His father, who grew up on a farm in Gravette, had this response:
"Son, I don't think you can make a living at that," his father told him. "If you're going to play guit-tar, play a real guit-tar."
Radford, who bought his first flameno guitar for $15 at a pawn shop in Tulsa, now owns one made by Jose Ramirez that is insured for $10,000.
He is also the most-booked flamenco guitarist in the United States.
On Wednesday, he brought the folk music of Spain and the life lessons he learned from the gypsies of Andalusia to band students of Berryville High School.
"Your main job in life is to discover and develop your unique talents and use them," he said. "That's what they actually live."
Radford opened the program by speaking Spanish to the dozen students who knew the language, interpreting for the rest. He also spoke what Vietnamese he picked up during a tour of duty in Vietnam to Quynh Nguyen, a student originally from that country.
Radford, who learned to play flamenco guitar by listening to Montoya's records, also emphasized the need to practice what you do several hours a day.
"You get good at what you practice," Radford said, "and there's no limit to what you can do. Native ability and passion create an unstoppable force."
Radford also had a dream -- that he was going to study flamenco music in Spain. In 1962, when he was a senior at Will Rogers High School, Carlos Montoya came to Tulsa and gave a concert.
Knowing his dream, friends arranged for Radford to meet his idol backstage.
Hearing Radford play, Montoya picked up his guitar and played with him. Then he invited Radford to come to New York and take lessons, which he did for two years. Radford worked and lived in a Mexican restaurant, taking lessons from Montoya whenever he could.
"I practiced six to eight hours a day non-stop for two years," he said.
Returning to his family in Blue Eye, Mo., where they ran the Wagon Wheel Cafe, Radford played flamenco guitar at a concert at the King Ranch in Texas. A U.S. Senator and the Spanish consul were in the audience.
While Radford was in Vietnam, they recommended him for a Fulbright Scholarship, which he received although he had never gone to college. In 1968, Radford spent a year traveling through Spain, picking up flamenco from the gypsies who played it, as there were no schools.
"Flamenco is the folk music of Spain," he explained. "You have to learn it from the folks who play it."
Radford told the high school students to listen to their hearts and follow their dream, even if nobody else encourages them, supports them or even understands what that dream is.
For elementary school students, Radford said he talks about finding something you're good at, and the power of practice. Most grade school students already have something they're good at -- sports, math, cooking -- but don't realize it, Radford said. His talk awakens them to the possibilities and gives teachers material for motivation.
Radford, who's been doing school programs for 30 years, said principals and teachers come up to him all the time and say they heard him so many years ago and that he motivated them to pursue their dream. He's also heard half a dozen times that he inspired a student from a rural school to go to Spain to study music.
But that didn't impress him as much as the comment he received several years ago at a Jonesboro high school.
"A school counselor came up to me before the show who said she recently had three students who had come back to visit her," Radford said. "They said my performance was their inspiration for going on to college."
Radford goes to southwest Arkansas next week, where he will play a concert in Hope and present programs at seven schools in four counties.
"I get a huge charge out of playing for kids," Radford said. "It's one of the things I do that feel like I'm making a difference in the world. It's not about making money. It's about making a difference."
Radford's school programs in Carroll County were funded by a grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. For more information about his music and educational programs, go to www.ronaldradford.com.