The preliminary rounds of the Guitar Center drum-off in Memphis were held on successive Tuesday nights, September 9th, 16th and 23rd. Two drummers from each week were chosen to advance to the finals, which were held on September 30th. As a result, the six drummers who competed that night were the best of the best, and the judges had a more difficult time deciding who should advance. Ultimately the privilege fell to 16-year-old Keith Hankins of Byhalia, Mississippi. Byhalia is close to Memphis, and besides that, there is no Guitar Center in the state of Mississippi, so Hankins will represent Memphis at the state finals in Nashville.
As I posted last week, the Memphis metropolitan area has an amazing level of talent when it comes to drummers, and that was obvious again during the third round of the Memphis Drum-Off at Guitar Center on September 23rd. Two winners from each of the rounds advance to the store finals on the 30th, from which one will advance to Nashville for the state competition, from which one will advance to Atlanta to battle for the regional award, and one drummer from the South will go to Los Angeles for the national championship, which includes a drum set, endorsements and $25,000. And yes, a Memphis drummer has won nationally in the past.
For some reason, the city of Memphis is full of amazing drummers, and has been for as long as I can remember. At least some of it has to do with the gospel music legacy in our city, as for many years we were the headquarters of the Church of God In Christ. Much of it may also be a legacy of the excellent band programs that used to exist in Memphis’ inner-city high schools such as Manassas, Booker T. Washington and Hamilton. But each year, when the Guitar Center has their national drum-off competition, the Memphis preliminaries yield some amazing performances from some amazing young drummers. Although I missed the first round, the second round, held on September 16, had some incredible musicians, including Shawn Payne, who has already made a name for himself, an outstanding young female drummer named Shakira Jackson, and a 17-year-old named Marquise Moore. Ultimately, these last two advanced to the store finals on September 30.