Today in 1944, the birthday of Pat Martino, a jazz guitar great who once had to relearn the instrument that had won him so much acclaim from scratch.

Martino grew up in Philadelphia, and studied under a music teacher who also taught John Coltrane.

He was a quick study; jazz fans of all kinds praised Martino’s playing, which was complex but also had a lot of feeling.

No surprise that he had a record deal by the time he turned 20.

But he also had a problem as his career grew: Martino suffered increasingly painful headaches and seizures.

He was sent to doctor’s offices and sometimes even psychiatric hospitals, but for years no one could figure out what was behind the condition.

In 1980, Martino had a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

That’s when doctors solved the mystery: there was a malformation of blood vessels in one of the lobes of his brain.

The surgery that removed the malformation could have saved Martino’s life, but it also wiped out much of his memory, including his knowledge of how to play the guitar.

Martino said people would show him some of his old album covers, and he knew it was him, but he didn’t remember making that music.

But he decided to begin again, and since he had learned guitar at age 12, he decided to approach the instrument with the attitude of a kid exploring a new toy.

It wasn’t always fun or easy, but Martino stuck with it, and he once again mastered his instrument.

In fact, he said losing his knowledge of the guitar gave him a whole new approach when he started over.

He said he could focus much more on the moment, just enjoying the process of making music.

And that’s what he did for the rest of his life, making dozens of albums after having to start all over again.

By the way, his first album after relearning guitar was called The Return.

Today in Deming, New Mexico, it’s the 43rd Annual Great American Duck Race!

These are live ducks, not rubber duckies, but the four day event also includes hot air balloons, a tortilla toss, outhouse races, and a duck royalty pageant.

Pat Martino discusses relearning to play guitar after a near-fatal brain aneurysm left him with amnesia (Lehigh Valley Live)

Jazz Guitar After Brain Damage (Discover Magazine)

43rd Annual Great American Duck Race August 25-28, 2022

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Photo by Tom Beetz – CC BY 2.0, via Wikicommons