On June 11, 1962, my parents, Francis & Avis Sinclair, took ownership of the buildings and land in the picture below. Purchased from Mr. Charles H. Williams, the house, garage/workshop, and a large barn with an attached carriage shed, were situated on 4 & 1/2 acres of land on the outskirts of Exeter, NH, about half a mile from the Exeter/Newfields town line.
The long-neglected interior of our new house required several weeks of cleaning, repairing and redecorating, but finally, at the beginning of August, just before my ninth birthday, Dad, Mom, my dog Scamp and I moved in.
The original mailing address for the property was R.F.D. 1 – Newmarket Road. Over the years, however, the U. S. Postal Service changed the address several times, leaving my parents and me to refer to our home simply as: Newfields Road.
Newfields Road was the place.
This was where Music grabbed a hold of my soul and said, “You’re coming with me.”
My life’s journey began in the rooms of that house.
Here are some memories and moments, snapshots, if you will, from Newfields Road.
In my bedroom – all 9′ x 11′ of it; the second floor, front corner room, on the right or “Newfields side” of the house – listening to the Top-40 broadcasts of Boston-based WBZ-AM, delivered to my bedside table by the boxy, black and chrome Philco solid state AM/FM radio that my parents gave me for my tenth birthday.
In the living room – first floor, on the “Exeter side” – sitting on the couch in front of our black & white console television set and watching The Beatles introduce themselves to America on that now-historic Sunday night in February, 1964.
In my bedroom… playing my slowly-growing collection of 45-rpm records – Beatles!, Rolling Stones!, Beach Boys!, Monkees! – on a portable, two-tone beige and brown Magnavox stereo, the kind with one speaker in the detachable lid.
In my bedroom… standing before my blue sparkle snare drum and shiny, bronze-colored cymbal, practicing the rudiments that Mrs. Prebble taught me in my weekly drum lessons.
Evenings in the living room… regularly watching not just the Ed Sullivan Show, but also Shindig!, Hollywood Palace, The Dean Martin Show, The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour and on occasion, to keep my parents company, The Lawrence Welk Show.
Late one night in my bedroom… hearing Dave Maynard on WBZ-AM talk about a new band from San Francisco called The Grateful Dead.
One afternoon in the living room… sitting behind my 4-piece blue sparkle drum set, waiting for Jerry and Ricky, my friends and 7th-grade classmates, to tune their electric guitars. We were rehearsing for our first gig – playing at our school’s annual end-of-the-year party for the graduating 8th graders – and the first order of business was a Ventures-inspired rendition of “Secret Agent Man.”
In my bedroom… immersing myself in each monthly-arriving issue of Down Beat magazine, discovering a world of Jazz and Blues music that I wasn’t hearing on the radio.
In my bedroom… figuring out how to re-wire my Magnavox to drive a pair of larger, bookshelf speakers – Radio Shack Optimus 1‘s – and have a junction box where I could plug in a set of headphones!
In the front hallway… sitting on the white central staircase with Alan, Danny and Jim – my high school friends and bandmates – taking a break from rehearsing to pose for a group picture; my Mom working the Instamatic.
One night in my bedroom… turning on my radio – now tuned to Boston’s WBCN-FM – and stumbling into the middle of a heart-stopping electric guitar solo from a live recording by Blues musician Albert King.
In my bedroom… listening to records through my Radio Shack headphones and playing along on my seven-piece (now upgraded with an all-chrome, Rogers “Dyna-sonic” snare drum) blue sparkle drum set. Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “I Can’t See Nobody” by The Bee Gees and “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five were among my go-to numbers for these practice sessions.
In my bedroom, towards the end of my junior year in high school… spending a Thursday afternoon sitting on the floor with a borrowed acoustic guitar; coaxing my left hand fingers back and forth across the bronze and steel strings; switching between two chords – E minor to D major to E minor to D major; strumming and singing and trying to mend a broken heart with the one line refrain from a song by The Doors.
In my bedroom… cradling my very own, brand new Harmony acoustic guitar and gradually, after many months of studying and listening to and practicing, over and over, my favorite songs by the songwriters I’d loved for so long, learning how to play that guitar.
Starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I could write some songs of my own.
In my bedroom… perching, guitar in hand, on a tall, wooden stool in front of a microphone plugged into my Kenwood reel-to-reel tape deck, ready to record my latest batch of newly-composed songs. (A tape deck purchased at the Tech Hi-Fi in Cambridge, MA, thanks to a very generous gift from my godparents when I graduated from high school.)
In the living room… watching as a black, second-hand Needham upright piano takes its place along the wall where the couch had always been. On that piano, practicing the little J. S. Bach and Vincent Persichetti pieces I was learning in my piano lessons with Dr. Ruth Edwards at the University of New Hampshire.
Around this time, finally admitting that I really didn’t play them anymore, and sadly selling my set of drums.
Several evenings in the dining room – first floor, right front – chatting at the dinner table with my Dad and my trio-mates, pianist Gary and bass guitarist Andy, waiting for my Mom to serve one of her now-famous pre-rehearsal home-cooked meals. (These weekly feasts and rehearsals occurred throughout the first semester of my senior year at UNH.)
After graduating from UNH… getting my first job teaching music at the Lincoln St. Elementary School in Exeter.
As easy and comfortable as it was living with my parents at Newfields Road, I wanted a place of my own. So, in the Fall of 1975, I moved into a four-rooms-with-a-river-view apartment over a paint and wallpaper store on Water St. in downtown Exeter. My guitars, my stereo system, my record collection, my stack of sheet music and songbooks and my piano moved in with me.
My parents continued to live at Newfields Road for another twenty years. The memories that I, my wife and our children have of the many times we spent during those years at Newfields Road with Nana and Grampa are among the most cherished and dearest in our hearts.
When the time came and we needed to sell the property, Newfields Road was purchased by a developer who had already bought the house next door and much of the land behind the original 4 & 1/2 acres.
Today, Newfields Road is owned and being lovingly restored and rejuvenated by a determined and enthusiastic couple with three teenage children.
The photograph that started this piece – an original hand-tinted, black & white print – was taken and sold by a company called Maine Air Views from West Brook, Maine. After extensive detective work through old family photo albums, I have narrowed the date of the photo to sometime in the summer of 1965 or 1966.
Finally, the aqua oval just to the left of center in the photograph is an umbrella that provided shade to our picnic table. My Mother and I always thought that the little light gray patch, barely visible under the umbrella, is a newspaper being held up and read by my Father.