This article first appeared in The Alt on February 28, 2018.
Last March, Greg Nash was told he’d likely never speak again. A massive stroke robbed him of his ability to communicate but seemingly almost more importantly it ripped from him his one-true love—his ability to drum.
Nash, who has played in local bands including Toys in the Attic, Sirsy and Ten Year Vamp, has earned a reputation for being a musician’s musician—the guy everyone looks up to for his commitment and unrivaled talent.
Bill Ketzer, a local drum legend in his own right who attended the same high school as Nash, says Nash has been an inspiration not only because of his abilities but because of his insane work ethic.
”We’d call him Mr. 110 percent,” says Ketzer. “I never saw a work ethic like that, it was almost detrimental to him, to work as hard as he did. I routinely watched him triple book himself. Sometimes it was a mistake and sometimes it was on purpose. He’d go around town in his shitbox Pontiac and set up kits at all these different bars, play a set and then run to the next. A double booking was the norm for him for awhile. For me, that’s an accident, for him it was just what he’d do.”
It’s no wonder then that as Nash began his recovery at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady his friends say his priority was not recovering his speech but to rebuild his skillset as a drummer.
“When anyone has a stroke you can’t be sure how they are going to react,” says Ketzer. “But from the start he was basically looking at it from a perspective of, ‘What I do is drum. What else am I going to do?’ So the second he was able to, before he was able to talk, he set about about rebuilding those pathways. His ability to play was paramount to him. It is the way he communicates with people. He had already established himself as a drummer and was playing in bands before the language started flowing.”
Early on Tuesday, Nash sits in a room with his speech-language pathologist Jonathan Brendese and his assistant. They’re discussing a fundraiser he’s hosting at The Hollow on March 31 to raise money for Sunnyview to assist other stroke victims. The event is branded “Celebrating Greg Nash’s One Year Strokeaversary” and four out of the performing bands feature Nash: Toys in the Attic, Stripped (a Rolling Stones project), Walpurgis (Black Sabbath tribute), and Maryann. Nash hasn’t lost his sense of humor or work ethic. And don’t think he’s restricted to the four aforementioned projects. He also regularly performs as part of Groovin’—a tribute to classic rock—and as a part of The Eastern Highs.
Nash’s speech is at times stilted but he seems more frustrated than his few forgotten words, or mispronunciations call for. He uses a pen and paper to drive home his points in case they are missed, but for the most part, he really doesn’t need to.
He laments that a few bands didn’t wait for him to recover his abilities but he understands why. He says he’s still relearning advanced skills. Ketzer says he’s jammed with Nash and the only thing the drummer is missing is his once deep musical library—popular compositions he had once memorized. But it’s almost certain that Nash is working on regaining all of it.
It was a little less than a year ago, on March 24, that local musicians played a benefit for Nash at The Hollow. Seventeen acts including Wild Adriatic, Super 400, Sean Rowe, Sly Fox and the Hustlers, The Erotics and Blackcat Elliot raised money to help with Nash’s recovery.
A year later, it will be Nash performing and raising funds for other stroke victims.
“His spirit remains unbroken but I don’t know that he was prepared for the outpouring of support,” says Ketzer. “The community organized and took him to appointments, folks arranged hospital visits and transportation to various things. He’s giving back now. And I’m thrilled he can do what he loves to do.”
One Stroke Roll – Benefit for Sunnyview Stroke Victims, Celebrating Gregory Nash’s One Year Strokeversary! will take place at The Hollow in Albany, on March 31 at 8 PM. There will be an auction and all proceeds will go to help stroke victims at Sunnyview.