I went through my early teenage years yearning to be a musician. When I was still a pre-teen, my older brother Tom had learned how to play guitar. The two of us talked many times about music back then. I would watch and listen as he taught himself the basics of guitar, and I told him I wanted to play as well. He suggested that I learn to play drums, then we could jam together. This idea excited me and I convinced my parents that I should take lessons.
I started drum lessons in the 1960’s, with lessons being taught in an old building on Queen Street in downtown Kitchener. I would walk through large wooden front doors of the building and climbed a wide staircase up to the second floor. Just off the staircase were several rooms with dark wooden doors. Through the door was a large room with a tall ceiling. All through the room, there were many drum sets in various stages of completion. A snare drum here, a cymbal there, a bass drum over there, etc. In the center of the room was a practice snare and a music stand. My teacher was a teenager by the name of Chris Woroch, who was the drummer of a local Kitchener band called “Rain”. At the time, they had recorded an album, which impressed me to no end. From the album, they had released a single called “Out Of My Mind”. The female singer in the band was named Phyllis, who later adopted the stage name “Charity Brown”.
Chris taught me everything I needed to know about drums and how to play. I enjoyed my lessons, practicing was a pleasure, and drums came naturally and easily for me. I would read my drum instruction book, pick up on the patterns, and just play them. This fact drove my step father nuts. With the notion that he was paying for my lessons, he heard me practicing in the basement several times, stormed down the basement stairs and complained that I wasn’t actually studying my lessons, but just fooling around, banging the heck out of my drum kit. I had my lesson book open, and showed him what I was suppose to be playing, then showed him that I could play it without too much trouble. He was mad because I wasn’t struggling enough, I guess.
I advanced through my lessons each week until the night when Chris heard what I could play, then looked at my lesson book, and said to me, “Well, there isn’t anything else I can teach you. If you want to learn more, you will have to take lessons from my teacher Gary Tomlin.”
At this very same time, my brother Tom passed away, which left me in a terrible spot. I lost my biggest influence, and lost my confidence, all at the same time. Tom’s absence was to be a real turning point in my life.
I followed Chris’ advice and started taking advanced lessons from Gary Tomlin. Getting to his home studio was a chore for me. Chris’ easy going attitude and gentle nature was replaced with Tomlin’s no nonsense stiff approach. Now, with the loss of my big brother nagging me, my drum lessons lost their meaning. Sadly, I dropped my drum lessons and gave up.
About a year passed when I started feeling the urge to play music again. At first, I thought I might try playing guitar. Using Tom’s old guitar, I started taking a few lessons, immediately realizing I didn’t like it. I knew that this wasn’t the instrument for me. A few months later, while watching a local garage band practicing, the sound of the bass guitar filled my ears. I knew then what instrument I was destined to play.
Tim Sykes playing his drum set, back in 1967.