“Right from when I was twelve years old, all that I ever really wanted to do was play the drums”
Author Robin E. Hill’s book, It Ain’t Rock & Roll: The biography of drummer John Kerrison, which is available from Amazon, traces the life of a British rock & roll drummer from his early years learning and honing his craft in the heady days of 1960s London, through coping with a devastating industrial accident that would rob him of the use of his legs and therefore his ability to play the drums as he wanted to, up to his present return to his love of writing and playing music. This book will appeal to a wide-ranging audience, including those with an interest in the rich London music scene of the sixties, spinal cord injuries, social activism and of course drumming.
Let me point out in total disclosure that I know John Kerrison. In August of 1979 at the age of nineteen I stayed at John’s parents’ home. They were gracious hosts, relatives of my traveling partner, my then girlfriend. John was living with them as well and we got to know each other, although we lost touch over the years.
Much as the allied invasion on D-Day, June 6 of 1944 was the culmination of weeks, months and perhaps years of planning and preparation, twenty years later when the Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York on February 7, 1964 they represented just the thin end of the wedge that was a vast pool of talented young musicians who contributed to a musical explosion in Britain that crossed the Atlantic and came to be known as the British Invasion.
Not only was the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool teeming with bands playing new sounds, London’s West End had its own rich musical tapestry of musicians playing the circuit of clubs and halls. And right in the midst of it all was a young Mod drummer by the name of John Kerrison.
The book, written in an economical prose wrapped around direct quotations from Kerrison, is the result of numerous interviews conducted by the author. One of the first things we learn about Kerrison, a self-proclaimed ‘cocky git’, is that at the tender age of twelve he came to the realization that all he wanted to do was be a rock and roll drummer. This he did, playing in numerous bands including Episode Six, with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover who would go on to form Deep Purple. After a seventeen year hiatus Kerrison is back drumming as hoped for, but there were some significant hiccups along the way.
“John knelt down to change the bit on his electric drill and that is the last thing that he remembers from that Monday morning in May 1971. It was quite some time before he was able to piece together what actually had taken place.”
Readers are presented with a portrait of young Kerrison’s determination to succeed at being a drummer, his father’s kind gift of lessons (with Jim Marshall of amp fame) at a time when money was tight, the numerous pals he made along the way, including future drummer for The Who Keith Moon or ‘looney Moony’ and Nick Simper of Deep Purple with whom Kerrison played in Johnny Kidd & the Pirates.
The first part of the book details Kerrison’s horrific experience when an industrial accident left him confined to a wheelchair (although John would say he is no more confined to the wheelchair than is someone confined to their shoes). The frustrations, bitterness and depression that beset the drummer, then in his early twenty’s, over the long process of coming to terms with his condition come through in Hill’s writing with great clarity and not a little pain.
As the book progresses we learn of Kerrison’s anger at not being able to play the bass drum, which for him is the driving force of a rock & roll drummer. But eventually with some help from technology he was able to overcome that obstacle and return to his love.
“Even after all these years I still don’t feel that I have beaten it… it never goes away… there is a lack of any spontaneity in my life because everything has to be planned, even simple stuff… The only positive side is that I have gained some great friends
Kerrison’s current musical endeavor is with a country rock band called Blagards and Cowboys where he finds himself once again teamed up with Nick Simper. You can check out their sound on the CDs below.