EASTMAN, GEORGIA: Music has been a vital part of Donny Screws’ life for as long as he can remember.
The 62-year-old married, father of two, and retired science teacher from the Dodge County School System, remembered growing up in Chester, and that was when he realized the importance of music in his life early on. “I heard it on the radio as a child, and my aunts, who spoiled me rotten, would carry me around singing and dancing to music.”
“I remember them singing ‘Bicycle Built For Two’ and then songs by the Coasters and others,” Donny told The Murphy Gazette. “My sister had all the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Beach Boys singles along with hundreds more.”
He said, “We kids would play them constantly. We even made up our own ‘radio show,’ and we were the DJs. It’s a hilarious tape to listen to now – me at 10 years old singing ‘Guitarzan.’”
“When I was very little, a song came on the radio, and I remember asking my parents what was that sound in the music. What sound, they asked. After several minutes describing and pointing out that sound – it was the drums,” He stated. “I decided I wanted to be a drummer. I wanted to be a good drummer that did more than just keep a beat. I wanted to add to the emotion and art of the music.”
“I desperately wanted lessons, but no one in Chester knew anything about anyone doing that. I took piano lessons as a child, and in high school, I had music theory, which helps me now with arranging music for my bands.”
He has been playing drums “ever since I got a snare drum in the fourth grade. And I’ve been steadily gigging since 1973.”
Donny said that “everyone I had contact with was always supportive of my musical endeavors. I was lucky. My parents were very supportive. We were never rich, but we were not poor. We worked hard and my parents spent a lot of their hard earned money on a set of brand new Slingerland® drums in 1973.” He estimated that the equivalent cost of the drums today would have been $4,610.86.
When asked who were his top five bands, Donny paused. “Allman Brothers Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Stones, Moody Blues, Gordon Lightfoot, Chicago, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, it is impossible to get it down to just five. Literally thousands of artists influence me and their phrases flow through my hands each night.”
His first performance as a drummer was in 1966. “I played that Leedy® snare drum in front of the whole school. I was a bit nervous – I knew that just a snare would not have the same effect as a complete drum kit, but I didn’t turn it down.”
When asked what playing music does for him, Donny said, “There isn’t enough space here or enough words to describe what music has done for me. It has opened doors that I never imagined.”
He continued, “More importantly, I wanted to be a creative artist. I’ve written songs that were played on the radio all over. I’ve played big halls and small, even at the White House in August 1980. And lots of adventures that I can never tell.”
Donny did say that he learned the following from his musical career. “Do your best. Go deeper. Research. Learn. Listen always. Learn. Be professional in all that you do.”
In offering advice for musicians, he said, “Be professional. Don’t show up drunk or high. Don’t get drunk or high when people are paying you to play for them. Be in it for the right reasons and the pleasures will come. Work well with others.”
Donny concluded with his favorite quote. “Believe those who are seeking truth. Doubt those who say they have found it.”
Check out Donny and one of his bands here.