Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Rick Van Horn, and I’m thrilled to be joining Beato’s Blog as a contributing writer.
Some regular readers of the blog might be familiar with my name, but others might not, so I thought it would be a good idea to devote my first blog to a bit of background information. I hope that this will help to explain the perspective that I’ll be bringing to my future articles, and perhaps also establish my credibility as a writer and an observer of the music & entertainment scene.
First and foremost I’m a drummer. I’ve been one since the age of four (although admittedly between four and seven it was wanna-be drumming on pots and pans). I took lessons from seven to eleven, joined my first band at twelve, and got paid to play for the first time at thirteen. I’ve considered myself a professional drummer ever since.
Over the years I’ve played every conceivable style of music, and in bands of every possible description. I’ve played one-off casuals (or “club dates”); I’ve been in house bands (when those still existed); and I’ve toured with acts traveling from gig to gig in vans. I’ve schlepped my gear through thousands of kitchens to play weddings, and up thousands of stairs to play in second-floor nightclubs. Name a stereotypical drumming experience, and I’ve had it.
Today I’m fortunate enough to be touring at the national level. I’m anchoring the band behind 1960s singing icons Jay and The Americans. Since most of our shows are away from home I’m mainly using backline drumkits provided by the promoters. But I always take one gear bag with me—through airports, in the pickup limos, and still up those damn stairs half the time. When we play in our home area—which is anywhere within 300 miles of New York City—I drive to the gig in my own truck, and I set up my own kit. (Yes, it’s a major act; no, I don’t have a drum tech.)
Another side of my life has been devoted to writing. I enjoy the process of putting my thoughts down on paper (or, these days, on screen). I also admit to a certain amount of ego-fulfillment that writing provides. I had a poem published in a school magazine when I was in the fourth grade, and I’ve been hooked on seeing my name in print ever since. I was on the staff of my high school newspaper, and I did a fair amount of creative as well as academic writing while in college.
Speaking of college, that was where I delved into the third side of my life. My mother had pleaded with me to major in a solid and reliable subject that I could fall back on if my drumming career didn’t pan out. So what did I choose?
I started out as an acting major. But although I had some performing skills, I frankly didn’t have the necessary physical attributes. (I wasn’t going to be the next Robert Redford.) So I gravitated toward the technical side, ultimately majoring in set and lighting design. Following graduation I worked in a variety of freelance design situations, including at the National Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
In 1979 I was able to combine all three sides of my life into one amazing career. That was the year that I first submitted some articles to a then-fledgling magazine called Modern Drummer. They had big-name drummers like Hal Blaine, Ed Shaughnessy, and Carmine Appice writing columns about studio, big-band, and rock drumming. But they didn’t have anybody writing about what I call “blue-collar” drumming: playing clubs and casuals on the local level. Since that’s what I was doing, that’s what my articles were about.
Modern Drummer accepted my articles and invited me to submit more. I did, and this led to the creation of a long-running monthly column called “Club Scene.” And, after three years of being a columnist, I was invited to join the magazine’s staff full-time. I came on board in November of 1983 as managing editor, and later advanced to the position of senior editor—a post I held until I left the magazine in February of 2008, some twenty-four years later.
My work at Modern Drummer gave me the opportunity to become acquainted with many of the world’s top drumming artists. I was also able to go “inside” virtually every drum, cymbal, percussion, drumstick, and drumhead factory on the face of the planet. I got to test thousands of new gear items—often on the local gigs that I continued to play throughout my MD career. And I even got the chance to employ my theatrical side—as production coordinator (and emcee) of the legendary Modern Drummer Festivals.
Today, in addition to my drumming with Jay and The Americans, I still play locally in clubs near my home. As a writer, I work as a freelance publicist and journalist. My articles are published in a variety of drumming magazines across the globe, and I do promotional work for several major companies in the percussion industry. And I’m still designing sets—currently for high school plays and musicals in my area.
I’ve had a tremendously varied and rewarding career, and I’m thrilled to say that it isn’t over yet. I’d like to think that the experiences and education I’ve gained from that career give me a unique perspective on life in general—and on the entertainment scene in particular. I hope to bring that perspective to the pieces I write for Beato’s Blog. And, of course, I hope that you find those pieces informative and entertaining.
So, till next time: Thanks for reading!
Rick Van Horn