Lowestoft drummer ‘Keeping Time’
'I HAD always wanted to write a book one day; I just needed the right time. The right time turned out to be a bad time – but one I got through by writing about it.'
Those are the words of Lowestoft author Gary Woods, who has just published his autobiography, Keeping Time. The book refers to 59-year-old Gary's life as a professional drummer, many years of which were spent performing musical comedy in South Africa, where, as Gary says: 'We were reliably informed that we were the highest earners on the South African scene.'
As a youngster in the 1950s, Gary used to test his parents' patience at mealtimes by tapping out rhythms on his plate with a knife and fork.
By the time he reached Lowestoft Grammar School, he had swapped cutlery for a hard-won drum kit, and knew what he wanted to do in life.
Now, he has recorded where that life led, in all its ups, downs, adventure and misadventure.
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Keeping Time encompasses Gary's early escapades with local and London bands;near-starvation on the rocky road of one-night-stands; British and European tours; five-star luxury in exotic locations, and sharing stages along the way with stars and celebrities.
Anecdotes abound, many involving well-known names such as Eric Clapton, Phil Lynott, George Best, Spike Milligan and Rolf Harris.
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As well as a caricature of Gary drawn by Rolf, illustrations include band line-ups, tour posters, press cuttings, and record sleeves.
A wry sense of humour bubbles through the narrative, and sustains even as Gary recounts coming to terms with the gradual loss of his sight, following a near-fatal viral infection, and the onset of Parkinson's disease.
Gary now lives alone in a basement flat near Lowestoft seafront, and his book is proof not only of the strength of character with which the author faced misfortune, but his determination to help and inspire fellow sufferers.
As he says, 'Wham! It hit me – this is how it's going to be. You take stock of all the stuff you have lost, and no longer have or can do – and sink; or take a look around at what you have and what you can still do and achieve – and swim.'
At the end of Keeping Time, Gary describes how local musicians rallied to his cause, helping to create The Parkinson's Project, an ongoing campaign which stages live-music fund-raising events. Despite his difficulties, Gary still plays in the Parkinson's Project Band.
All profits from the sale of Gary's book will be donated to Parkinson's U.K.
Keeping Time is available from Morlings Ltd and Des's Coffee Shop, in London Road South, Lowestoft, or AngliaDrum Centre, St Benedict's Street, Norwich.
The next fund-raising Parkinson's Project music event will be at the Corton Inn on Sunday, September 26, from 4pm, featuring the Parkinson's Project Band, Rockit, and others.
Gary will be signing copies of his book at Des's Coffee Shop in London Road South, Lowestoft, at 2pm on Wednesday, September 22.