Sometimes a little distance from something can give you a completely different slant on it. There’s a whole lot of distance now, between my 60-year-old self and the summer of 1962.
That was the summer I played drums with The Ventures. Lee Edward Sonny Smith was my next-door neighbor in Memphis, Tenn. Sonny had gotten himself into the classic quandary of so many youngsters back in those days—he had secretly enrolled in the Columbia Record Club.
Not long after Sonny enrolled, the albums started coming. And since it was summer and he had the house to himself, Sonny was the only one who knew it when the mailman delivered album after album. Sonny collected every record album recorded by The Ventures. As Sonny’s best friend, I was there to help him enjoy each album to its fullest. To a couple of 10-year-old boys, enjoying an album to its fullest meant standing in front of a dresser mirror and playing air guitar—or, in my case, air drums—to the entire album, with great abandon and much head bobbing. Years later, that sort of movement became known as head banging, but in 1962, heads only were allowed to bob.
The Ventures album called “Surfing” was my favorite because of a song entitled “Cruncher,” which was almost one long drum solo. I really got to shine on my air drums on “Cruncher.”
But one night, as my parents, with myself in the back seat, pulled into our drive after dark, Sonny’s bedroom window was open, uncurtained, and Sonny was wailing with The Ventures on his air guitar. “What in the world is Sonny doing over there, Ricky?” asked my amused mom.
From a little distance, I was mortified by how silly the whole thing looked. I never played air drums with The Ventures again.
52 years later, from a greater distance, I regret that decision. I miss the uninhibited fun of my Ventures days. Summers are for foolish fun.