I was born in Oakland, CA in the middle of WW 2 1944. I saw Lionel Hampton's band at age 5. I was imprinted watching Gene Krupa play the drums and feeling the beat. We lived at 714 Center Street in the projects in Oakland, CA. My father worked at Moore's Dry Dock. He also did work after working at the dry dock every day. He was a guy with initiative. Work. Talking. Gone. But, he always came home. He took us to see Hamp in San Francisco. We sat in the first row in the balcony. That's where I saw Gene Krupa. I heard and saw Hamp play Flyin' Home.
I am a autodidactic musician. It all began when my father brought in a AM radio home. Boogie woogie, blues and, of course, Gospel (from having to go to church every Sunday) was heard. My mother took care of my sister, Jacqui, and me. She taught me prayers, and how to read and write. By 4 years of age reading made sense.
One day, my father brought a phonograph to the apartment. Ravel's Bolero was in an album comprised of about 6 78 records. I listened to that almost every day for months. Loved it, really. Mahalia Jackson. Later my father had a piano delivered to the apartment. I liked playing on it. I could somehow bang out a melody on it based on what I heard on the radio. My dad was always amazed I could do that by ear.
My family moved to Venice, CA around 1951. Violence in the projects motivated him to live somewhere else. Racism was palpable everywhere. My dad started his business in Santa Monica, polishing cars. After being a fairly poor student and was sort of on my way to juvenile delinquency as a petty thief. Stealing hubcaps and sneaking a cigarette to smoke was about as far as I wanted to go in the criminal activity. But, I never stole any. However, I started playing drums during my second year at Mark Twain Jurnior High School. I'd been a problem in many classes. My grade were like, "B" "U" "U" in subjects I liked and "D" "U" "U" in those I didn't. The grade in the second position was for "cooperation" and the grade in the last position was "citizenship".
Music truly transfored me. The "D's" went to "A's" and "B's". The other ones got better, too. Later, 1959 or so I attended Santa Monica High School. I was in the choir, marching band, orchestra and pep band. Also, I did marching band at Santa Monica City College. In both high school at junior college, I was aquainted with or friends with guys like John Densmore, one of Carmen Dragon's sons (Dennis Dragon, I think) Barnard St. Clair Lee, Tim Weisberg and others. But, bad grades resulted in a loss of my draft deferment.