Ambrosia going strong nearly 50 years later

Ambrosia will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Little River Casino Resort. (Courtesy photo)

By David Yarnell
Special to the News Advocate

Burleigh Drummond, the drummer for the group Ambrosia, carefully points out that the band shares its name not only with fruit salad in the United States and rice pudding in Great Britain, but more importantly Greek mythology.

“The real meaning of ambrosia is that it was the nectar of the Greek gods, the thing that kept them immortal,” Drummond said. “In our own pompousness, we thought we would be immortal.”

One would have to say that the band is pretty close to immortality – still going strong after nearly 50 years. They will play Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Little River Casino Resort.

Drummond, along with Joe Puerta and Chris North, have been members of the band from the start. Later additions include Doug Jackson, Ken Stacey and Drummond’s wife Mary Harris.

In addition to playing drums, Drummond also offers backing vocals and bassoon; Puerta is on bass, guitar, lead and backing vocals; Harris on keyboards and backing vocals; North on keyboards; Jackson on guitar and backing vocals and Stacey on percussion, guitar and lead and backing vocals.

Drummond describes himself as a military brat since his father was a colonel in the Army and mother an Army nurse.

“I grew up on military bases all over the world, with a lot of time spent at Ankara, Turkey,” he said, “After that we ended up in Pasadenia and Pomona and I was enrolled at UCLA when in about 1969 I was contacted by the other three members of the band that became Ambrosia.”

The other original member was David Pack, who went on to a solo career in the mid-1980s.

Between 1975 and 1980 Ambrosia had five top 40 hits and five Grammy nominations. The hits were “How Much I Feel,” “Biggest Part of Me,” “You’re the Only Woman,” “Holdin’ on to Yesterday” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

This summer the band got name recognition and a lot of air time on Sirius radio’s Yacht rock station.

“It’s interesting how many different titles our music can fit,” Drummond said. “Whatever keeps it alive is fine with me. For years it was called the west coast sound, but I’m not going to knock this yacht rock phenomenon because you see younger generations out there that know our music. It’s amazing to see teenagers sing our songs.”

The band maintains an ambitious travel schedule – heading to Massachusetts after playing in Manistee and then on to Florida and back to California. In February they are part of a rock music cruise from Miami.

“The best thing about the cruises is that when we finish our set we can run off to hear our favorite bands. There have been some great ones, like the Zombies. I’ve always wanted to hear the Zombies and I got to hear them three times, which was amazing.

“Back in the day all of our bands were on their our own trajectories, but now we’ve become one big family of artists and that’s great.”

Drummond said having wife Mary in the band makes life on the road much more enjoyable.

“She’s my best friend so it’s great traveling with her,” he said. “When we have a couple hours after the show together it isn’t exactly a date, but it’s pretty close. I should make it clear that she’s an amazing talent who has totally earned her spot and she’s become one of the stars of the show.

The couple has its own group – Tin Drum Band – and a production company of the same name that has turned out over 200 albums.

Drummond enjoys being a drummer.

“Drums are a musical instrument, but it becomes almost the spiritualism of the band because drumming goes so far back and is so ingrained in our humanity,” he said. “Even our heartbeat is a drum beat, so it’s almost deeper than the music itself.”

Drummond said he makes a point when producing albums not to push the drums too much.

“My drum teacher pointed out that I’m not a drummer, I’m a musician. I work hard to make that true.”

Drummond said he’s always been impressed with technological advances in the music world.

“I do, however, think that by having the ability to perfect so many things we’ve taken some of the soul out of music, Aretha Franklin was about as perfect as you can get, but she had flaws and I think it’s the human flaws we fall in love with, not the perfection.”

The five years that Ambrosia had hits in the top 40 were exciting times for the band members, Drummond said.

“We’d be extremely busy for six months at a time. Some nights we didn’t know where we were. But as crazy and productive as that period was, when the band took a break in 1982 that’s when I started my family and, looking back, I see that as the time when my life began.

“I don’t want to put down that earlier period, but as busy as we were you could still be lonely because we were rootless. You’re in a bus, you’re in a hotel, you’re on stage, you’re in a plane. That was our whole life. I wouldn’t say it was the best part of my life.”

Tickets for Saturday’s Ambrosia concert at the Little River Casino Resort are available at the casino gift shop, by calling 800-585-3737 or at Etix.com.

 

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