In the 60's

I was born in a one room hospital in Afton, Wyoming, in a beautiful rugged mountain valley just south of Jackson Hole.  My dad led the high school band and by year two his band was top at state.  He was then recruited to Ogden, Utah to lead Ben Loman High's band.  In two years his Ben Loman band became top at state, too.  Utah State recruited Dad next.  A full Professor of music composition, jazz band instructor, music harmony and theory instructor, Dad's jazz history class was the most attended general ed class on campus for decades.  Attempted enrollment per semester was in the thousands.  Dad retired in 2003.  He gigs on flute, saxophone, and piano.  Dad spends a lot of time scoring and arranging for shows.  He started an 18 piece big band he named, “Kicks”, a play on just-for-kicks and horn-kicks.  Kicks' spirited well attended concerts have been a great outlet for friends he's known much of his life as well as young players coming up.  I got to go out and sight read a rehearsal and show with Kicks in May of 2006.  And have been called out since to play in many 1940's variety shows with them. They're fantastic. Playing with them back in 2006 was revelation. The feeling of power that a drummer can experience in a big band is something I should never have let go of.  Through Dad's friend in his band I had the great fortune of being welcomed into Fred Radke's North Seattle Community College Big Band, which lead to gigs with his son, and also getting to play with his University of Washington big band as a walk-on sub.

Mom’s 1959 Miss Idaho title led to her winning most talented musician in the Miss America Pageant.  She lead school theatrical productions, ran an occasional charm school, and gigged on bass with Dad and me in his 1000+ song list quartet Sounds Unlimited from 1972 through 1979.  At age 43 she went back to school and graduated Suma Cum Laude in Psychology.  She became renowned in the treatment of Alzheimer patients using music therapy.  She was praised, visited, and put on conferences with the likes of Oliver Sacks of “Awakenings” fame.  Johnson & Johnson rewarded her with grants that she used to improve her program.  She traveled all over the US, Asia, and Europe training and lecturing at conferences and performing on-site consulting at Altzeimer’s clinics.  

My sister is a jazz singer and clarinetist and is raising a huge, intellectually and artistically stimulated family.  I got to play with her at the above mentioned Kicks concert in ‘06.  She is also a great wit and wonderful writer.

Both of my brothers are pro drummers.  My youngest brother plays in New York in various projects.   He’s the family genius, and of us drummer boys, the most crazy about drumming and maintaining our family's musical legacy, and is a good singer.    The other brother is also a pro-singer and made a small fortune fronting the Aphrodisiacs from Chicago, and had a record deal during the dying gasps of the heavy metal era with Calamity Jane.  He has one son. They also live in New York City where he makes music. He also travels the world as a wine buyer. He's an avid fly fisherman and a naturalist photographer.

Terminally shy.  Terrified to ask questions in school.  Constantly sent for testing for deafness.  Was fine!  Often in the 3 lowest scoring kids in my class. 

Parents tried to get me to come out of my shell by starting me on drum lessons at Utah State University. I was shy I rarely heard a word my drum teacher spoke. But my dad started taking me to gigs and keeping me on stage sitting right next to his drummer. Wow. That first night, I was dumbfounded and inspired by the tingling sparks of clairvoyant energy between my dad and the guys. It was like a stiring, curling wind, seeking and connecting player by player. The drummer found it first and began playing with it, then it seemed to snake from him into the bass player's back and out of his chest just above his bass, and just swirled there. He bowed his head, eyes closed and played with it, a grin started, then everyone had it, at first fragile, then gusting, then a constant warm conduit going through and connecting them all. The song was Day Tripper. Sitting on stage, next to the drummer, that wind swept into me, too. Stunned and relaxed at the almost hot feeling flowing through my mind and chest, I was thrilled to see the kids jump out of their chairs around the dance floor and start asking each other to dance. What power. Dad turned to me and half-shouted over the band, "There it is, Ned. Do you feel it?

Dad started helping me with my drum lessons. He was admirably accomplished and I wanted desperately to be a worthy heir. So, at the tiniest mistake my confidence would shatter. Dad would smile and cajole me into trying again--helping me up from the floor where I'd sometimes collapse in dramatic failure. We'd work through my snare drum lessons side-by-side. Me on a Remo practice pad and Dad on an "Adventures in American Literature" text book. Within that book, which, two decades later in Hollywood, I bought and read was Steinbeck's "The Westering." The story of a trail-boss leading pioneers to California. The trail-boss had the opposite reaction of those he led when they got a view of the Pacific. They all cheered and he hung his head and sobbed. This was apparently a powerful textbook for me. Finally reading this book was the actual seed that lead to me giving a part of my life over to writing. Something I didn't realize until later was that dad and I, thumping our sticks on a pad and a book, were westering off at the horizon ourselves, side by side. Our trek took in our entire family, a musical quest that turned out to only be about reaching deeply into each other, and creating a safe environment for developing, not as musicians, but as people. Back then I thought nirvana could be achieved by becoming as great and renowned as Buddy Rich. But once in my twenties, and out playing away from my family, I've rarely experienced my early years' nirvana that I’d found playing all those family gigs, and practice sessions.

Ned playing drums in school.

In the 70's

Ned Smith Drumming with Billly Cobham and Louie Bellson

Gigged 2 to 4 nights per week with Sound Unlimited, my parents' band for Church dances (Gold & Green Balls they were called), sorority and frat parties, concerts, golf & country clubs, bars from country to jazz, and reform school & rest home volunteer gigs.  Continued some drum studies at USU and in Salt Lake City, but mostly indulged in training myself with books and tapes--which had its positives and negatives.  The positive was that I wasn't like a lot of self-taught people, basically practicing a few things over and over.  I really worked hard to constantly re-invent myself.  This was a proto-type for leading many lives later.  But, I didn't have the steady hand of a pro teacher keeping me away from injuries, tendon issues, and teaching me the developmental training systems of the greats.  I’d have to wait for my Boston period for that.

Placed 1st overall in drum set category in Utah Percussive Arts Society competition winning Jr. High, High School, and College divisions (My competitors were never going to allow that again!).  

