Mandolin and acoustic guitar
Palos Park IL
Though his parents seemed to view musical education as child abuse based on their experiences, he remembers his Mom saying when he was around 9 or 10, "Grandma wants to pay for piano lessons, but you don't have to do it if you don't want to." After only maybe 6 or 7 lessons total, Jay learned one really simple tune in the minor pentatonic scale called "Big Chief Indian."
Lost in his thoughts he remembers these stereotypical heavy bass chords that just sounded great and were so fun to play.
That scale, of course, was the basis of essentially all rock songs he would later need to find his way to hard rock and heavy metal.
Jay ended up writing his own goofy lyrics to that melody. "I guess that was the first song I "wrote." I never had another piano lesson since then".
Talking about instruments..
Young Jay started on guitar at age 11. Although his mom had an acoustic guitar, he became obsessed with metal (Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer etc.) so he needed to have an electric.
For only 25$ he got his first used Slivertone knock-off from a buddy named John Hanson, who taught him his first Sabbath and AC/DC riffs.
A star was born.
As many of his heroes played Gibsons he followed their tradition and plays a Gibson SJ-200 guitar and a Gibson F-9 mandolin. On the mandolin side, he mostly listens to bluegrass. Bill Monroe, David Grisman and Sam Bush are his mandolin gurus and they played Gibsons (f-5s not f-9, but the f-5 costs a lot more).
After he’d been visiting the Gibson SJ-200 for months in a local music shop and played it maybe a dozen times one day, a person - Jay describes it: “I deemed the "old rich guy" - I have no idea about his actual background” asked the clerk to take it down so he can inspect it. Jay chimed in. "No, I am buying that guitar right now." Though he didn't have any money and threw it on a credit card beginning a now 20 year cycle of debt. Jay have never regretted that decision.
Talking about his first tunes Jay explains that there was a group guitar class teaching kids the basics, so it was probably "Mary had a little Lamb" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The teacher had stacks and stacks of guitar tabs and he found one for Iron Maiden's "Wasted Years." The intro guitar part is super simple and entirely played on one string but sounds rather sophisticated and difficult to the ear because it's so fast.. Of course Jay learned it quickly and played it for some friends, which got him into his first metal band. Though he couldn't play much else but that didn't matter, until today he still never learned to play the rest of the song.
He played trombone in 5th grade. I think I can still play "When the Saints Go Marching In" but not much else.
I did get my trombone out to be in a New Orleans style 2nd Line wedding band where we did a brass band medley of "Saints" and "Iron Man." It made perfect sense at the time.