It was about 1964. I was in the fourth grade orchestra, as percussionist. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was a percussionist at the tender age of 9. I was just learning to play the drums. I didn’t even own a drum set or drum pad at the time. All my lessons and practicing occurred during drum lessons in elementary school and orchestra rehearsals.
But I vaguely remember performing one rainy evening in the school cafeteria (which doubled as our auditorium) for all the parents. I was on the snare drum and my fellow “musicians” were playing bass, tympani, cymbals, and triangle. You can only imagine, as a 4th grade orchestra, we weren’t very good. But we made our parents very proud.
Funny thing is that I don’t really remember ever attending a music lesson in elementary school or ever rehearsing with the orchestra, but I do remember some things about 1964. One day my mother picked me up from my weekly Cub Scouts meeting and when we got home she told me to go into the basement…and there it was. My father surprised me with my very first drum set – an old Gretsch, calf skin covered contraption that I suspect was from the mid 1930’s or early 1940’s. He spent $100 on that set, which for the time ( and for my dad) was a lot of money.
The drum set was very old, but it was mine. It sounded great, as far as I can remember. The one memorable thing to me was that the floor Tom clamped onto the hoop of this huge bass drum, which must have been 32 inches or more in diameter. Anyway, it was the greatest thing for me at the time. I was finally able to replace the pots, pans, and cans I had set up on the poker table with the real deal. I felt like I had graduated on to a real trap kit. It was also the year The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Need I say more?
I was exposed to music at an early age. I was constantly listening to my parent’s records, which included Wired for Sound, Ricky Nelson, South Pacific, Peter Pan, Gigi, My Fair Lady, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Jack Jones, and Matt Monroe, etc. I would spend hours listening to records; a habit I continue to abuse to this day.
And in 1961, I begged my father to buy me my first 45 single of Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” after seeing him play it on The Ozzie and Harriet Show. That song made a huge impression on me both lyrically and musically and woke something up inside me that allowed me to appreciate music even more.
And in 1964, on that fateful February Sunday night, I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. That was it for me. I was hooked. Again, I leaned on my father to buy me the 45 single of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” I wore that sucker out – even the B Side, “I Saw Her Standing There”. And so began my love affair with the drums.
My older brother has always been musical and I distinctly remember him taking lessons on the Saxophone, Accordion, Piano, and then the Guitar. By early to mid 1960’s, prior to him attending college, he had always been in a band and most of the band rehearsals happened in our basement. Of course, I was always present and was exposed to all the rock and roll music of the day, especially the music any good basement band needed to cover. And so I quickly applied what I had heard onto my new drum kit from Mustang Sally, Good Lovin’, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Johnny B Good, Knock On Wood, Hold On I’m Comin’, and other seminal tunes that helped defined that era.
Soon thereafter, I gathered some of my friends who also played an instrument we started a band. Guess what our repertoire included.
Then, one day my brother’s drummer was ill and couldn’t make the rehearsal and so he asked me to fill in during one of their rehearsals. I was prepared and I was 9. But it paid off being the little brother-hanger-on. I absorbed everything that he was into and I was able to step up to the challenge.