To Boldly Go Where No Drummer Has Gone Before

by Feb 17, 2024

Many years ago, in the early 2000s, I was hired as a sideman by a band organized by Paramount Pictures. Let’s call the band “Ned’s Galactic Orchestra.” (As Bon Scott said, “I’ve changed the names to protect the guilty.”) This band, like all bands, was a mixture of very talented musicians from diverse walks of life. Its job in the entertainment business was a very small and defined niche. We played “Star Conventions” in cities worldwide.

The set list consisted of theme songs from different science fiction television shows, such as Star Trek, Space 1999, Lost In Space, and the X Files (which was a top-rated show for Fox at the time). We also played music from iconic scenes in movies, such as the Cantina Band Song from the bar scene in the original Star Wars movie and fight scenes from Star Trek. We performed this music during the convention, providing background music for ambiance.

For most of the fans in attendance, the highlight came when the actors would speak at the convention. They would usually tell stories or give their experiences and their contribution to whatever show or movie they were in.

At that point, the orchestra’s job was to walk the actor or actress on stage by vamping on the theme song of the show they were on. After the actor would walk on, they would give the band a “cut off.” Like the rest of the audience, we would listen, and when they were done, we would go back into the song and walk them off.

The other role the band played was to back the actors up if they played an instrument or sang, playing whatever song or songs they wanted to perform. The musical headliner for the conventions was a concert performed by actor Tim Russ, who played Tuvoc on Star Trek Voyager. At the time, he had a record deal and had two albums out that were doing pretty well. Tim was a great guy and a fantastic guitar player, singer, and entertainer.

Different, right? It was. It was also a lot of fun. I was able to meet a lot of actors from iconic television shows and movies. The music was very challenging and fun to play, and because it was under the Paramount umbrella, we were treated very well, and the pay was great.

As you can imagine, some of the actors are not as welcoming as others. What I’ve discovered is famous people are just that, people. While most of them are fun to be around, there are a few who, let’s say, let their fame go to their head. For them, being at a convention is a paid gig and nothing more. They wanted to come to sign autographs, get their check, and get the hell out.

At one convention in Pasadena, California, the keynote speaker or headliner was the most iconic actor in the history of the Star Trek franchise. Again, to protect the “guilty,” I’m not going to use his real name. I’ll just say he was the first to “Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Let’s call him J.T.K.

Conventions usually lasted from Thursday to Sunday, drawing fans from around the globe. This particular weekend was billed around J.T.K. being there to speak. It was a big deal to the fans, and you couldn’t go anyplace in the convention center without seeing a picture or poster announcing the date and time of his talk. It was the buzz of the show, and personally, I was really looking forward to the event. After all, I was going to have the best seat in the house to see it.

Sunday afternoon came around, and the auditorium was filling up in anticipation. By the time the moment arrived, it was standing room only. I was sitting behind the drums when I looked behind the stage and saw J.T.K. being ushered in by security. The M.C. made the announcement, “Please welcome J.T.K.!” and the place erupted. Now, the majority of the actors would walk on stage, wave to the crowd, turn to the band, and wave us off. J.T.K., however, was and is the showman of showmen. He walked on, paced the stage from side to side, soaking in the adulation from the cheering crowd. He walked toward the band as if he was going to wave us off, then he’d throw his arms in the air egging the crowd on again, basking in their enthusiasm as we kept vamping on the Trek theme song. He approached the band yet again as if to wave us off, only this time he took a stick from my stick bag and started beating the crap out of one of my cymbals. He and I looked at each other and laughed. After a few seconds of his out-of-time cymbal work, he returned the stick to the bag and waved the band off. Even though we stopped playing, the roar of the crowd did not. The ovation lasted for what seemed like forever until J.T.K. asked the crowd to sit.

This was a fantastic moment in my musical career, one that would last a lifetime. There was one downside to it though; he broke my cymbal! Really! He put about a five-inch crack in a brand-new cymbal! I wasn’t happy about that at all, but I thought after the show I’ll approach him backstage and have him autograph the cymbal. Having a cymbal that was not only broken by Captain (did I mention he was a captain?) J.T.K. hanging on my wall would be a pretty cool piece of history from my career.

The band could tell that the end of his speech was approaching, so we were ready to launch into the theme song to walk him offstage. He said thank you, good night, and the conductor counted us in. I watched J.T.K. walk off the stage through an open bay door and get into the back of a black SUV, and he was gone! CRAP!!! Elvis had left the building! No autograph to be had, just a memory and a busted cymbal. There’s 400 bucks down the drain.

Fast forward to 2023, and I’m still out here running around beating on my drums. I’m proud to say I’ve been the drummer for the Sam Morrison Band for 24 years now. On November 17th, 2023, we were flying from LAX to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, for a performance the following day. We had a 7 a.m. flight, so it was an early call time at the airport.

To say getting through TSA while carrying musical instruments is a challenge is an understatement. After I got cleared, I was sitting down putting my shoes back on when I looked up and saw J.T.K. putting his shoes on as well. Imagine that. At that point, I found Sam standing at the top of the escalator, and I pointed behind me and said, “Look, Captain J.T.K.” Sam looked surprised as well. I said I was going to ask him for a picture, and if he said yes, I was going to quickly tell him the story of our connection and see if he remembered the event in Pasadena.

He was wearing a mask (as a lot of people still do since COVID). As he was coming up the escalator, our eyes met, and I said, “Hello Mr. J.T.K., could I get a picture with you?”

He replied with a quick, “I beg your pardon?”

I repeated myself, “Could I get a picture with you?”

By now, you might have an idea of who J.T.K. is, so imagine his sarcastic chuckle saying in a low drown-out voice,

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

My jaw hit the floor. By this time, the other guys in the band had gathered around, and they started laughing hysterically.

Sam knew the story of when I played for the Galactic Orchestra, so without missing a beat, he said,

“You should have led with, you owe me 400 bucks!”

This made everyone, myself included, crack up. I couldn’t believe it; I got smacked down by Star Fleet Command, FOR REAL! Priceless!

We boarded our flight, and we were off to Denver to catch our connecting flight to North Dakota. As we were making our way to our connecting flight, there was a huge advertisement banner hanging across the hall leading to our gate, and guess who the spokesperson was? You got it! J.T.K. himself!

The way I see it, the universe wanted me to “Boldly go where I had not gone before!” I got you, J.T.K. You still owe me $400, but I guess this story and the great memory are worth its weight in Gold!

Live long and prosper!


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