Ginger Baker: 10/23/1989

GingerBaker

While rummaging through my piles of stubs this morning, I came upon this one, which has a great story associated with it. For those of you who do not know who Ginger Baker is, he was most famous for being the drummer for Cream and Blind Faith, but he also played in other bands.

OK, now for the story.

During this time, I was in a couple bands and playing a lot of music, hence I had a lot of musician friends. One of my band mates, Greg, was a huge Eric Clapton and Cream fan, so he found out about this drum clinic where Ginger Baker would be performing. He and I, along with a few of our musician friends that included Big Ed and Bongo Bob, got tickets to attend. Big Ed and Bongo Bob were in a band together called the Pranksters, inspired by Ken Kesey’s merry band of freaks. Ed, who sadly passed away too young, was about 500 pounds and Bob loved to wear a suede jacket with fringes (in Florida) while channeling his inner Roger Daltrey.

We arrived at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Florida and all I could think of was “Oh, how far the mighty hath fallen!” I half expected the sign in front of the school to display “Puppet Show and Ginger Baker.” It was kind of sad to see that one of rock’s legendary drummers was reduced to playing by himself in a high school auditorium.

If you’ve heard stories about Mr. Baker, I can attest that they are accurate. He was kind of a curmudgeon, and he definitely suffered the effects of living the hard rock and roll life. He banged around on a blue Ludwig drum kit, and in between would tell garbled stories in a way that made Ozzy Osbourne sound eloquent. Then the floor was opened up for questions. Ginger seemed to have a difficult time understanding what was being asked. At one point, someone asked a question, which somehow reworded itself in his brain to a criticism about his drug use (the question had nothing to do with drugs). He started ranting about how people just won’t leave him alone about drugs, and blah blah blah. The poor person who asked the question went and sat down, dejected.

Finally, we all got to line up and meet Ginger and get autographs. People were getting records, drum heads, and such memorabilia signed. I lacked the foresight to bring one of my Cream albums along, but I did get him to sign the ticket stub, as you can see from the image.

When my friend Greg got up there, I could see how awestruck he was, meeting one of his musical idols. And hey, I understand. Meeting someone who has inspired you is a huge deal. But I was unprepared for what I would discover at our next band rehearsal.

The band I was in at the time with Greg, The DV8’s, would practice in Greg’s garage. I arrived for practice, guitar case in hand, and was greeted by a beaming Greg. “Look what I got!” he exclaimed as he pointed to the corner. There stood a new blue Ludwig drum kit. He was unable to resist the temptation to purchase the drum kit that Ginger Baker played on at the world famous McArthur High School. Every time after that when we would rehearse, when I looked at the drum set, I would get the image of Ginger Baker, sitting by himself, at the front of a high school auditorium.

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