Page 5 of 5
I turned in my final exam to my English professor, the noted Arizona poet Richard Shelton. He was also an autoharp player and sometimes joined us at family jam sessions. The final was an essay on something from Yeats that he had written on the blackboard. He said he hoped he would see me in the fall. I told him I was moving to Los Angeles to sing in a folk-rock band. Justifiably bemused, he replied, "Well, Miss Ronstadt, I wish you luck."
I still hadn't told my parents. I knew they would insist that I was too young, hadn't finished school, and had no real way to support myself. I also knew they were right, but I had to go where the music was. I waited until the night I left to tell them. A musician friend had offered me a ride to the coast. He had gigs north of L.A. and offered to drop me off on the way. My parents were upset and tried to talk me out of it. When it became apparent that they couldn't change my mind, my father went into the other room and returned with the Martin acoustic guitar that his father had bought brand new in 1898. When my father began singing as a young man, my grandfather had given him the instrument and said, "Ahora que tienes guitarra, nunca tendrás hambre" ("Now that you own a guitar, you will never be hungry"). My father handed me the guitar with the same words. Then he took out his wallet and gave me thirty dollars. I made it last a month.
The only thing I remember about that long ride through the desert night was searing remorse for having defied my parents. I was still very attached, and they had always been so kind to me. I felt terrible for hurting them and causing them worry.
There was nothing to be done. My new life was beginning to take shape.