by Steve Buschbacher
I was recently asked this question – Why do I still actively play drums after all these years?
It goes back to when I first started. I suppose you can blame it on The Beatles. Seeing them on Ed Sullivan when I was 10 instantly flipped a switch inside me that made me want to perform and be part of a band. I also have brothers who are 7 and 8 years older than I. There was always current music in our home from early rock and roll, to R&B, to blues. But, even before I saw The Beatles and even before I bought my first practice pad and pair of drum sticks, I had always been able to feel the rhythm and keep time. It just came to me. I guess I was born with it.
I have always loved how I could get caught up in a song’s groove and feel its flow. Playing drums made that feeling even stronger. I saved my money and bought a cheap set of drums from Sears and I would practice every day for at least an hour. And not just top 40 hits but riffs and bits I learned by listening to the likes of Sandy Nelson and Cozy Cole. I would practice them over and over until I could duplicate them without even thinking about it.
I played in bands in elementary school and in high school. One band lasted into my college years. We were all good friends and have stayed good friends. We were playing just about every weekend. We played more fraternity parties than I probably remember.
One constant with every band was the feeling I got with just about every song. I’d practiced my part. The band had rehearsed and we had them all down. I loved the confidence and ease that I felt knowing how the song would go and how each part worked with all the others to create a groove that anyone listening could feel. Did you ever watch a carpenter build a table? They work with such ease and confidence and it always comes out great. That’s the feeling. I’m good at what I do and I love the feeling that comes with that.
I admit that I also like the attention I get as a performer. I’d be lying if I did not say that plays a big part in it too. Knowing that I have connected with the audience and that I can feel that connection makes the performance even better.
I took a lot of time off over the years to be a Dad. Many years went by when I was wasn’t playing gigs but I was always practicing. Always “keeping the chops fresh”. During that time, I came to the realization that the music I liked to play the most was the music that moved me the most … R&B and blues. My playing style was best suited to them both.
So, here I am today. A man in my mid 60s and I’m still actively playing in a blues band. So … on to the question. Why do I still do it? Why do I still load 5 drums, three hardware bags, and a cymbal bag into my car for a gig?
Two reasons come immediately to mind. The first is an easy one. I still do it because I still can. Age may have given me a few aches and pains but I can still play my music better than a lot of drummers younger than me. Barret Deems was Louis Armstrong’s drummer for many years. He was playing gigs well into his early 80s. I figure to have at least 15 to 18 years left on stage.
The second reason is because I still love that feeling. The feeling of getting caught up in a song’s groove and its flow and that I am the one providing the back beat and the pulse. It has few equals and I get it at every rehearsal and at every gig. I am at a point in my life where I do not even want to consider a band that is not R&B or blues. Fortunately for me, I found 4 other musicians with the same love of blues that I have.
A friend once described me as a musician who works a day job to support his music habit. Yeah … that pretty well sums it up.