My Career as a drummer, influences and my drum kits
I started out playing drums somewhere around age eight. My first cardboard kit is not pictured here as it was lost in the great bedroom clean out of 1966. I put some serious thought into the snare drum and found a halloween costume box with cellophane covering the middle and this gave a satisfactory sound. I think the sticks came from a toy snare that had gone by the way earlier. Other various cardboard boxes rounded out this kit and it gave me a feel that proved worthy of my imagination. I had seen a real set of red sparkle Ludwigs in my bedroom earlier that year when an older brother held band rehearsals and I was allowed to watch.
My mother pulled up an old snare drum with brass rims from the 1940's from another brother who wasn't really playing anymore and I played this drum with slashed head and flimsy stand for a year. I took the music aptitude test in grade 4 and after getting a 100%, I was allowed to play any instrument I desired. I chose violin, but my teacher said, you don't get it, you can play drums if you like! I had chosen violin since it was the closest thing to guitar that was offered in the school system and I had started on guitar at age 6.
I was signed up for snare lessons for grade 5 and 6 and soon became bored. My parents bought me a toy kit from the Sear's store and my brother Tom taught me some basic beats. Later that year he spent $15.00 dollars and bought me a high hat with cymbals from some kid on the next block and I was on my way. The toy kit lasted roughly a year and I was soon good enough to accompany my brother through the Beatles and CCR song books. My next step was joining a trio with Donny Smith and Kerry Booth from around the neighborhood. The toy kit soon fell apart and by grade 5, my mother spent around $200.00 dollars on a used Kawai drum set. There are photos of me playing this kit and I dearly loved it.
By grade 7, I tried out for John Duker's jazz band at the Junior High School and failed miserably. They called the jazz tunes that I'd never heard of and even a Beatles song to humor me. Nobody had revealed the swing feel to me and a Hard Day's Night was my last chance. I learned it from the recording with a straight four feel and was laughed out of the 5th floor band room. Two years later I came back with a nice Ludwig white pearl kit and a sense of swing and got the number 2 chair in the jazz band.
I did end up with paying work at age 14 with a country band and worked every single weekend. The money was really good and I could afford to buy guitars and amps which is my other black hole. A few years later and I was exiting high school with no plans and ended up moving up the river to Canton, MO where I moved in with friends and passed an audition with a hard rock band. I soon acquired a Ludwig double bass Vista-lite drum set. My soon to be wife insisted I sell them a year later to my disgust. Bad choice all around as I should have chosen the drum set.
I still played guitar and had solid gigs in the area and playing two instruments allowed me more shows. After moving to Peoria and working with Craig Moore from Smokehouse fame, I returned to Quincy and attended drafting school. I worked gigs in the raunchy places in Quincy like the Pink Pussycat and soon finished school to end up in the studio to record a few singles. The wife and I packed up our bags when I got a drafting job in Kansas City and I soon ended up playing in local bands. It seemed the guitar gigs were coming easier at this point and the drums were sold and put on hold.
Fast forward to 1984 and I had bought a set of Rogers with Zildjian cymbals. Put together a road band with another guy from Peoria and we hit the circuit where I pounded the skins and sang lead vocals. Wound up in a group called Sammy's Fortune in the Twin Cities and this was fun for awhile. The sad misfortune I had was hooking up with a girl from North Dakota and I soon had to sell the kit to score a guitar gig in a small town. This went on for several years mainly on guitar and some keyboards and I found a kid going off to college that needed some cash. I bought his Tama Swingstar kit in 1996 and found myself in a country/rock combo that wound up making steady money. The leader of the group was led by a gracious farmer who wound up buying me a brand new set of Pearl Exports and told me to pay him back when I could. I loved the kit and paid him back over time and we are still good friends to this day.
