When Island blues guitarist and singer Maynard Silva, 56, developed cancer two years ago, his son Milo, 20, returned from college to care for him, and then, as he recovered, to sing with him when Maynard couldn't.

Interviews by Mike Seccombe

Maynard: "He had to take care of me while I was sick. And it was a tough thing for an 18 year-old kid to be dealing with a guy who was in the kind of shape I was at the time.

"He had started college in September 2005, the same time that I started chemotherapy and radiation. Then in November I had a pretty big time operation. So by December I was a wreck. He finished his semester, then went on a leave of absence. He came back and rode herd on me, taking care of me.

"Then the cancer came back for a while in 2006, so I was laid up again for a while, but then I was together with Basia [Basia Jaworska Silva, Maynard's second wife], so it wasn't quite as much of a burden on him. But he pitched in.

"We're strong-willed people, both of us. We both have fiery dispositions. This little house rocks sometimes. But we both know how to apologize and how to make up.


"The interesting thing was my friend Susan Klein, the storyteller, she lived in this house before, with her mother Elsie. And Susan has made a whole career of telling stories about her and her mother. They had a lot of the same stuff - a tempestuous, fiery relationship. Sometimes it's like the spirit stays in the house.

"But it doesn't last. And sometimes I'm the rebellious one. The rebellious medical patient and he's been the one saying, ‘Sit down, eat your dinner, behave yourself.'

"What sets me off about him? I have to say at that age a young man tends to be attracted to a certain darkness of disposition that a guy my age can't afford anymore. So when he's being existential about things I'm inclined to be more like just trying to find a thread to hold onto.

"It's the stage of life. All of a sudden this world that you've been served, you realize the whole meal isn't completely cooked, and some of it's stale. You know?

"I went through the same stuff; it's just aggravating when he does it.

"The good stuff about him? He's really funny, really humorous and really subtle about it. He's basically very kind hearted. There's a million things I like about him. Like with all kids, they see stuff you don't see and it's like you've opened up another set of eyes.

"He loves to cook stuff. We watch a lot of films and videos and talk about them while we watch them. We enjoy something well directed and well acted. We listen to a lot of different kinds of music between us.

"And he's creative. He does things from his heart, by his own schedule in his own time. When he's not interested in something, it doesn't happen, [but] when he's interested he can do anything he sets his mind to. When he decides it's time, he's very good at it.

"Like one time a few years ago, Basia brought over this movie, Genghis Blues, about this American blind blues musician - a guy named Paul Pina - who goes to the Republic of Tuva [near Mongolia in central Asia] and wins the throat singing contest over there.

"Milo, when he saw the movie, that was all he could talk about. Mongolia, Tuva, he was just totally involved. We ended up, because of people we knew in San Francisco, and the luck of the draw, hooking up with Paul Pina before he passed away.

"Milo walks in the room with this guy he's just seen in a movie and read a little bit about, and all of a sudden the two of 'em are like old friends. And Paul would call him on the phone, and they'd talk, and that whole door opened for him.


"I had the same thing happen that happened to him. I saw Booker White playing guitar on television, and I just thought it didn't sound like all that corny folk music I didn't like. It sounded wild. I ended up getting down to Memphis and meeting him and I basically sat in the guy's living room and he showed me how to do it.

"He just really wanted to play the Tuvan fiddle. We got a hold of one, and he just started doing it. I mean, I didn't show him how to play bowed instruments. I've no idea how to deal with a bow.

"I never had to teach him blues. He grew up in such a saturated environment. It was like it was in his blood. He could open up his mouth and sing blues right away. Right on the money. He doesn't sing like a kid.

"After my operation, when I needed a singer he came out and sang with me and played a little violin, 'cause he can play blues violin pretty good - but his heart is really in central Asia. Mongolian and Tuvan music. So he just plays with me to help me out. And now I'm healthier, he does his own thing and I do mine, pretty much.

