Banks was more than a musician
Monday, June 16, 2014 12:51 PM
In last Sunday’s edition of the Index-Journal was the obituary for John Clarence Banks.
John and his bands, from the John Banks Trio to the Tritones, were often mentioned in this newspaper when they were going to perform locally. John, a world class drummer, was the subject of several of my past columns.
When I first met John, he was Mr. Banks. As I worked with him through the years, I would eventually feel comfortable enough to call him John. As noted in the obituary, John was a musician and music educator. What it didn’t say was, as a musician, he worked with Dinah Washington and knew some of the revered names in the business. He ate with royalty ... music royalty, that is. He dined with the Count (Basie) and breakfasted with the Duke (Ellington).
As a music teacher, his talent was not lost on the people he took under his wing. John’s life was drums. For all his musical talent and generosity, John was something more to me. Most important, and something I will forever cherish, John Banks was my friend.
John’s funeral service was Wednesday at Harley Funeral Home and Crematory. The service was followed by burial at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia. During the service, Hazen Bannister, who played keyboard with John at one time, performed several songs. John’s bass player, David Meadows, was in the audience. There were also former band members, students, parents of students, family, preachers and even state Sen. Floyd Nicholson. The only thing missing was a drum set.
John didn’t have family here, so when he told me how much he liked homemade meatloaf, I extended an invitation for him to have dinner with me and my family. I love meatloaf and love to make it. He came to the house one day for meatloaf with carrots, celery, potatoes and other fixings. He loved my meatloaf. I took that as high praise coming from John.
Before, during and after dinner, John shared stories about his life, his music and the people who helped shape the John Banks I had the pleasure of knowing.
When drummer Louie Bellson played Newberry Opera House some years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to take John and one of his students to the show. The night was a musical education second to none. John got to meet and talk to Bellson following the performance. John and Bellson shared some stories and talked shop. John’s drumstick of choice was the Bellson model. It’s a night I’ll never forget.
John shared some of the best music in the world with me and my family. He gave me a collection of cassette tapes of what he considered to be the best singers in the world. Another year he gave me a cassette tape collection of Christmas albums by many of the same people. He also gave me a collection of video tapes of some rare live performances of Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the like. I treasure the music he gave me.
I’m still hanging on to one or two cassette players just so I can listen to his selections. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when the cassette players stop working. It will be a sad day, for sure.
There is a little regret, though. Among all the music he gave me, there’s nothing of his. But I do have the memories of sitting with my family in Uptown Greenwood during his performances for the South Carolina Festival of Flowers or Live After Five as well as sitting in clubs like Easy’s watching him, Meadows and Bannister work their magic. The music was truly magical.
That’s what it’s all about anyway. When I’m enjoying listening to the cassettes or watching the videos, I might be hearing Sammy Davis Jr. and Barbra Streisand or seeing Mel Torme and Tony Bennett ... but I’ll be thinking about John.
Sitarz can be reached at 864-943-2529 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.