My earliest childhood memories involve traveling in a mustard yellow 1975 Dodge van filled with electric guitars and bearded hippies. I’m pretty sure it had an eight track cassette player, and smelled something like patchouli and cloth diapers. This was the glamorous life of being on tour with a rock band in the 1970’s. My dad was the singer in the band, and my mom and I crossed the U.S. in that van with him, watching and singing along each night as he played concerts all across the country.
I was surrounded by music as I woke up each day and I fell asleep each night on the side of the stage with my dad’s voice in my ears. My Mom tells me that from the time I could walk I was singing, banging on pots and pans trying to play along to the beats and melodies around me. At the time it must have seemed like everyone I knew played an instrument, that everyone lived and breathed music like we did. I learned early on that music was powerful, that songs had the ability to speak the language of the human heart. At some point, I realized that music was simply in my blood – it had become part of who I was, part of my very heartbeat.
My dad was a superhero to me. Not the cape-wearing kind, but the kind who wore handmade bell-bottom jeans on stage and rocked the best mustache you’ve ever seen. I loved to sit next to him in the back of the van and listen to him sing and play guitar as we rolled down the highway. There was a certain magic in his ability to write songs out of thin air. His songs were the coolest – to me, there was no better songwriter than him! Now I understand that there was more to his songs than just rock n roll, there was a deeper reason for singing, a powerful motivation for all of us to get in the van. But even then, I knew that my dad cared deeply about the songs he wrote and the people he played them for. There was an intentionality in his music, a passion to communicate hope.
Rock n roll didn’t turn out to be a lifelong career for my dad, even though he has continued to create and play music his whole life. His band made some great records together, lived the ups and downs of life on the road for several years, and then decided to call it quits for the sake of other dreams – including supporting their growing families. As I grew up I continued to love music, playing guitar and drums, but I never dreamed of repeating my dad’s rock n roll lifestyle. Music seemed such an unlikely professional pursuit that I decided early on that I would follow a more conventional path. I went to college with the full intention to become something “respectable” – a doctor, maybe, or a scientist. But during college something happened – music found me. I started playing for fun with my surfing buddies, and somehow it seemed like I couldn’t avoid being in a band, sometimes several different bands at the same time. Music wouldn’t leave me alone, and as much as I tried to ignore it (for the sake of my studies) my love for playing drums kept growing.
Fast forward through a couple decades and a wild, unimaginable ride. I find myself as a full-time musician, a drummer in a rock band, touring the world, and raising a family of my own. It amuses me now to be following in my dad’s footsteps, even to the point of bringing my family on tour with me. We’ve had some adventures I could never have dreamed up – like the time I packed up my wife and newborn son and toured up the East Coast in Winter in a compact car with a broken heater. We drove long nights through the snow to get to the next gig, just to be together. Sure, there were the practical challenges of changing diapers on the dirty floor of a rock club bathroom, and then later the uncomfortable difficulties of teaching a toddler to use a backstage porta-potty, at an outdoor music festival, in the dark, without a flashlight. But there were also moments of seeing the beauty of the world together, sharing the small quiet minutes of conversation in between the flurry of activity on a world tour. We have lived the adventure of seeing new places, meeting new people, being part of this traveling circus together.
The band Journey sang “the road ain’t no place to start a family”. And I would agree that life on the road is most definitely an unusual upbringing for a kid, but those experiences touring together were foundational to my worldview and planted a seed of wonder and purpose that I still feel today. This is my musical bloodline, this is the heritage that I bring to my kids, this is my family’s adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
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