Placed 5th in Western Percussive Arts Society drum set competition in California and first in Utah for High School division.  An album I recorded with Dad, “Windsinger” on Vanguard Records, by Gary Smith a naturalist, was featured on 60 minutes with Robert Redford and the Sierra Club.  Played in the Sky View marching band, concert band, pep band, and jazz ensemble.  The picture above is from a football game with the pep band.  Attended the Stan Kenton Jazz Camps UC San Jose, during these teenage summers.  Heard a lot of wonderful music being made, and recieved good mentoring from Gary Hobbs and my conductors.

Cobham/Belson Clinic, Van Nuys CA:  Traded four's with Louie Bellson and hung one-on-one with Billy Cobham (as he kneeled on the cement, in the mid-day sun, rapping out outrageous drum corps techniques on a bench.  He just hung out there with us instead of going to lunch.  "Try this.  Try this.  Oh man, check this one out.").  That picture on the right is Billy Cobham, Me and Louie Belleson.  After the clinic my cousin picked me up at the Van Nuys airport and let me fly his open-cockpit bi-plane from Van Nuys to Huntington Beach.  Coincidentally, I recorded that same year, “I am the Red Baron” for the owner of Red Baron Pizza.  Gary Smith composed the tune for him about his open cockpit Rolls Royce powered champion racing bi-plane.  

Our Sky View High jazz ensemble took first place for all divisions in the Utah High School Jazz Festival. I won most talented soloist. Great times!

Utah State University student. Played in Dad's university jazz ensemble. Shared the throne with 3 great drummers who were a few years older than me. The competition was intense and Dad exploited it, featured us in a 4-way drum-battle. One went on to become a Japanese rock star, Jon Bateson (Bread & Honey). One plays with the Crestmark Glen Miller band and on cruises, Danny Hankins. And one became a professional photographer and still plays with my dad in Kicks, Dougie. I won second place (behind the cruise guy) in the College division of the Utah Percussive Arts Society competition and did not get to represent Utah in the Nationals. I'd practiced my head off for that, too. Much of the stuff I'd worked on stayed in my repertoire and even blossomed over the years, and as those licks or structures come out in my playing these 20 years later, I have to smile and thank my past self for all those hours of work. The Commander of Air Force bands heard me at a a concert. He recruited me to play with the Airmen of Note in D.C. I turned down the offer so that I could serve a mission for the Mormon church. Ooooops.

Mormon Missionary in Seattle. Not so great times! But as always I could not stop myself from working as hard as I could at what I had committed to do. I've heard, 'Disillusionment is the beginning of wisdom. I've endeavored to make that axiom valuable. Upon leaving Seattle, unlike Macarthur in the South Seas, I swore I’d NEVER return. The Seattleites were incredibly kind to me, it was the missionary experience that I wanted to leave behind there.

Completed mission and returned to Utah. Started rock cover-band Mother Lode, picked up about 12 students, studied pre-law at USU, played in the Dad's USU jazz ensemble, and scored a gig with the Lynn Toolson Dance Orchestra--I was one of the only guys under 70. It was with Lynn that I developed my snappy Nelson Riddle two-beat! This beat up picture on the right was taken the day before I left on my mission.

Re-auditioned for Air Force Airmen of Note and was accepted under condition of the standing drummer's decision to not re-enlist. Unfortunately, he re-enlisted at the last second for another year! The Air Force gave me top spot on the list to join Blue Steel, an Air Force Academy rock band in Colorado whose drummer's term was almost up. That Drummer also re-enlisted on the last day. And of course, during this period, I washed dishes, changed tires for Discount Tire, killed and butchered cows, pigs, and sheep for Lower Packing in Smithfield, sold fire crackers, installed sprinkler systems and lawns, played gigs, took academic classes and played in Dad’s USU Jazz Ensemble.

Called again to join Air Force Airmen of Note. This time I had a clear shot. The drummer had signed out. But, I turned down the opportunity because I had a brilliant idea. I would move to SALT LAKE CITY to become a big drum star in my home state! Ooops #2. However, I became the first call session drummer for a couple of years at Sound Column Studios. We recorded children's records like Safety Kids, rock demos, country demos and albums, religious albums, punk demos, Korean pop, religious film strip sound tracks, radio jingles, and TV spots. I taught 20 students per week at Wagstaff's Music. Gigged and recorded with Rick Hancey at Osmond Studios, and learned some hard lessons about playing with the would-be-stars. We ended up in court. But I had a blast playing and recording with Rick. Also, played some jazz around town, backed up Anna Maria Alberghetti, crossed into Nevada for month-long stints with different Vegas acts--dance reviews, comedians, singers, and magicians. I subbed for the Osmond's drummer's in a really fun 5-night-per-week house gig in a country and southern rock band at Sandy's Station, in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake. The Osmonds went on some extended tours and I became the house drummer. This is where I developed my killer train feel, my double-pumper shuffle, my Purdie-esque shuffle, my flam-tap cymbal-snare train, my country two-beat, my country-swing, my killer Steve Gadd meets John Bonham way of playing Sweet Home Alabama, my smooth country rock ballad feel that surprisingly turned out to be the same way to make pop and R&B ballads happen, the Rolling Stones back-beat feel, and a bizarre string of crowd-killing solos to substitute for the drum solo in Wipe-Out. And of course, I got out there and installed miles of fences, prepped & delivered pizza, and ran my own one-man booking agency placing pop and punk bands at sororities, frats, and bars.

Hey, I also took a month or two of tap dancing, and then worked in the techniques into playing my bass drum and hi-hat pedals on the gig. The parents of the other tap students got together a petition and kicked me out of the class. Which was fair: I was the only dancer over six years old!

Those tap techniques were a life-saver on drums, not only for endurance, but also for accuracy. I was joking about tap dancing with and on little kids. I was actually the only dancer in my tap class under 30.

Sandy's Station fired us in favor of a band started by, who else?, but the Osmond's drummer.  I tried to start a non-alcoholic age 18-21 dance club in Salt Lake by partnering with the owner of a closed roller disco on Highland Drive.  He backed out when he saw how much I wanted him to spend to get it rolling (no pun intended).  Interestingly, part of my concept was to get established food vendors to set up mini-shops around the perimeter of the gigantic dance floor.  About twenty years later, co-branding was born.  Losing Sandy's Station and the dance club were tough defeats.

