My Wonderful Beefeater Days!

Stuart Russell

I joined the Beefeater Band when I was about 12 or 13 in 1967 or 1968. A school friend of mine, Ricky Davies, introduced me to the Band. He was a drummer, but I’m not sure if he was actually in the Band. We used to play drums in my basement, by turning over plastic buckets. I did not come from a musical family, but immediately fell in love with the drums and music. I first started out in the Junior Band, went to all of the rehearsals and private lessons given by Mr. Olson, and practiced very hard at home. We were a working class family, and I still remember how magical it was for me to buy my first drum, which I adored.

1969 Edinburgh Tattoo

I was lucky to be chosen to go on the 1969 tour of Europe and the Edinburgh Tattoo, and it was a thrilling experience. I was only 14, and I was the youngest member of the Band, along with Shirley Williamson. It was my first time in Europe, and it was a fabulous experience, even though I played cymbals during the Tattoo. I was so excited about Europe that not only have I returned here many times since, I even decided to move to France in 2006, and have lived here since. Since I had such a wonderful time in 1969 I also did my sabbatical in Edinburgh in the summer of 1996, when I was a law professor.

I greatly respected Don Adams, who was in charge of teaching the drum section in the Band. Don was an American, a tympanist in the Vancouver Symphony, and composed some of the cadences that the drummers belted out. He also taught the percussion section at the Vancouver Junior Symphony. One of its musicians, Peter Driessen, was in both the Junior Symphony and the Beefeater Band, who was a trombonist, and who introduced me to the Symphony. Peter is now a professor of engineering at the University of Victoria. I started to attend rehearsals of the Junior Symphony and one day had rehearsals at both. Mr. Olson discovered that I was a member of both and… immediately kicked me out of the Beefeater Band!  He had a rule, a quite authoritarian one, that a Beefeater could not be a member of another musical group. So I left the Band about 1970, after the trip to San Francisco, where we took part in the half time show at the Oakland Stadium.
I was so inspired by my magical days in the Beefeaters that I even started to learn another instrument. One of the french horn players, Mr. Beazley (sorry, I can’t remember his first name), was interested in learning to play the drums, and I was interested in his instrument, so we did a kind of very early skill sharing. I used to go to his place where he would give me lessons and vice versa, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I can honestly say that my Beefeater Days started my lifelong love of music, in many different forms. Although I stopped playing music about 1971, I still love it as much, even more. In 1974 I left Vancouver, and finished my university studies at McGill University in Montréal, where I was a lawyer in the 1980s. In 1993 I moved to Sydney, Australia where I was a law professor in the 1990s, and from 1997 until 2004 was an administrative judge. Since 2006, I have been a part-time English teacher in Bordeaux, where I enjoy life in the slow lane, especially music.