Anyone who witnessed The Beatles’ global impact can easily see why millions of teenagers wanted to emulate them. Their caliber of musical talent and performance was so stratospheric that they remain unsurpassed in the last 50 years as the top selling group! As a drummer, I’m astonished by Ringo’s phenomenal drumming talent, which has been undervalued in the press and industry. And, by the way, he has lived here in Malibu on Pt. Dume appreciating the rhythm of the sea.
As a teenager, I became enamored with playing the drums and joined my buddy Brian Goff, who was infatuated with playing the guitar. Our would-be "better than the Beatles" 1970’s rock group named "Pink" took shape in the Malibu Colony. With our unbridled, flaming drive and a little help from Brian’s father, creator of "Charlie’s Angels," doors opened in our venture to hit the big time as we rubbed elbows with many of the world’s top musicians. Brian lived with Elton John and Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist for Deep Purple in England, took lessons from world-renowned jazz guitarist, Joe Pass, and received an original, acoustic guitar belonging to Elvis Presley.
I was a friend of Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham, “Bonzo,” and hung out with him backstage and on stage while they performed. I set up his drums at the Forum and was with him at the Hyatt sharing stories, like the time he was playing a drum solo with his bare hands. After badly cutting his left hand on the hi-hat cymbals, he played his heart out in front of all those thousands of fans with blood all over his drums. He laughed about that as well as being a perfectionist. He gave me several pairs of his big 5B sticks, which his roadies called "clubs." In 2016, Rolling Stone Magazine’s worldwide poll of the top 100 drummers of all time, Bonzo was named Number 1.
Legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich gave me a pair of his 7A “toothpick” sticks that he had just performed with in a concert. I sat 5 feet from him and during a very high paced beat, one of his sticks cracked in half. Without even looking, he grabbed a new stick, but didn’t just grab it, he twirled it in the air without even looking and caught it in perfect timing to continue playing! He laughed as he shared with me the poem he had just written on the wall in the men’s room: “Roses are reddish, and violets are blueish, but the world’s greatest drummer just happens to be Jewish!”
I met Jimi Hendrix’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, performing in his group Ramatam. Brian and I saw Hendrix at the Forum, the last concert he did in L.A. He utterly mesmerized the entire audience with his magnetic charisma. He was so much in a league of his own that in many ways, he redefined what rock music was, including new ways to play the guitar. He autographed his albums and photos with “Stay Happy.”
Mitch shook my hand and said in his strong English accent, “Great to meet you mate!” I told him I was collecting drumsticks from my drummer idols and asked him if I could have a pair of his. He said, “Sure, but not a new pair,” and he handed me a broken pair. I had a rare collection of sticks and a handwritten letter from John Bonham that I received before meeting him in person.
Indulging my love of playing the drums, I created another group in Malibu with Chad McQueen on guitar. His father was Steve McQueen, starring in blockbusters like “Thomas Crown Affair.” I was frequently at their home on Broad Beach where we had deep conversations about life and death. Eerily, Steve died within 2 years at 51. We would go next door and knock on Keith Moon’s door, drummer for The Who. One time a lady opened the door and said, “Come on in! Keith’s in that room watching a movie and would love to see you guys.” They offered us drinks and treated us like special guests. We would occasionally meet up at Trancas Restaurant in Malibu where rock groups used to perform.
I met Ginger Baker, drummer for “Cream” with Eric Clapton, at Trancas. Ginger was quite mean. A woman who was in his entourage told me with a smile, “He’s like that to everyone.”
Brian and I sat in on recordings with Eric Clapton at Shangri La studio on Morning View near Malibu High. We marveled at being in a recording session with one of music’s greatest legends.
Each celebrity, Bonzo, Keith Moon, Hendrix, Prince, Whitney Houston, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty, in their own way, has touched a chord in me and I, in turn, am now beating another drum as well. I have two organizations, HeartAscent Group Sharing and PsyberCeuticals System, created for the purpose of empowering a Chord of Connection in all of us wanting the peace and unity so needed now.
I’ve invited Beyoncé, Jay Z, Paul McCartney, Rick Rubin, Tom Petty’s wife Dana, Jan Koum, (creator of WhatsApp), Princess Kate Middleton, Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen to join me in this effort. If you are so moved, will you join me too? For a recording of me playing drums to “Man in the Mirror,” email Speedy317@yahoo.com.
Look for more Mr. Malibu stories in the next issue of Malibu Coast Lifestyle Magazine. Cary ONeal’s high-profile events and celebrity interviews reach over 22 million on television, 500,000 via social media and nearly 4 million on YouTube. Visit MrMalibu.net for more.