ALUMINUM ROCK, HARD YET MALLEABLE!
James D. Hobbs
March 16, 1984
I grew up on a beautiful ranch/farm in western Kansas, surrounded by open plains, the Saline River, and wildlife of every type. My grandparents were my closest neighbors who of which lived a half mile away. I would walk almost every day delivering their mail. At the age of 4, my grandma had taught me how to read at a 3rd grade level. She was a school teacher.
At the age of 6 I was already driving tractor and singing along with the radio. I remember recording myself through those early tiny cassette recorders. I would even write my own lyrics and record my own melodies. Some of these “artifacts”-haha, still exist where I left them some 20 years ago from when I'm writing this.
In the 4th grade we started playing the most annoying instrument in the world: the recorder! It’s only annoying if you’re not the one playing it. I practiced that recorder for hours on end. “Hot Cross Buns” and all the others were played with perfection ;-) Towards the end of the school year I remember trying out all the instruments. I really wanted to be a trumpet player, but my Mother insisted I play the drums. She said I had to because I would try to mimic “Animal” from Muppet Babies by dragging out pots and pans and beating them with wooden spoons when I was just a baby.
When I started band in 5th grade, and tried out for drums, I had to pass Mrs. Potters’ test of coordination. “Can you alternate a tap with the foot, a tap on the head, while rubbing your belly?” She asked. Later in that school year the High School band needed a bass drummer for state contest. After discussing whether or not a 5th grader could participate in a state competition with the musical state board, I was allowed to proceed. I was the youngest drummer to play a H.S. state band competition in Ks.
I started taking private lessons from a fine tuned, and truly inspirational drummer, Lance Gilchrist. My seventh grade year I played “Like A Big Dog” by Alan Keown, a college level “medium/intermediate” solo at state and received not only a AP(all perfect), but also a standing ovation from over 200 students from many schools that came to watch me.
High School Pep Band was fun, but band members became scarce as the school dropped in numbers of students. I bought two stage monitors, and pumped a few songs through them while I played the trap set on the stage alone. Let me see, I think the first few songs I played were; CCR “Fortunate Son”; The Wonders “That Thing You Do”; and Slipknot...not….I’m sorry I can’t remember more than those, but I know I did a bunch. Snare solo’s included “Stamina”, and “Tornado”, both by Mitch Markovich. Also performed was “Crash Landing”, by Marty Hurley .
During this time I had participated in every honor band that I could try out for. All of which I was first or second chair. First chair meant timpani and xylophone. Second chair meant snare drum. I opted to be second chair most every time because I loved playing snare drum. At K-State’s honor band I was approached by the Music Director, Dr. Frank Tracz, and offered a scholarship to play drums there. I was still only a sophomore so I hadn’t even thought about college yet, but marching sounded like a good way to get me through college.
At the end of my sophomore year, I tasted my first drink of guitars and singing. My older sister was taking a German language class over a televised circuit for schools and when Victoria’s students came to visit our school, Jim Billinger and John Lapka brought their instruments and came to my house and we jammed with a couple other buddies they brought with ‘em. I was addicted. It was the most fun playing drums I had had up ‘til that point.
Due to lack of students, that school closed and I was forced to change. I became more involved with sports and lost sight of drums. After graduation I moved to Hays, Ks. I started playing guitar a lot! I remember not moving for over 24 hours from the couch and just practicing constantly. People would visit me the next day and I would be in the same spot and same clothes. It took me several years to master all the drum rudiments, and I set a new pace for trying to master the guitar.
Jim Billinger really helped me learn guitar, and when a chance to play bass guitar for the band “The Mad Cows” (classic rock cover band), I jumped on it. The band consisted of four members; Rex Striggow – rhythm guitar/vocals; Jim – lead guitar/vox; John Lapka – drums/vox; and me on bass! I think we played something like 6 or 7 shows before disbanding.
By this point, 3X7 had begun playing shows, and as I had started off being the original drummer, I moved up front to be rhythm guitarist and do most of the singing, and have been active in this band since before it even got its name back in 2001. Check out the full band bio to learn more of that story.
Music is more than just a passion for me, it is a way of life, way of thought, and through the power of music, it has allowed me to enjoy my life to the fullest up ‘til this point. Writing and performing music has allowed me to understand a depth of life only attainable by true musicians. When you reach a point of mental infusion between life and music, you learn to live in harmony with the world. I’ve made my peace, and I will continue on making peace.
Thank-you very much to everyone that has helped me on my musical journey! I am truly humble to anyone and everyone that helped in creating the musical monster inside me.
James Dean Hobbs