Drummer passes on his musical legacy
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 08:38 am
An accomplished Turner Valley drummer’s legacy will live on, even when he puts his drumsticks down for good.
After playing the drums with some of the biggest stars in country music, Sam Taylor is passing his knowledge by teaching his techniques to eager young drummers in the foothills.
“I started to notice my students play the way I feel and the way I play,” he said. “One day I will pass away and my 35 years of music isn’t going to go to waste because it’s now flowing to these children. My style and my soul of music is going to live on in these kids.”
Taylor’s successful music career began through a series of unexpected circumstances.
Taylor was encouraged by his Grade 6 music teacher to play drums and by the time he was a teenager he was playing rock music at weddings and dances, through connections with a neighbour and his high school teacher.
At the age of 17, Taylor was invited to join country musician Jerry Warren in a five-piece heavy southern rock band in Niagara Falls, which they named Stoney Creek.
“I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to play drums,” he said. “To me it was just fun.”
In 1981, Taylor moved with Warren’s brother Lee, a country music singer, and his family to the small town of Alix, near Red Deer to join their son Rob, who performed occasionally with the legendary country singer Dick Damron.
“We all went to this jam in Red Deer and Dick just jumped on the stage with us and started playing his harmonica,” said Taylor. “He asked us after that set to be his band.”
They did and for 20 years Dick Damron and the Stoney Creek Band toured the world, riding in limos, walking red carpets and staying in five star suites with everything paid for, including the alcohol.
“We were true gypsies,” said Taylor. “There was no other path for us to be on than the road our whole lives, living out of suitcases.”
Dick Damron and the Stoney Creek Band were living large.
“When I was working with Dick and we were doing these huge shows it didn’t dawn on me at that age that we were stars,” he said. “As you get older you realize that you were a part of that big thing, but at that time I just couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to play music.”
While some people consider the life of a musician as one big party, Taylor said there were sacrifices.
One 90-minute performance meant hours spent on buses, in vans and on airplanes and away from families.
“People would think we had the life but it wasn’t all parties and champagne,” he said.
As the band’s members grew older, Dam Dameron and the Stony Creek Band retired about 10 years ago and Taylor became a freelance drummer.
“I’ve worked with just about every major Canadian artist there is,” he said, listing off Joan Kennedy, Charley Pride, Julian Austin, Michelle Wright, Beverley Mahood and Patricia Conway.
In his 40s, Taylor wasn’t ready to retire and formed the band Tacoma with three other side musicians to back recording artists. They released a single Tangled Up in 2013, which was a top 100 Canadian country songs for nine weeks.
After years of traveling the world, Taylor is now taking it easy. He moved to Turner Valley two years ago and loves the laid-back lifestyle.
“Thirty-five years is starting to take a toll on the body,” he said. “I’m enjoying living in the country right now.”
Not quite ready to retire, Taylor is filling up his free time with drum lessons in his home studio. He teaches his students through leading by example.
“They just do what I do and they learn twice as fast,” he said. “I had some students that had taken a year of lessons at a music store and a year being with me they were almost as good as me. When a child gets a drum lick, especially a hard drum lick, and their face lights up it just warms my heart.”