Have faith - fave hi-hat

Brethren, I’ve been a musician for more than 50 years. Main instrument: drums plus percussion, latterly ukulele. However, much as I like to strum ukes, there’s nothing to compare with the sheer joy of playing with a good tight band. In fact, for a drummer it’s almost orgiastic — a quasi-religious experience. Yes, I’ve heard all the tedious jokes about drummers not really being musicians. In reality the drummer is often the back-bone or back-beat of a great combo.

Actually, it is believed that the percussion family includes the oldest known musical instruments, after the human voice. Nonetheless, some of these jokes come from the mouths of other musicians; even drummers themselves! Here’s two or three token ones, then we’ll say no more on the subject.

Q: What do you call a person who hangs about with musicians? A: The drummer.
Q: What does a drummer use for contraception? A: His personality!
Q. Why do people say drummers are stupid? A. Because they’re cymbal minded.

So unkind…

But don’t get me started on guitarists! Well maybe just one — Q: What do you do if an electric guitarist is drowning? A: Throw him his amp! Ahh… That feels better!

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Now to be a musician all this time, especially a drummer, really is an act of faith. Faith? Why… faith? Well how about ‘devotion’ which is a synonym for faith along with ‘commitment’ and ‘piety’? Yes that’s me; committed, pious, and devoted to the cause of banging; as we drummers say, there’s nothing like a good bang! Boom-boom. Have faith.

It’s been said the universe, as we think we know it, began with the Big Bang… Ah bliss! If you’re inclined in your personal faith towards thoughts of a Supreme Being, you might like to consider that perhaps God was a drummer. It makes sense to me, but of course I’m biased.

James Craib performing.
James Craib performing.

The Supreme Being for most drummers was a man called Buddy Rich, who passed away in 1987 at age 69. Buddy, besides having a prodigious talent, was notorious for having a short temper and a gigantic ego. It was Buddy’s (God given?) talent, mercurial attitude, and imposing personality that made him such a byword in music, especially big band jazz. Indeed his devotion to jazz was such that, prior to his death from a brain tumour, a nurse asked him during medical therapy whether he was allergic to anything. Buddy allegedly replied, “Yes, country and western music.” Clearly Buddy had a Rich faith. Boom-boom! Buddy thought he was God!

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Here’s another little story that drummers amuse each other with: An amateur drummer expired and went to heaven. He was waiting patiently outside the pearly gates; still practising his rudiments, when he heard the most unbelievably wild, complex and compelling drum solo emanating from within. Indeed the greatest drum solo he had ever heard! Straightaway, he thought he recognized the playing and rushed to ask St. Peter if that was Buddy Rich playing drums inside the gates. St. Peter blushed and replied: “No, that’s just God. He thinks he’s Buddy Rich.”

But then Buddy may not have been a god, maybe… a saint? Or perhaps he was just a dog which, incidentally, is an anagram of God. I think might have the answer… (Drum roll please!) Buddy’s real first name was Bernard and so he is now remembered as St. Bernard! (Not really.)

Nowadays these huge dogs are well known in Switzerland in the high mountain regions as rescue dogs for stranded travellers. Oh dear are you feeling a little stranded also? Perhaps you’re looking for some sort of symbol on high? I put it to you, my little acolytes, that what you’re actually looking for is a high cymbal or more specifically — a hi-hat.

For the uninitiated, a hi-hat is a combination cymbal and stand used in the standard drum kit by percussionists playing popular music. It consists of a mating pair of small cymbals mounted atop one-another on a stand — sounds positively carnal, doesn’t it?

The bottom cymbal is immobile whilst the top is activated up and down by means of a foot pedal, often spring loaded. Reading from the Holy Scripture — Modern Drummer magazine — Phil Collins, another devotee, once read that Buddy had indicated that after the snare drum, the hi-hat was his most favourite part of the drum kit. In response, Phil immediately abandoned using two bass drums and devoted more time to utilising the hi-hat. Presumably, it became his ‘fave’ too.

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What on Earth has all this to do with faith? Just what am I banging on about? Well brethren that’s simple… or cymbal if you will. To have a fave Hi-Hat is to Have Faith! (Boom-boom, crash of simple, symbol, cymbals!) Here endeth the lesson…

Do you have any musical talents? What genre of music are you most interested in?

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