The guitar and drum portions of my childhood are intertwined. I taught myself how to play drums between the ages of three and seven. Sitting on the side of my bed, using those first drumsticks, I would coordinate my right arm (hi-hat) and my left arm (snare drum) to whatever I was listening to at the time (the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Wild Cherry, Chicago, Billy Joel, Sam & Dave or whatever else my parents had around). Eventually I worked in my right leg (bass drum) and left leg (hi-hat) until I was fully playing along. By the time I actually sat down to a real drum kit, I could already play.
In the summer between third and fourth grade, I met Jim at center court of the gymnasium at St. Martha Catholic School. He had just moved back from Atlanta, and our parents had enrolled both of us in this summer “vacation” church-school session. I think he hated it as much as I did, and we found a mutual joy in changing hymnal lyrics to something more befitting of the moment. (I won’t go into what we said, but we were crying with laughter.) A day later, I saw Jim and his sisters walking around the block by my house, found out that we lived right down the street from each other, found out we had the same birthday. The rest was pretty easy.
The first time I met Tom was after he had joined My Morning Jacket, sometime between 1998 and 1999. I was living with Jim and the first drummer, J. Glenn. (Side note: Jim and J. Glenn were consummate thieves of the Robin Hood nature. At the time they had no money, so they would “borrow” things from superstores and better their lives and the lives of those around them. If you listen to “X-mas Curtain,” it tells the tale.) So anyway, I heard knocking on the front door, opened it, and in walked Tom and one of the kindest smiles I’ve ever known. Without knowing him, I immediately liked him. We connected on all things musical and pieced together a wonderful friendship.
I just crossed over the decade mark with the band, so I’ve been thinking about my first shows quite a bit. My first live experience with My Morning Jacket was three shows in 24 hours. We played Lynagh’s in Lexington (opening for NRBQ) on Friday night, drove back to Louisville for some sleep, headed out the next morning for the Nashville River Stages Festival, and back to Louisville to play Headliners that night with VHS or Beta. I had so much fun I couldn’t see straight. The feeling of adventure was so intense.
Fast-forward ten years to a headlining set at Forecastle, and the levels of excitement and adventure are still immense. The venue sizes have changed, and we are forever thankful for that, but the feelings that drove us at the beginning of our career are the same feelings that drive us today.
Photo: courtesy of Mickie Winters