I moved to my grandfather's abandoned farm house in Burley, Idaho for an intensive 6 month practice and workout session.  I was practicing 7 hours per day.  After a few months I could do 50 pushups in a row, followed by a set of 30 followed by a set of 20.  I’d lock my legs in the fence posts of my Grandpa’s cattle-branding-shoot to suspend myself holding an 8 foot beam across my shoulders so that I could perform weighted back extensions and sit ups.  I carted a big heavy-metal drumset to the local Jr. Highs and High Schools to play drum solos for the music classes.  This gathered me about 25 students.  I also landed a Country gig with Billy Lakey (Shreveport, LA) at Nelson's Cafe.  Nelson's Café, a prostitution front for the hotel upstairs sat atop an underground casino speakeasy the size of the entire city block.  Billy was in Idaho because his van caught on fire there during his US tour.  He’d stayed there about a year.  I showed up one night, and the rest of the band was wearing tuxedos.  Their Idaho girlfriends showed up in wedding gowns after the first set--accompanied by the mayor.  They vowed vigorously, made out intensely, then tore away from each other just in time for the second set to start.

It was alone on Grandpa's farm, staring from a tall haystack at an incredible Idaho sunset, that I confronted myself with the question of what would be my ultimate musical situation.  In fact, it was more like my only truly bearable musical situation.  I realized that the only way I'd be challenged in the path my parents had instilled in me, a deep love for numerous styles of music, I needed to play in 5 house bands a week, each exceptional in a particular style.  All of them playing at the same club, so that I'd never have to move my drums or have to deal with booking.  There was only one way to do it.  I'd have to own the bar.  A bar that would generate enough capital to sustain a "diamond-handcuffs" musician payroll that would allow me to retain the best players in each style, and to develop transcendent shows for each night that would draw consistent audience numbers.  Before that time I'd decided to make my mark by inventing my own style of music and was working on it intensely on the farm.  I hoped I’d be able to integrate that with the club bands.  I taught myself to play my full repertoire one 16th note ahead of the beat or one 16th behind the beat.  I thought that it would have a great dramatic effect for bridges or into's.  Then I headed to Boston to find players to perform this with.  Unfortunately, everyone I tried it on just moved ahead or behind with me!  Talk about trying to march to the beat of a different drummer.  That was a tough dream to release.  I was forced to record the technique against pre-recorded tracks that I'd laid down with Scott Dakota of the Moors, and Vahalla Kittens.  The results were very cool.  But eventually this particular dream stopped ravaging my occupations, which freed me to pursue many more.  Bar ownership at this time seemed impossible.

Moved to Boston and landed a 4 night per week Elvis Impersonator gig.  Back in Idaho, I'd learned from playing with Billy Lakey how to alter my country feel into a snappy rock-a-billy, which worked great with Elvis.  One night Elvis screamed at the band for doing the ending to The Wonder You on another identical Elvis tune.  The next number up was Polk Salad Annie.  I stood while playing and impersonated Elvis behind his back.  The audience was laughing and looking at me instead of him.  I'd sit back down just in time when he'd turn around.  We had a rather vulgar one way discussion, during which I responded by giving notice.  I played with an R&B Funk band, and tons of horrible Country Western pick up gigs.  Country Western twanging away with a South Boston accent.  Joined Four on the Floor a 70's and 60's classic hits band and played all over the Boston downtown scene.  Played Cajun Zeideco with The Boogaloo Swamis, eclectic rock and blues with The Old Dogs (wash tub bass and a gaseous old dog passed out on stage) and with several great delta-blues slide guys.  Dug into my Irish roots playing with Mason's Apron, and other completely sloshed Irish IRA jig bands.  The leader of Mason’s Apron, sobered up, and now owns several large-scale Boston Irish bars.  This gives me hope.

During this time, I was keeping a low profile as an entertainer.  I was consumed with preparing myself for later.  I played left handed on almost all my gigs, even though I'm a righty.  I studied intensively with Bob Gullotti of The Fringe.  Bob taught me to never emulate drum soloists, but to cop the solos of horn players like Charlie Parker.  I played at the 1369 jazz jam every Monday night.  Bob, while known among jazz musicians for his work with John Lockwood, and George Garzone, later inspired the greater public touring as a featured soloist with Phish.  I was practicing 7 hours a day, always with a metronome, even if it was new stuff from Bob, and I'd learn all his stuff both lefty and righty.  I played with the New York Tap Works, a jazz tap dancing team, which lead to playing solo brushes to accompany Tap Dancing classes at Harvard University and a private dance studio.  And of course, I scooped ice cream at Steve's, pumped gas at Texaco, rented out trucks at U-Haul (I only use Penske because of that experience), signed up Pan Am frequent flyers, parked rental cars at Logan Airport, and taught eight drum students at Governor Dummer Preparatory school (oldest prep-school in the US).  I also took lessons at Berkeley College of Music from Tommy Campbell to learn how he so effortlessly mows his way from surface to surface (he practices flipping his sticks backwards between stokes.  "It's all about lifting the stick"). 

Bob Gullotti and Texaco were the best things that happened to me during this period.  The Texaco was so slow that I got to practice all day on a pad.  Customer interruptions helped me to rest long enough that I overcame over-practicer's tendonitis--a condition I'd been fighting for years.  Practicing standing up helped with blood flow, too.  My hand techniques that I'd been trial-and-erroring were finally bearing fruit.  Playing was becoming a gift instead of an effort.  When the 1369 Jazz Club closed, I struck quickly to organize a blues jam next door at the salsa/meringue club, Cantares.  I'd been soaking in Arturo's Cantare's All-Star house band whenever I didn't have a weekend gig.  The drummers had kindly taken an interest in the confused looking kid at the at the edge of the stage--scribbling their beats on napkins.  Before long, they had me on stage on cowbell and shaker.  Arturo’s waitress taught me how to Meringue and Salsa.  So When the 1369 closed, Arturo, Cantares' owner jumped at the opportunity for me to give him an off-night draw.  I secured Stovall Brown, Boston's most revered blues and funk guitarist and Madeleine Hall on vocals.  She’s become a prominent Boston singer, now.  Because of Chris & Madeleine, we were packed the first night, a success we sustained for two years.  I was finally at the center of my first scene.  Instead of letting it be a typical jam, I'd introduce the players with far-fetched paragraphical bios and nick names that became identities for many of them.  I'd bring up jammers as soon as they walked in the door, and save my own band’s set for when the audience peaked.  I'd always put an equal or superior established band up right before us to make us play beyond our best.  Two years later, one guy, angry I hadn't put him on stage yet, barked, "Do you realize who I am?  Do you?  I'm Burnin' Bob".  How could I forget, Burnin' Bob was MY pneumonic device for him.  My jam was on Monday nights.  Cantares had to push the crowds out the door at 1am.  That felt so good.  Madeleine and Chris told me they'd never seen jammers and crowds hang on like that on weeknights.  Their theory was that I had a special charisma that set the tone by radiating a positive church/community feeling through to all the jammers.  This told me, as an aspiring club owner that I’d have no trouble filling the clubs, and that bringing people together for inspiring music gave me a lot of energy and peace. 

