When I was 17 years old I had had enough of the war zone that was my childhood and decided to pack it all up and pursue my musical dream 1000 miles away from anything or anyone I knew. Oh, it was brutal. I was still quite a boy and a gawky, insecure nail bitin' long-haired hippie kid who wanted to do nothing but play drums, and in the back behind a kit was probably the best place for me. "Heard and not seen"!
So in I'd say March of 1986 I was in George's Drum Shop in Jackson, MS dinking around on the newly released Simmons SDS-9 or whatever the kit of the day was...there was a Pearl electronic set there as well... Steven Garrett, a guitarist who resides in Nashville and a fine player/songwriter heard me play and was immediately interested in hearing me play with his band. In Tampa, Florida. That was all the excuse I needed to get out of Jackson!
When I arrived in Florida at our place on Otis Ave. right by the Hillsborough River I met my other new roommate Marcus Brown and we went to a Pancake House on Dale Mabry Highway, after I had driven what seemed like an eternity. Me, my clothing, drums, and cat!
As I began to explore Tampa I happened upon a club off Dale Mabry called Chuck's Steakhouse; it was 1986 and the Jazz Fusion craze (Skinny Tie Jazz) was in full swing. So here I was all of 17 still and I had to go in and "play invisible" so the waitress would avoid seeing me. It was a trick learned from playing in the clubs in Jackson.
The drummer immediately caught my ear; the stuff he was playing was light years ahead of what I knew and at the time I'd just discovered Weckl, Gadd, Cobham, VINNIE, etc. The tune they played was an old standard "I'll Remember April" and the solo he did over a Samba feel just floored me. So I began going in regularly and seeing Lee Venters play drums and just absorb everything he did.
As we got to know one another a little bit better it turned out that he knew Quinious Johnson, another local Jackson drummer from his time up at Berklee in Boston. We shared a few Quinious stories and it was just so cool to have serendipity strike.
As time went on and we stayed loosely in touch I had discovered a band called The Aquarium Rescue Unit out of Atlanta and the drummer Jeff Sipe (Apt. Q-258) had listed Lee in the liner notes. This was very intriguing, as Lee was one of those responsible for opening my ears up! So I got in touch with Lee and he mentioned that Jeff was one of his students at one time so to have THAT thread of serendipity was another very cool thing that happened.
In 1996 Lee was playing gigs with ARU and they were out with Bruce Hornsby on the Hot House tour. What a lineup and great folks! I knew John Molo through mutual acquaintances and we got to visit for a bit.
But back to Lee...were it not for his early influence I don't think that I'd be quite the player I am today. He runs a Music school in Wilmington, NC. Check him out!