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Tribute to Bill Liggins of Atlanta, one of the first drum therapists

Bill Liggins in Atlanta

When I first started to teach the HelmTone healing drum protocols around the country, I chose Atlanta as one of the first proving grounds. If they got it in Atlanta then it had to have some credibility. I have always loved Atlanta, dating back to the free concerts in the Park, where the Great Speckled Bird was the greatest underground newspaper in the country, and the Allmans were playing for everybody. It had been a few years and a lot of karma under the bridge since I returned to Atlanta, looking for a connection to the truth and soul that I had experienced there back in the sixties. The healing drum therapies were successful in Santa Monica, California but that was not like the rest of the world. I had to test it out on ‘real people’. Bill Liggins was one of the first therapy workers I met. He was sincere, outspoken, a survivor of the Acid Viet Nam era and still had a bawdy sense of humor. The first Ghana Djembe I handed him, he dropped it. I knew he would. He was dealing with stuff. That’s why I was here; show people how to use the downbeat to get realigned in our souls and bodies. I looked at the drum he had just damaged; one of the vertical black strands had been neatly snipped by the edge of the rental car door when I handed him the drum. I wasn’t upset, visually, but these are my babies. They come all the way with me from California, but I could see he wanted to get inside that drum. So I showed him how to do it. We even had a session with one of his clients and I showed him how to use the drum as a therapy tool. He got it. That drum survived several more long trips around the country and is now living happily in Lawrence, Kansas with a women who eventually had the rope replaced and is leading drumming therapy groups there. Bill was one of the first drum therapists.

Excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm©2014 all rights reserved

Sometimes we just gotta sing.

excerpt “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

I dreaded The Visions; always clear, always detailed. When I was young, I didn’t see the significance. Standing in the deserted hallway of Weston Elementary in Elkhart, Indiana, I had a vision for the rest of the world. We are light born into bodies. I remembered that from before.

“Why are you in the hall?” The cruising principal echoed down at the thin third grader.

“Singing in class.” I said officially. I wanted to defend myself, but he was put off. Sometimes we just have to sing. We were making clocks out of a paper plate and some brass fasteners with  hands pointing to the numbers. I sang Bill Hally’s hit, Rock Around the clock. It seemed appropriate. Sometimes we just gotta sing.

excerpt “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

He could talk the skirt off a WAVE

“He could talk the skirt off a WAVE.” My mother described my father after I questioned her while still in high school and dealing with girls. My band, Those Five, was a hit. We had a following. Mom made sure I had cool Carnaby street type stage clothes. She made a paisley vest that survived until 2014. I didn’t wear it that much. She did not have a father, I learned slowly. He had left them when she was still a girl. She raised her brothers and sisters and took care of her mother on the farm in central Indiana. When she married my father who she had met on a trip to the East coast, she was hoping to be saved from the life she would have had. We make bargains.

Memories are never the same

Memories are never the same. Nothing is ever the same; it changes. The groove is a demonstration of this elemental rule. There is a constancy of pulse with variations on top, interspersed.

healing drumming clinic

The Groove is the thang

excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

“Dancing in the street” is a great example of the power of the groove; an evolutionary force. Of course the alto sax doesn’t hurt either. The mystery of why humans respond to these aggregate tones and pulses fascinates. It seems to be a part of our essential being. We are all connected in a rhythmic ocean where grooves travel back and forth through cultures modifying society. Ideas are carried aloft on the currents of the grooves. The force in its simplest form can be stimulated, created, manipulated for healing using rhythm. This presence has many names; chi, prahna, mojo, ashe, orgone, Grace, samadhi, vril, soul, swagger, etc. Its presence can be generated. We are able to use more of this life force.

excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

Colonel Jungle Jim and Dancing in the Street

excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

1991. Colonel Marsh looked at me over his drink with the eagle eyes of a man who had seen more action in more wars than most men. In Viet Nam he was called “Jungle Jim” because he had implemented the notorious Phoenix program. In World War II, Jim was OSS, operating in Asia as well as occupied Europe. He had been active during the Cold War bringing out scholars, classical musicians, professors, poets and outspoken writers from behind the Iron Curtain. He had a wife who had been with him the whole time and a beautiful daughter who approached me in Florida, to write her father’s story. It would have been a doozie if it had been allowable.

“One of the most culturally potent exports of the United States.., ” I opined carefully, “…is our music. The rock n roll and our folk music. Our entertainment…even our television shows.” His thick eyebrows arched, intrigued, ready to debunk at the first sign of a weak argument. As it turned out he knew more about cultural propaganda than I would ever know. I wanted to know certain things about the history of our intelligence business because I was still struggling with the cypher of my father. This retired soldier was sympathetic but not that helpful. He let slip a few morsels about the creation of CIA using Nazi personnel. I accidentally tricked him into talking about the Abwehr Intelligence spymaster I mistakenly referred to as, “…Major Gorlen…” he corrected me, emphatically, “COLONEL Gorlen!” He watched himself a little more closely after that, but told me to say hello to several A list producers when I got back to LA. “We’re old friends.”

I had unknowingly been pulled into a propaganda operation a few years earlier and I was still feeling culpable about the gruesome outcome; Tiananmen Square massacre. Two producers, claiming to have written the Jan and Dean hit song, “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” approached me to write a rock n roll radio show to be aired on Radio Beijing. I recorded the show, complete with voice over rock n roll enthusiasm ala Wolfman Jack, to show the Chinese DJ how to do it, but I pulled out because I thought they were playing with fire. The Chinese kids would go crazy listening to good old American Rock n Roll and the repercussions could possibly be fatal; which they were. The pictures showing the Chinese college student standing his ground in front of a Chinese Army tank did not have the soundtrack being heard across the square and across China. It was my nerdy voice, imitating Wolfman with a touch of Rodney from KROQ, introducing Martha Reeves and the Vandellas singing, “Dancing in the Street”; the beginning song of a one hour radio show that aired every day at noon all across China. I chose The Vandellas’ song because it stirred the blood when it first came out in the early sixties and it did the same thing in China. It was a cultural incursion into Communist China by these two crazy assed producers who had the largest soft drink company as sponsor along with God knows what unofficial covert government US support. The first person shot by the Chinese Army was the DJ at Radio Beijing. I would have been in that control room if I hadn’t backed out at the last moment. Maybe the ghost of my dad was watching out for me. I had some kind of angels keeping me out of harm’s way.

excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

healing drums

healing drumming meditation at Seasons in Santa Monica