Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job!

Recently, several folks here at MMI have asked about my musical background as a drummer (no contradiction in terms!). I simply tell them that that was my “other life,” my misspent youth, if you will, and let it go at that.

When I served on the staff at Bridgewater College in Virginia (1993-2005), some student friends of mine spread the rumor that I had played drums in the Grateful Dead! For years, a giddy freshman would come up to me and ask about the Dead and what Jerry Garcia was really like!? I’d set them straight, and they would wander off disappointed.

So, here is the real skinny on my drumming career! There’s nothing to really brag about, but the Alabama Music Hall of Fame did list me as one of “Alabama’s Music Achievers” in 1999. Thanks, y’all!

I played drums in working bands, off and on, from 1964 to 2005 (ages 14 to 55). My last bands were BC Rockers, a classic rock band, and the Wes Allen Trio, a jazz group, both in Virginia.

BC Rockers, the infamous classic rock band from Virginia. We immortalized COL Benson in song! I’m the old guy on the right!

I am not currently playing in a group and that’s good. I have a day job and I’m paying the bills and that’s fine for now. I go to bed early and get up early and I kinda like the lifestyle. No more crazy travelling, late night gigs, and dining at The Krystal at three in the morning!

Here are some representative images from more than 40 years of gigging (please forgive):

The Shandells (1964-1968). Friends from Butler High School in Huntsville (my brother is second from right), we released two singles on Woodrich Records, signed with London Records, recorded in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, and signed with Dino Productions in Nashville.

A Playbill from 1966.

Hanging backstage with rocker Conway Twitty (before he went Country), 1967.

The Sensational Prophets (1968-1970). The “Blue-eyed Soul Band of the South,” the classic frat party horn band. We worked out of Southeastern Attractions in Birmingham and Anthony Attractions in Tuscaloosa, playing the Greek circuit at colleges and universities throughout the Deep South. I’m the cute one standing on the right!

A publicity shot from 1969, the year of Woodstock.

The “Marching Southerners” Drumline (1968-1971) at Jacksonville State University. A formally trained percussionist, I played in the school bands at Westlawn Middle School and Butler High School in Huntsville, and then at JSU. I’m second from the right, front row.

Flash, a 1980s rock band from Huntsville, was a family affair, as well. My brother is next to me, his wife is next to him, her brother is next to her, and our “cousin” completes the lineup. Three of us were former members of The Shandells who also played together in the Barkley-Almon Band in the 1970s.

Finally, I do perform with the Grey Drummers, the alumni (1950s – 1980s) of the JSU “Marching Southerners” Drumline. Yes, we’re old and in the way, but we actually play rather well!

The old joke is: Who usually hangs out with musicians? Answer: The drummer! So, just to prove that a drummer can have a (bald) head on his shoulders, here is my graduation from Harvard in 1990! So there.

I decided to go out with a bang! The End.