Since he was a child growing up in Martinsville, music has been a defining element of drummer David Young’s life.
He has passed that love of music on to his son, bass player Mike Young. Together with guitar player Chris Icones, the three comprise the band The Amazing Mongooses, which will make its Martinsville debut May 25 at the Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival.
Young learned about Rooster Walk last year, when he visited the city for the Martinsville High School class of 1973’s 40th reunion. Several of his friends asked him if he was familiar with the music festival, now in its sixth year, and suggested that The Amazing Mongooses play the show.
Young contacted Johnny Buck, who, along with William Baptist, is a founder of the festival, and asked about having the Amazing Mongooses at Rooster Walk. Then, Young said, he promptly forgot about it.
Little did he know that many of his old high school friends had created an impromptu email campaign to bring the Mongooses to Martinsville.
“The next thing you know,” Young said, “Johnny (Buck) sent me a contract.”
Young said his band will play at the festival on Sunday, May 25. It is scheduled to play at stage three, although Young said that the exact time has not yet been solidified.
The Amazing Mongooses is not Young’s first band.
In 1967, when Young was 12, he teamed up with his friends R.C. Dodson and Larry Hopkins to form a band. Dodson and Hopkins played guitar, while Young played percussion on his home-made drum kit: an elderly Japanese snare drum, a Slingerland field drum he’d converted into a tom tom, and a 6-inch cymbal.
“One Saturday we played Leatherwood Downs in the county,” Young said. “It was a dog race. ... That very same afternoon we played a barber shop at Patrick Henry Mall.”
“That’s probably the absolute bottom rung of the ladder,” he added, laughing.
In high school, Young played in another Martinsville band called Redwood.
“We were one of the first bands in town to play things like David Bowie and T. Rex,” he said. “We played a party at Patrick Henry Community College. We mostly played parties around town. Because we weren’t 18 yet, so we couldn’t play in clubs.”
With some help from his mentor, former Martinsville High band director Bob McMillan, Young got a talent award scholarship to Appalachian State University.
“At Appalachian State,” Young said, “everybody there pretty much wanted to be a high school band director, and I wanted to be a professional musician traveling around. So I dropped out and joined a rock ’n’ roll band that was there in Boone, N.C. We couldn’t get any gigs in Boone in 1974, so we moved to Atlanta.”
Young played with several different bands there. It was difficult to play in Atlanta at the time, he said, because in the 1970s, only top-40 bands were booked regularly at clubs. He traveled extensively with different bands, including a country-rock band that featured “a really terrible lead singer.”
“We were playing in Nipawin, Saskatchewan — the teeming metropolis of Nipawin, Saskatchewan — in a Chinese restaurant,” Young said. “We were doing a terrible version of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads,’ and I thought, ‘I’m with a no-talent singer with a band in a Chinese restaurant in Canada. I can’t get lower than this. What the heck am I doing with my life right now?’”
In 1976, Young returned to Martinsville and consulted with McMillan, who suggested that he attend Berklee College of Music. After a few months working in Globman’s Department Store uptown, Young had saved enough to attend Berklee. He graduated in 1980, and one week after graduation, he married Betty Clarke, his high school sweetheart.
“When I was performing in Redwood in 1972,” he said, “we had just started dating, and now we’ve been happily married for 34 years.”
The couple moved back to Atlanta, and after a successful stint with a band called Lucky Southern, Young began working at the Art Institute of Atlanta. At that point, he said, he thought his career as a drummer was essentially over, with the exception of playing music at an occasional party.
David and Betty Young have two children, Mike Young and Tyler Young. Mike Young took an early interest in music.
“He automatically had a very good ear for music,” David Young said. “He went to a performance arts magnet school in Atlanta. His first two concerts were Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, so I started him off right. He was weaned on British rock — Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Blind Faith, you name it.”
In high school, Mike Young decided he wanted to try his hand at playing bass. His parents got him an electric bass guitar for Christmas, and Mike Young quickly taught himself to play.
Before long, father and son were jamming in the basement. Shortly after, they joined up with Chris Icones, a guitarist friend from church, and played a few open mic nights as The Amazing Mongooses.
“By 2004, suddenly I’m playing again,” Young said. “I thought it was done. Next thing you know, we’re playing clubs all over Atlanta.”
As much as he enjoys playing music, it’s more meaningful, Young said, to be able to share the experience with his son.
“I tell people that some fathers and sons have their twice-a-week fishing trip or something; we have our twice-a-week rock ’n’ roll gig. I love playing drums, but to be in a band with your kid, that’s just amazing to me,” he said.
Both of Young’s sons are in education, he said. Tyler Young is an education major at University of Georgia, and Mike Young is a high school math teacher.
“That should freak out anyone who knew me in high school,” Young said, laughing. “Math teachers especially would have voted me most likely to wind up driving a fruit truck. Those mathematics genetics came from his mother, not me.”
Young said he’s excited that he and his son will be able to share their music with friends in Martinsville.
“I’m just so thankful for my friends and the people who helped me get this gig,” Young said. “I feel lucky. More than anything else, that’s the big message that I have. I just feel lucky to get a chance to be in a band with my son and play a big festival for all my friends. It’ll be a nice homecoming.”
For more information about the festival, visit www.roosterwalk.com.