It all started in fourth grade at Clinton Avenue Elementary school. It was at that time that students with the permission of their parents could take up a musical instrument. Originally I signed up to learn to play the flute but soon switched over to the snare drum. I have no recollection of why I had the desire to learn to play the flute. While I don’t remember that much from my early days learning to play the snare drum, I do remember the book we used entitled “Alfred Elementary Drum Method Book”. I also remember that my friend Joseph Verzulli was also learning to play. The band teacher’s name is also something I can’t quite remember and am thinking it started with a “B”, maybe Mr. Benter?
It wasn’t until Junior High School that I played in the school band. The band teacher was the nicest guy ever and his name was Gordon Jackson. Mr. Jackson was very supportive and encouraged me to learn to play the drum kit and participate in the stage band in addition to the concert band.
The first drum that I ever owned was a Ludwig Acrolite. The Acrolite was Ludwig’s entry-level snare drum and it was all my parents could afford at the time.
Band, and in particular, stage band, was a tight-knit group of students that enjoyed playing everything from Steely Dan, The Beatles, and Dave Brubeck. It was always rewarding performing in the various concerts throughout the school year. My mom and dad were always excited to come to see me play.
Practicing drums at home in the early days consisted of an angled practice pad and some super large 2B size sticks. They taught us how to play traditional grip which is something that I found very difficult to do. More on this later.
As I started to learn how to play the drum kit I started to piece together household items for the bass drum, hi-hat, and other drums and cymbals. For the bass drum, I used the container of pool chlorine. The bottom of this container was made of thick cardboard and made for an awesome-sounding bass drum. My parents did purchase a bass drum pedal for me that I attached to the container.
For the hi-hat, I used an old table, and let me say that I probably wasn’t supposed to use that old table for that purpose. I used several other chlorine containers for the tom and floor tom. Had I known that plastic paint buckets would have worked as well, I would have used them. I’m just not quite sure we had those types of plastic buckets back in the 1970s.
As my drumming progressed, my parents clearly saw that I was committed to them, however, my grades in school weren’t the greatest. My parents offered to complete my drum kit with a real bass drum, tom-tom, floor-tom and some cymbals if and only if I could improve my grades. This truly motivated to buckle down in school for which I did.
My first real drum kit consisted of a used black Ludwig 14×22 bass drum, a new 8×12 black Ludwig rack tom, and a used black Rogers 16×16 floor tom. The hi-hat stand was a Ludwig with some entry-level cymbals and I also had some type of 16″ crash. I also switched to a Ludwig Speed King pedal.
The drums were set up in the basement and things started to get loud. Very loud.