The Boy of Summer
Marty Burgenbauch: 1948-2019
It’s fairly ironic that the last band (of many bands over the years) Marty Burgenbauch was a part of was called “The Jaded Haters,” as Marty was as far from “jaded” and “hater” as a man could possibly be.
As wife Judy Burgenbauch said, Marty appeared in a 1969 issue of Time Magazine after a series of riots in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was photographed in his hippie hair and playing a flute.
Nearly a half century later, he dyed his hair purple for “wacky hair day” as a Mammoth schoolbus driver.
In between, there was a wife of 33 years (37.5 if you count the courtship). Three children. Countless gigs as a drummer. Countless smiles. A lot of laughter.
That’s what his daughter Cassie remembers. The laughter. The best part about having Marty as a dad: “He made us laugh. He was so funny.”
And from Maggie Wahl, one of his drumming students: “Oh my God. He was so fun, so irreverent.”
As Maggie says, Marty sailed through life like it was a cosmic joke, a joke that only Marty and God were in on.
He was born in Pasadena. Went to high school and some college in Costa Mesa. Finished college at U.C. Santa Barbara.
He was the son of an engineer (dad) and a music teacher (mom).
He bummed around Europe for several years after college – and after he was rejected for military service because of a heart murmur.
His heart is what saved him then, and what betrayed him at the end.
During his wanderings through Europe, with never more than a few hundred bucks in his pocket, he took a job at a beer bottling plant in Germany, lived on the beach in Portugal …
He was back living in Santa Barbara when he met his wife. Judy was student-teaching and bartending nights at a place called Flapper Alley. Marty was the drummer for the de facto house band.
One slow night, Judy had her glasses on at the bar, grading papers. Marty later admitted he sat down to talk her up because the glasses “made her look smart.”
It wasn’t love at first sight.
“He wasn’t my type. He was older,” said Judy. When pressed what her type was, Judy laughed. “I didn’t know what my type was, but he wasn’t it.”
And yet, he was fun. And they liked to do things together. And maybe they dated other people at first, but Marty had a knack for being around a lot more than the rest. At one point, after they’d hung out several days in a row, Judy’s best friend Meg Fox predicted they’d get married.
They did. In their own way.
Judy was applying for a job at Round Valley School and the Superintendent made it clear that she was worried about a single gal moving to the mountains.
So Judy told the Super she was engaged, and then drove home and told Marty he was engaged.
And then Marty called his parents to tell them he was engaged.
There are three children: Zac (29), Cassie (27) and Devin (23).
And it’s Marty’s relationship with his children that struck people. As Josh Mann, a bandmate in the Jaded Haters, observed “His relationship with his kids was like nothing I’ve ever seen. They were all best friends, and they all always smiled while they played. It was attractive.”
The Jaded Haters consisted of Marty, Cassie and Devin with Mann and Mike Coco.
“Mike was the catalyst for that band,” says Mann. “For four years, he wanted that lineup … and he’s especially convincing when he tells you he’ll cook you noodles [if you join].”
As Coco said, based upon the commitments he has to business and family, “Music is an indulgent hobby for me [based upon available time], so it has be really, really right. It’s like family. Literally. And Josh and I were the adopted children.”
“Marty was my first call [when it came to forming a band]. I’ve played with him off and on for 15 years. He had impeccable feel and timing, and he could play anything.”
“Marty could have been a world-famous drummer if he’d chosen to go that route,” says Byron Fry, who taught all three of Marty’s children, whom he collectively described in very Byron-esque language as “mutant geniuses.”
“Zac may be one of the scariest kids I’ve ever taught [based upon how fast he learned]. At the end of three months, he could write and arrange music. That’s several years of study for you and me.”
*Zac and younger brother Devin, by the way, have formed their own band. called “You, Me and the Whales” and just released their first album. Fellow drummer Robin Thompson had this to say about Devin’s talent: “By age 17, he could play with anyone in country.”
As for Marty’s skill on the drums, Fry said, “A rhythm section … requires a high-level of interactive collaboration. It can’t be fully arranged. It has to be spontaneous. There’s way too much going on for it to come off on paper.”
So the mark of a great drummer lies in that ability to fulfill artistic visions in real time. And that’s what Marty could do.
“Marty gave up a ‘real’ musical career to be a ‘real’ father,” contends Fry.
While one can debate what a ‘real’ musical career looks like, in Mammoth, there’s always a steep degree of difficulty in any career pursuit.
That was, by his own admission, Marty’s achilles heel. He could never say no to a gig, because in a place like Mammoth, you never know when or if the next gig might come around.
So he worked too much.
As Cassie recalls, one of Marty’s signature lines was “Why did I say yes?”
His favorite genre: Jazz.
His favorite drum line (as told to Mike Coco): The New Orleans second line.
His guilty pleasure (according to Maggie Wahl): “He loved Donna Summer”
Preferred style: Finesse. “He wasn’t a loud player.”
Not-so-secret vice: He liked to cuss.
Secret talent: Drawing. As Lori Michelon recalled, she was teaching community education classes at the college and one day, Marty shows up. And it turns out he can draw. Really well. “He could take very complex, busy scenes – scenes that didn’t appear to have a particular focus, and render them so that after he was finished, you’d say, ‘Oh. Now I see what he saw. And he could do it in a line drawing.’ One of her favorite memories was the time Marty brought in a bear skull to draw, only to realize that it was actually a bear pelvis.
Secret talent #2: Beat-boxing. According to Cassie, Marty could make any sound.
There will be a celebration of life for Marty sometime this spring, and fellow musicians are making noise about putting together a Martypalooza next summer.
*As a side note, The Sheet did run a profile of Marty on Dec. 23, 2017 as his bus driving career for the school district was nearing a close. The link to that story: https://thesheetnews.com/2017/12/22/driving-the-beat/