Tell Me Something: John Van Ness names the best local grinders

Drummer and vocalist John Van Ness is the general manager of Spindrift Guitars in downtown New London.
Drummer and vocalist John Van Ness is the general manager of Spindrift Guitars in downtown New London.

Spindrift Guitars General Manager John Van Ness has worked in downtown New London for much of his adult life. He did two stints at Caruso Music, the first one from 1987-1992, and the second one from 2006-2012. In between, he worked for many of the top musical instrument manufacturers in the industry. Of late, Van Ness, a drummer and vocalist, is supporting award-winning singer-songwriter Josi Davis in several different projects, including her "Evolution of Love" Nouveau Cabaret. The CD of the same name has been receiving critical acclaim nationwide. Their current band project "Josi Davis & Hot Damn!" is booking and playing clubs, private parties, and events through 2014.

Say you have a modern-day high school locker. Whose picture would be hanging in it?

Brooke Shields. My dad took her and her mom fishing off of Pleasure Beach when I was in high school and I didn't get the invite. I have quite nearly almost forgiven him.

What's your favorite sandwich?

I'm a grinder guy and an absolute authority on what's best locally: Terrace Bakery/salami; Supreme Pizza/tuna; Mr. G's/roast beef; Muddy Waters/meatball; Carlo & Son's/prime rib. Trust me on this.

You're locked in a museum for a night, which one would it be?

The Rhythm Discovery Center in Indianapolis. They've got Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's early Green Sparkle drums on display, and Rush drummer Neil Peart's vintage chrome drums there as well. Give me some drumsticks and an iPod full of Zeppelin and Rush tunes and I'll see you in the morning. (Make coffee).

What was the first drum set you ever bought?

A vintage Leedy/Ludwig kit from the 50's. I was young and stupid and spray-painted over the white pearl finish with paint from a rattle can. I later gave those drums to a friend who has since restored them.

What's your favorite word in a language other than English?

"Fortissimo" which means "very loud" in Italian, because there's only one way to rock.

What's an album you like, but can't convince others to like?

Stewart Copeland of the Police did a great record called "The Rhythmatist". He's an unbelievably good composer. I think me, one other guy, and Stewart's mom actually own that record.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but an asteroid is going to wipe all humanity next week. So, what's your last meal and who is coming to dinner?

I'd host a serious backyard barbecue, with a big stage and a huge sound system and invite all of the good people in my life. "Josi Davis & Hot Damn!" would headline.

Who is on your "Mount Rushmore" of drummers?

Bonham and Peart (already mentioned), Steve Gadd who has literally played and recorded with everyone, and the one-man Mardi Gras himself, Stanton Moore from Galactic. Stanton's the man.

You're a DJ at a club. What's the night's last song?

Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" - karaoke version, of course.

Name an item you can't live without:

Coffee maker.

Item you should live without and keep meaning to get rid of:

I have a pair of Oakley "Shades" sunglasses from the 1980's that I simply can't wear for fear of ridicule. But they're also worth about $300 now…so how can I part with them?

What's the last television show you binge-watched?

"Flight of the Conchords" - those two are brilliant songwriters.

What's your favorite Sunday morning song?

Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic".

What film, television show, or theatrical production most accurately depicts life at a music store?

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Seriously though, we could host a reality show here at Spindrift Guitars. We just never know who or what is going to walk in the front door.

If you present day you could give advice to a younger you, what would it be?

Get it done today.

Last book you couldn't put down:

I admit I have a collection of books I've gotten only a third of the way through. I have made the realization that I buy books because I feel I am buying the time to read them.

You're going on a road trip. Pick a destination. Pick a vehicle. Pick a song to start the trip and song to play when you get there.

San Diego (one way), a red 1957 Corvette convertible, and Steely Dan's "Aja" record on infinite repeat.

What's a word you can never spell correctly on the first try:

Neccesarily. Necesarilly. Necessarily.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Black.

Soduku or Crossword?

Crossword (and only the Sunday edition, which I still won't complete).

Anagrams or palindromes?

The eyes they see.

What is your pet peeve?

Do you mean today or every day? People who don't give me the 'thank you' wave when I let them cut in front of me in traffic.

What historical event would you like to have witnessed?

Woodstock - 1969. Richie Havens in particular.

What is your favorite place in Connecticut to recharge and/or find serenity?

The ocean in mid-July, or the back deck at Hot Rod Café after sunset.

Whom alive today do you most admire?

My daughter Darcy. She's an amazing human. A great student, with a well-developed sense of humor, and a big heart, she always puts others ahead of herself. It's an interesting thing when you realize your own child has become your role model.


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