Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mysterious elderly lady drummer identified as 63 year old Mary Hvsida
July 21, 2013 11:54 AM   Subscribe

For a short while now, a mysterious older lady has been coming into the Coalition Drum Shop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where she rocks out on the drums and then leaves. The folks at the shop only knew her as Mary, or Grandma Drummer (YouTube), whose song of choice is Wipe Out (YT). A local new station, WKBT, learned that the mysterious drummer is Mary Hvsida, a 63-year-old lady who has been drumming in bands since she was 16. They later reported that she started out in an all-girl rock band, and has been playing in various bands until 1990, when her last band broke up. She couldn't find another band to play in, so she sold her drums. She reminisces over old cassettes, and rocks out in the local drum shop from time to time.
posted by filthy light thief (66 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
\m/
posted by SansPoint at 11:59 AM on July 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


She couldn't find another band to play in

Fuck that. Someone ought to start a band for her if that's what it takes.
posted by pracowity at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I bet she'll be in a band again before the week is through.
posted by monospace at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Phew, I was worried it was a publicity stunt of some kind. Cool to see she was the real thing.
posted by emjaybee at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Coalition Drum Store is giving Mary her very own electronic drum set. It will be delivered this Monday.

I can't help but wondering (as a 60-year old musician myself) if an electronic drum set is what she wanted. It probably wasn't what she played. The only advantage I could think of is if she started gigging again. Schlepping a drum set around at her age might not be a pleasure.
posted by kozad at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2013


Good grief, she would have been only 40 in 1990, and she couldn't find another band to play in? The Roling Stones are her age, and they're still recording and performing. She should be too.
posted by orange swan at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


kozad: With an electronic set, she can put on headphones and bang away like crazy without the neighbors complaining.
posted by SansPoint at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sanspoint: You have a point. I live in a house so I can pound on the piano all I want. This may change in twenty years.
posted by kozad at 12:10 PM on July 21, 2013


There's a drummer who lives somewhere close to my house, and I keep wishing she or he would either improve or take up another hobby, such as watercolours. There is also a French horn player who lives next door. She is good at it — a professional musician in fact — but the French horn really isn't meant to be heard on its own. I'd welcome a good piano player or violinist to the neighbourhood.
posted by orange swan at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2013


Does anyone know where her last name is from and how it is pronounced? I've never seen it before, and a quick Google search isn't bringing up much.
posted by capricorn at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2013


One thing that really interests me about the Aging Baby Boomer phenomenon is what it's doing to people's perception of old age.

I have a feeling that we're in for a wave of extremely cool grannies.
posted by Sara C. at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is the awesome.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:26 PM on July 21, 2013


I'm not sure 63 is exactly elderly.
posted by unSane at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2013 [31 favorites]


The Roling Stones are her age

She's a lot younger than the Rolling Stones - she's the same age as Peter Gabriel.
posted by Grangousier at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


60 is no longer old. But it isn't middle-aged either. 60 is now officially the inauguration of the Twilight Zone Years, when you're too old to work, too young to retire and too damn mean to just dry up and blow away. You can also be thrown pell-mell into the TZYs just by getting laid off after 55. Boom! Middle Aged No More.

There's a buttload of money to be made by anyone who can find a use for all us doofers without portfolios.
posted by tspae at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Good grief, she would have been only 40 in 1990, and she couldn't find another band to play in?

There is a difference between being able to locate musicians who want to be in a band in the strict organizational sense and being able to find a band you specifically want to be in. After enough years of changing it up I can see someone just getting to feel like, eh, this isn't lighting my ass on fire and nobody looking for a drummer that I know of is changing that. Music doesn't have to be a lifelong ambition, gigging doubly so.
posted by cortex at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


but the French horn really isn't meant to be heard on its own

Sir, the gauntlet has been thrown. Pistols at dawn or the world shall know of your cowardice.

(I may be a former horn player.)

Also, why should anyone be surprised that a drummer can, you know, keep drumming. One of the most wonderful things about playing an instrument is that you can keep doing it throughout life!
posted by LooseFilter at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


From the first article: "Wipe Out" by Surfer Joe

Help me, Lord. "Wipe Out" was by the Surfaris, and "Surfer Joe" was the flip side of the single.

Ron Wilson, the original Surfaris, died in 1989, but two of the original Surfaris still tour (in separate bands). They should get together and hire Mary Hvisda (not "Hvsida") to drum for them.
posted by Fnarf at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


(As an aside...my neighbors are older, maybe in their 70s. When they're outside, they play music, which is inevitably Glen Miller type of stuff. When I do the math, I find that 75 today is born roughly 1940, and that makes you 20 in 1960. Was Glen Miller really the popular go-to set in 1960? Do you make it all the way through the 1960s in your 20s without succumbing to the debbil's music? I find it weird and a little scary...is Lite Jazz and The Soothing Sounds of The Non-Threatening White Guy Band something that awaits me?)
posted by maxwelton at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe you reach a point where you play whatever you like and don't give a damn what demographic it's supposed to appeal to.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yes, but in 2043 that non-threatening white guy band will be Coldplay.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's always possible that they got interested in Glen Miller after their 20's.

