My favourite drummer when I was growing up was Chad Cromwell, as my dad listened to Mark Knopfler more than any other artist. My mum didn't drive back then, and if ever we went somewhere in the car, Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler or Chris Rea/Eric Clapton/Steely Dan (in that order) would inevitably be playing. Anyway, I'm told by my mum that I had a tendency to hit and tap things when I was extremely young, so my parents decided to buy me a 'play kit'. I can remember that the drums were yellow with blue zig-zags and red rims, and the stool and plastic drumsticks were red. It was made by a company called 'Chad Valley,' which I believe was part of Woolworth's? Anyways, I got this 'kit' at around the age of 4. To my parents' surprise, I could actually play it properly, as opposed to randomly hitting it (or so I'm told). Of course, being so young, I soon smashed through the skins, so after receiving (and subsequently breaking) a second Chad Valley kit, I started asking my parents for a 'proper' drum kit. This would soon arrive in the form of an 'Adam Percussion' junior sized kit.
I can remember falling in love with it. It was in the lead-up to Christmas and I was out shopping with my parents in Eltham. We walked past a shop called Normans Music, which is still there today, and I saw a drum kit in the window. After some arm pulling, we went into the shop and enquired about the kit. I remember standing there, gazing at it for a while, and my dad must've been off talking to the person in the shop without me realising. The kit in the window was black, but they also had the kit in red, my favourite colour. After hearing that, I wanted it even more! I could go on describing this for hours, so to round things up, I put the kit on my Christmas list and sent it off to Father Christmas. My dad would wind me up on a regular basis, saying that it was either 'too big to be brought on his sleigh' or 'they've run out of red ones, so you're going to have to have the black one'. Christmas Day came, and as soon as I walked into my living room, no doubt at stupid o'clock in the morning, there in front of me was a massive sheet of wrapping paper, taped to the ceiling and trailing all the way down to the floor. My brothers and I were instructed not to go near it until our presents had been opened, which was an absolute killer! The wait was definitely worth it though, as sure enough, there it was — a shiny new red drum kit. To make it even better, my grandparents bought me an instructional drum book with CD and a set of brushes so I could 'play indoors without upsetting the neighbours'. Of course, I always played with sticks, because why on earth would you want to play drums quietly at such an age?!
My next drum-related memory is when I would regularly wake up on a Saturday morning, put my dad's 'Mark Knopfler Live in London' VHS on and play along. As you can imagine, Saturdays were my dad's lie-in day, so it used to wake him up... Fortunately, he didn't seem to mind too much, as he would come in and say something like "Was that Romeo & Juliet?" Both the drum book & CD, and Chad Cromwell's spectacular DW drum kit taunted me for years, making me wish for a larger drum kit (in other words, one with more toms and cymbals). That aside, I had managed to learn how to read VERY basic drum music and play a variety of 4/4 drum beats with fills, thanks to the book and watching/listening to other drummers.
In the final two years of primary school, I took up piano and guitar lessons, as drums lessons weren't available at that age. Unfortunately, I have always been hopeless at reading and writing sheet music, so piano lessons were rather difficult in that sense. I did, however, manage to learn which keys were which on a piano and learn a few songs on both instruments. While this was good, my passion in music was always to play drums.
Find out about my secondary school and college years here.