A drummer to watch
He started taking his music seriously at 20. Four years later, he's heading to Los Angeles for a huge competition and a chance at a big break.
By AMBER MOBLEY
Published January 13, 2006
NORTH TAMPA - Frank Richardson never meant to be a contender.
Some people who knew some people who knew he played the drums invited him to judge a drumming contest.
But while standing there in the middle of the Guitar Center on Hillsborough Avenue preparing to judge other up-and-coming drummers, Richardson, hesitant at first, entered the contest instead.
"My brother's the one who told me I should compete," Richardson said. "I didn't want to ... It's an art, not a competition," he said about drumming.
Still, he won. And after four months of contests involving 3,000 competitors around the country, Richardson is headed to Los Angeles for the Guitar Center's 2005 Drum Off Grand Finals. Now in its 17th year, the contest is being billed as "the world's largest and most prestigious drumming competition."
Although he's not the competitive type, the drummer known locally as "Third" wants to rank first at the battle.
Third, a nickname that comes from his place among four children in a blended family, will share the stage with renowned professional drummers such as Travis Barker of punk band Blink 182 and No Doubt's Adrian Young at the Wiltern LG Theatre. Prizes include a 2006 Scion xB and a custom-made drum set, and with more than 1,300 people expected at the event, "the exposure is going to be great, you know what I mean?"
Third may have entered the competition by chance, but becoming a top-ranked drummer was no accident.
At the age of 3, he chose pots and pans as his drums and lampshades as his cymbals.
In grade school he began accompanying Sunday services at Ambassadors of Christ Temple in Tampa, his grandmother's church.
As a high school sophomore he led the drum line of seniors at Hillsborough High School. Before he graduated in 1999 he was "that kid playing Ybor (clubs) at night and trying to wake up for English IV the next day," he said.
But the "breaking point" came at age 20, when he joined a local band called the Mike MacArthur Group. "That's when I realized I was going to take this seriously," said Third.
Church. Clubs. School bands. Local bands.
He has played them all.
The Drum Off is his first contest, but the noncompetitor is just as dedicated to it as he is to his other drumming adventures. He drummed at the semifinals while sick with strep throat.
"I had the chills and the sweats. I couldn't swallow, but I performed anyway," he said.
Third, who is moving from north Tampa to Clearwater, likes to keep his word. So if he says he's going to perform, he wants to be sure to be there. Whether it's illness, a hectic schedule or just plain old stress, "all the frustration goes away when you're on stage," he said.
"When you're the only drummer and everyone in the audience is going to be nodding their head to this kick, snare and high hat, that's like, "Yeah!' "
The spry 24-year-old is nonstop energy. His limber wrists and agile fingers can twirl, spin and vibrate drum sticks at unbelievable speeds. Sometimes Third even uses his cymbal's stand as an impromptu piece of percussion.
His cymbals have names like "Oriental trash splash" and "remix jungle hat." His drum set is a sparkling, shimmery silver. His other set is "sun yellow."
They embody his passion for music, from gospel and jazz to progressive rock, punk and funk.
After the drumoff, Third is readying to tour nationally with local saxophonist Eric Darius. And by March, Third hopes to put out his own CD, titled Vestibule Conversations, a "jazzy, funky, churchy" creation partly inspired by family jam sessions after church. His mother and two sisters sing, and his father and brother play the keyboard. He's the youngest.
The CD project is just one of his many goals. He wants to be signed to a label as a drummer, have his own production company and his own band that tours, and go to Bethune-Cookman College.
Exactly when is he planning to accomplish all of this?
While his goals may be "hard to put in a nutshell" he, in a nutshell, is trying to be the best "Third" he can be, staying positive and having fun.
"I don't want anybody else's position," he said. "I just want mine. I'm not about tearing someone else down to get up."
[Last modified January 12, 2006, 08:39:04]
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