Family Goes to New York City in the 1950's
The parents of Asim Can Gunduz were very much in love. They met in Paşabahçe, a small shore town on the Bosphorus. Bilge Gündüz was the daughter of the reknown Physician Dr Prof. Dr. Ali Riza Birgen who lived in an Ottoman wooden mansion (Köşk) with his four daughters and his wife, Fatma Seniya. Music was very much a part of Köşk life. All three sisters, with the exception of the youngest, 3 year old Bilge, took music lessons. They felt she was too young to take lessons. Much to their surprise, little Bilge would listen to the lessons behind the door and secretly play the Lute under her sheets at night. As it turns out, the little 3 year old learned to play the lute, kanun, and piano all on her own, without any lessons, while the other sisters decided that no amount of lessons could give them the passion and talent their little baby sister naturally possessed.
The youngest grew up a happy child, singing and playing various instrments, and swimming in the Bosphorus. One day a handsome man moved into a Yali, a home on the shore of the Bosphorus. There he saw the young and athletic Bilge singing and swimming on a bright summer's day and it was love at first sight. Soon they were married and the young businessman, Ali Riza Gunduz, who manufactured the first radiators in Turkey, and his new wife would soon be parents to an adorable boy.
It was the 1950's and Asim Can Gunduz was conceived in an Ortakoy apartment, overlooking the Bosphorus, by a young couple who fell in love. Soonafter his birth, Ali Riza Gunduz decided it was time to take the first steps in affording a good life for his family. As a child, he played the harmonica and wore a make shift cowboy hat he wore as he played and dreamed of living in America. Dreams were never enough for Mr, Gunduz and soon enough, he sold his profitable import export business and decided to attend the World Trade Fair in the United States. Eager to get to know the United States, his pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit to him through all 26 states before settling in New York City. Asim Can Gunduz and his mother soon moved to join his father in the United States. At the tender age of three, Asim Can Gunduz became a New Yorker.
Six months before both Auntie Keriman and Awesome John passed away just one week from one another
Asim Can & his Mother
Asim Can & Keriman Teyze at our home in Yesikoy. We grew up in a musical family. So much fun & love!
His Hands Revealed a Sign
Many people don't know but Asim Can Gunduz was born with syndactyly--webbed fingers. The picture on the right hand side shows his hands bandaged after the surgery to separate his fingers. Before his surgery, he tried to cut through his fingers because some children had made fun of him. Soon after, Johnny Boy would undergo formal surgery that would leave him 104 stitches in his hands and nearly raw ligaments covered by a thin layer of skin. His nereves were severed and the scar tissue that developed healed too taught to ever give him the opportunity to open his fingers completely. The doctors told him he would never be able to move his fingers again because of the nerve damage. Well, that was the wrong thing to tell little Johnny. He knew no challenges too big or too small. He willed his fingers to move and at age 14 picked up his first guitar gifted to him on his birthday by his mother's closest friend, designer Asuman Polat and he played till those fingers bled, till they moved up and down the neck of his guitar and bringing the celestial melodied that floated in his heart to life. Johnny defied the odds and when he saw his hand surgeon he said "Doctor Tasha, I can move my fingers" and followed up with an expletive sign with his fingers. Awesome John never felt handicapped, he felt it was a sign that his hands were made to do something special.
Bleeding and Oblivious
His sister Ally recalls the following:
"He was about 20 and I was about 13. We lived in America's most multi-ethnic community, Astoria, Queens, New York in a three bedroom apartment. My brother was heavily into playing his guitar. He used to practice eight, sometimes ten hours a day. When he woke up, from the little sleep he would take, he would pick up his guitar to practice. He practiced every day until he passed journeyed to join my parents. Awesome John was a purist in love with his instrument and the magic created in heart and around him by music.
He would listen to Jimi Hendrix, Al Di Meola, , Jeff Lorber, Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, Stanely Clarke, Johnny Winter, Frank Marino of Mohagany Rush, and other great musicians.
He had two huge Grundig wooden speakers he placed on the floor around a makeshift floor bed. I clearly remember how he would lay down between them and listen to these greats. Sometimes, he would call me and say, "Lay down and listen. Can you hear the bass in the background? Listen to the tone of that guitar, he's using a Fender Stratocaster". My loving brother trained my ear to hear and understand quality music Abi, I am forever grateful to you for opening my eyes and training my ears.
One day, I knocked on the door of his room and he didn't answer. I heard him playing his guitar and he was singing. I knocked harder so he could hear me, he still didn't reply. I was young and bold, so I barged in. When I entered the room, he was still oblivious of my presence. Then from the corner of my eye I saw blood dripping from his left hand on to the carpet. The scar tissue from the 104 stitches had cracked from playing for hours and hours. Still oblivious to my presence, I yelled "Hey Abi, abi!!! Abi means "big brother" in Turkish. He sort of glanced at me and said "Oh hi" and smiled. I said, "Abi do you realize your hand is bleeding?". He looked at his hand, quickly wiped the blood off on his jeans and said, "Oh thanks" and with a great big smile he said, "you want to listen to this solo I have been working on? I finally figured it out".
Jeannie Jelly Beannie and her beloved brother
"Güzel ve doğru bir hayat hikayesi olmuş. Ağabeyim para şöhret arayan biri hiç olmadı. İnsanların hayalini kurduğu başarıyı eli ile itip ülkesinde yaşayıp ölmeyi seçti...Anlaşılan ülkede herşeyi bir kenara itip onu sevmeyi seçmiş."
- Awesome's youngest sibling
Jeannie Gülhan Gündüz