We Got this letter from Jerry Stidham:
Certain Gene Leis recollections have definitely
stuck with me all these years when reminiscing about the guitar-times
we spent together. When we met in the early 60's through
a family friend, Gene was in the process of developing his
game-plan. He asked me to bring my guitar to his home/studio
in the tree section of Manhattan, just off Marine Ave.
As a novice with a strong interest in learning to play the blues,
Gene offered to teach me, if I would agree to help him with his
project, and act as a 'guinea pig' for his 'Nexus' teaching program.
I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I said 'absolutely!'
Gene was a chord guy. He seemed to know them all, and almost
make the guitar talk, and each note he played could
also be sounded out with a different chord. I remember
he'd close his eyes during his Django Reinhardt-styled solos,
and groan behind the melody he was playing. As a smoker
and coffee drinker, I also remember Gene was rarely far from
either, and would typically put his half-smoked cigarette on
the end of one of his guitar string wires, until his riff was
finished . . . followed by a swig of coffee, and a big smile. Ashtrays
just weren't his style, yet he never burned a hole in anything
while we were playing . . . which amazed me as much as his
guitar sounds. He played what I call a power-guitar . .
. driving the pick in strong cadence with his melody at times,
and from quiet to loud, and back again.
When we first started playing guitar together, Gene was using the
big Gibson hollow-box G5 cutaway model shown on the cover-shot
of his Nexus Theory chord book. A very trusting and generous
man, Gene would occasionally let me practice with this guitar,
just so I could see if I was able to come anywhere close
to making similar sounds, playing identical songs, but I never
could. He was an inspiration though, just watching his
driving style, while never missing a beat. As a perfectionist,
he demanded a discipline, attention, and genuine effort
whenever he taught, and felt the success of one's accomplishment
was directly related to practice-time on the chords, and commitment
to each lesson. We did this almost every week for nearly
a year, and his project really began to come together. Although
I'm certain I stretched his patience on occasion, his first chord
book always served as my teacher in his absence, as well
as in between lessons, and I'm hoping my old ruffled copy
is still in storage in my garage. We'll soon see.
Les Paul, in addition to Django, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel
and a few others, was a definite influence on Gene's preferred
style too, and I can recall him laying down a bass guitar-run
first, recording it, and, similar to Les Paul, he'd then re-play
the recorded base line, and play the melody on top of it.
And we're talking early 60s! Just like Les, I think Gene
was ahead of his time and was very creative with his musical
talent. Also like Frank Sinatra's song, Gene always set his
stage, and Did It His Way. And he truly earned the right
to do so.
Now in my mid-sixties, I'm able to look back and reflect on the
few people in my life who truly made a difference, and who helped
contribute positive influences towards the person I became, and
Gene was certainly one of them. In addition to learning
guitar chords, Gene indirectly influenced the basics of being
a good person . . . honest, loyal, trustworthy and respectful.
Integrity fit in there too, and I was disappointed to have to
leave the area for employment in Orange County, and Gene
and I were only able to talk on occasion by phone, thereafter.
Yes, he was a unique personality, a caring guy, and I'm grateful
to have met him, and to have been given the opportunity to be
his occasional 'rhythm guy.'
About Jerry Stidham
In addition to being a student of Gene Leis, Jerry was Gene's
rhythm guitarist on the two Sounds of Today courses, both released
in 1962. Here's what Jerry said on the liner notes of this course:
"Being one of the students who "bugged" Gene
to write this specialized guitar course for single string melody
lead, it was felt that the Sound of Today required a special
guitar technique. This sound played with single string melody,
combining the twist, rock and roll, and a blues pattern with
a fast moving tempo, can be found on every other station on your
Gene, having agreed to develop a special guitar course for
this music, devised this course without going into the complicated
chord patterns, theory and harmony. It is a method organized
from beginning to end through a unique means of record teaching.
Not only are there chord diagrams and photos of chord positions,
but also comprehensive detailed explanations and guitar demonstrations.
Personally speaking, I feel it is the simplest and fastest means
of learning to play this type of music.
In writing this course, Gene drew from his vast knowledge
gained from the development of his famous NEXUS METHOD of guitar
instruction, which took him three years to perfect. Many of
the guitar experiments were tested on me through the use or tape
recordings and studio sessions. After watching the course grow
to its completion, its tremendous success is easily seen in the
studio mail room. Letters from highly satisfied students of
all ages are coming from all over the world complimenting Gene
on a terrific job.
Having learned the complicated chord pattern, solos and accompaniments
taught in the NEXUS METHOD I am convinced that through the use
of similar teaching methods single string melody with the Sound
of Today can be taught to you with this course."