This article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
From a musical standpoint, Louisville is a do-it-yourself place. You want, you make. It has always been so liberating to live in a place virtually free from a cultural pull. We aren’t Northerners, aren’t Southerners. We’re west of East, east of West. We are Louisville, and we define what that means.
Many of my first memories are steeped in music, and I owe a great deal of that to my grandmother, Joni Brohm. During the first years of my life, she was a singer in a lounge quartet, and I would hang out in her basement as she and her band ran through the week’s set list. The feeling I got from watching them perform was so profound, so invigorating. I knew I was one of them. That basement would later become the best hangout in the world for my brothers and me (sorry, Kacey, 10 years apart means a lot in kid years). She had stacks of 45s, a record player, my first drum kit, a guitar, stage lights - the whole nine yards. By dropping the needle, we were instantly transformed into Queen, Dolly Parton’s band, the Temptations or whoever else we wanted to be that day. It would go on for hours and hours. I’ll never forget hearing the words “I buried Paul” on the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” in that basement, in the dark, and running up the stairs in total horror.
Bruce Morrow, the drummer of my grandmother’s lounge quartet, is still a huge inspiration to me. What a musician! After the quartet broke up, he would sit in with a ragtime band that would play at Redbirds games. I’ll never forget watching him drag metal trashcans up to his kit to incorporate them into his sound. I haven’t seen him play in years, but Bruce Morrow has more fun playing than anyone you’ll ever meet. His kindness gave me the confidence to start playing. But more than anything, he was the guy who handed me my first pair of drumsticks. I’m not sure he knew what he was doing at the time, but my life hasn’t been the same since.
I had always wanted to play drums as a kid, but my dad wanted me to play guitar. For my fifth birthday, wrapped in bright paper, was an acoustic guitar in a case. That might have been the coolest gift ever, just the feeling of seeing it for the first time. I was spellbound. He quickly enrolled me in lessons at Myers Middle School, but it was a class of 25 people, so I lost interest pretty quickly. But the fundamentals stuck with me, and to this day, the guitar is my guiding voice. When I play drums, I don’t see rhythm structures. I play to guitar melodies in my head.