I recently stumbled upon a Youtube video of the late, great Karen Carpenter. I’ve known her my entire life as a sultry smooth alto, able to milk a beautifully romantic lyric and sing unique multi-layered harmonies with her brother Richard. I’d always known she was a drummer, but not until I watched this video compilation did I realize that she was not only a competent pop drummer, but a virtuoso percussionist. Then I read the liner notes that accompanied the video, and ‘lo and behold who was the kit drummer when Karen would step out from behind her own to sing to the crowd? None other than Cubby O’Brien! Yes, THAT Cubby, from the original Mickey Mouse Club.
Turns out Cubby made quite a career for himself as a percussionist and session player following the cancellation of the series in 1958. This mini revelation put me on a track thinking about where we find percussion in the parks. Think for a moment… it’s everywhere.
Let’s start first in Disneyland. The Trash Can Trio can be found in Tomorrowland, always able to stop a milling crowd in its tracks with their infectious rhythms played on old fashioned metal trash cans. In Adventureland near the exit to Tarzan’s Treehouse you can “Trash the Camp” with makeshift instruments.
Over by the firehouse on Main Street USA, you can catch the Hook & Ladder Company. In at least one set a day you’ll find them playing the nursery room standard, “Knick Knack”, where the percussionist steps out and uses his sticks to play “knick knack” on all kinds of things; his hat, his teeth, the ground, even a guest souvenir! Then of course, there’s the new daytime parade, “Soundsational” where the parade is led by a drumline followed by Mickey Mouse on a float playing his own kit!
Over in DCA, the Green Army Men feature virtuoso drummers leading the troops (guests) in call and response and perform their military beats on “toys”.
On the east coast in Epcot, Taiko drumming group, Matsuriza performs several sets a day in the Japan Pavilion. In the American Pavilion the Fife and Drum Corp perform a regal set before most performances of The American Adventure. Over in Futureworld, The Jamitors, like the Trash Can Trio on the west coast, take their “breaks” from picking up trash by performing for guests.
Over at the Animal Kingdom, percussion pervades the parks with no fewer than four different groups, the Tam Tam Congo, the Village Beatniks on Discovery Island, Mor Thiam in Africa, and Tropicals, performing in DinoLand USA. Plus near the village of Harambe, percussion instruments are available for guests to try.
So when next you’re in the parks, march to the beat of your own drum and seek out these incredible musicians.