Drummin’ up happiness wherever he goes

Anthony Sheriff plays the drums from the back of his pickup truck

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — For the last five years, Anthony Sheriff has literally been marching to the beat of his own drums.

Utilizing the streets of Los Angeles and the boulevards of Las Vegas as his open-air venues, Sheriff, a free-spirited musician with a passion for percussion, has literally taken his show on the road and can be found in various locations, playing his heart out on the drums he creatively situated in the back of his Ford pickup truck.

It’s admittedly an unconventional way to make a living, but Sheriff loves what he does and plans to continue until he catches that big break on a big stage or with a major sponsor.

“I want to play on a big stage at a big venue,” said Sheriff, who appeared on Steve Harvey’s talk show in 2018. “I want to build a band. That would be fun. I’d like to have sponsors.”

Sheriff’s setup includes Mapex drums, Zildjian cymbals, Vicfirth drumsticks and he drives a Ford truck. Playing, he said, is his therapy.

“I don’t know what I’d do without my drums,” said Sheriff, a twice-divorced father or three. “I play the drums to keep me balanced. I let the drums speak to my heart. It’s like a therapy session. It keeps me alive.”

Complete with lights and smoke to “capture everyone’s attention,” Sheriff, 34, is known as the Drumman. He puts on a show by turning his one-man-band into a stylish impromptu pickup concert attracting fans everywhere he goes.

He has played gigs at gas stations, parking lots, street corners and any other location he decides would be a good place to draw a crowd. Amassing quite a following, Sheriff can usually be found in South Los Angeles and Inglewood.

He was recently on the highly congested corner of Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, where cars stopped, people got out, took pictures, tipped generously and presented a job well-done thumbs up.

“This guy is good,” said Clarence, 61. “I was here yesterday and came back today. He plays my kind of old-school music.”

“I read about Sheriff online,” said Joe after placing a donation in the tip box. “My son is a composer and told me about him. I just happened to be driving by. I didn’t know he was going to be here. This was great timing on my part. He is really good.”

“This is fantastic,” said Will, who was walking past the parking lot, but made a detour when he heard the music. “I hope he doesn’t go to jail.”

“Wow, this is a good location for me,” Sheriff said. “I’m going to stay as long as I can, which is usually until the cops come.”

Moments after he made that statement, a security guard, who admittedly was enjoying the music, told Sheriff he had to stop because the music was too loud for the owners of the surrounding businesses.

Sheriff, who also has played in Barstow, Victorville and San Diego, has been arrested several times for playing the drums on the streets. He is not deterred.

He continues to do it because he wants to make people happy — and in the process — he does the same for himself. He loves drummin’ up happiness wherever he goes.

It all started when Sheriff was 3. Anything that was within his reach “got hit.”

“I would hit on anything in the house,” said Sheriff, a Los Angeles native. “Paint cans, buckets, trees. I’d hit anything to get that sound.”

By the time he was 10, Sheriff said he had “really gotten good.”

“My grandfather was a pastor,” he said. “When I would go to church and hear the beat, I would see people get excited. I would crawl under the seats to get to the drums. That’s when they had those old-school pews. I would sneak over to the drums and just watch.”

By the time he was 8, Sheriff said he became the drummer at Tabernacle Community Church. He learned how to play the drums by watching closely during Sunday services he attended and through some lessons in high school.

Between the ages of 15 and 25, he had made his way to a non-denominational Christian church. Eventually, he left the church altogether and went out on his own.

“The politics of church was stressful,” he said. “That made me say, the best thing to do was to do my own thing.”

After trying to play the drums in Leimert Park, Sheriff said he was asked to leave by the police and was told by others that “the preference at the park was African drumming,” so he took his drums to his truck, put them on the back, and, voila, they fit.

“That was it,” he said. “I just went and played somewhere else. I put the speakers on the back, then I thought some shows are at night, I’m going to need some lights. Then I started using smoke to give the illusion of fire. This is my fifth truck. I want to add hydraulics and stronger lights so it looks like you’re really looking at a show.”

Sheriff doesn’t have any set hours. His popular sets are usually at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. “after the clubs let out.”

“I will play drums for the rest of my life,” he said. “Not necessarily on the truck. I would like to do major events on a higher level. I’d love to be an opening act for Snoop (Dogg) or Beyoncé.”

The Third and Fairfax location on a recent Tuesday was just the beginning of Sheriff’s day. He moved his show into Hollywood, posting up on Hollywood Boulevard and then Sunset Boulevard before heading back to Torrance and then South Los Angeles.

“This is going to be a pretty good day,” said Sheriff who is available to play gigs at $250 an hour with a two-hour minimum. “I’m just going to grab something to eat right quick and then go out and give ’em hell.”

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.