Whether you walked in for music lessons, wanted to make a purchase or stopped by This Old Guitar Speciality Music Store to request a donation or tour, you usually were always greeted from behind the counter by owner Larry McDonald.
That trip almost always produced exactly what you came in for, and oftentimes, a good visit with a familiar face in McDonald.
McDonald, 68, passed away from cancer on Thursday at Schneck Medical Center.
Influential in part of Seymour’s music history, McDonald was a musician, retail music store owner and most notably, an instructor of guitar and drums since 2001 at the store he poured his life and passion into each day.
The store will continue under the ownership of his son, Matt.
It would be difficult to estimate the number of children and people who have learned to play any instrument, from guitar and bass to banjo and piano and more, at the store. At one time, he even operated a location in Columbus, offering lessons and high-end musical instruments.
McDonald also served as an unofficial curator of Seymour and Jackson County’s music history.
A visit to the store showed photographs, newspaper clippings, magazines, record covers and more that show the evolution of Seymour’s music history from generations ago.
McDonald was known for his passion of preserving and bringing back memories of bands from his garage band-era of the 1960s and 1970s. Photos of Snake Pit and The 5 M’s, which included McDonald on drums and future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Mellencamp as the frontman.
There also are tributes to the Stonehill Brothers, Coles and the Revalee sisters.
McDonald’s story in music started at a young age, taking drum lessons at Silver’s Music in downtown Seymour. He spoke often of how he would stop in Baldwin’s Drug Store for a cherry Coke every Saturday for three years before his drum lesson.
That drug store eventually would close, but the building would be the place where he would open This Old Guitar Specialty Music Store in 2001. A sign that was formerly in Baldwin’s Drug Store still has a spot on the wall near the entrance of the store as a tribute.
McDonald made sure the store contained a lot of John Mellencamp memorabilia. McDonald and Mellencamp were childhood friends who still would talk and visit with one another. Mellencamp spent time in McDonald’s store on the day in 2019 when he returned to sign his initials on the mural on the side of This Old Guitar.
The store was a set on an A and E biography of Mellencamp, which McDonald was featured in.
Mellencamp fans from all over would come to visit the mural, and McDonald was usually there to speak with them about it. He would always invite them into the store to see all of the Mellencamp memorabilia and discuss his friendship with the star.
McDonald for years organized The TOG Band, which was named after his store, that included many talented musicians. The band was a family affair with McDonald on the drums and his sons Matt on guitar and Greg on lead vocals and guitar.
The band was a mainstay at many festivals, events, restaurants and more throughout the community and region. The band was the featured act for many consecutive years of Scoop the Loop in downtown Seymour.
McDonald also created opportunities for his students and young people to test the waters of live performance. He always invited several students to perform at Scoop the Loop, the annual Fourth of July celebration at Shields Park, his concerts at This Old Guitar during Seymour Oktoberfest and recitals at his store.
The store was his passion, friends agree.
Danielle Kaufman, who has taught piano at the store for a little more than six years, said McDonald tried to get her to teach at the store for some time before she finally started. She admitted she didn’t have intentions of giving lessons when she finally agreed to meet McDonald.
“He twisted my arm, and all these years later, I have zero regrets,” she said. “This Old Guitar has become my family, my students and their families have become my family, but the McDonalds became even more of a family than I ever would have dreamed.”
Kaufman said McDonald’s passing has left her feeling like she has lost another parent, and she takes comfort in knowing his faith has led him to a better place.
She said she will always look back on the fun times, such as when the store would hold an annual drawing around different holidays where students could enter to win a prize.
Kaufman said the drawings were always on Facebook live and McDonald would always make her do the drawing so the students wouldn’t be mad at him if they lost, but instead her.
“He was always insistent I draw the names,” she said.
Eric O’Daffer taught guitar at the store for 17 years and was in The TOG Band for a number of years. O’Daffer said McDonald was always an encouraging figure to him during a time when he was writing music.
McDonald would tell O’Daffer he needed to continue to write his own music, record it and perform for people.
“He’d point to a picture of an early Mellencamp album and say, ‘John never gave up, he just kept plugging away, making each album better than the last,’” he recalled. “I will always be appreciative for Larry’s support and advice.”
Joseph Bray, formerly of Seymour, said he worked at McDonald’s store for many years and he enjoyed the time he was able to spend with him. He recalled McDonald as a generous person who cared for his employees.
Bray said he was working one Christmas Eve at the store and was the only employee there. The store was scheduled to close at 6 p.m., but McDonald called him around 2 p.m. to see if they had any business.
“It wasn’t busy, I told him,” Bray said. “He told me to close the store and go home early, and then he paid me for the entire day.”
Bray said at that time, he and McDonald were discussing making a deal on a guitar he was interested in purchasing from the store. McDonald asked him if he was still interested in making a deal, and then the conversation swiftly changed.
“Take it home with you and enjoy it, Merry Christmas,” Bray remembers McDonald telling him. “I still play that guitar almost daily.”
McDonald also was interested in being part of and promoting downtown Seymour.
He was a big part of the annual Scoop the Loop weekend, helping organize music and doing the groundwork to promote it through posters, publicity and selling shirts.
He also showed an interest in helping various causes. Many were of the benefit of McDonald’s donations to many fundraisers.
McDonald was known to donate an autographed John Mellencamp to many silent auctions or raffles throughout the years.
While the community mourns his passing, McDonald’s legacy will live on through the beat of the drum or the ringing sound of a guitar that one of his many students and former students play, continuing the joy of music that was given to them by the man who’d always greet them from behind the counter.