Still strummin’ at 83

The year was 1946.

Harry Truman was president, the United Nations held its first meeting and Cliff Hayes got his first guitar at the age of 16.

“I heard a guy playing it, and I liked the sound of it,” Hayes said. “I got hung up on it.”

The Marshalltown resident and retired electrician is now 83 and has been playing guitar for 67 years. He still sings and plays the lead guitar for the Cliff Hayes Partytime Players band regularly at the Senior Citizens Center and at several area nursing homes.

“I’m probably older than a lot of people in the nursing home, but I don’t feel that old,” Hayes said.

Hayes and his group, which during the winter includes Bill and Dianne Hotchkiss, play old-time songs and country and western music. Hayes prefers the old time music.

“I just don’t like the new stuff, I like the old stuff,” he said. “You can understand it.”

He loves to brighten the day of area seniors and bring back memories by performing their favorite songs of yesteryear.

“These people don’t have anything to take their minds off their troubles,” Hayes said. “It seems to cheer them up. When you see people enjoying what you are doing, that makes you about as satisfied as anything.”

One particular woman at a nursing home sticks out among his 35 years of playing at the care centers. He said she was on a gurney and could barely move, but Hayes spotted her moving her hands to the music.

Diane Hotchkiss said Hayes sometimes has more energy than the rest of the members of the band who are significantly younger than him.

“I sometimes have to keep up with him,” she said. “He does a good job.”

It seems when Hayes finds something he likes, he remains dedicated to it. For further proof, just look at his 61-year marriage to his wife, Frances.

“Same woman, one time,” he said of the marriage.

Hayes has no plans to let up in the future and said he’ll probably stop playing the day he dies. He has had health concerns and several operations through the years, but is grateful to be able to still play at 83.

“I’m grateful because when you look at those obituaries there’s a lot younger ones than you are passing on,” he said.