No Regrets, but…

Do you ever wonder what your life would look like if you had made a few different choices at key moments of your life? Those “what ifs” that sneak into your thoughts when you pause to ponder your life and just how you got to where you are at this moment?

I have no regrets in the big picture of how my life unfolded and where I am now. I am happy in my choice of career, spouse, family, ministry and in the overall direction of my life.

But still…

I have these moments when I pause and wonder. Often those moments occur when I happen to watch a concert with a particularly good drummer. I pause and wonder if that could have been me.

You see I had two passions as a kid growing up. Both in the arts. I was a drummer. I started playing in band in elementary school, my first “drum” being one of those practice pads—a piece of rubber glued to a piece of wood. I would build up to a real drum kit later, one piece at a time. I’m sure my parents thought “any instrument EXCEPT the drums,” but they were tolerant and encouraging, despite the noise. In junior high I was in my first rock band, The Phylum Five (there were only four members—go figure).

The other passion, of course, was the stage. I was in church plays, school plays and in general a ham in front of an audience. In high school I found my niche as an actor. I auditioned for almost every play and was cast in leading roles. I loved it!

So here I was in school playing drums in concert and marching bands, and performing in plays and competing in Forensics (humorous interpretative readings). I was able to, in a sense, have my cake and eat it too.

I went to college as a theater major and again had success landing good roles during my time as a college student. I also played drums in the college marching band and in a rock ’n roll band. I was keeping my feet fairly balanced in both worlds for a time.

In 1974 a music group called “The Spurrlows” (Google Thurlow Spurr) came to our college. Well known at the time, this group was like a Christian version of “Up With People.” Big band, contemporary music and a great drummer, a guy by the name of Larnelle Harris (yep, that Larnelle, Grammy and Dove award winning vocalist). The Spurrlows had more than one touring group and invited audience members to audition for their groups after the show. I chickened out but later went home and made a cassette recording of me playing the drums and sent it off to them.

In the summer of 1974 I got my first professional acting job, working as understudy for all the male roles in the Smoky Mountain Passion Play. It was a great experience and for the first time began to open my eyes to the possibility of being an artist that was also in ministry. One of the cast members had toured professionally with a Christian theater company called the Covenant Players. I was enthralled at the possibility!

Upon returning to college the next semester, I began to investigate this theater company. By the end of the semester I was traveling to LA join the company and to become a full-time professional actor.

In the summer of 1975 I was on tour break and with my family back in Michigan when I got a phone call. The voice on the other end of the phone was Larnelle Harris. Thurlow Spurr was launching another group and they had listened to my tape. They wanted to know if I was interested in being the drummer for the group.

Needless to say, I had a sleepless night. Of course I was interested! But I also loved being an actor. Tossing and turning through the night, I played out different scenarios. Actor, drummer, drummer, actor, back and forth all night long. But as much as I wanted to do both, I knew I couldn’t.  I had made a time commitment to the theater company. I really didn’t have a choice. I needed to keep my word. The next day I called Larnelle to tell him no, at least for now.

I chose the stage. It has become my life and I am happy and blessed. Not every person gets to make a living doing something they love. I don’t take it for granted.

A few times I have had the opportunity to play the drums again. Charles Tanner, writer and director of that theater company wrote a play for me. The character was a drummer, a drummer struggling to decide how to use his talents. The climax of the play was a drum solo expressing the character’s conficts, and also served as a prayer as he made his choice to “follow the drumbeat.” It was the only time I was able to be both an actor and a drummer at the same time (talk about having your cake and eating it too)!

Over the years I have played a few gigs at a church jazz night as a drummer, and have passed on my love of the drums to one of my sons, who is a very talented drummer in his own right. I keep a Cajon in my office and my car dashboard takes a beating on my travels. Once a drummer, always a drummer I suppose.

Almost every church has a set of drums on the platform these days. Such was not the case when I was a kid growing up in the church. But every weekend as I sit in a different church preparing to take to the stage as an actor, I look at those drums and I listen to the drummer…no regrets…but sometimes I wonder.

6 thoughts on “No Regrets, but…

  1. John Welton says:

    Glad you took the path you did. It was a joy to have a small part in that journey.

    1. Chuck Neighbors says:

      I’d say it was more than a “small part” Papa. While our time together was relatively short, your impact and influence on me was huge! Thank you!

  2. Phil Nash says:

    Hi Charles,

    It was fun to read your story! I just knew “bits and pieces.”

    I hope you are all well and thriving!


  3. Barbara Strong Ellis says:

    Although I only toured one year with Covenant Players, I have been blessed many times over for taking that route. Your story warms my heart. If you ever travel near Harrisburg,PA, please come see Gene and I.

  4. Paul says:

    Good to hear a bit more of your drumming story.
    Even better that you Don’t Regret following your Love of God!

    Being in that same Drama Group,I actually saw had the pleasure of seeing your (Beat) “Double Performance”(Acting & Drumming), a couple times; (Beat) Although I saw no separation between the two.

    Keep Up the Good Work Mr Neighbors!

  5. Bob Battersby says:

    Quite a good summary, Chuck.
    Thought provoking is an understatement. Thanks for the more than gracious compliment. I do enjoy playing to this day and if I look back too long, I’ll probably find some not-so-smart turns I took on the way here as well as get a stiff neck. You always had great style and time…oh, and on the drums, too.
    Mr. Ryan was one of the finest teachers and people I ever met.
    I, too crossed paths with Thurlow Spurr and actually played a show with his band at Whiting Auditorium called “Greater is He” sometime in ’74 or ’75. Didn’t remember or never knew you had the same close encounter. At the time I think they were looking for a drummer to go to NC (?) to play studio/PTL shows (fuzzy on the details)? Think I was settled in at CMU already and didn’t consider the move.
    Anyway, we’ve had fine lives so far and certain there are great days ahead and more tales to be told.
    Best to you and your clan,
    Bob B


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