I first met Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead back in July of 2004 at The Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington. He had agreed to meet with me to look at some drums, so I loaded up the van and road tripped up there with my best stuff.
The Gorge is basically just a grassy hillside with a stage perched on the edge of a canyon that feeds into the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a great place and people come from all over the Pacific Northwest to see bands there. Turns out there is a real nice deck behind the stage overlooking the canyon, providing a view you don’t get from the main venue. So that’s where we hung out, the sun beating down upon me as the Allman Brothers rocked the audience, until Mickey emerged from his bus and came over to greet us.
I had set our drums up in a nearby yurt and in a few minutes made my way over there. Mickey began to play each one and invited me to play as well and pretty soon we were having ourselves a little drum circle, as some ladies started to dance about the yurt and other people began to peak through the doorway to see what was going on.
After a while Mickey explained that he wanted to present some of his “rhythm friends” with ceremonial instruments to commemorate their attempt at the world record drum circle to be held at the Earthdance festival in mid-September. So he picked out each drum with a specific person in mind – Zebrawood for Airto, flame Purpleheart for Zakir, flame Maple for Sikiru, and Lacewood for Giovanni - and had us carve their names prominently around the lower portion of each drum. As a bonus, I included specially made cases embroidered with each name, as well as an extra for Mickey’s drum, “Rosebud,” which I had made for him about 6 months earlier.
Come September, we once again loaded up the van and headed down to Laytonville, California, near Ukiah, to take part in Earthdance. Earthdance is a festival taking place simultaneously in over 130 cities and 50 countries. The “Prayer for Peace” is incanted at a specific time in every location all around the world, creating a powerful moment of global unity. Afterwards, the drum circle, lead by Mickey Hart and Planet Drum, among others, would take place.
We found Mickey to be very warm and inviting to us as we slipped into the Planet Drum backstage tent, where we met all the guys and hung out a bit, showed off some new drums and re-united with some older ones, including Rosebud and all the drums Mickey had commissioned.
Soon it was time for the drum circle, a world record attempt at the largest amount of people ever to drum in unison. A special 4-sided stage made it easy for all 4,504 people to feel like an integral part of the event. The drumming continued for an hour and a half, a spectacle made even more special for us as many of our drums graced the stage and sang along at the hands of the world’s best. Special thanks to Mickey Hart for making it all possible.