A Different Drumer

A Different Drumer

K.D. Richardson

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Taylor Ross, a veteran of seventy-five million albums with the rock group Vulture (1967-1985), spent the following fifteen post-band years vegetating in his Beverly Hills mansion and smoking pot. Restless, he decides to contact his old high school friend, Dave Smith, and 'Smitty' proceeds to narrate the story of this ailing former rock star's quest for fulfillment at the end of a prosperous but meaningless life, and how a single bond of love could help him reach his goal.

 
PUBLISHED BY: Vanilla Heart Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-935407-02-7
PUBLICATION DATE: 2010
WORD COUNT: 77350
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 3 3 3
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: Romantic Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Romantic Suspense
KEYWORDS: K.D. Richardson, rock star, mesothelioma, small town, Ohio, suspense, Vanilla Heart Publishing
 

EBOOKS BY Vanilla Heart Publishing

EBOOKS BY K.D. Richardson

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT K.D. Richardson/2010

Chapter 1
A Sour Note

And I don’t want the world to see me, ‘cause I don’t think that they’d understand.

When everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am. — John Rzeznik- Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris

He was born Ross Taylor. Early in his career, he flipped his first and last names and became Taylor Ross. He thought it would advance his career. As you will find, it obviously must have worked.

To my way of thinking, the word ‘legacy’ is reserved for those who make a significant positive difference while on this plane. Such was the case with Taylor. He was one of those individuals, rare as they may be, that crosses our paths and leaves behind a notable footprint upon our souls. It’s been said that as a man acquires wisdom, he can positively change his life. The truly wise man can change ours in the process.

Throughout life, certain people are called to do certain things, and Taylor answered the call. Now, I wouldn’t say that Taylor was the greatest or most important man who ever lived. He was, however, the most interesting individual I ever met.

Upon most people’s passing, a headstone is placed to mark the final resting place of that individual, and on it is recorded a beginning and ending date. In between the two is a hyphen. That small dash represents the most important part of a soul’s existence, for it’s what happens between the opening and closing of a person’s life that typically defines their character.
‘Once upon a time’ wouldn’t do Taylor’s life justice. Actually, his story didn’t take place that long ago.

I grew up with Ross Taylor, or Taylor Ross as he was known professionally. We attended the same Ohio schools from kindergarten until he eventually dropped out after our junior year in high school. It was the sixties, and there was a lot of that going on. Some left the academic world to enlist in the army— to assist in the military conflict in Southeast Asia—while others fled the area to avoid the same fracas. I served, and things worked out well for me afterwards when I utilized my G.I. Bill and eventually found employment in the business offices at the local paper mill. I retired after getting my twenty-five years in. I had to. My wife was ill and needed me. Taylor, as some would argue, went on to bigger and better things.

As I mentioned earlier, Taylor left high school in late 1967. He hitched a ride out to the San Francisco area the day after school ended and engaged in the whole hippie thing during the so-called ‘Summer of Love.’ He frequented the traditional hip gathering sites like Haight-Ashbury, Winterland, and so on.

It was just after the fourth day of July during that year when Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Vaughn, a well-known experimental drummer in the area, introduced Taylor to John Winston, a guitarist who led the daily pick-up band in the area. His group was performing an outdoor impromptu concert in one of the area parks. While Taylor didn’t play with John’s band that evening, he joined the small audience and took it all in. He became hooked on the music, the crowds, and the whole performing atmosphere. Afterwards, he asked Winston if he could sit in with the band at their next practice; John agreed, and things rolled from there.

When the whole ‘Summer of Love’ thing started, it was all very cool, as Taylor put it—but this little peaceful happening grew like wildfire, and before long, there were thousands and thousands of people in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and the surrounding vicinity.

Despite the compassionate efforts of the sympathetic do-gooders,
services for the masses became exceedingly stretched. Taylor and the boys quickly realized that if they wanted to survive, they would have to sing for their supper, as the old adage goes. In this case, that saying was right on the money. They were eventually able to land a few weekend gigs at some of the area gathering places, and that provided them with enough money to eat on during the week. They stayed at one of the many flop-houses for shelter, and practiced in the park during the day. What else did they have to do? Through it all, Taylor said that never once did he ask himself, “What in the hell am I doing out here?”

Anyway, it was at one of these weekenders, on October 7, 1967— specifically, at a dive called Rudy’s—where they got their big break. They were spotted by a promoter and asked to join Pink Floyd and Sopwith Camel in a benefit later that month at the Fillmore for radio station KPFA, and needless to say, they were beside themselves. It didn’t get any bigger than that. The rest, as they say, is history.
Actually, that isn’t too far from the truth, in their case. Their counter-culture band, Vulture, wowed the radio audience that evening, and was signed within the week to a record deal. Over the next nineteen years, they went on to sell something like seventy-five million albums in the US alone. That’s comparable to groups such as KISS or Van Halen in their prime. That, mind you, was when the listening audience was a bit smaller, and that was also back when they still made albums.

