My first drumming influence was a gentleman by the name of John Worthington. He recently passed away early last week at the age of 74. "Big Dog", as he was affectionately known, coordinated the drum and percussion program for the Regina Lions Band in Regina, Saskatchewan during the 1980s and early 90s. He was also very active in the community, coordinating the local Shriner's WaWa Drum & Bugle Corps. It was John that first introduced me to the world of drums almost 30 years ago at a band open house when I was 9 years old.
John ran a really tight ship and set a very high standard for himself and for all the young drummers under his watch. By the time I met him he had already retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but yet he still ran his drumline like a drill sergeant. Even though we were all very young and green (and often very stupid) there was no way you could pull any stunts or pull the wool over his eyes. If he thought you were BS'ing he wouldn't hesitate in calling you out. And let me tell you, when he called you out...you knew it!
However, the work ethic and sense of pride that he instilled in his drummers showed. For many years the Regina Lions Band produced many of the best drumlines in Canada. I still try to carry and pass along that same sense of ownership and discipline in my own playing and teaching that he passed along to me. Some of my best memories as a drummer include playing in those drumlines, the Saturday afternoon rehearsals in the old Band Hall on Dewdney Avenue and warming up in stadium parking lots, lined up, preparing for battle.
John was also the first person to introduce me to the world of rudimental drumming, something I'll forever be grateful for. He was the one who first showed me important snare solos such as The Three Camps, The Downfall of Paris, The Connecticut Halftime and Crazy Army, and also told us the stories and history behind these pieces. I remember, from a very young age, John explaining to us that as drummers, we were all part of a very exclusive fraternity and that if we chose to be a part of this, that the expectations were high. There were no free passes. If you were prepared to do the work, you were in.
I hadn't spoken to John in a number of years but I think of him often, especially now that I'm trying to pass along the same passion for playing the drums and dealing with the rudiments to my own students.
Thank you Big Dog.