The especially weird thing is the realization that classic rock is the "non-threatening white guy music" of right now. Think of all the people in their 30's and 40's who listen exclusively to classic rock. There was a time that classic rock was about nostalgia for the music that was cool when you were in high school/college. But now the people listening to it are mostly too young to identify with it that way. They're listening to it because it's accessible, catchy, inoffensive, and uncomplicated. Kind of like Glenn Miller, I guess.

Also, Motown. I recently heard a snippet on NPR about Mark Kurlansky's new book, which is about the song "Dancin' In The Street". I always thought that song was good clean inoffensive pop fun, but apparently when it came out, it was taken as a call to arms and uptight white people thought it might incite people to race riots. Meanwhile in 2013, it's probably on the summer soundtrack at big box stores to get people to buy more madras shorts and lawn chairs.
posted by Sara C. at 1:46 PM on July 21, 2013


holds up a lit antique Zippo overhead
posted by Samizdata at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Roling Stones are her age

Here's a Dave Letterman Top Ten list from 1994, that's almost 20 years ago ferchrissake.

Top Ten Things Overheard at the Rolling Stones Concert

10. I love it when they smash their walkers at the end of a song.
9. The medic alert beepers are drowning out the music.
8. Look! The new guy on bass! It's Matlock.
7. He means, time was on their side.
6. Start me up! I'm serious! This isn't part of the song!
5. It looks like a comet smashed into Keith Richards.
4. Cool! Jagger's teeth just landed in my lap!
3. What's Letterman doing up there with a fiddle?
2. Michael Jackson married? Please...!
1. I can't get no Met-a-mucil
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rock on, Mary!
posted by Mojojojo at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2013


Okay, clearly, I need to get more awesome so that I have a *chance* of being as awesome as she is when I get to be her age.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll take classic rock any day! They don't really make bands like Nirvana or The Ramones any more, no sir.
posted by thelonius at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm more into golden oldies like The Gorillas or Muse, maybe Metric.
posted by happyroach at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2013


My takeaway from the article: I'm halfway between Seinfeld season 1 and being 63.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:16 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good for her and her talent and enjoyment are wonderful to see but the moniker "Grandma Drummer" (on the part of the drum shop and press) is patronizing and sexist, especially since she “never had children of [her] own."
posted by Morrigan at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


What would you have it say? "Old Hag Drummer"? "Somewhat Older Female-bodied Drummer"? "Nevermind, this is only newsworthy because of age and gender and thus is sexist and ageist for us to even mention anyway so sssshhhhh we said nothing OK?"
posted by Sara C. at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is also a French horn player who lives next door. She is good at it — a professional musician in fact — but the French horn really isn't meant to be heard on its own.

Trying living with a concert tuba player, ugh.
posted by Cosine at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2013


Sara C., how about "Mysterious Joyful Local Drummer Identified as 63 Year Old Mary Hvsida?" "Community Loves Local Mystery Drummer," "Mystery Drummer Charms Drum Store Patrons," "Local Mystery Drummer Becomes Youtube Sensation," "Local Mystery Drummer Revealed as Former Girl-Band Rocker," "Not Fade Away: Local Mystery Drummer Revealed." As a former copy editor, there are options beyond "Grandma Drummer" and "Old Hag." "Old Hag," really?
posted by Morrigan at 4:56 PM on July 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


*Looks up "elderly"; looks at faded birth certificate; looks in mirror; looks out at internet..... sighs.*

Says to all the Marys out there, "Rock on you crazy diamond." Rock on, indeed.
posted by mightshould at 5:22 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don’t understand the mystery part; why couldn’t the drum store employees just ask her about herself? They were filming. What kind of amazing detective work does it take to find out who someone is who’s standing right in front of you and comes in regularly?
posted by bongo_x at 5:41 PM on July 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good grief, she would have been only 40 in 1990,...

Oh God.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:00 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Morrigan, all of those headlines are waaaaaaaay too long to be actual headlines. They use "granny" as a quick shorthand that gets exactly the right idea across, not either as some kind of slur as you assume.
posted by Sara C. at 6:07 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara, I need to sleep but give me your parameters for length and I'll give you a headline tomorrow. Brevity need not be an excuse for inaccuracy and reader offense.
posted by Morrigan at 6:43 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Her appearance struck me as "elderly," due to her mass of white hair. I realize this is not an accurate gauge of age. And the original YouTube video is labeled "Grandma Drummer," even though she doesn't have any kids, let alone grandkids.