"I just kind of pretty much try to support him and stay out of the way, is what I do. It's his own trip.

"If I wanted to look at myself, I'd look in the mirror. I want to see a different human being and that's what he is.

"To get into a type of music because it has a deeper resonance to you, you've got to put down a lot of stuff. He's capable of that.

"Maybe in 20 years, when we get out of being such a jingoistic country and start opening up to the rest of the world and realize they're not all building bombs, that they have some pretty cool stuff happening, well, they'll catch up with Milo. He's a long ways ahead of a lot of the guys around here."

Milo: "First of all I've got to say my father has been the most active donor of psyche to me of any person living. The way my mind works, the way I perceive things, the way I draw, write, contemplate, pretty much all of it, one way or another comes from him.

"Ninety-eight per cent of the time it's more like a very, very close friendship than it is father-son.

"I really had ambivalence towards music for a long time. When I was very young I'd listen to it and I'd move my hands to it, and then I'd sculpt to it. I used to sculpt clay constantly.

"And when my father would play there were certain songs he'd do that had more effect than others.

"Some of the stuff he'd do for people to dance or whatever didn't really catch me, but some of the stuff he'd do just sitting down playing by himself ... always had some unconscious effect on me. It provokes feelings of youthful euphoria, liberation.

"When he was ill - he really began to become more significantly unhealthy when I was at university - I returned after one semester, to take comfort in being with him.

"I spent a lot of time with him. That's when I started trying to play blues, which I'm not at all good at. But I tried. And I listened to his stories which are always very entertaining, if slightly exaggerated. I'd make him tea and things he could eat.

"I was very close with him and he got better slowly but surely. Then he got sick again. Now he's on the second rebound, as he calls it, his third puberty, growing his hair back among other things.

"I had to deal with a person who was for a little while sort of living dead, then a little alive and now very much alive again. I was 18. That's not as early as some people have to deal with mortality. I mean some people have to deal with actual death. When they're dead you can't really do a damn thing about it.

"So I consider myself lucky - not being a very religious type I hesitate to say blessed - that he's still alive. He's frankly the only thing that makes me stay on this Island.

"If he were to die, which he's not going to do if he knows what's good for him, I'd probably be inclined to leave here and engage in somewhat more reckless behavior.

"Traveling. Going to places like Afghanistan or Chechnya, or somewhere with a good chance I wouldn't come back in one piece.

"I'm going to Tuva, which is near Mongolia. I'm very interested in their music. And in Mongolian music, which is somewhat different. I've always been obsessed with the throaty voices of certain musicians, Charley Patton, Howling Wolf . . . the way they would sing, they would produce these animistic voices. Chilling. Tuvan music has something of the same quality.

"It's something that I try not to obsess too much about anymore. It becomes rather a weight on a conversation.

"Another thing about my father is that he loves punk music: The Clash, the Cramps, to a lesser degree the Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde, the Pretenders. Punk people.

"He's a very polite person publicly; kind of crusty for amusement's sake. But when it comes down to it, he's a street guy fundamentally.

"He had me and he had to change a lot, become a little more cooled off, [but] he kind of gave an interesting way to see through a lot of the - for want of a better word - the b.s. of this Island here, this sort of Jimmy Buffett, ‘let's go golfing and then fishing and then back home for the winter' kind of thing.

"I like my town, I like Oak Bluffs, especially in winter. But not that hippie, wannabe-socialist in their Volvos kind of thing you get here. They're nice enough people, I guess [but] their facade doesn't appeal to me. I myself am kind of a recluse. Kind of asocial or antisocial.

"He is not so. He's quite social, but everything about him is rebellion. My rebellion is not against him; my concept of rebellion is more based around my so called peers.

"I'm rebelling against them.

"Yeah, sometimes I hate the old bastard, but my god he's been and done a lot for me in life. I have a damned decent father and he's done a lot for me and, yeah, I'm going to stand by him."