The Little Drummer Boy and The Former Secretary of State: A Quest for Grace


Last week in Ruminations…I mentioned The Sound of Music. Big mistake. My Favorite Things…don’t even go there. Besides the stuck tune, I’m sure, by now, you know how I feel about “Things” (if not, see Ruminations…10.25.12).

In truth, I like the sound of music (note lower case). In fact, I used to play the drums. Yes, that’s me in the middle doing a stick-twirling Joe Morello to John Phillip Sousa’s Semper Fidelis.

In the early years, I wasn’t very good, had about as much soul as a percussionist in a Tyrolean cuckoo clock. It was only when I turned away from Sousa to The Electras that I started putting some Ginger Baker into my drum rolls. If you know of The Electras, you either went to St. Paul’s School, had a NYC – maybe Boston – deb party circa 1962, or currently spend way too much time on the Internet googling former Secretary of State John Kerry. Yup, that’s him up top, ice-breaker jaw and all, doing a badass Brooks Brothers Bill Wyman.

I never heard them play live, too young for their cotillion circuit; but I had their record. I admit that I never understood the little guy with the maracas….or the cravats, but the way those swells played Summertime Blues and Bulldog made my snare drum smoke.

A few years later, I found my true inner Charlie Watts as the drummer in a new SPS band, The Foul Dogs. Our moniker came from a puerile but stingingly effective expression of extreme revulsion. That noted, we were actually pretty good. Not me; I’d say my drum work was still middling at best –  remember The Barbarians?…picture Moulty with not one but two hooks. Nevertheless, back then, expectations for garage bands were…well, what you’d expect to find in a garage – usually after the repo man left you with only a leaking Pennzoil can, your grandfather’s wooden cross country skis, and a broken light switch. When we released a record with a sultry cover insisting that we were also December’s Children, I assumed Andrew Loog Oldham was right – it wasn’t just the Stones – we, too, were a way of life.

But it was not to be. Not for me at least. Mange set in, The Foul Dogs disbanded. I went country, selling my drums for a Sho-Bud pedal steel; something about making music sitting down, I guess. Not long thereafter, the Sho-Bud was also cashed out – Conway Twitty for an old Volkswagen and a new light switch for the garage. My music career was over, relegated to the shower. Noooobody knooooows the trouble, I’ve seen…

Or so I thought. There’s nothing like a well-grouted surround of American Olean tile to amp up the decibel level when rearing back to gurgle out Hendrix’s Waterfall. Unfortunately, it also amps up the marital discord. Last year, my wife suggested I towel down my waterlogged ass and join her chorale group. If that high pressure Kohler showerhead can’t drown me out, she said, maybe seventy-five to eighty other singers will. It was inspired. The Grace Chorale of Brooklyn. Count me in.

So, maybe see you at one of the concerts* in a Brooklyn neighborhood near you? And if you haven’t already sold your Foul Dogs album on eBay for three figures, bring it, I’ll sign it. If you still have your Electras album…are you crazy?!…put that bad boy back in the vault!

* Concert Times and Locations

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