Monte and Music

November 21, 2010

Monte was quite fond of music.  He was a self-taught musician and near the end of his life, had greatly expanded his horizon when it came to the listening of music.  Monte could play the guitar, banjo, violin and harmonica quite well.  When the Monte Ellis family lived at Big Lake, Monte and Sharyl’s daughter Kathy expressed a desire to play the piano.  After Kathy started taking lessons, an oak, grand piano was purchased from an unknown person.  Eventually, Kathy’s desire to learn the piano was curtailed, mainly by strict, regimented lessons taught by a firm instructor that tended to shy away from spirited play, while enforcing classical teaching methods.  For some time, Monte and Sharyl tried to force Kathy to play the piano, but she resisted the regimented lessons and eventually quit playing.  Many years later, Monte’s son Eric asked Monte why he was not encouraged to learn how to play a musical instrument and Monte replied he and Sharyl had not wanted to make the same mistake they had made with Kathy and had hoped the desire to play musical instruments would find its way to Eric.


Kathy playing piano at Big Lake


While Monte’s skills at a piano were very limited and not that refined, memories of him “plinking” on it can be recalled.  Years later the piano was sold to Monte’s long time, close personal friend, Marv Robinson.

Through his time, Monte also experimented with a large variety of musical instruments.  These included instruments from bongo drums to wind instruments, such as the oboe.  Below is an earlier posted photo depicting Monte playing his own custom-built, one man music machine.   This device contains drums, snares and even a tambourine and still exists.

Through out his life, Monte played music with others in a variety of places.  Much of his violin playing was refined under the tutelage of his Grandfather Ernie Fidler.  At times, during family gatherings, Ernie and Monte would play music together in Monterey, Illinois at the John and Zelma Ellis home.

Sharyl Ellis, Ernie Fidler, Monterey, Illinois

Later, Monte would play with others at local venues, which included taverns, the old Banner Town Hall and local benefit-type events.  As Monte aged, he played less and less outside of his own home and when he did play music, if not by himself, it was mostly only with Marv.

When it came to listening to music, Monte was more impressed with the quality of an artist, rather than the popularity of an artist.  While Monte appreciated the attention a musician like Ricky Skaggs brought to Bluegrass music, he did not care for what he perceived as the trait of people putting their popularity before that of the craft.

Monte’s knowledge base of music was quite broad, too.  One time, through a music compilation disc, an old song called Swan Blues was played and to the surprise of those present, Monte blurted out that the song was performed by King Pleasure.

Monte greatly appreciated singers/songwriters who told life-lesson like tales in their music, such as Jim Croce.  He was quite fond of standards such as Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down and Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain.

Later, Monte splurged and bought an expensive Bose radio and through acquaintances, he would often play this radio and loaned compact discs to further expand his listening tastes.  Slowly, he grew fond of newer music and started to appreciate newer artists that showed more concern over quality and longevity, such as Steve Earle and Ray LaMontgane.

Unfortunately, Monte also developed a taste for early music of the Eagles, but that was mostly for their years ago focus on acoustically tinged songs.



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