TUCSON, AZ – Local bongo player, Steve “Ashy” Gregory, readily admits that he takes his bongo playing very seriously.
“When I’m on stage, I just get lost in the beat, you know,” said Gregory. “Once the song starts, it’s like something just comes into me and I just got to pound it out. And it’s not a sexual thing, you know like pounding it out masturbation style, but it’s just something that I need to do. You know, I guess it kinda is like jacking off though. I mean I just really get into it and then when the song is over I feel like it’s a huge release. And I have a hard on.”
While not a professional bongo player, Gregory occasionally joins his friends Jim and Rachelle Helper, who perform as Helpers Hand. Gregory will occasionally join Helpers Hand even when he is not invited.
“He’s a good guy and all, but sometimes, he gets a little nuts with his bongo,” Jim Helper said. “A few times he completely took over the song. I mean Helpers Hand is all about the lyrics and Rachelle’s tambourine playing. Sometimes, no, most times when Ashy plays with us he just takes over and you can barely hear the tambourine or my pan flute. He just starts hitting the bongos as loud as he can and is playing some random beat and just gets lost in it. It’s a real bummer, man.”
During his last performance with Helpers Hand, Gregory played bongos for 10 minutes after the last song had been played, not realizing that the show was over.
“Yeah, I just get lost in the music,” Gregory said. “When I’m up there on stage, pounding on my bongos, feeling the rhythm, raging hard on, it’s just hard to think about anything else. The rhythm is really important. Everything comes from a rhythm. And the bongos are just the most primal instrument you can play, you know. When I’m playing I just start thinking about cavemen banging on rocks and fallen trees and stuff. They were really the first bongo players. That’s probably why I get such a raging hard on, thinking about cavemen hitting their women over the head, dragging them into a cave, banging them and then banging on some skins. It’s beautiful man.”
According to audience members at Gregory’s last performance, the bongo player comes across as a little weird and intense – especially for a bongo player.
“(Gregory is) a weird dude,” Danny Araipa, 33. “Bongos are just kinda meh in general but that guy took his bongo playing way too seriously. Are bongos even a real instrument? I know hippies always play them in their dumb-ass drum circles but I didn’t think anyone actually used them for real. The other weird thing about the dude was the fact that he played in his underwear. Oh, and he had a huge boner the whole time. That was weird too.”
Gregory says that he has no formal training as a bongo player and is completely self taught.
“I got my first bongo when I was 24,” Gregory said. “At first I was like ‘I can’t do this man, it’s way too complicated.’ But I just stuck with it. I would just sit there on my patio all night just practicing and practicing. Sometimes my neighbors would join in by banging on the walls, or I would play along with the police sirens when they were around. But really, I didn’t get it till I decided that I just needed to lose myself in the music. And that’s what I did and that’s what got me to where I am today.”
Helpers Hand’s next show is next week and it is unclear if Gregory will be joining the group on stage.
“I think I’ll be there, but you know, I might have another commitment,” said Gregory. “I don’t like to commit to things without knowing my options you know? Hot Buttered Rum is coming through and I might need to get on stage with them. You know? We’ll see. Those guys could use some bongos on a couple of their tunes and I let them know on Facebook that I’m available if they need me.”