LB: Live! From Paradise #243 – “Drummer Man”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

Like most people, I live a life where if anything can go wrong, it does.

Several months ago, though, the Universe took pity on this obscure inhabitant of the Milky Way, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened.

Gwen the Beautiful and I were in China when creation itself seemed to reach out and touch me and say, “This is your moment, Larry B!”

What a moment it was! Far from cosmic. Not especially significant in any broad sense. But oh-so satisfying.

Gwen and I were at a showbiz party. Surrounded by stars of the Chinese stage and screen. Our Generous Hostess asked if I played any musical instrument, and I’d had just enough wine to say, “I play the drums.”

At that, our Hostess grinned and clapped her hands together. Immediately, her Major Domo rushed to my side.

“You will like this,” he said and ushered me into the next room, which was set up like a bandstand, complete with instruments. Behind a line-up of guitars and keyboards was the drum kit of any drummer’s dreams. Drums, drums, and more drums. Big cymbals. Little cymbals. Everything and anything that went crash, bam, or boom.

“Music is Madame’s passion,” the Major Domo said. He pulled the drum “throne” out for me. “Please—rock on.”

I’ve played the drums for over fifty years. Started in the Junior High band. My parents got me my own drum kit, a Ludwig Buddy Rich Super Classic in “black diamond pearl” in 1958.

My high school buddy, tenor sax man Ron Tiersky (now an eminent political scientist teaching at Amherst), and I started a band that played at all the school events and gigged around locally as well.

For awhile I thought I’d make drumming my life’s work. Except that I wasn’t quite good enough for that. Had one tiny little weakness—keeping a steady beat.

I turned to the typewriter, and later the computer, for my livelihood. Still, over the years I’ve played with a great many musicians, both minor and major. I love doing it, but every session has been stressful at best…and a few have been outright terrifying.

For some reason, however, that night in China I wasn’t at all frightened or even tense.

I sat down, picked up the sticks, and started wailing.

And as I played, party guests who were musicians made their way into the room, grabbed guitars, began playing. Guests who were singers joined in. We played together in various combinations, and as though we’d known each other for years, traveling a rocking road from ’50s rockabilly through ’70s psychedelia to 21st Century pop.

We jammed for hours, and everything I did sounded…well, to my ear I sounded the way I’d always wanted to, for the first time in my drumming life. I was wild, but my beat was steady. I hit the heights I’d always aimed for but never came even close to before.

When it was over, and we’d all crashed from exhaustion, I looked around at the happy faces of my One Night Band Mates, and then I looked up at the ceiling, trying to see beyond it, to the stars.

Two thoughts leapt into my mind.

The first one was, “Thanks.”

The second was, “Why?”

Since that night, I’ve often relived the exhilaration I felt when, for a few hours, I got a taste of being someone I’d so much wanted to be when I was young.

And, each time, my gratitude immediately is followed by a search for the cause. Finally, I decided it had to be the drum kit. The quality of its components. The way they were set up.

If those drums were mine….

I checked out the price online and found that it was way out of my reach. But I saw another kit, similar but way more affordable. And so, after fifty-plus years with my original Ludwigs, I finally bought new drums.

They arrived a few days ago, and I spent the next several hours setting them up, tuning the heads, doing the things drummers do. I’ve been playing constantly ever since.

Do I sound the way I did that night in China?

Gwen says, “Of course you do.”

But my ear tells me something different.

I need to make sure. To know, absolutely, whether the Universe handed me a one-nighter or intends for Larry B to rock on.

Anyone out there have a band that needs a drummer? Or want to jam?

Give me a call.

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