Dave Rowlands


Location: Sydney, NSW

Challenge: Acquired Brain Injury

Website: facebook.com/david.rowlands.399

My love of drumming started at the age of five. My teacher selected me to play the marching drum for school assembly in a small country town. I didnít get a follow up gig due to us moving to the city to live!

My family was given a retired drum kit by a neighbour when I was aged fourteen. My mother arranged for lessons and I was well on my way to playing gigs. I played with a friend who was a guitarist in dance bands for a while and we soon tired of the same old same old. We formed a three piece surf band, The Firebirds. That kept us busy until we discovered blues music. We were joined by a bass player and keyboardist. We became the Unknown Blues and had plenty of work around Sydney in 1966.

We realised that we needed a singer and we chose Phil Jones. His sisterís fiancť became our manager. We hit the big time very quickly and produced a hit record.

Phil Jones And The Unknown Blues was the hardest working band in Sydney in 1967. Tours to South East Queensland and Melbourne and TV appearances followed. We billed with top name bands of that era. At the end of 1967 the gigs dried up and I left the band.

I spent the next chapter of my life raising a family. In 2009 my life was changed significantly after a motor vehicle accident which left me with an acquired brain injury. During the recovery period I took stock of what I had achieved during my life and remembered that I had been in a band. I used a practice pad and the heaviest sticks available to build up the strength in my damaged right shoulder. 12 months of daily sessions had me fit enough to play with the reformed band at the 2011 Byron Bluesfest.

I was asked to play with the late Wiley Reed following Bluesfest. We played at a lot of venues in and around Brisbane. I used to pick him up from his home and take him to a pub out of Brisbane every Saturday morning. He played the piano and sang and I played snare with brushes. I learned so much from playing for him.

Steve Skinner invited me to play percussion with him in early 2013. That allowed me a degree of compositional expression that I was seeking. I have done session work and fill-in gigs since then. My playing is improving with time and I enjoy experimenting with hybrid drum kits and hand drumming and percussion. I am continuing playing with Steve Skinner and in Hollow Tree, a duo with blind musician Renee Kelly. I recently acquired an electric drum kit for rehearsing with a Jam Hub with other musicians. The aim is to form a jazz fusion style band.

I face daily challenges in my life due to my acquired brain injury. I am so grateful that I am still able to play music. I am a much more accomplished drummer and musician now through sheer determination, and hard work. Music is the major part of my life now.


Dave Rowlands with Phil Jones and the Unknown Blues performing "Heart of Steel" at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2011