Actually, one other great thing happened to me during this time.  The phone rang at Texaco.  A woman's voice on the other line asked, "Are you Ned Smith, the acting, singing, dancing, 40's era swing drummer?"  Of course, I just had to say, "Yes," even though it was absolutely false.  She mentioned New York Tap Works had raved about me and she invited me to a cattle call audition.  I read for the part of Biff Baxter in the musical comedy, 1940's Radio Hour.  I was a better swing drummer than all the better actors and a better actor, go figure, than the better swing drummer who showed up.  So, much to the musical director's chagrin, I got the gig.  What a thrill.  Speaking lines!  Dad shipped me a box of videos of stick flipping/twirling swing era drum stars (Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich) and I went to work on their licks months before rehearsals started.  The Boston Globe called me an amazing drummer and good actor.  Actually the Globe said I was the best most believable character in the show.  Which was thrilling even though I knew the Globe was badly mistaken.  This is not false modesty.  All the real actors in the show were off-broadway pros.  I'd talked the director into letting me do a special solo playing every object on stage except the drums.  Other than playing with my family, those shows were the highest times of my performing career.  Every night included a long ovation for my drum solo.  It literally stopped the show for at least 90 seconds per night.  During after show notes, the artistic director scolded me when the ovations came perilously close to the 90 second mark, and would analyze what I'd done wrong—reminding me of what I'd done the night before and getting commitments from me to do it again.  Those ovations had a far reaching effect on me.  In the near term I lost patience with slugging it out in crappy bar gigs in under-achieving bands.  From then on, I was much choosier about where I applied my mortality.  I successfully turned the musical director, Ed Well's original reluctance into an enduring partnership that lasted for years.  Radio Hour lead to theater pit gigs, and another run of Radio Hour with him.  Beyond becoming more choosy, the positive experiences in Radio Hour were the birth of a painful thirst for new experiences.  Experiences completely outside of music.

Four on the Floor was also good because I was the only non-amplified guy in this super loud band.  Even though we were playing primarily wimpy ultra-white 60's music they wanted to have Heavy Metal power.  I learned to develop an effortless perpetual motion snare crack that had the thunder of Thor.  This R&D effort strained the patience of Four on the Floor as it took a long time to get that technique down.  I also learned to adjust my tap-dancer bass drum and hi-hat technique to louder volume playing.  These moves helped me big time in my next adventure...Heavy Metal in Hollywood.

 I moved back to Utah and played with Pat Boyack, one of Dad's students who has since become a blues star in his own right in Dallas Texas, and Wally Barnum. We had a band called Secret Project, which starred my brother while he was waiting for visas to bring his Welsh heavy metal band to Hollywood.  Eventually, I moved to Hollywood to join his Welsh band, Calamity Jane. We were a five piece band graced with free rent to share a one bedroom apartment with 4 strippers, a non-potty-trained puppy, one healthy cat, and one incontinent cat who hid at the top of the bath towel closet ("Just don't take the top towel").  Of course, in Hollywood, I stuffed envelops for Revlon and UCLA Hillel, and cleaned houses with Custom Maid, and got my first taste of starvation.  Odd choice of words.  Calamity Jane became a favorite at The Central (now Johnny Depp's Viper Room).  The Central let us store our equipment in their basement, and plugged us into every cancellation they had.  We were playing there a couple of times a week.  Sometimes they even had enough grace time to list us in the papers.  This helped me keep up my chops in the 40 minute set world of original rock.  Calamity Jane somehow packed the room even without advertising.  Movie stars would show up.  It was a scene, and I plugged in with the owner and his daughter on club management conversations by Custom-Maiding their house for free.  My brother is a great entertainer.  It was the only band I've been in where audience members looked only at the singer.  Lou Malion signed us to his SBC/Island label, ZOO.  Hollywood was a wake up call.  I realized that I was where the drummers and producers were setting the standards that I had been living and dying by.  A sense of disillusionment not unlike the one that hit me on my Mormon Mission, gave me a Hollywood epiphany.  A flock of drummer's were coming to our gigs and dressing like me and asking with great intensity for lessons.  I stopped feeling guilty about playing my own way.  I realized, the California studio drumming standards were not necessarily that cool.  Some people just made them up.  They were functional and occasionally inspiring.  But, these fans dug my own maturing style which was an adaptation of Bob Gullotti style Charlie Parker solos to rock fills, and a majestic fat back way of playing metal that sounded something like Bonham--another feel I'd been working on during all those infernally boring country gigs.  I began playing with such authenticity and independence.  I furiously cut my own swath out of the world and my mortality, fighting to stay away from regressing to the mean.  It was my age thirty transition.  I also faced the fact that I had too many questions about the world.  I vowed that if I ever got free of Hollywood, I'd return to college.  That wish came true, painfully soon.

In the 80's

Ned in the 80s
Ned with Calamity Jane

In the 90's

Fired from my brother's Calamity Jane, for, "Going against them on every decision, and hating Hollywood and Heavy Metal."  The only job I'd ever been fired from!  I moved to my parents in Utah, and toured Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah with rock band Good Gravy.  Then my musical director buddy, Ed Wells, called me to come back to Boston to act in another run of 1940's Radio Hour.  What a blast.  The new me really played greater solos, and I'd lost all my self-consciousness that stopped me from being able to play as well in public as I could in private.  The director gave me an extra paragraph in the script!  My nice touch of rage helped me with my confidence and dedication during this transition.  Before then, with the exception of Radio Hour, I could play the way I wanted to at home, but when I'd get in public I'd revert to my most elderly clichés.  Finally, I was really free, and for the first time in my life, thoroughly young at heart.

