I was born September 25th, 1951 on a Army military base in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Best known as a military prison I can only imagine that I arrived there because I was conceived on Mt. FUJI in Japan nine months earlier and both my parents being Army personal were busted during the act of making me! The remainder of my youth was spent living the life of an Army brat, moving every few years to a new military base or civilian housing as my father continued his ascent up the ranks to become Colonel Burleigh Brammer Drummond, eventually becoming head of Ordinance for the Army and the best speech writer and orator I have ever witnessed. Brilliant he was. My mother was an Army nurse during WWII and remained a civilian nurse for the rest of her career-possibly with the biggest heart ever created. Up and down the East Coast of United States we traveled for years until the big news arrived that we were moving to Ankara, Turkey. Where? Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a Navy destroyer, encountering a storm mid-ocean that spun the boat 180 degrees, dreaming that THE BLOB lived somewhere on the boat and was trying to get me. Those were the things that occupied me on my trip.
Life in Turkey changed my perspective of the world and taught me lessons, lessons I still relate to today. My playmates were local Turkish kids and other military children but what impressed me was the ability of children to communicate, share, and play together without sharing a common language, operating on perhaps a higher wavelength. If music is a language then it is definitely on a higher plane, expressing emotions and thoughts that defy vocabulary to limit them. One incident in Ankara had more that a profound effect upon my future and me. One day when I was eight or nine I went to the Bazaar with my mother and during our shopping we somehow separated and I found myself wandering among the tents and finally stumbled into one where six or so craftsmen sat in a circle spinning and hand hammering a huge copper serving plate. Their synchronicity and skill were intoxicating to me and I fell into their blissful rhythmic spell, missing for several hours. That was it! Percussion! It took a few more years to work it out, to manifest what I had ingested and to announce my interest in percussion, but the Journey had begun.
Eventually returning to the States I began my Catholic education In Altadena- moving to Our Lady of The Assumption In Claremont where I began my first drum studies and witnessed the dissolve of my parents marriage. Life was changing. First bands, first kisses, first base hit, first and last day as an altar boy when I lit the lad in front of me on fire as I was nodding out. Some good stuff, some not so good. Because I was living with my Mother now on week-ends my father's driver Jack would come to fetch me to go and visit my father. Jack became my teacher on those long rides from Claremont to Pasadena playing one Jazz great after another, explaining the history and who's who and why. I still remember my first hearing of Elvin Jones on the drums with the Coltrane group. I was instantly back in the Bazaar of Ankara, lost in Elvin's polyrhythmic swirl of patterns and color, propulsion and release. Funny how you don't always know where your education is going to come from, it comes from everywhere and all the time. Although my drumming may not remind anyone of Elvin Jones he was probably my greatest influence. Leaving Claremont for Los Angeles I was set to attend Loyola all boy Catholic High School for four years of Latin and two years of Homeric Greek. It sounds a bit stiff but I am thankful every day for having attended that school. Although not at the top of my class I did very well when I made the effort. My problem was music kept getting in the way, it literally obsessed me. Today institutions make a study of popular/commercial music but for me growing up you did it on your own, usually at the expense of something else, like math or science. We are what we are. Made some great friends in High School and even ended sharing tours later in my life with old classmates like Billy Hinsche of The Beach Boys and recording old friends like Nick Sanelli. Of course at Loyola the only music we could do was putting music groups together for the theatre department, pep rallies, dances, talent shows, and the like.
In 1969 I began studying music at UCLA and the world opened up for me. First of all there were girls, everywhere. I threw my neck out a few times but after I settled down I discovered something amazing in the basement of Schoernberg Hall. Ethnomusicology! All these cultures from all over the world each with their own musical heritage, techniques, vocabulary, an endless source of inspiration. By day I was the big band Jazz drummer/ classical tympanist studying my counterpoint and theory but at night I was a raging Ghanian drummer learning African ensemble pieces with Quasi Badu, a true African master drummer from Ghana. African, Persian, music from Java and Bali, I couldn't get enough and I was in heaven. Later I studied briefly with the great Allah Rocka! One day at school another student was practicing this simple drop-release technique on a drumpad and upon inquiry he revealed the source: Freddie Gruber. That for me was the beginning of learning the art of playing a drumset, of dancing upon a drumset, of listening and absorbing feel and how to manifest that feel within my own body and portray that through drumming. It's hard to put into words what it is that Freddie taught but because of him I was able to eventually have a career as a musician, and with my wife Mary, support a family and put our kids through school. Thank you Freddie Gruber! You would be amazed at all the great drummers that carry some of Freddie in them. During my last year at UCLA I was approached by three likeable guys Chris-Joe-and Dave, asking if I would like check out their new group. I did and the first song we played lasted a good hour and a half. Ambrosia was born.
Towards the end of my time at UCLA I was introduced to Ruth and Ian Underwood and this led to a dream come true. All of a sudden I was rehearsing with Frank Zappa in Hollywood with a group of all star musicians, Jean Luc Ponty, the Underwoods, the Fowler Brothers, George Duke. It was insane and I was so overwhelmed with the music and trying to read Frank's charts that I literally forgot that I was still attending college. Well, I did get the education I wanted but still have never gone back to formally finish my studies although it still crosses my mind. In spite of the awesome depth of Frank's music though Ambrosia won my heart and the quartet soon settled down into becoming a serious band, but with each character in the band manifesting a different background as fertile as mine the breadth of our music covered a huge palette. Within three years of concerts at Free Clinics (punch spiked with acid), dance clubs, and you name it we found ourselves recording our first album for Twentieth Century Fox Records for the great Russ Regan. The history of Ambrosia has been well documented having our first heyday between 1974-1982. Then we took a break and each went our own way for a while and I feel my life truly began. I met my wife to be Mary Harris.
Mary and I have been married now for 31 years. She has been my best friend, my lover, my musical partner, and my soulmate and I cannot imagine living without her. We have two amazing children: Burleigh McDowall Drummond , 27, the new improved model on drums and so many talents that amaze me. He also is carrying the torch for Ethnomusicology as he works on his Master's degree at SOAS in London, and our daughter Sierra Rose Drummond ,18, who is a singer/guitarist/pianist/songwriter and is the single nicest most caring person I have ever known. She has recently begun her studies at USC. I can't wait to see how their lives unfold. As for Mary and I, we have recorded three albums of our own under the name TIN DRUM, and slowly our children became a part of the act making appearances both live and on record. Here's to the Family Band. Mary has now become a member of Ambrosia although she has really been there acting in many different roles for nearly 18 years. So, I guess I get my cake and……….
What's exciting now is the future and the energy and passion in Ambrosia is once again going full steam and ready to roar, with new recording and touring.
As for me, the Journey has never stopped or even waned, and the credits I owe and the debts to teachers and fellow musicians who have inspired me and showed me the way can never be repaid in full. After a long time bathing in the art of music I realize I am still barely past the starting line and the wealth of knowledge, experience, and emotions to be experienced is endless and will take many many lifetimes to do so. AND I CAN'T WAIT!
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