL. We had a lot of fun in that band and played many shows. The bass players name was Doug Russell and he passed away a couple years ago. He is greatly missed.
I decided I was tired of hauling equipment and playing cover songs so the time had come for me to make some original music. That is what I always wanted to do and now I had the chance. I put together a home studio and began writing and recording songs in 2003. By 2006 the CD was mixed and mastered and I was promoting it. The disc is called Waiting on the Gods by Dee Girard. And you can listen to it for free here
I played a couple shows promoting that album and then got very sick. I had ulcerative colitis and the doctors said I would have it for the rest of my life! I thought I was going to kick the bucket and many times I prayed for god to please take me. The pain and agony of this condition are indescribable. I tried many, many remedies and was about to give up when the doctor suggested I have my colon removed. I was literally scared shitless! Fortunately I came across a book written my Michael Hurst about fecal transplant. I nearly vomited when I read about it. Eventually I came around to the idea and finally did the procedure. It is not medically sanctioned so I had to do it myself. After about 2 months I started feeling better. After a couple years I was nearly healed. I am now completely symptom free and making music again! I wrote a book called The Doctor Said What???. You can read the book here.
Playing the harmonica was part of my rehabilitation and it helped me to get through the depression of not being able to play my music. I have always been drawn to the free reed sound and after a few years I started learning songs and enjoying the instrument. I began working on harmonicas and developed Teflon gaskets to improve the air tightness between the reed plate and comb. I also took to the chromatic harmonica and began looking at how to improve it. My Breath Maximizer wind saver valves started as a way to install without glue and I now also make them as a glue on valve. These eliminate sticking and very reliable.
As I near retirement from designing tooling I am keeping my options open for the future. I am not taking any harp repair or customization work on at present but I continue to sell harps on E-Bay (Bluepikeblues) and I will also list on this site.
Thanks for reading this and I wish the best for you and a happy and successful musical journey!