Pro Drum Shop

There’s a good piece by Alison Martino in Los Angeles magazine–The Beat Goes On at “Wrecking Crew” Hangout Pro Drum Shop–and it got me to reminiscing. About how I used to drop in the Pro Drum Shop regularly, whenever I needed sticks or I broke something. Loved the place. Used to almost feel like a real drummer buying parts in there. I remember the time I said I needed a new drum stool. I got the stare. You need a new throne, he said. I said yeah, a throne. It was a great throne, pneumatic even, at a great price, even though I was an idiot. Maybe there was an idiot’s discount. I remember too they had one of Gene Krupa’s old kits outside hanging over the door for years. Well, that was the story. I chose to believe it. It fit too perfectly, viper Krupa’s drum kit hanging there, high above the ground, in the middle of Hollywood. And that was sacred ground there for drummers. You walk in where Art Blakey walked in, Buddy Rich sauntered in, and Billy Higgins, and Ray McKinley, and Max Roach and Elvin Jones and Mitch Mitchell and Willie Bobo, all of them. I used to think that my hero Davey Tough, epileptic as I am, walked in there too, but no, he was gone already before they opened their doors. But at the time I thought so, and that’s what counts. You’d see major players every time you were in there. Famous cats, session cats, cats I’d never heard of but they’d whisper about behind the counter. Serious cats. It was drum heaven, though an Olympian sort of heaven, full of heroes and legends. It still is, though I don’t play drums anymore. I’m an interloper there now, a spectator. No reason to go there at all. Yet even now when I go to the Union Hall for one of the big jazz bashes I’ll usually walk across the street when the booze hits me and step on in. It hasn’t changed an iota. I’ll wander about the confined quarters looking at the drums, the new ones, the ancient ones. The congas and timbales. The weird looking lopsided kit like something out of the Jetsons. The snares and high hats and gorgeous cymbals. I’ll run my fingers across the rides and crashes and feel the scalloped metal and wonder about the secret formula that makes them sing so, and if they made cymbals like this when Turkey was the Hittite Empire, if cymbals are that old, and if drumming is the world’s oldest profession. Well, second oldest. And then there’s the sticks. So many kinds of sticks. I’ll reach in and pick up a pair and paradiddle the air like an idiot again. Then I’ll put them back, and I’ll sigh, and ask myself why I ever decided to be a writer instead.

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