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Hay's Daze: Musicians face incredible danger

Some people would like you to believe that playing a musical instrument can be extremely dangerous.
Harley Hay column

Some people would like you to believe that playing a musical instrument can be extremely dangerous.  Piano players can actually chip a fingernail banging away on those darn rigid and unforgiving keys.  Most brass players go through life with a weird fat lip, otherwise known as “embouchure overuse syndrome” (an actual thing).  Guitar players are always nursing their “painful” finger tip calluses in order to “rock out”.  And sensitive singers sometimes get a nasty little zap on their tender lips from a static electricity shock from the microphone, and you would think they’d just been hit in the gub with a nuclear missile.  And drummers, well, drummers are really in the danger zone, what with all that thrashing and bashing away back there who can say what terrible self-inflicted bodily damage might be come to some manic Animal with pointy sticks in their hands?  I can, and sometimes it’s not pretty.

I’ve been slammin’ the tubs ever since my Grade 9 English teacher (who became Mayor Morris Flewwelling) hired our band (“The Imperials”) to play our first gig – our own Junior High graduation at Central School.  And later, we played Morris and Hazel’s wedding, and now they’re still happily married, and most of our band guys are still happily rockin’ (more or less).  But believe me, for us band-geek fossil-rockers, it ain’t as easy as it used to be.

I was gingerly applying muscle liniment on my sore hands, elbows, shoulders, knees, and swollen sacroiliac the other day after band practice when I received an email from a friend with a link to a news story.  It was headlined: “Regina drummer has eye pierced by piece of broken drumstick at gig”.  Yikes.  It turns out that one Justin Hauck was wailing away with his band “The Bromantics” when the pointy stick disaster hit.  They were deep into the last song, a “funky cover version of Proud Mary” when one of his drumsticks breaks and the tip flies up and bulls eyes him squarely in the right orb.  Oh, and it was his 31st birthday.

Justin underwent immediate surgery and the prognosis for full recovery is “on the right track.”  He says he’s still going to be a drummer, but one who wear shades from now on which isn’t out of place for drummers who, let’s face it, are the coolest members of any band.  (Right?!)

Although reports of flying splinter danger for drummers are as rare as finding a Promark 5A drumstick in a haystack, believe it or not, I’ve been there, done that.  Not in the eye, thank goodness, but I once took one in the chin.  Well, under the chin to be exact.  The Gaetz Ave. Dance Band was playing at a nightclub – it might have been The Body Shop in Vancouver - and I was bashing away with the wild abandon of a 21 year old possessed by the frenetic soul/funk groove of a “Cold Blood” song when one of my 5As exploded and a sliver of stick flew up and stabbed me. 

It stuck like a deep dart on a treble 20 and hung there under my chin, jowl blood dripping on my snare drum head.  We finished the song without me hitting the ditch and since I only needed to yank it out and grab my towel for a minute or two no paramedics were called and no crash cart was required.

But I ask you, does a keyboard or guitar players’ poor sore sensitive finger tips or a trumpet players’ weird swollen lip or a singer’s wee mic zap compare to a mighty drummer getting shivved by his very own tools of the trade?  Just ask “Stickeye” Hauck or “Jowl Blood” Hay.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at