YOUNG drummers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade from a true musical legend.
David Dowell, Falkirk drum guru and the man who put the Dowell into popular rockers Dignan, Dowell and White, has invited former
Sensational Alex Harvey Band drummer Ted McKenna to teach a masterclass at his studio in Ladysmill Industrial Estate.
A fine musician, and a true gentleman, Ted gave The Falkirk Herald an all-to-brief rundown of his career so far – a musical odyssey which has seen him provide the pulse for guitar gods like Zal Cleminson, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and Michael Schenker and world famous frontmen like Alex Harvey, Ian Gillan, Greg Lake and David Bowie.
David met Ted five years ago when he played in a band supporting one of the great man's many groups and then – proving a master can still learn new things – took a few lessons from him.
"He's just awesome," said David. "He's got a musical CV that five drummers combined wish they had. He's the man."
The masterclass is for advanced drummers and aimed at gigging beatkeepers who want to tighten up their technique and maybe learn a new approach to the kit. Ted's class will run alongside David's classes and the excellent snare drum tutorials of Johnny Walker.
"David came to me some time ago for lessons when I was in Coatbridge and then he went off and did his own thing. I got a phone call the other day and registered the voice – it all came back to me like a bad dream," laughed Ted.
David did eventually entice his drum hero to come to his studio – something that brought back a lot of happy memories for Ted.
"I know this area quite well and played at a place called the La Bamba when I was just a young drummer in the '60s. It was a venue we all liked – when you came out to Falkirk it always had a good vibe about it."
Now 58, Ted has been drumming for over 40 years – spending his early years playing in bands in his hometown of Coatbridge.
His initial influence was a surprise.
"I used to watch Fred Astaire films," he grinned. "I loved to watch him dance and that's when I learned about syncopation. The rhythm just grabbed me."
And it hasn't let go yet.
He then learned drumming secrets from Brian Bennett by slowing down Shadows records and set off on his extremely varied career, touring Russia, Brazil, America, Japan – the world and elsewhere.
He has no doubt about the band that made his name.
"When you told people you drummed in the Sensational Alex Harvey Band that made them sit up and take notice. There was something really scary and mysterious about Alex – I thought he was magical.
"That was the beginning of my career – going from transit vans and playing pubs and social clubs to bigger venues and blowing people away everywhere we went."
Alex left the group in the late '70s and Ted hooked up with dynamic Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher – playing with his band for three years and three great albums.
Ted is just warming up and begins to tell tales of how close he came to drumming for AC/DC and David Bowie – but his latest student is waiting for him and the interview has to end.
He does leave some parting words of wisdom for aspiring drummers, however.
"One of the most important thing for anyone starting out is to learn how to play with other musicians. You should also listen to as many kinds of music as possible because you've got to be versatile – be aware of different styles."