Steppenwolf drummer has called Hillsboro home for years
Ron Hurst's life can easily be described as a "magic carpet ride." The Hillsboro resident has spent the better part of his adult life as the drummer for the iconic band Steppenwolf.
Hurst has been playing the drums since he was a toddler. He became fascinated with the drums during the huge annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Holyoke, Mass. "That planted the seed," Hurst said.
"Since the early 1950s, there wasn't a button box or cookie tin safe in the house from me," Hurst said. "I always knew I would be a drummer. I was focused and set on it. I followed my dreams."
Hurst plays all styles of drums and he shares his passion for the drums as a teacher to people of all ages at Mir Music in Hillsboro about six days a week when he's not touring with Steppenwolf.
Hurst said he has played all types of venues including stadiums, amphitheaters, cruise ships, casinos and showrooms. Steppenwolf is touring and playing 16 dates this years with a stop at the Oregon State Fair in August. Steppenwolf will also perform this year at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota that draws about half-a-million attendees. "Born to be Wild" is a mega-hit with bikers.
Hurst who grew up in Western Massachusetts, moved to New York City after scoring a record deal and he eventually migrated west living in Nashville. His wife is from Hillsboro and they moved here in 2003 to be close to family.
Hurst said he loves his Hillsboro home.
"I like the Northwest I like the downtown vibe," he said. "I like the people I meet that the music introduced me to."
Growing up in the Northeast gave him an appreciation for the Northwest weather.
"You don't have to shovel rain," he said and laughed. "Generally the snow stays on Mount Hood where it belongs."
Hurst said the distance from other band members doesn't pose any problems either.
"All I need to go to work is an airport," he said.
In the world of rock 'n' roll, the lifespan of most bands can be measured in terms of a few years or a few months, John Kay and Steppenwolf have emerged as one of rock's most enduring and respected bands, delivering hard-hitting, personally-charged music for more than three decades. Hurst said he enjoys the longevity that Steppenwolf has produced and he is blessed to be a part of leaving a mark on the music industry.
"Born to be Wild is beyond a hit. It's iconic. The song itself beat the band into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame," Hurst said. "Born to be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride are self-perpetuating songs that every generation can relate to."
Steppenwolf's worldwide record sales exceed 25 million units. Its songs remain fixtures on classic-rock radio and have been licensed for use in approximately 50 movies and an even greater number of television programs. Steppenwolf was the first band to use the term "heavy metal" in a song in "Born to Be Wild."
The songs have been a part of the American music landscape, as well as worldwide, featured in movies, television, commercials and at sporting events.
Hurst never tires of playing those rock mainstay hits, because he said the audience energy level is "phenomenal and contagious."
Hurst said he is fortunate to do something he loves and make a living at it. Being a part of Steppenwolf has made it possible to travel the world.
During his long career, Hurst said his only real challenges have been staying focused and staying in shape.
Hurst appreciates the company of his bandmates and said that over the years he's shared a lot of laughs on the road. He said they also look out for each other. He recalled a backstage experience from one show as he was trying to look out for John Kay, who is legally blind.
"The backstage area was blacked out and there was a big step," Hurst said. "What I failed to realize is that John is more adept in the dark than I am and I was trying to help him but instead I fell and I dropped on my back and ankle." Hurst powered through the show and went straight to the emergency room after.
Hurst takes great pride and enjoyment in being a drum teacher, but additionally, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. His own daughter Maddie Hurst is in a band called "Why Joe-Y" an all-girl band featuring players ages 11 to 16. Maddie, 11, is the lead vocalist.
"Maddie can play every instrument she picks up," Hurst said. "She's been around drums her whole life and she can play drums, but the spotlight wasn't quite bright enough."
"Why Joe-Y" has been featured in many venues and on television. Maddie has played with the band for about two years.
By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
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