Anyway, the idea of an older lady coming in to a drum shop is more interesting than a mysterious younger lady. To be honest, an older man coming in, drumming like crazy, and walking out would probably get a significant bit of interest, too, especially if no one knew who he was.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know where her last name is from and how it is pronounced?

Sadly, it looks like there's a bunch of confusion over how to actually spell her name. Looking through news articles, the I and S are switched back and forth, and sometimes the S is replaced with a Z.

There was one YouTube comment early on from someone who said she taught him drums, and spelled her name one way, but there are a TON of comments on the video now, and I'm lazy, so I'll wait for brighter folks to come up with the definitive spelling for her name. As for the pronunciation and origin, I know even less.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2013


In terms of the headline, the question is whether you want to perpetuate the sexism that is rife among musicians (and in wider society) or not. If you do, go with 'granny'. Which she isn't, but things like accurately descriptive non-perjorative words for older women are something our language doesn't seem to have too many of for some reason.

If you want not to be sexist, don't mention that she is a woman. Things like 'Mystery Senior Drummer' then work fine.

Of course, back on the sub-editor's side, not mentioning that she is a woman doesn't actually tell the story. It's a sexist story, or more charitably, a story about sexism. To this day a woman playing drums is not just considered unusual but, sadly, is actually unusual. The sexism in music is essentially is what the whole story is about. Not just a woman playing drums, but an older woman playing drums! Unpossible!

Never mind any of that. Mary rocks, and I hope she gets to play lots more drums in whatever configuration suits her best.
posted by motty at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


SansPoint: With an electronic set, she can put on headphones and bang away like crazy without the neighbors complaining

orange swan: There's a drummer who lives somewhere close to my house, and I keep wishing she or he would either improve or take up another hobby, such as watercolours.

Ma'am? MA'AM?!

Yes, excuse me, but could you please stop drumming just for a few minutes so I can have some PEACE AND QUIET around here?!

I mean, I can't even hear my Nintendo above all that racket.

Sincerely,

Miffed whippersnapper
posted by mistersquid at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her appearance struck me as "elderly," due to her mass of white hair.

This, and the blouse with the floral print. She looked like she was in her 70s to my eyes. I live in a crunchy/granola town dominated by 60-something hippie types, and none of them look like that. The women among them tend to resemble Jill Stein more so than the stereotypical poodle/Q-tip coiffed grandmother.
posted by elmwood at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, but in 2043 that non-threatening white guy band will be Coldplay.

they're about 30 years ahead of schedule.
posted by echocollate at 8:50 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hell, I just turned 70 and I'm still giggin'.

Lawn. Off. Now.
posted by drhydro at 10:12 PM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


"...this is only newsworthy because of age and gender and thus is sexist and ageist..."

The comments are interesting to read. I discovered sometime in my late forties that women start becoming socially invisible at that age. I'm sure it is even worse in music and the entertainment industry generally than it is in business. Most women who've passed 55 know this phenomenon well. It's pretty discouraging to work your whole life to be good at something and then it's assumed you'll quietly give it up and go away because people don't want to look at you anymore. This doesn't seem to happen to men to the same extent.

The only thing you can do about it is to be a bit subversive and turn your invisibility and anonymity to your advantage. If you're invisible and irrelevant, why not do and say what you darn well please?

Good for Mary! Thank you for another lovely post, filthy light thief!
posted by Anitanola at 12:25 AM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well I for one am offended at these dismissive digs at Glen Miller /halfhamburger
posted by ifjuly at 12:38 AM on July 22, 2013


I need to sleep but give me your parameters for length and I'll give you a headline tomorrow.

You don't have until tomorrow. You have five minutes* and you have 90-100 characters. Go.

Oh, sorry, we got the intern to do it while you were trying not to be offensive. And so we got page hits.


(*Sub-editors? Which century are you from?)
posted by Mezentian at 7:10 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a bit more from Mary, via NPR.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2013


It's pretty discouraging to work your whole life to be good at something and then it's assumed you'll quietly give it up and go away because people don't want to look at you anymore. This doesn't seem to happen to men to the same extent.

I'm not at all going to go all BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ about this, but I think it's interesting that, in this case, we're talking about the world of rock music.

When I was in high school my friends and I were all in and out of bands. One of those friends had a father who, despite being a tax attorney, also really loved music and had played the drums in his own youth. So when his kids started getting into music, he took it as inspiration to get back into it. I remember all the adults finding it super weird that there was this middle aged dad sitting in on drums. But, you know, he had a drum kit. And he was at least as good as any of the other teenage drummer dudes. And he was David's dad. And when you had band practice at their house, nobody yelled at you to KEEP IT DOWN. So he was in, as far as we were concerned.

