The trip hasn’t been easy, but it has been very rewarding.
I’m 10 yrs old, and my father was still gigging regularly. He and one of his brothers were lifetime members of The American Federation of Musicians, locals 802, NYC, and 82, Westchester County, NY.
For 2 yrs, he only allowed me to set up and play his snare drum - only his snare drum.
At that time Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” was all over the radio. I am feeling the drums and rhythm in my bones. Then I find out that my father and one of his friends and AFM colleagues, the pianist Dotty Barnes, are trying to get the AFM to sponsor a visit by an African diplomat as a cultural and of course musical exchange. I don’t know what country he represented.
Anyway, they are successful and Dotty secures the AFM premises in Mount Kisco, N.Y. They informed me that the diplomat was bringing some indigenous drums from his country. One was a djembe with a zebra skin head. The other is so large and round, it actually had 4 legs - like a coffee table with a zebra skin top!
They also informed me that there was going to be a performance. They wanted Dotty’s son Michael, who was a drummer, my brother Blaise, who at the time was an absolutely prodigious bongo player, and me to perform - on those drums!
I was over the moon! Then, they told me that there weren’t enough drums, so I was relegated to playing claves. Well, it was African drumming, and Soul Makossa was taking the country by storm. How could I be disappointed?
On the night of the performance, everyone was in good spirits. The diplomat is a very elegant, well-dressed, and eloquent man. He even brought us outfits to wear onstage! We played “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
Although we were very nervous, Michael, Blaise & I were all smiles. We were doing it - playing music - live, and In front of an audience!
When we finished, there was an infinitesimal pause, and then, the crowd went bananas!
That was it for me----I was hooked for life----hooked on music----the rush of the performance----the drums----African rhythms.
I never looked back. There have been many ups & downs. Big gigs, small gigs. From restaurants to clubs, festivals, stadiums, good conditions, and shitty conditions.
I’m still here, doing what I love, and I still have my father’s Radio King snare.
B O O M !!!!!!!