Yuri Geller sat in a car at the stoplight on Grand Avenue

Yuri Geller sat in a car at the stoplight on Grand Avenue

excerpt “Drummer’s History” by Russell Buddy Helm

© 2013 all rights reserved

1970. Yuri Geller was in a car at the stoplight on Grand Avenue in the heart of Coconut Grove. He watched a young man carrying a large piece of window pane glass across the street in front of their car.

“Who is that?” Yuri asked his local driver who had picked him up at the airport. Yuri  was performing his psychic show at the Coconut Grove Playhouse that night.

“That’s the drummer for the Bethlehem Asylum.”

This seemed  ….strange.

As a drummer I have always looked for meaning in ritual. It is a part of drumming; to help convey the unknowable. The Asylum and Coconut Grove defined the new concept of sacred drumming in our culture. There had been no definition before this.

Across from the stoplight on the far left corner, where the road splits  into Main Highway, sits the Drug store/coffee shop in downtown Coconut Grove.  It looked like Schwabb’s drug store and coffee shop in Hollywood, California, where Lana Turner was discovered. The waitresses in the Coconut Grove version had no illusions about being discovered by Cecil B. Demille. They were more matronly. This was where the fine art of being seen was developed.

Coconut Grove was a confluence of grooves from all over the Caribbean, South, North  and Central America, Europe,  Africa. The way New Orleans was the gathering spot for the birthplace of the Blues.

Miami had not quite become the musical nexus but it did soon enough. Deep in the heart of this dangerous mix of peoples and cultures, hidden down in the jungle south of the city, was the fetid breeding ground for the deeper energies of our new world culture, the grooves, the magic, the soul of survival. There were places I could not go because I was white. I looked down the barrel of a forty five automatic pistol sticking out of the passenger  window of a sixty five rustoleum colored GTO on Saturday night on Calle Ocho,

“Goddam hippie!” They sped off.

Christian could go where I was not allowed. He was black enough. Usually a piano player, even a jazz piano player would not be interested in sacred drumming, but Christian was more than a jazz keyboardist. He was a magic man. His childhood in India in the Brahmin caste molded him for life, as well as whatever else he had seen. He brought back information to me about what the secret drumming rites were  about. It showed up in the Bethlehem Asylum’s music.

excerpt “Drummer’s History” by Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 all rights reserved




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