The Little Drummer Boi

Music has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got my first guitar when I was 4 or 5. It was red, white, and blue plastic.

Music has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got my first guitar when I was 4 or 5. It was red, white, and blue plastic. My second one came a few years later, and then a third on which I took a few years of lessons.

I also remember using the upright vacuum cleaner as a microphone stand to sing along to the K-Tel eight-tracks. “Run, Joey, Run” was a big favorite, as was “Afternoon Delight,” their meanings absolutely lost on my young, innocent self.

By the time I was 10 or 11, I had developed a deep desire to be a drummer. I’d set my puzzle and game boxes on the bed around me like a drum kit and use two wooden dowels from coat hangers as my sticks. Put a stack of 45s on and rock on out. I’d bang on the boxes until they had holes in them. Then, I’d flip them over and do the same on the other side.

“Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” by the J. Geils Band both scored high on my charts. Still touring, J. Geils plays Boston with Aerosmith in August. Maybe I should buy some puzzles and head over! I also had a funky side. In fact, “Super Freak” was one of the first singles I ever bought. To counter that coolness, I also had John Schneider’s It’s Now or Never and several Shaun Cassidy selections in my album collection.

And lest we forget KC and the Sunshine Band and Village People… I distinctly recall trying to figure out how radio worked in reference to them. Somehow, I had the notion that the bands were playing live and I couldn’t figure out how they got from one place to the other so quickly because I’d hear the same song on two different stations. It was mind-blowing!

Eventually, I got some real sticks and a little four-pad electronic drum thingy. It wasn’t nearly as fun as the boxes, though, because the motions were contained to one square foot rather than a splayed kit. Laugh if you must, but thanks to my early ingenuity, the first time I ever sat down at a real drum kit (nearly 20 years after the boxes on the bed), I could actually play it. It’s like the kids who teach themselves how to play piano on a painted keyboard.

I also finally made my way to the drum section in seventh grade thanks to headgear relieving me of my flute-playing prison. If I’d kept at it through high school, I probably would’ve been a pretty decent drummer. Instead, when forced to choose in ninth grade, I opted for basketball. I certainly had no real future there, but, alas, it was the cooler choice… and the girls were cuter, to boot.

Fascinating, though, to look back at singular decisions made which carve the course for the rest of our lives. If I’d stayed with it, I could’ve been backing Lenny Kravitz instead of Cindy Blackman, although I’m not sure I have the right hair for the job. Perhaps I’d have been more successful stealing gigs from Carla Azar or Melissa York.