LOS ANGELES — Minutes before the Los Angeles Rams take on the Seattle Seahawks at the billion-dollar SoFi Stadium one evening in late December, about six football fields away, a party is thrown in the parking lot. Target.
A handful of people dance in the wintry air to the percussive sound of a man pounding on a set of sparkling, golden drums he affectionately calls “Honey.”
It’s a massive rig: 13 pieces, including three snares, two kick drums (one of which has a double pedal), and a gargantuan ride cymbal. Behind the kit, with his back against the hatch of a cherry-red Ford F-350, sits Sheriff Drumman, flashing a smile that could eclipse the sun.
Audiences don’t seem to care what they’re playing during their six-hour marathon – whether it’s traditional Mexican banda, high-energy gospel or even radio silence after the backing track cuts out speakers for several minutes.
“Take your time, we’re not going anywhere,” says a mother as she happily circles with her toddler.
It is a joyous occasion. But for those in the know, watching born man Anthony Sheriff beat his drums at ground level is a stark reminder of what once was and what still should be.
Rather than sitting on a cold expanse of concrete, he’s spent the past few years drumming in the back of this van, equipped with color-changing lights, a smoke machine, and a sound system. massive speakers that earned him a spot in Steve Harvey’s “Steve Harvey.” TV show after the host saw him drumming at a Los Angeles gas station.
Less than a month ago, however, he awoke to find the truck and attached battery stolen from the street outside his Hawthorne apartment.
It had taken nearly six years for the sheriff to custom-build the four-wheeled battery, a painstaking process filled with tweaks and setbacks. A former appliance company owner, he had handcrafted the metal that made installation possible, cutting, shaping and bending each tile before adding the eye-catching details and hoisted “#Sher iffDrumman” light sign. above the vehicle. .
It was his pride and joy, bringing smiles to faces when the reasons for them were few and far between. As the disbelief that he had been robbed turned into a horrific realization, the emotions were just too much to bear.
“When I came out I had a total panic attack,” the 34-year-old sheriff said. “I passed out in front of my neighbours. I started screaming, calling for help as if someone had shot me. It was like the devastating news of the murder of a loved one.
Even before the mobile sound machine started turning heads in Los Angeles, the drums were a lifeline for Sheriff. The youngest of two siblings, he started playing drumsticks at age 3 and by age 8 he was drumming in his grandfather’s church.
He’s dabbled in other instruments since then – he plays around 16 fluently, the Hammond B3 organ being his second favorite – but has always returned to the drums, drawn to the rhythms and enamored with its deafening power.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “Without the drums, my life would have been completely different. There’s no other way to put it. It’s my therapy, it’s my pleasure, it’s my life.
The sheriff attended various high schools, but made the most of Washington Preparatory High School and its music director Fernando Pullum, the renowned musician who went on to found the Pullum Community Arts Center in Leimert Park.
Speaking into the microphone from the pulpit in his parking lot, it’s clear his true roots remain in the church. As people pass by, they can’t help but glance at the drummer who spreads the right word for a moment, then shouts it out to punctuate his message.
“When I play, I try to play from this place,” he said. “I know life isn’t perfect, I know people can’t get what they need in life, especially today. When I play I try to bring that fulfillment.
That’s why the truck was such a special project, allowing him to uplift people through music while honoring his other true talent: building.
Since childhood he has been in love with Legos, the building blocks that made him fall in love with assembly. Step into his home today and you’ll find a custom-built Lego fortress measuring almost 15 feet wide, 3 feet high, and 4 feet deep.
“I have over 200,000 pieces in my house,” he said. “Sitting there looking at the schematics and how you build things – plus my grandfather was a contractor and I had to go to work with him sometimes – those two put a different imprint on me.”
Unable to sleep at night after his second divorce in 2016, his mind kept returning to his two true loves, and he quickly imagined the truck as a way to bond the two of them.
Once he was up and running, it was like nothing he had ever felt before.
“I love seeing creativity, seeing what he’s going to do next with a song,” said Jamilla Brodie, a security guard who watched him perform outside Target. “It’s the next Tommy the Clown, more on the musical side. Kids love it, it’s great for parties, it’s great for entertaining.
After the truck was stolen, however, search efforts focused on the bridge. While waiting for police to find his vehicle, the sheriff posted quick updates on his Instagram looking for information, and one of his friends took time off to help search for clues around town.
A few days later, he appeared near the train tracks on Slauson Avenue.
Dents, broken door handles and scratches marred the truck’s exterior, but most important was what was missing: the car’s battery, spare tire and its prized battery, as well as its generator, lighting and much of the metal that held it together.
“I thought they just cut the equipment off the truck,” he said. “They took my fucking name. What you gonna do with my fucking name?
Nearby cameras recorded the robbery on tape, but the Hawthorne Police Department has yet to find a suspect and admits it’s unlikely they ever will. Since getting the truck back, he’s bought a few parts here and there, but he’s still dreading the final process of putting the parts back together.
“It’s not a five-minute project,” he said. “I’m about to go to Home Depot and buy the metal to build the frame to hold all the gear. Just sanding the 10 pieces of metal is going to take me three hours. And then I still have to spray paint and let it dry.
The sheriff was booked and busy while the truck was running, creating a relatively constant stream of income. Well-known and often spotted in Los Angeles, he charged $300 an hour and, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, played as many as six or seven gigs in a single day.
“A lot of gigs were stacked on top of each other,” he said. “When I was leaving a concert, I would fly to the next customer, telling them, ‘I’m 10 minutes away, I’m a little late. “”
Although the truck was insured, the policy did not cover any of the sheriff’s add-ons such as drumming and lighting. With the help of Guitar Center, donations from fans, and a private donor who asked to remain anonymous, he bought “Honey,” along with the lighting, speakers, and most of what he needed. need to restore the truck.
Still, he estimates he’s about $10,000 short of replacing everything, and it will take at least another month before the setup is fully functional again.
“I spent the money I made yesterday on something else that costs as much as this damn battery,” he said.
He’d already been hired to perform concerts downtown and elsewhere in the coming days, but without the truck, he’s back to getting tips at the Target parking lot. It is his home base, where many passers-by know his work and are eager to hear him perform.
“Nice to see you back here,” said a man, depositing a note in his tip jar.
“You’re going to bounce back,” another man shouted from his car window.
That community support has sustained him through the ordeal, and it’s one of the things he loves most about his comeback, albeit in a limited way. Midway through her two-hour setup process, an elderly woman walks into the store, slowly pushing her walker past the honey-gold drum with a look of expectation on her face.
“You all have a blessed one! she drags. “He better play when I get out of here.”