Friday, November 27, 2015

A Lonster's Tale - The First Sixty Years. Part 3

As previously stated, I grew up in a small community in the middle of New Brunswick, on Canada's east coast. I think when school was in session and the students were at their desks, the population of the school was larger than the population of the rest of the community!

Our school was very basic; grades one to six were fundamental arithmetic, reading, spelling, social studies, and the like. In grade seven, the boys got introduced to “shop” (today's Industrial Arts – woodworking and electrical) and the girls got introduced to Home Economics – sewing and cooking. It was at that time that we began going to the school dances as well. When I was in grade seven, there were a lot of “sock hops” that featured records of the most up-to-date top forty with a few older favourites thrown in as well. Occasionally there would be a special event where a Disc Jockey from the nearest radio station would come and play the Music. This was a big deal, for in those days, Radio ruled and to see the guys whose voices we heard (sadly, they were all men back then) was a pretty big deal.

Sometimes a live band would come and play, but I didn't actually see any except the local guys who had played for our Friday lunch hour sock hops. The first live band I saw at our school was when I was in grade nine! The Drummer of that band was my friend “W” who lived next door to my cousin. (mentioned in part one) The band was quite large, with two Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, and Vocals.

Since our school was, as I mentioned, rather basic, we had no Music or Band program, so I watched the drummers who came through on these Friday night dances. By the time I finished school, I had seen a number of drummers who all offered their knowledge to me. I lost touch with the majority of them after school, but some are sill friends to this day.

Each one had something unique to offer; a speciality, if you will. This was also the time of the extended Drum Solo, and when that would happen, most of the dancers would leave the dance floor, some would go for a Coke or hit the washroom, and I'd RUN to the front of the Gym, lean on the stage and watch intently. At home, the next day, I would try to emulate what I'd seen the night before.

Another source of my education was the records I bought. The big Rock bands of the time all had great Drummers and trying to “cop their licks” was a challenge I willingly took on. I'd listen, try to replicate what I'd heard, listen again, until the record was virtually unplayable! When I went to the Music Store in the city, I'd stand transfixed, staring at the Drums. If another Drummer should come along, I'd strike up a conversation, even if I'd never seen him before.

There were many opportunities to see live Music in the late '60s and early '70s, much more so than today. Besides our school dances (which were admittedly a pretty small deal in the larger picture of life) to in-store promotions at department stores and car dealerships, to fairs and exhibitions, I always stayed to talk to the Drummer. I don't recall ever meeting one who wasn't willing to share knowledge and the Joy of Drumming with me. Some even managed to squeeze in an informal lesson if time allowed.

As time went on, I gathered a rather large repertoire of ideas, and “licks” to use in the gigs I played. At that time I hadn't learned “discernment” and much of what I played was totally the wrong thing for the song, or situation, and I often overplayed, but I was growing and testing my wings, getting a lot of stuff out of the way to allow for more refinement as I grew older. Yet, I still had a burning desire to learn and play, and I always approached the stage with a sense of wreckless abandon; like a drunken skydiver screaming, “Let's see where we end up THIS time!”

~ Still Wandering...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Lonster's Tale - The first 60 years. Part 2

Before I began Drumming, before I even WANTED to play Drums, I was surrounded by Music; that's where many of my Guilty Pleasures come from.

We lived in a small community in a deep valley and the only radio station we could receive was in the nearest city. This station broadcast with 50,000 watts of output transmission which was HUGE! They played an eclectic blend of varying Musical styles, from the vocal Jazz of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Perry Como to Polkas, to Country and Western, to Elvis Presley and Little Richard. I didn't mind what was playing, I wanted to hear it! I remember being somewhat surprised when Mom heard a song on the radio that she liked, and Dad brought home the single for her. That rather changed my perception of Music; I could actually BUY it and have it forever! (Oh, so little did I know about vinyl records as a three-year-old)

After the Beatles landed on the Ed Sullivan Show, I was swayed toward the Rock 'N' Roll side of things, and started to pay a bit more attention to the other R 'N' R groups, but the styles I had previously enjoyed still appealed to me as well. I particularly enjoyed the Music that was on the radio on Saturday mornings: a blend of Polkas and what we knew as “Oom-pah” Music; played on accordions and often featuring Yodellers. I should make it clear that Saturday mornings were when Dad took me with him as he delivered furnace and stove oil.

Saturday afternoon was the Top 40 Hit parade, and during that time I heard the sounds of the New Christie Minstrels, The Seekers, Petula Clarke, Dusty Springfield, and later, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and many, many more. Sunday mornings (and for a half hour after school) it was Gospel Music. Dad was a big fan of Country and Old-Time Gospel, so the Carter Family and others of that ilk were frequently heard on the “record player” and later the stereo. There were many songs I heard because one of my parents liked them, and many bring a tear to my eye if I hear them today.

I think if I could have stayed alive by eating Music, I would have, since I certainly devoured it in every other way.

As I grew older, between ages ten and fourteen, I heard a lot of “Bubblegum” Music on the radio, Andy Kim, The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company, ... and so that became part of my Musical lexicon as well. I remember one friend who came to visit after school one day remarking, “You don't like THAT shit do you?” I did.

Once I became a Drummer and was learning songs for a band, the Music I played, and to which I listened grew heavier. The Beatles and Stones were still there as were the Hollies, but so were Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, The Doors, Grand Funk Railroad, etc... I think I was the only Pink Floyd fan (as in owned their records) in the school until “Dark Side Of The Moon” came out. I KNOW I was the only one with the Blind Faith album.

When I was 15, some of Dad's friends asked me to play drums for them. They were all in their late thirties or forties, and I was a geeky kid with glasses, but JUMPED at the chance to play my Drums and earn money while doing it. Over the next three years, two of the men would leave and be replaced by guys my age, as well as the oldest daughter of the one remaining “older” chap came in to add a female voice. We weren't really great Musicians, but we were popular because we played a good cross section of what was being heard on the radio of that time. We covered the Music of Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Kris Kristofferson, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lobo, and the like.

Those were good years, and I was making really good money for a kid in high school. Actually I was making more then than I did in many bands since that time.

Just before I turned nineteen, I left that band. Too much alcohol and too much ego resulted in a shoving match between myself and the girl singer's husband. I walked out and sold my Ludwigs. That was the first time I tried to leave Music behind.

~Still Wandering...