Drummer the coolest of all musicians

I was a farmer once upon a time and I am one still–in my heart where it counts.
I’m still running the grain crusher while I am barely big enough to pour the barley into the hopper, dragging the five-gallon pail of crushed grain to the trough where feeder steers rush in and swarm me, and I have to sit in the trough until they are done eating before I can escape or risk crawling across their backs.
I watched the calves devour their meal as if it might be their last, desperate for the lion’s share with that hard-wired sense of survival of the fittest.
There is a natural rhythm to it as they each push on the steer standing next to him, and the whole procession moves around the trough in their version of a two-step, or, in this case, a four-step, in their circle dance.
The hind legs move in synch with the fore. But where is the percussion–the drummer perched at her drum kit giving the tempo to this eating dance?
Sometimes I stood up in the trough and pretended to tap dance on the wooden surface, a fan of making noise, pretending I had the skills of Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. I didn’t. I thought maybe my tapping could guide them in their dancing efforts.
Maybe with a bit more practice, we might have been impressive. You know, the 10,000-hour thing. Or maybe, just maybe, I had no internal drummer in my head to keep me–and those fatting calves–on beat.
The drum is our oldest instrument so naturally the drummer is the coolest of all musicians. The drum dates back to when humans first learned to keep rhythm (some of us are still learning).
The basic design of the drum has not changed for thousands of years. Drums have been found made from alligator skins dating back to 5000 BC.
Drumming actually makes us smarter, claims Dr. Christiane Northrup. “The physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain actually synchronizes the left and right hemispheres.”
She goes on to say drumming creates new connections in the brain, and is a therapeutic tool in healing the brain. She listed, in one of her columns, the 10 benefits of drumming that include all manner of positive feelings, a boosted immune system, helping chronic pain, the release of negative feelings, and the like.
Based on that, we all should become drummers. Fortunately, there is benefit in merely listening to drumming, for those of us who can’t drum our way out of a wet paper bag.
Buddy Rich, an American jazz drummer, is considered to be the most influential drummer of all time, next to Animal from “The Muppets,” of course. Rich said that if you think you stink, you probably do. I’m pretty sure he was talking about me.
My brother was in a band in high school. Some of you may recall it–Flight VI. They used to rehearse at our farm, in the shed.
I climbed up in the plum trees behind the shed and watched them from underneath the eave. I was in awe of all these talented musicians.
The band consisted of my brother, Laurie, on the saxophone, Tris Trethart on trumpet, Rob McVey on bass guitar, Rick Benson on lead guitar, and Dave Chapman on keyboard and vocals. But I must confess it was the drumming of Terry Perkins that captivated me; the innate talent that I’m not sure how one even learns to do such magic with two sticks and a “membranophone.”
Terry remains in my heart as the coolest drummer that ever lived.
Too bad the hours of watching him play didn’t transfer any of his skill to me.
wendistewart@live.ca

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