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Tale of a Hat

Originally printed by St. Bernard’s, Fall 2004

Doane returned to St. Bernard’s on April 19, 2004, to talk to the boys at Upper School assembly. He spoke about life as a musician, a band member, and composer. Doane described a day in the life of a drummer on tour and all the components of making a successful show. He was thrilled to be back on stage at his alma mater. We are pleased to share the story Doane wrote in honor of the centennial year.


Thirty-eight years ago I was presented with this beautiful red, white, and blue hat when I made one of the sixth grade softball teams. It is one of a few constant and faithful companions in my somewhat itinerant, nomadic life and one of the small miracles that has traveled alongside me for many years and many miles. There was a catcher’s outfit, too, but that is long gone and would undoubtedly be several sizes too small anyway, but that lucky hat is still a perfect fit.

I have a notoriously extensive hat collection, scavenged over the last thirty-five years from thrift shops and highbrow haberdasheries around the globe, but none of those acquisitions approach the sentimental attachment I have developed for this battered cotton icon of innocent youth.

It is a lucky hat. Not only do I still have it, but it was also THE very first. It possesses a certain timeless ‘je ne sais quoi’, which has allowed it gracefully to transcend the vagaries and mysteries of trends and fashion, from the mid-’60s to the new millennium. How many things can you say that about? It certainly is the only article of clothing I still own from that era of my life and without a doubt would be the only one still worth owning, judging from some fairly embarrassing photographs from those years, which clearly illustrated my severely challenged dress sense.

I began wearing it as a young professional musician because it was colorful, looked good, camouflaged badly behaving hair, and served as a functional piece of clothing, absorbing a great deal of sweat which otherwise would be endlessly irritating my eyes. Anyone who has ever tried to read music while sweating profusely will understand the need for such a utilitarian accessory. Perhaps, I should just have chosen a less physically strenuous instrument than the drums, I hear you thinking. Perhaps you’re right, but it certainly wasn’t going to be the recorder, as our good music teacher, Mr. Morris, would be the first to attest.

Utilitarian yes, but stylistically versatile…not entirely. Apparently, baseball hats don’t look great with tuxedos or three-piece suits. When called upon to dress a bit more formally, however, it was my good fortune, and perhaps everyone else’s, that orchestral and other “dress-up” music seemed to be less taxing on my ventilation system and so the potentially resultant fashion clash was luckily averted. But not for long.

In 1978 I was invited to join Bette Midler for her first world tour to promote her upcoming movie, The Rose. Amazingly, she said we could wear anything we wanted on stage. This was remarkable, simply because everything was tightly scripted and meticulously rehearsed. I cannot even imagine what she was thinking to allow such a disparate and desperate group of musicians to choose their own onstage wardrobe, let alone believe any of us would have an innate fashion sense or a remotely coordinated look. But hey, it was the ’70s. Pushing the boundaries of good taste, I decided that for one of my outfits, I would dress like a New York Yankee. I always liked those pinstripes, and after managing to acquire a very reasonable facsimile of the New York Yankee uniform, I knew that I would only feel truly comfortable in my new outfit if it was topped off by my lucky St. Bernard’s hat. And so it was. Perhaps true Yankee fans took umbrage at this liberty, but I never heard about it, and besides, I wouldn’t have dreamed of changing hats anyway. We did quite a lot of television all over the world, and I remember a number of people remarking on my “Yankee” uniform but somehow not completely reconciling the SB logo with the Yankees.

This was far from my lucky hat’s last public appearance. It made its next notable outing a year or two later on the record cover entitled Maxus. This was a group born out of some of the core members of Bette’s group, so I thought it fitting that I should wear my lucky hat in the picture in honor of that connection.

In 1984 I joined the slightly eccentric English group “Jethro Tull” and continued further to inflict my unusual sense of stage attire, topped off by my lucky hat, on unsuspecting audiences all across the globe. Over the years, I can recall many people asking me what the “SB” stood for. When I reveal the true origin of the initials, people are astonished that I would still have my sixth grade baseball hat. I know there are numerous pictures that still exist from these tours of the many different outfits and my lucky “SB” hat, and I am always delighted when I see them, like old friends coming over for a visit, bringing along a nice recollection or two.

Although the inside brow of this hat has seen more sweat than a Turkish Bath, it has held up remarkably well over the years, with the resilience and character of a great aging prizefighter. It just goes to prove that they sure don’t make ’em like they used to. So thanks for the memories, old SB. It still fits.

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