During Radio Hour, I applied at Harvard, Tufts, North Eastern, UMASS, and all the New Orleans schools. Remember how I used to be the farthest kid behind in my grade school classes. Going back to school after being out during my 20’s took nerve. 1940's Radio Hour ovations, my Hollywood epiphany, and that painful thirst for new experiences led the day. I got into Tufts in their Resumed Education For Adult Learners program (REAL). Tufts Alumni paid my way! (Thank you for changing my life!) Tufts was a revelation. I majored in Clinical Psychology and English. I graduated cum laude, high honors in thesis for my unpublished book, Pure Thoughts, received the Mary Grant Charles Prize for prose and poetry, made Dean's List, was inducted into the Golden Key Honor Society, and was dragged kicking and screaming over the graduation podium. I wanted to stay there forever. Great musicians were in the student body, Tracy Chapman, Gus, Nate McBride, Tim Kelly, Chris Mascara. And for the first time in my life I was surrounded by non-stripper women who valued musical excellence and the arts as much as they valued traditional career success. This is not to say that I am ungrateful to the strippers who took care of me in Hollywood. But, what a relief. The Tufts co-eds were on a track toward much stabler lives than strippers enjoy. Three Tufts musicians who also attended the Boston Conservatory as part of their Tufts curriculum would later join me to make my favorite recording of my career. Tufts' professors were brilliant women and men, who leveled me with criticisms and were shocked to see how fast I took them to heart and improved. Because I was an older student, I could go to lunch with my professors, and they also came to my gigs, as did many students. I realized at Tufts that academic achievement was much more important to me than rock star status. The revelation came when I realized that I'd talked back to producers, record execs, etc, in Hollywood without batting an eye--infuriating my brother and the band. However, you could not have paid me to get tough with a Tufts professor. My Tufts years were the most intellectually challenging and inspired 4 year period of my life. My sense-of-mortality clock literally stopped ticking.


Played with Used Blues a power blues trio with John Putnam and Ed Hodge, and recorded two albums with them, the second was a gorgeous recording with that never got out of the can. We were all very angry men. We developed awe invoking musical intensity in almost every tune. Intense applause after every guitar, bass or drum solo. We were never satisfied unless every eye in the audience was on us, and we were rarely let down. One musician who often saw our show, Scott Dakota, said that every song was like a page in a children’s' pop-up book. Used Blues had incredible dynamics, a wide emotional range, and stunning stage acrobatics from John Putnam and myself. I also got to play with Dan Sterns, a gifted 20th century classical composer in the vein of Ives and Isler, at music festivals and rock venues. Dan was the master fret board piano style guitarist. His pieces built modularly and included lots of odd time signatures. During these years, I also performed as a writer, too. At art shows, genteel readings, and those famous Boston poetry slams. I read my poetry and short stories with Dakota, Smith & Wesson, a duet with Scott Dakota. Dakota played his fretless guitar with all his self-made analog effects and loops, and I read and acted. Sebastion Junger, the guy who wrote "The Perfect Storm", is a good blues harmonica player. He’s also a fantastic person. He got me involved with a professional writers group out of Brady Literary Management. Sally Brady and the professional writers through example and criticism, really helped me hone my writing. One Tufts Summer, I played all July and August in the street at Harvard Square with the Velcro Peasants, a punk band.

As Tufts graduation loomed, my Psychology professors offered to help me get into a Psychology Doctoral program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, and one of my poetry professors, Marie Howe, offered to place me in the graduate writing program at Columbia, where she'd studied and taught. Remember, when I missed my shot for the Air Force...twice? History repeats itself here. Instead, I became a word processing temp! I was hell bent on becoming a Boston real estate tycoon, and buying my own club. I didn't buy a single house there. I was always waiting for the market to go back down! Not going on to graduate school lead me in directions I would never have imagined. And of course with school out my daily occupations, and looking down the devil's gun at Age 35, the dream of club ownership was more overwhelming, impossible, and excruciating than ever. But, I could find no path in.

The crazy summer of '94, I got to be an extra in Brad Anderson's movie, The Darian Gap (You can stream it from Amazon if you like). It was being shot at TT The Bears. I was sitting at a bar and was adding rocker ambiance to the movie. They did a dry run on the scene as lights were being set up. I grabbed some napkins and a pen and wrote myself some funny lines to go with the woman who sits down next to me. When I blurted them out in the next run, Brad and the crew died. So they set up lights for me too, and let me go at it. They kept one of my takes. I was shocked to see myself larger than life on the screen at the debut. When everyone laughed really hard for the first time in the movie, I thought it was because I looked like such a dork up there. But, I came to my senses and realized that my line created a perfect pivotal point in the movie. One line. A five or ten second scene. Words can be wierd. Just think if I could have done that with this website. One line. You'd have your life back right now.

As a word processing temp, I worked for some IT guys who said I had the quirky loose but anal personality conflicts that they all had. Everyday at lunch, they kept telling me that I had a future in the lucrative world of IT. Finally, I called Microsoft about becoming a technical writer for them. They told me to go get an engineering degree or technical experience. So, I landed a job fixing laptops at a huge corporation. My boss was bummed that his boss had hired me without consulting him. He took me into a datacenter and pointed me to a stack of laptops they hadn’t been able to fix in 12 months. I fixed six the first day. There was a red carpet waiting for me the next morning. Every six months, I got recruited to another company and doubled my income. Within 5 years, I was a six figure IT boss for one of the world's largest mutual fund companies owned by the US' 4th largest bank, Wachovia. During my three years at Wachovia, I led innovative breakthroughs in how to use EMC storage with Microsoft servers to recover from terrorist attacks, or natural regional-wide disasters in a matter of minutes, and to recover from general failures just as quickly. Unfortunately our innovations cost many IT workers their jobs as their equipment and applications were moved to our Boston data center to be taken care of by my team. My guys and I were the only team to ever lock out, externally and internally, Cisco's contracted ethical hackers from every server, desktop, and laptop in a financial organization. They said our security rivaled the highest levels of the defense department. I was swimming with the sharks in this job and learned some poignant lessons for which I'll be forever indebted.

