Charles Bedford, better known as Charlie, bangs the drums in six different bands.
“Not at the same time of course,” the Oak Bay 92-year-old chuckles.
He started playing drums as a kid, he was “maybe six maybe eight years old, who remembers it was a long time ago?” he says with a distinctive laugh that punctuates most of his tales.
“We didn’t have radio or anything like that so you had to make your own entertainment,” he says. “They used to play dominoes and cards which I couldn’t stand.”
He despised the games to the point where he’d throw a fit, and finally his dad made him a pair of drum sticks to keep him occupied. That too, drove everyone nuts, but at least he was productive.
“My dad made me a couple of drum sticks – he could make anything – I used them to bang on the table,” he says, making the motion on the nearby side table.
“I just taught myself. I taught myself plumbing too. Nobody ever taught me anything,” he says. “He bought me a mouth organ and I just stuck it in and played a tune. Don’t ask how I did it. I don’t know.”
By age 14 he was hanging around with three others who formed a band and played area dances.
The four piece included Bedford on drums, “Zimmer” on piano, an accordionist and his pal Joe. “He didn’t play anything. The girls used to flock the stage to look at him,” Bedford says. “He had a way with him.”
Then war came and despite being able to put it off six months because of his value in the plumbing trade, Bedford was called up for army duty. Like many, he worked his way through Europe: Normandy, Hull, Belgium and Germany.
“I wrote a book about it,” he says. “I felt I ought to do something to remember those days. I don’t live the war, I like to remember it. A lot of my mates got killed. I didn’t intend it (to be a book). It satisfied me. I had to get it out of my system.”
He wrote Me and World War II in 2002 when he moved to Oak Bay from James Bay, after the death of his brother Peter.
Among the tales are those of music in the military. Near the end of his tenure in the army he spent a couple of years stationed in the Harz mountains in Germany. There, they formed a 10-peice band from all the different units. There already was a drummer, but it turned out, he could play trombone, so he slid into that position and Bedford scored the drum kit.
“We played dances and shows in the theatres. The Germans used to come,” he said. “We travelled around.”
Married twice, once before the war, but not one to talk about it, Bedford fills his time with drumming around Victoria. Much of that is done a mere block from home, at the Monterey Recreation Centre.
“I went to some of the dances over there (at Monterey). Now I play with six different groups there,” he said, gesturing down the street. “I love playing the drums. My love was dancing, but now I don’t do that anymore I have COPD. My lungs can’t do it.”
Monday morning is band practice for Charlie and the Angels.
“We play at some of the homes, Carleton House, Oak Bay Lodge,” he says.
Monday afternoon he rehearses with the Monterey Ukelele club, Tuesday is spent with a band in the Cook Street area and Thursdays he plays with the Singalong group at Monterey.
Sometimes there’s more, sometimes less.
“It varies, but sometimes it’s six times a week. I want to be busy all the time,” he says. “It’s made all the difference to me. I can do all the things I want to do. How can it get better?”
Did you know?
Charlie Bedford and his brother Peter moved to Canada together in 1989.
“We came for a holiday and decided it was for us,” he said. “I like it because it’s by the sea. Then I started playing drums, so it got more interesting.”
Charlie doesn’t read music.
“I’ve tried several times, but it’s just not for me. I just don’t get it.”