Mom played piano. Musicians dropped by to jam often during my formative years of the 50s and 60s. Once I was old enough to know and care, she told me about her family's orchestra that were together for thirty six years.
I remember, mom got excited when someone would come to jam with her. She had to feed them first. Then after, the music would fill our little house. Mom's dad, Grandpa Gaspard was a fiddle player. I watched him while he kept his feet tapping in time with the fast jig or reel. Mom's accompaniment was smooth. She always displayed a certain seriousness on her face when she played. She usually finished with a smile and a look like the song kept her thinking about it afterward. She always wanted to get it right and would explain when she didn't. It was part of her makeup even if it was embarrassing. She didn't care. She wanted it right. When it was, it was remarkable, heart-warming. Mom made waltzes sentimental. By the age of six or seven I knew what it was to feel sentimental even though my own style of music was yet to come.
By the late fifties, I was hearing Elvis Presley and other early rockers on 78 RPM records my sister and her girlfriends brought home. Once I learned to work the gramophone you couldn't stop me. Gene Vincent, Eddy Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and most of all Little Richard hit me like a ton of bricks. By now, I was accompanying mom when she played anything. I lined up two forks on the end of a tin tv table which made a snare drum sound when you struck the other side. I bought a pair of wire brushes from the local store for sticks and that's how I started. For a kick drum, I just pounded the floor hard enough with my shoes on, just as I'd seen my grandfather do years before.
My attention to recordings grew. When other kids were playing sports of just goofing around I was jiving on early rock and roll. When the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan in 1964, it might have been remarkable to the rest to the world but music had made a firm impression on me and others like me in my community long before. The sound of rock had progressed considerably once the guitar took the lead. I remember hearing The Ventures and The Shadows with those solid backbeats. I began to think more about being a full time drummer. I shared that ambition with another guy. He played Sandy Nelson for me on his record player. We were both enraptured by it. A few other guys in our town played guitar so we all got together although I didn't have drums, my buddy's parents bought him a kit we both got to play on. By the time The Beatles hit, we were playing dances in local halls and making our mark with the locals. It took me about three years before I could buy my own drum set. I had to break my arm working hard on an oil rig in Alberta before I could mail order a new set of drums. The day my blue Leedy drums arrived was a milestone in my life. My buddy and me immediately took them over to a church hall and set up both kits, his and mine. We spent the afternoon jamming together. How glorious that was. It sure was. Later, I started a group. Two young guitar players were spinning off another group when I landed in their sites. Word got out I had drums of my own. Things happened fast. We could all play so it didn't take long and we found ourselves on radio. The national broadcaster came north to assemble a radio show and we were invited to perform. That's how we started.
This blog by Norm Richards