Music: During this time I was invited to play with the Renée Randal Blues Band. I told them they didn't want me. When they asked why, I told them that I wanted at least one extended drum solo every night so I could really whip up the crowds and unleash everything that gets pent up when I'm dying for everyone else in the band's glory. They said, "So for two small and one extended drum solo at every gig we'd practically own you then?" I was their drummer for the next 3 years! And they were ultra supportive of my soloing needs of that time. I recorded a CD with them, which was bootlegged in Europe and sold big time at FNAC with its own display! But of course went no where in the US. We won the New Hampshire Blues battle and competed in New Orleans at the Blues Nationals.

On the alternative rock side of this period, which I was a natural for compared to heavy metal, I gigged with and helped produce Mascara's CD. Mascara was my finest rock achievement (recorded with the aforementioned Tufts guys). Unfortunately, not all critics and fans agreed with my taste. People either thought we were the only real thing happening on earth, or that we should take some music lessons. I still listen to that CD and get all manic and goose-bumpy. I also recorded at Fort Apache with Johnny Right On, and played and recorded a video with The Vibros, featuring Irena, a guitarist with a gorgeous tone and some great original bluesy tunes. Arena had an incredible original rock band called Shake 57. I quit the Renee Randal band to dedicate myself to developing a new technique I called four hands drumming. I'd developed it trying to learn how to play like Elvin Jones. I went back to Bob Gullotti for more training. After a couple of years, he asked me to show him the stuff outside of his curriculum that I was working on. He stood up and told me, you've invented a new school of drumming. You have to quit lessons and have your wife support you while you get this up to a pro level. Then you can write books, give clinics and make demonstration videos. After that, I didn't ask my wife to be the only income source, but enjoyed a year of practicing 2 hours a night and 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday, and made a lot of ground with Four Hands. But then I took that job at Wachovia, a choice that cut me off from drumming for the next 3 years.

In the 2000's

Ned in Portland

Left Boston with our savings to find and buy a failing business in beautiful San Diego. Dream to own my own club was as powerful as ever. We almost bought Fat Katz' in Encinitas, but decided to start small and get some food experience. We bought a tiny pizza take-out, and renamed it Drummer’s Pizza. Our biggest sellers were the Tommy Lee Greek and Alex Van Heaven. At our first year anniversary, sales were up 2,500% over the same day the year before, 1/2 of which came from delivery. The location was invisible but our pizza was incredible. We used French bread dough instead of standard easy to use pizza flour. It would about kill us to get it ready for making pizza. But it had an addictive crunch that would make our customers moan out loud during their first bites. Unfortunately, not only did we have a bad location, our customers were house poor from San Diego's low, low wages, and highest-in-the-nation housing costs. So, they'd order our pizza on paydays and get 5 buck pizzas the rest of the time. But we were still growing our repeat customer list. We could not keep up with business in our little location, and we could not find a nearby space to expand to.

We visited Utah for Christmas and met some very successful beginner restaurant owners who encouraged us to bring our pizza to Logan, Utah. They were having it so easy compared to us. A real estate developer wanted to build us a site right next to a new movie theater and give us a bazillion parking spaces. It really was about as guaranteed a success as you could ever hope for. We backed out pretty early in the proceeding because I just couldn't see my house gig dream coming true there, and we wanted our kids to go to a school in the French school system. We needed a place with plentiful musicians, plentiful restaurant workers, a wild attitude, and low leases for prime entertainment destination areas. We closed the pizza shop, and went to Vegas fully believing it was the key. I loved the musicians and the musician money, but hated the way Vegas is being built out. Next we tried, Phoenix, traffic hell, no improvement possible. The entertainment center wasn't enough of a scene to sustain our concept, the bars and even national chain bars there were rarely making it for an entire year. Then we went to Austin. Oh boy. Greatest American city for live music, and for people who are not in the mold. That town votes Democratic in the heart of Texas. We couldn't believe 6th street, 5th street, and the Warehouse district. And the musicians. Whoa. Versatility with a voice.


While in San Diego, before we got the restaurant, I did a lot more playing than my last years in Boston. After the restaurant purchase I kept my favorite gig, a jazz mass at Christ Episcopal Church in Coronado. All the players are Navy jazz guys, retired or active, and we read down a great variety of charts. I've played a lot of jazz here, which has been a relief. I need jazz in my life. And drums solos in church. How vindicating can it get. Give women the priesthood, and it's only a matter of time before jazz and drum solos are ringing through the chapel.

The PLAN in Early 2005: Move to Austin, TX. Learn the area, and the scenes. How? Play tons of gigs of all sorts, find my core group of musicians for my concept, meet tons of successful independent bar/restaurant owners and managers and listen to and observe their wisdom. Hopefully, even work for them. Listen to musicians and owners' stories about different venues' rise and falls. Get another high tech job to develop funding for our future club there. We floated our resumes on the internet and I started getting calls from Austin. However, Stéphanie got an offer at HP in San Diego.

2005 Dad-at-home, Drum sounds, Hip Hop: Stéphanie called me during her first day at HP and said she loved her job so much that she'd like me to be a stay-at-home dad and drummer in San Diego. I painstakingly studied J. Burns Moore's turning forearm technique on a practice pad, while the boys and I repeatedly watched educational videos. I couldn't leave them alone for 5 minutes and play real drums, or they'd get their hands down a disposal, or wrap their necks with rubber bands, or run out into the street, or, oddly, draw spreadsheets on the walls. When the boys were napping, I'd get out Jim Chapin's video which was my only source for J. Burns Moore. I got to study with Chapin for about 3 hours over a four day period at the NAMM Show in Anaheim. He got a very sly look on his face when he saw how much I'd already acquired. "Yeah," he said. "Your hands look beautiful. Learned it off my video?" Jim is the supreme authority on J. Burns Moore, and Sanford Moeller's systems. Chapin told me great stories at NAMM. I was very interested in the personalities of his teachers. He said Sanford Moeller was 6' 8", and built like a mountain. Moore made himself a colonial snare drum when he was retired, and marched from LA to New York playing the entire way. No tendonitis. No carpal. He hung out with New York friends for a while, then turned around and marched back to LA, playing all the way. Moeller could march and play so long because of the techniques he'd developed. But, I was more taken by the system Chapin's next teacher, J. Burns Moore. In the late 1870's he'd studied technique with the drummer's who'd marched in the civil war as boys. Their technique had built on centuries old war-drumming systems. Systems that had evolved to save the drummers' wrists and give maximum accenting power so huge quantities of troops could follow them. Endurance was critical. Intense competition between Civil War drummer boys kept only the best in the drum line and off of the front line.

