The first time I came across Damone was in 2011 at a fire hall while we worked at an Irish music themed event. He was drumming with The Fighting 69th, an Irish punk band on the bill that day. He was in his second year in college. But his musical story goes back to the very beginning.
“My mother said I was playing drums in her belly, I was kickin’,” he says. That as it turns out, would be the easy part. “A Miracle really is my middle name”. He would explain how it was not a stage name, or anything of the sort. Damone was born premature, weighing just a pound and a half at birth, the kind of child you can hold in one hand. Here was a newborn who battled tremendous odds, one who not only wanted to survive, but to continue kicking, a spirit which has helped him rise to a first call drummer in the Buffalo music scene.
Both sides of his family are musically inclined, so he would be a natural to pursue a musical path. At a young age, while the family attended church services, he would constantly bang on things rhythmically, and was drawn to the musical aspect of the church. He described his first real life changing moment “I was at least 3 or 4 years old, and I remember seeing a teal type of color, 6 or 7 piece drum kit, it was so beautiful,” Damone continues. “I saw a guy just wailing away, and I wanted to do that. I’m not even sure of who he was. My mother bought me a pair of drum sticks. I would always carry with me a bear, and a pair of drum sticks, everywhere I went in public”.
Then at around 6 years old, he went with his mom to a church revival, and during a break, his mom says “Hey, no one is playing drums right now, why don’t you go and play?”… which he did. Then people started looking at him, which sort of frightened him. “I thought I was doing something wrong, I almost started to cry, but people told him no, keep going. That’s when I knew.” And so he continued kicking.
His teenage years, he was in punk bands, played music by Minor Threat, Black Flag. He bought a double bass pedal when he was 16, for a hundred bucks, some birthday money, “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” he reminisced. While he attended Cleveland Hill High School, he had a conversation with his history teacher, Doug Newman, talking about the topic of Bastille Day. He capped off the topic with the song of the same name by the band Rush. He could not stop listening, another one of those moments. He was also encouraged to check out the Dave Matthews Band by his teacher, but didn’t really like them at all. As it turns out, a high school friend had an extra ticket for a Dave Matthews show and again it changed his life.
He graduated high school in 2009, and continued to study music at Villa Maria College. “I was self taught, and didn’t know how to read music until college,” he said. He would go on to graduate in 2014 with a B.A. in Music Performance, and a Concentration in Jazz.
He recalls his first ‘real’ gig. “I remember when I got the first call, from Tommy Z. I remember the journey, that’s what started it all.” The Tommy Z gig took him several places, including Colombia. It has been a journey for the 26 year old drummer. He has gone on to travel with Miller and the Other Sinners throughout the United States and Mexico, and currently with Freightrain, which has performed as far as Norway.
Damone grew up watching, then playing along notable Buffalo drummers Carl ‘Flute’ Johnson, Preston Brown, Daniel Powell, Aaron Blackmon, Charles McCarley and others. Would always go and see them at church. He spoke very fondly of the brotherhood he shares with not only with these guys, but other musicians he’s performed with. “They molded me, all those guys,” he said.
He is a guy who loves to play, and it has been a treat to watch him grow from a teenager playing punk, to a professional musician which also includes teaching drums at the Guitar Factory. “These opportunities I’ve been getting are extraordinary. I pay my bills playing music. I meet a lot of great musicians at Guitar Factory, where I teach drums.” He continues, “My plan 2 years ago was to move to Atlanta, but Buffalo is definitely on the rise. I take it day by day. I could get a call tomorrow. I thank God for the opportunity to just be known.” I think you have earned the opportunity to be known, you’ve never stopped kicking, and people are noticing.