Soleares was painted after I moved to Beaufort, SC in the early 1980s. Soleares is one of the primal "conte hondo" (old) songs. If you learn to play flamenco as I did, it's one of the haunting forms that makes hair on the back of your neck rise. I learned flamenco from Andy Merrill, who was a major influence on my life at that time.
Andy was the type of guy anyone could admire. He lived on boat for one thing and that was way cool. He played guitar for another. I went up the the John Cross tavern to hear him after I got settled in. He was not only good, he was very good. He played Layenda, some flamenco and some pop tunes. Andy has music in him...it wasn't like he was just going through the motions. I could tell he appreciated me coming to hear him and that the clatter of plates and noisy conversations were disconcerting to someone who valued his music.
You could find Andy down at the Marina on Lady's Island where he had his little guitar studio. He'd be out behind the studio, sweating as he planed a piece of wood for the new boat he was making from scratch. He always had a mischeivious grin and smile and would welcome you to his world. Yeah, he was a little bit bitter. He had talent and here he was in this little community that couldn't care less about him. After you're been beaten down you just try to find your niche, and he had- he made his boat, played his guitar and raised a family, realizing that maybe that's all life had to offer. Maybe he could have been a music writer, a concert performer, played flamenco with dancers on tours 'round the globe and such but the sadness of missing some dreams had given away to a stoic acceptance that life goes on and you have to go with the flow.
So he taught me to play Soleares. To me the song is about soledad, the sun giving life to the gypsies at daybreak. The campfires have all gone out, the drinking and dancing are over. Then the sun comes up and the trees become alive and dance on the beach.
I went back to Beaufort once, many years later. The palmetto trees were there and the huge oaks draped with Spanish moss. The house on 901 Prince St. where I lived with my Grandmother was sold and an addition was added to the back. The town that at first had seemed exactly the same had changed. I was just a stranger now, the people were all different, so were the shops on Main St.
I looked for Andy but he was nowhere to be found. When I left Beaufort a sudden sadness enveloped me. Part of me was gone and it could never be the same again. After I moved to Winston-Salem and published my first music books I had a complimentary copy of each book sent to Andy Merrill, just to let him know that I still cared about him and that maybe something he did for me wasn't wasted like many things in his life.
Just three years ago I got a book in the mail. It was music book written by Andy that he had published. Maybe, somehow, I gave something back to him.