Around 2000 or so, my wife started messing around and that ended our marriage. I took off to the Twin Cities three days later and got a job playing drums and singing with a road band doing mostly young country by the name of Sheldon Lee and Whiskey Rose. A year later I was brought into the band HITZ in the Twin Cities and ended up back on guitar and vocals with a few songs behind the drum kit. This found me working the casino market in Omaha and a few years later I moved to Nebraska in search of a warmer climate and steadier work. I worked the casinos quite a bit before taking my next drumming job working for Floyd Flowers from Hologram Records out of Nashville. I was still playing my Pearls and they traveled across the country many times underneath me in the cargo bay of the Silver Eagle bus.
Returning to Omaha, I pulled the kit out whenever needed, but over the years I'd never had a real place to woodshed since I'd left my home in Quincy in the 70's. Around this time I ended up with a garage for my gear storage and started recording in there during the mild months. I also took to restoring drum sets and ended up with a Ludwig ebony finish kit that I rewrapped to a lovely green sparkle glass glitter. I soon found myself getting some satisfaction working on cheap drum kits and reselling them. I rewrapped about five different kits before ending up with a beautiful DW orange sparkle Collector's kit. Thanks to a great deal from my buddy Mike at Guitar Center, I was the proud owner of my final kit. I remember watching a kid in the jazz group play at the Junior High assembly every few weeks and he played an Apollo orange sparkle kit. Oh how I drooled and slobbered and now owned my favorite color! This is the kit that I record on these days and I've also owned a Crush clear kit as well as another Ludwig Vista-lite for a second time. We've also picked up a second kit two years ago that was a reminder of my teen years. Ricky Merkel and his family were moving into the neighborhood due to flooding into West Quincy back in 1973 and he now needed a place to put his 1968 Rogers Holiday kit. Would I mind holding onto it for him? Well, we know the answer to that question and now we own a 1968 Rogers blue onyx Holiday kit in pristine condition! This kit is really an investment, but we do play it on a regular basis.
I've since taught my wife to play and she loves the drums! I hope to start playing again soon when we locate our new home and will pull the kit out of storage. So far I've toured with Nashville recording artists and have worked in several studios as a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist. I've also recorded the drum parts on three of my albums and look forward to doing more in the future.
My early influences for drum set would be Danny Seraphine from the band Chicago. He taught me all about jazz/rock music and I still follow him today. I got to see him perform in Chicago about three years ago on my first date with my current wife Elaine. We had not seen each other in over 33 years and it seemed quite fitting. Frank Beard from ZZ Top was my blues influence and I got to see him live in Kansas City a year or two ago. The early photo taken of me with the Crimson Three was taken at my sister's wedding reception and we performed on the stage at Turner Hall. Little did I know that I would be leaning on that same stage just four years later watching Neil Peart with Rush performing the Fly By Night release. Neil also became a hero of mine later and also Tommy Aldridge was my mentor into double bass work. My parents also let me stay up late at night and watch Buddy Rich when ever he appeared on the tonight show. Dennis Tieken from the band Smokehouse was one of my local drum heroes and Steve Hufford also taught me much. I met him when I was on the snare line for the Flying Dutchmen back in the early 70's. He was the head of the snare line and he gave me some great drum lessons and also later performed in a group with while I was on guitar. John Bonham was another influence as well as Peter from the band Rare Earth. He also sang the lead vocals and I got to share a kit with him for a week during some shows in Omaha. My newest heroes are Ben Johnson who is an old band mate and stellar player. He keeps advancing throughout the years and also helped me with music theory. I know... a drummer??? Vinnie from Jeff Beck's group is my modern day dragon slayer and a few others that have been killing it behind the kit. I am not the drummer I want to be yet, but after putting the sticks down so many times due to other gigs or lack of wood shedding time, I amaze myself with the chops and ideas that I still have today that seem to come from out of nowhere. My passion for music will never die and I always hope to be found behind the drums, Hammond or guitar at one gig or another.
Here are some of my drum kits over the years and I hope you enjoy the tour!