I played on and off with great groovers, Trio Du Jour, at The Beach House in Cardiff. The Jazz Mass, which changed into a smaller combo and benefited from the addition of upright bassist, Rob Thorsen, remained a favorite gig. I played in a funk band every Monday night in Mission Valley, and hip-hop on Wednesdays with a fantastic group of DJ turntablists. I loved that ghetto kamasutra dancing and the feelling of being a part of what young people actually listen to--for a change. I also picked up some jazz, funk, rock and blues/funk/raggae gigs, too. Stéphanie worked such long hours that time for gigs meant a lot of logistical coordination.

Another big drumming adventure beyond opening the door to J. Burns Moore in 2005, was studying drum accoustics and tuning theory. Seeing a pattern? I had to study stuff that would not interfer with the boys safety and development. The boys were where I put the majority of my time. Reading 12 books to them before every nap time. Taking them to playgrounds every morning. Holding them during the afternoons. Teaching them to write and draw, sing, and running them from doctor to doctor, and then my oldest to and from school--which we usually did on foot. After school, I'd also hang out them at the school playground for about 40 minutes to hear how my son did from one of his teachers, and to watch him unwind in the San Diego sun. Then there was all the other stuff that has nothing, yet everything to do with being a good parent. Laundry, dishes, bedding, dressing, bathing, feeding, vacuuming, dusting, garden watering, tangerine and orange picking, rehydrating, prescription drugging, timing out, replacing broken eye glasses, repairing broken eye glasses, changing diapers, potty training, diction training, manners training, conflict resolution training, catering, driving batches of kids on field trips, hosting other kids for play dates, pullling out stingers and slivers, teaching them to use napkins not their hair, you're bored. I loved being a full-time Dad during 2005 and most of 2006. The kids and I created some sort of father-son treasury that few have the opportunity to develop.

"Hello Bill this is Pablo, I won't be able to make it to the gig because I am at the bottom of the pool."
--Pablo Cruise " I Go to Rio"

Didn't I vow to never return to Seattle? Stéphanie liked being back in her field working at HP. She was recruited to work in Redmond WA for Microsoft. We moved to Redmond in April 2006. The boys are both in school now. So, I’m free to look for my next professional adventure. What really excites me is the possibility of building a drum or rhythm section school, like Iki's. Starting a night club is very far from my mind, right now. Not just because I lack funding, but because the logistical hours required to manage all those bands, plus count bottles, watch bartenders and waitress, plus maintain all the books and vendors don't fit into the amount of hours offered a human in a day. I'd need to just run the club or just run the bands. These days, it's all about basic survival with Steph and I having jobs we love, rather than doing whatever is necessary to make great cash, or taking perilous risks to do really cool things.

So, I’m starting a drum school on Seattle's eastside, building it one student at a time. Students have liked me in the past because I follow their ambition rather than push my own agenda on them. If pros want to learn my heavier stuff, that would be great. Maybe I’ll be able to develop drum teachers out of my student pool who will have experienced how effective my customizable system is, and will help me see the opportunities to refine it. That’s the new dream. Cross your fingers for me. Its fun to be working with begining drum students, again. I'm teaching a beginning two year old, grade schoolers, 20 somethings, and students more in the middle aged population like me. I think that's one of the biggest thrills of teaching. I've been teaching my sons how to read words. It's something I always wanted to do, but fretted I wouldn't be able to pull off. As luck would have it, somthing I never anticipated happened. The boys jumped in and helped me to teach them. It seems to be all about pace and the everyday experience of the material. Everyone loves to learn.

I've been working for a number of years on a security software program. The project has been crawling right along. I've learned a lot in the process. Still love playing with Fred Radke. I'm teaching 20 to 23 hours of students, right now. Some of my students have been with me for years, and they're getting really good. I love working with autistic and ADD/ADHD students. I'm feeling very happy that I'm figuring out ways to help them along. My techniques have been studied for a PhD dissertation and are starting to be used by other drum teachers around the country who have found me through this website and contacted me for help. I'd like to do a free YouTube video series someday over the rainbow that teaches drum teachers what I've figured out about how to help these students make real progress.

My friend Angela, whom you may recognize as she who painted the Good Gravy drumhead, moved to Bellevue WA in 2012. She found me through this website, which makes this website golden. We've made a very good life, together. We are lucky to live with our 6 kids, 5 of whom are reasonable teenagers (knock on wood for continued goodluck). We've actually siezed upon a lot of good luck since Angela arrived. Last month, after our kids had been getting to know each other by demaning 2 years of multiple weekly sleep overs, and weekly family home evenings, we finally moved into a new house, together, fulltime. Luckily, it's roomy enough that we're not tripping over each other. Luckily, our kids like having family home evenings once a week with fun activities, games, etc. Luckily, we're in the Somerset neighborhood of Bellevue Washington which has some of the best schools in the nation. And, we don't ever discount the fact that we are crazy lucky to have such great kids, who are superlatively lucky to all finally be in schools that each of them love. If you're reading this, and you have kids, or you've ever experienced a difficult school situation, you know how incredibly fortunate we are at this moment in time. Angela and I have each known years of heartache when certain of our kids were not happy in school. I have personally experienced great schools for me and awful schools for someone like me. Angela and I also feel crazy lucky to finally be together. My mother, and my brother lined us up for our fist date decades, ago, knowing we were extremely compatible. And we were instantly ourselves, together. But, we were bound for opposite coasts. She worked as an interior and furniture designer in Beverly Hills, and then as a mom and Lego rep in Dallas. When in Dallas, Angela earned dual masters degrees in Business Administration and Marketing Research at UT Arlington. In Bellevue, she does market research to help large and small manufactures, grocery chains and startups, restaurants, etc, to move us toward whole foods that are safer for human consumption. She loves it, and it's very close to our house! Lucky, right? My immediate and extended family is crazy about Angela, and crazy about our blended family. And my kids and I really like Angela's immediate and extrended family, too. Her dad, like my father, was a band teacher, and like my dad, plays flute and piano. So we have a lot of sympatico understanding, because we've all been a part of the music and theater life, as performers and teachers. We got engaged on Valentine's Day, in front of the kids, who were chiding us with, "Geeze, it's about times," etc, and who had each made hilarious and heartfelt Valentine cards for each member of our blending family, and were taking turns reading them to each other, when I got to my card for Angela.