I'm not sure how this would have played out if it was David's mom who wanted to play drums with us, though.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C., how about "Mysterious Joyful Local Drummer Identified as 63 Year Old Mary Hvsida?" "Community Loves Local Mystery Drummer," "Mystery Drummer Charms Drum Store Patrons," "Local Mystery Drummer Becomes Youtube Sensation," "Local Mystery Drummer Revealed as Former Girl-Band Rocker," "Not Fade Away: Local Mystery Drummer Revealed." As a former copy editor, there are options beyond "Grandma Drummer" and "Old Hag." "Old Hag," really?

Grandrummer.
posted by ersatz at 12:54 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it's a totally normal thing (these days anyway) for kids to play with their parents. I've played drums for my son's band (he's 13, I'm 48) and he's played drums for mine. We gigged at a decent sized festival last year with our guitarist's son (14) drumming for us. Everyone gets on OK.

One thing about drumming is that it really doesn't change a whole heckuva lot between generations, at least for live drums.

Ageism is rampant in music, until it isn't. She can play in my band anytime.
posted by unSane at 6:48 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing about drumming is that it really doesn't change a whole heckuva lot between generations, at least for live drums.

I think it’s more that music hasn’t changed much in a long time. I see a lot of people with kids and they’re playing pretty much the same music their parents did.
posted by bongo_x at 8:24 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's true. My son's band plays mostly 90s stuff. And even when people break out Daft Punk or Foster the People or Cee-Lo, it's generally simple and riffing off vintage beats.

The thing about drumming though is that generally if you can hear it you can play it, assuming it's possible to play it.
posted by unSane at 8:42 PM on July 22, 2013


Wait. 63? No way she's anywhere near that young. Unless she has some medical condition that has made her age at an incredibly fast rate, she is at least ten to fifteen years older than that. 63 is not white-haired-grandma territory.

Here's what a 63 year old rocker looks like (playing with her 59 year old sister). And those old guys in the audience? Robert Plant is 64 and Jimmy Page is 69.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this woman is far more awesome than she's getting credit for from those who think she's a decade or two younger than she appears to be.
posted by The World Famous at 10:01 AM on July 23, 2013


A lot of people who live outside major coastal cities don't do the Forever Young No Really Seriously Aging Simply Cannot Happen To Me My Trainer Said So thing.

I mean, I guess the age could be a mistake, and she could be 68 or 73.

But most 63 year old women don't look like Heart.
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2013


A lot of people who live outside major coastal cities don't do the Forever Young No Really Seriously Aging Simply Cannot Happen To Me My Trainer Said So thing.

They still don't look like white-haired grannies. Seriously, they don't. I mean, I realize I've lived in L.A. now for a decade, but I'm from the Midwest, my family are still there, and I spend a ton of time in places outside major coastal cities and 63 year old women seriously do not look like that. My mother - who is quite a bit older than 63 and who does not do that forever young no really etc. thing - lives in the Midwest, has had zero work done, doesn't work out or have a trainer or any of that, and looks at least 20 years younger than that.

What's the source of the claim that she's 63, anyway?
posted by The World Famous at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2013


Last link, TWF.
Thanks to News 8 viewers, the mystery is now solved. The woman in the video is Onalaska's Mary Hvizda.

"I was having a lot of fun," said Hvizda. "I really was."

But 63-year-old Mary Hvizda's love for the drums started many years ago at the age of 15, when she was inspired by her brother to pick up a pair of sticks.

“He was a drummer and I thought I'd really love to play and drum, and that was my chance,” said Hvizda.
posted by unSane at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2013


Right, but it doesn't say what the source is that claimed she's 63.
posted by The World Famous at 11:18 AM on July 23, 2013


Since it's an interview with her, I assume she told them. It's one of the basic questions you ask an interviewee along with the spelling of their name.
posted by unSane at 11:23 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does she look to you like she's in her 60s?
posted by The World Famous at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2013


63 is not white-haired-grandma territory.

Depends entirely on the 63-year-old, really. People age differently and modulate their presentation differently. It is weird to me that people would think it's remotely implausible that that's a 63-year-old woman.
posted by cortex at 11:30 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly cannot think of anyone I've ever known who has looked that old when they were only 63.
posted by The World Famous at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


(OK, my father-in-law looked pretty bad when he was dying of cancer.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2013


She wouldn't be the first woman (or man) of her generation to slice a few years off her age, but she doesn't really seem the type.
posted by unSane at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2013


I rewatched the video, and she doesn't look all that elderly. It's just that she doesn't color her hair and wears it in an outdated style, wears glasses instead of contact lenses, and in the video footage is wearing a baggy t-shirt and either no bra or one that is very simple and relaxed.

I mean, compare Helen Mirren (who is 67) to Patti Smith (who is 66)
posted by Sara C. at 2:13 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older China Miéville talks about Marxism and Halloween i...  |  Giant rubber duckie artist app... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments