By Shelby Smoak
With over 40 years of playing music, nobody is more comfortable behind the kit than Wayne Cook. His is a steady rhythm. And his instrument of choice is uncannily fitting as Wayne is the backbone for so much more than songs.
For starters, Wayne, a person with severe hemophilia B, is the current president of The Coalition for Hemophilia B. For another, Wayne is the father of four grown kids and the proud grandfather of three more. Those are a lot of big roles to fill.
Wayne began playing music in 4th grade and through school beat his drums in marching band, jazz band, summer camps and band competitions, winning the New York State Class divisions for marching and jazz bands in the late 1970s. A fond memory from this time was when his school won their state championship and the jazz band burst into the Rocky theme song with Wayne pounding out a double drum solo. “In all the places I have ever played, it will never be as rewarding as playing that event because that truly sealed it for me as a drummer,” he says. At home, he listened to the greats: John Bonham in Led Zeppelin, Ringo Starr in the Beatles, and one of his favorites, Neil Peart in Rush.
“I loved listening to these guys,” Wayne says, “because they could put down great thunderous beats or smooth grooves to some of the greatest songs.”
But life got in the way after school and the drums went silent. That is until nine years ago when Wayne dusted off the skins and began sitting in for cover, tribute, studio and original bands.
More recently, Wayne jumpstarted The Bleeders cover band, a group that includes myself and other persons with bleeding disorders as its core: Phil Hardt, Rick Starks, Kevin Harris. “For years,” Wayne says, “I had this dream about putting together a band with people from the hemophilia community.” The Bleeders just wrapped up a 2-night show at The Coalition’s Annual Symposium, but Wayne’s long-term goal for the project is to perform at other hemophilia events and even work toward a recording.
In talking with Wayne, he admits that hemophilia has had its impact on his playing. Two replaced knees and arthritis settling in his hands and legs have kept him from playing as fast as he once could. “Now, I am more about keeping a good steady beat and good grooves,” he says, adding that “playing drums three to four times a week for a few hours at a time has helped me with my joints.” Ultimately, Wayne says he will continue playing and “keep that cool groove” and will always be a “Rocker.” You can catch Wayne playing near his hometown in upstate New York and at The Coalition for Hemophilia B Music Camp in Nashville this summer.
Wayne can be heard drumming in The Bleeders live recordings, available on Bandcamp: https://thebleedersusa.bandcamp.com/