Our various blending kids play drums, program computers, draw cool things, dance, do acting improv, Kendo, wrestling, their actual homework, sing, play in bands, play soccer, and of course play computer games, text, and use social networking apps I do not want to learn. 🙂

On the software side of things, in 2014, I got to work on my security product, "StopWatch Privacy" for 3.5 months. And in 2015 I got to work on it in April, May and June. It's very stable in in Win 7, 8.0, and 8.1. Unfortunately, it doesn't run correctly in Windows 10. That will take a lot of money and work resolve. But hey, if you don't have Windows 10, I'd love it if you'd please download it from its incomplete website (LOL) StopWatch Privacy. Please send me an email about how it went, or call me! Ange and I are thinking that we should just finish it for Win 7 and 8, and start trying to sell and improve the core product with customer feedback, rather than put a ton of money into making it compatible with Windows 10. Angela is encouraging me to find out if it's something that people want, or if they'd want it if certain changes were made instead of me trying to finish it without feedback. Sounds smart, right? Sort of like I'm marrying a market researcher? Lucky!!!

Here's some other fun software news. At my father's encouragement I also created an innovative new kind of online metronome, that I named the Nedtronome.  You can try it at A lot of musicians like it and have given me constructive feedback that I will implement. I have plans for 3 other products. I'm planning on making another online metrononome called the Steady Neddy that will cut in and out so you can see if you're slowing down or speeding up when it's not playing. And, maybe, an online drum machine called the Nedtronomicon, which would be a drum machine with the twist that it uses Nedtronome and Steady Neddy innovations. Wouldn't it be great if naming a non-exsitent product would automatically conjure that product in it's ultimate-best form? 🙂

But here's what I'm currently doing, because I am very excited about it, and because it doesn't cost me any money to do, which is very LUCKY!!!! I'm currently working hard on writing drumbook content for a new computer game that a former student, Steve, is coding up. He's building it so that it can be run and sold from Steam. As you've probably intuited, our goal is for this game to be an extremely engaging, addictive drum teacher. Easy peasy, right? Gulp. You know what's cool about teaching software? I can write exersizes for the game, test them on my students, realize there is a better way, or there is a sticking point certain or all students. I can fix that sticking point on the spot. Watch my student play it. If helps them, we can send out the update so everyone gets it. No more "How To Do Everything Right On the First Try--REVISED EDITION".

If you've made it this far into my biography, I just want to thank you for your interest in another human being, and tell you how much I appreciate you for reading about me. The average male lives to be 76. I'm 55. So, in 21 years I'll be 76. Angela and I look at these next 2 decades as our era to use all our good and bad experiences for the benefit of our kids, your kids, you. We're not sure how we'll contribute that experience, but we're excited to have one another's encouragement and partnership in that effort. I know that a game that actually teaches someone how to play drums would bring a lot of joy to people. Drums are an irresistable type of earthy magic. While it's true that a drummer, can move people to dance, and contibutes a lot to toward sweeping them away from their troubles and into a celebration of living, there's something in it for the drummer, too. Learning to move your left foot at the same time that you're moving your right arm, and all the different iterations of that serves to build the partnership betweeen the right and left hemisphere's of our brain. This means it helps us to not only come up with creative ideas, but it helps us figure out how to implement them in a practical way. But, that's not even the half of it. Once, after my interview at Evergreen Investments, I thought I'd done terribly, and that I'd never get the job. I went downstairs at my house, sat at my drums, and played in the style of Elvin Jones for an hour. During that time, as I just let it all flow out of me, the interviews played back like I was watching them on Netflix. Every word. Every facial expression. Unfolding for an hour. I forgot I was even playing drums. And I saw that, in fact, the interviews had gone incredibly well. But, there's more. Drumming helped me overcome serious shyness. Drumming swept me away as I saw my friends hit the dancefloor and felt my groove suddently relaxe and realized that dancers make drummers, and drummers make dancers. But there's more. Having the drums provide a primal place that you can return to, for an entire lifetime, bridges all the lives a person can live in the modern world. Ned the shy grade and jr highschooler. Ned riding to gigs with his parents and Mike Christiansen all over Northern Utah and Southern Idaho, and playing the gigs, and feeling the closeness to the others in the band that could not be achieved with conversation alone. Ned the awkward over the top high shooler. Ned the Cache County Weed Sprayer. Ned the cow killing butcher. Ned the farmer. Ned the missionary. Ned the dishwasher, the pizza employee, the pizza owner, the gig animal, the recording studio musician, the family band member, the Jr High band drummer, the High School drummer, the USU student, the USU drummer, the Tufts Student, the brother, the son, the father, the metal drummer, the funk drummer, the zeideco drummer, the swing drummer, the bop drummer, the pop drummer, the latin drummer, the African drummer, the actor-drummer, the actor, the showoff, the hot rodder, the mechanic student, the door to door salesman of pantyhose, urinometers, folding scissors, buying service memberships, and religion, the unpublished writer, the wantrepreneur trying to breakout into becoming a entrepreneur with real sales, the would be club owner, all of these things have only a few constants: My parents and sister standing by me no matter what. A few friends standing by me no matter what. And the constant companionship of interacting with drums. It connects all the way back to age 9, through all my iterations. Through all this, I remained a drummer, inching forward my skills, sharing them help audiences, dancers, and the comraderie with all those people in all those bands. And... knowing that feeling I felt when I sat down at a drumset for the first time. I still get it. I also get it when I see students feeling it. I see when they get that first shock of producing something bigger than them. The power they feel. I think they all feel it in their own way. For me, it feels like that gig my dad took me to when I was 9, and that wind I felt coursing through us. The badd-ass-ed-ness of groove. When I see that look in my students' eyes, I sometimes find myself fighting back tears. What is it about feeling that first live groove? It feels so imortal. Gargantuan. Like we've accidentally released a tiny bengal tiger from the prison bars of our rib cage. And once that cat is out. Yikes. It's huge. Dangerous. Gorgeous. Wild. We're shocked. Embarassed, even. I caused all that?