It Begins

Snare2

First drum I ever owned.

I received my first drum at the age of 9 and began drum lessons in 1966. I still have my first drum which was a Slingerland chrome snare drum.  In fact I still have every drum I ever owned.

Jon11b

My first set in 1968.

After seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show I knew that music was something I wanted to do.  I’m not really sure what guided me in the direction of drums.  I remember beating on cardboard boxes and liking the different sounds and rhythms, so maybe that’s what made my parents buy me a drum.

When I was in 8th grade around the age of 12 I played in my first paying band.  The other members were all 16 and 17 years old and we mainly played high school dances.  The name of that band was Motherbear.

One of my more memorable gigs was when we played a set at juvenile hall. That was an eye opener for a 12 year old country boy.

After that band I joined a lounge band with some other kids my age.  Back then all your hotels had a lounge and there was lots of work for musicians on a local basis.  The band played standards from the 40’s through the 60’s.

We had a female singer who was my first introduction to a diva type singer and a boy who played accordion through a Leslie speaker along with bass pedals.

Shang5a

How rock ‘n’ roll is this?

I was 14 playing in bars.  My dad always had to come along with me since I was underage.

I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it.  It gave him a chance to get out of the house since my mother was always a real homebody and certainly never went out to bars.

I hated it.  It wasn’t rock and roll.  I wasn’t hip and cool.  John Bonham, that’s who I wanted to be.

The band made good money for kids, but I don’t remember what I did with my share.

In 1974 I was a senior in high school and finally out of that band.  I managed to get in one of the best rock bands in the Central Pennsylvania area.  Forever After was the name of the band and the guys were 20 or 21.  The music they played was very cool at the time, Yes, Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, Allman Brothers, etc.

JonSchool2a

High School Jazz Trio

So here I was a 17 year old senior in high school playing with one of the coolest bands around.  I was on top of the world.

I would go to school each day, come home and sleep, do some books, eat and go to the gig.  I’d get home around 2:00 AM, sleep until 6:30 or 7:00 AM and head back to school.  I loved it.

The band played a bar in Lancaster County one night, I don’t remember the name but I do remember it had a really high ceiling, like two stories high.  At the far end they had steps along the wall leading to a platform about halfway up the wall.

Those platforms were for the female dancers.  Seventeen and in a go go bar.  My friends had nothing on me.

I think we played there 2 or 3 nights that week and we even had a dressing room.  We shared it with the dancers.

When I went to change the one night one of the dancers was in the room.  Now I’m just a kid from the farmlands so I looked at her and said “Mam (I bet she loved being called Mam) I have to change now.”  She look at me and said “Honey it ain’t  nothing I’ve never seen before.”  By today’s standards that’s nothing but as young and naïve as I was growing up in rural York County that was quite the event for me.

We played the Victory Firehall which was a huge venue for the area at that time.  We drew record crowds of 2000 to 3000 outdrawing  such acts as The Legends from Harrisburg with their front man Dan Hartman.

But the band broke up.  The bass player and the lead singer couldn’t get along.

One night after a gig I saw them getting off the bus as I was leaving in my car to drive home.  They were about to come to blows until another band member stepped in.

What a shame.

After experiencing that kind of local success I really thought I was on my way to a music career.  I knew during my senior year of high school I wasn’t going to college.  I was sure I was destined for big things.  I was going to be a rock star.

JonTerryBrucea

Trio I was in with Bruce. I’m kneeling, Bruce is the guy on the right.

Through the bass player in Forever After I met Bruce Marshall.

Bruce was the best guitar player I ever met at the time and still is.  I was 18 and impressed. I thought this is my ticket to being a rock star.

Bruce was originally from Pittsburgh so when I was 19, Bruce told me he was going to Pittsburgh to be in a full time band and they could use a drummer.  I put my drums and a suitcase of  clothes in a van (not even sure whose van it was) and moved to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh was a real dose of reality.

Next: Reality 1.0

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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