Song & Stage

Drummer Corky Laing Rocks Bay Street Theater

Ever been inside the mind of a drummer? Maybe that sounds like the set-up for another joke about drummers. But it’s actually the premise for the upcoming Ultimate Classic Rock Experience at Bay Street Theater on February 26. That’s when drummer Corky Laing (of the legendary band Mountain) and drummer Kofi Baker (the son of Cream’s drummer Ginger Baker) will take Bay Street’s stage to teach us all a thing or two about what goes on in the mind of a drummer.

“This is your mind on drums,” quips Laing. Originally from Montreal but now happily settled in Greenport, Laing isn’t above poking fun at drummers himself. “When I was a kid and I told my dad I wanted to be a drummer when I grow up, he said I had to choose one or the other—you can’t do both.”

While he concedes there’s a glimmer of truth in all of these jokes, Laing is on a mission to highlight for fans the importance of the drums in the shaping of their experience of their favorite music.

In order to do that, Laing will play a set featuring the best-known music of Mountain (“Mississippi Queen” anyone?) and Baker will head up a set full of classics by Cream at the show on February 26. Think “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room,” just for a start.

Joining the two drummers will be guitarist Godfrey Townsend and keyboardist Ken Sidotti, among others. To say this is going to be a heavy night of rock would be a serious understatement. There will be two drum kits on stage, so we may even get some dual drumming happening at some point in the action. And instead of placing the drummers behind the bands, practically hidden behind all their gear, Laing wants to put the drummers on the side—so the audience can see what they’re doing.

“I got that idea from the great Levon Helm, who started doing it that way with The Band,” Laing says.

Of course, there have been other drummers who bucked the typical stage formation and grabbed some of the spotlight—the wild man Keith Moon of The Who and the highly entertaining Dino Danelli of The Rascals come to mind—but they remain the exception. As far as Laing is concerned, it’s long past time to give the drummer some attention.

To bring his point home, there’s going to be a Q&A portion of the show. Laing has quite a bit of experience leading this kind of thing—he taught for a semester at University of Western Ontario and has guest lectured around the world—he’s also the author of a collection of humorous rock-world anecdotes called Stick It!

He notes that Bay Street, with its great sightlines and comfortable seating, is a perfect venue for this kind of storytelling. That being said, Laing doesn’t really want the discussion to dwell on stories of rock star misbehavior. “I’m more interested in the philosophy of rock, the ethics of it,” Laing says.

Also interesting to Laing are the motivating forces behind people becoming so good at playing an instrument. “With somebody like Kofi Baker, how does his being the son of a guy like Ginger Baker influence him? Certainly trying to please his dad, which is what we all do, has something to do with it. Plus, it’s in his DNA.”

Despite his Canadian background, Laing has spent a lot of time on Long Island since the 60s—he even recalls going to see The Rascals during their summer of ‘65 stint at The Barge in Westhampton Beach. You don’t get more inside than that. He’s looking forward to the Bay Street show, right in his adopted neighborhood.

“It’s going to be great,” he says. Straight from the mind of a drummer—no joke.

The Ultimate Classic Rock Experience comes to Bay Street Theater, 1 Bay Street, in Sag Harbor on Friday, February 26. For tickets and more information, visit baystreet.org. For more on Corky Laing, visit corkylaingworks.com.

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