During their formative days, Taylor ‘Rocks,’ as he came to be known by his fans during his playing days, along with Ernie ‘Red’ Huber, John Winston, or J-Dub as they called him, Pete ‘Pops’ Dixon, and ‘Clueless’ Joe Paxton were referred to as street pickers by some of the regulars out in the Bay Area. The group accepted that idiom, and after a combination music and pot-smoking session, settled on the name Vulture for their group. They liked it, it stuck, and it made them all millionaires.

Flash ahead some thirty-five years, and Taylor found himself living alone in a massive Franklin Canyon concrete-and-marble mansion just outside Hollywood, California. That locale suited him. It was a quiet, calm, lonely area, and in the midst of the life he once lived, Taylor desperately needed some tranquility within his soul. He never did anything half way, though.

Contributing to the serenity of Franklin Canyon was the absence of nearby industry, traffic was at an absolute minimum, and it was close enough to the rat race, yet far enough for his daily escape. Taylor was especially drawn to this particular home site because the reservoir, located just a mile north of his estate, was used for the exterior while filming the opening of The Andy Griffith Show back in the early 1960s.

Taylor loved to hike down there regularly and was practically hypnotized by the sound of the gravel crunching under his feet during his nightly visits. He’d sit on a bench at the water’s edge and just listen for the crickets. When their pitch began to noticeably increase, Taylor knew it was time to leave, for darkness wasn’t far behind. When he rose from the bench, he’d skip a rock across ‘Myers Lake,’ just like Opie did during the opening of the famous TV show.

As he aged, Taylor’s visits became less frequent. Perhaps he ultimately came to the conclusion that places such as the Mayberrys of this world are merely a figment of a writer’s imagination. To be honest, this fantasy was probably no different than the mythical people Taylor sang about in his songs—but maybe he finally saw through the haze of his life and realized that a Shangri-La just doesn’t exist in this plane. It’s also possible that his increased use of recreational drugs was to blame for the sporadic visits and limited physical activity.

You see, as a boy, young Taylor dreamed of an idyllic existence in a town like Mayberry. It could have been Mayberry, Mayfair, New Rochelle, or any other fictional media-born town he was familiar with, because those places were in direct contrast to what Taylor had to deal with at home. His real life was anything but ideal.
Taylor essentially grew up without a mother. Oh, she was around, but flighty, to put it mildly. Even though she was a housewife, she was rarely home. She slept around on her husband for years before the two decided to put an end to their marital charade. Remember, this was a time when divorce was still relatively uncommon. That betrayal took its toll on the elder Taylor—and he took it out on his son. Lenny Taylor took to the bottle with added frequency as the years passed as well, and for the most part, Ross Taylor was on his own as he entered his teen years.

Getting back to Taylor and his mansion in the hills of Beverly, by the time the early 2000s rolled around, it had been well over a decade and a half since he’d performed with Vulture. The members didn’t see eye-to-eye on anything anymore. On top of that, Taylor rarely made any public appearances. He’d become a bit of a hermit and spent his days watching TV, smoking dope, and taking solitary walks along the paths of the canyon while questioning the meaning of life. Taylor had his groceries delivered, and on rare occasions, his agent would drop off some clothing, dope, or other daily necessities. He had to show something for the retainer Taylor paid him. Such was the life of this aging rock legend.

It was on a Tuesday in the fall of 2004 that everything changed. While it was a typical early October day for most involved, Taylor’s life, my life, and the lives of many of the people who lived in Hamilton would transform from the usual to the exceptional. It was the beginning to a magical year.

As per his standard, Taylor was still asleep as the clock neared the noon hour. Despite my harsh description of him and his circumstances, Taylor kept a fairly neat homestead. He was proud of that place. The hallway leading to the bedroom was lined with gold and platinum records from years gone by, and while he didn’t overdo the publicity photo décor thing–at least in the upper floor of this palatial mansion–he certainly had plenty of press-worthy memorabilia to use if he so chose. It was Taylor’s desire to have those who visited know who he was and where he came from, but at the same time he didn’t want to dwell on that fact.

I’m not sure what time Taylor would have gotten out of bed if it hadn’t been for the ringing of the telephone, but that was more than enough to break the silence in his secluded home. After the fourth ring, Taylor’s heavy hand looped over and hit the speaker phone on the end table.

“Yeah?”

“Taylor, my man, how’s it hanging?” It was Jerry Langdon, Taylor’s often-absent agent.

“Jerry, what the hell do you want?”

“Aw, come on, Tay, I come bearing tidings of great joy.”

“Yeah, right. What kind of crapola do you have for me today? And speaking of which, where the hell have you been? You only show up when you want something. So what do you need today, leech?”

“Is that any way to greet the agent who’s about to make you a bundle of money?”

“I have a bundle of money, Jer. Cash I don’t need. Give me peace of mind and maybe a little smoke, and you have a deal.”
 

 
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