Waylaid by the groove

I did not want to be a drummer when I was eight years old. My piano teacher was a strange crotchety old man who smelled and lived in a large dark old house in Elkhart, Indiana. I think he was an okay teacher. I don’t remember the rulers on my knuckles, but my older sister did. I wanted out of that weird horror story setting. My mother then presented me to the children’s band and orchestra teachers and I played French horn for a painful but relatively short summer. When we all arrived back at Weston Elementary, I saw Mike, one of my classmates, drumming in a little jazz band that he had put together for the student assembly. He was swinging along pretty good. The thing that really attracted me was the response that Mike was getting from the people. Everyone was smiling at him and his guartet of fifth graders; clarinet, piano, flute, and mike with just a snare drum and a hi hat. These terms I did not know yet. The girls really liked what he was doing. I filed that away in my mind for some future use. The band was pretty good for kids, but I could see right there that the groove was coming from the drums. That hooked me. I visited Mike’s home; large, spacious, full of light on the other side of town. A Steinway grand piano sat in the living room, exuding music. On the coffee table lay a copy of Downbeat magazine. “What is that?” I pointed at the black and white cover of a musician who was not white. “That’s Downbeat, Buddy. A magazine about jazz..”

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