By BLAIR AMES
The Frederick News-Post
MIDDLETOWN, Md. (AP) — In the basement of Clifford Marshall Van Buren’s Middletown home, which serves as his private recording studio, are three drum sets, a keyboard and analog and digital synthesizers to mix music, some weight benches and a pool table.
But billiard balls and pool cues have been replaced by nearly every copy of the Guinness Book of World Records dating back to 1971 sitting on the felt, and Van Buren isn’t just reading them for leisure.
The 2011 Guinness Book of World Records lists American Russ Prager with the longest drumming marathon at 120 hours, which he achieved in March 2009.
But from 1980 through 1982, it was Van Buren listed as the record holder for endurance drumming at 720 hours.
Van Buren’s trying to learn why the record he once held is no longer printed as he works on a story he hopes to publish about the record, the men who have held it and why they set out to conquer the record in the first place.
“Like other drummers that we’ve talked to that have held the records we were upset why these newer records are so short compared to ours,” he said.
Van Buren set his record as a college student with his drums staged by the front window of a cigar smoke-filled bar located in a strip mall in Connecticut from Dec. 26, 1977 to Jan. 25, 1978.
Following Guinness rules for endurance events, he would earn five minutes of rest for every hour he drummed.
For the first three days, Van Buren drummed nonstop before taking a break. From there on, he would take about an hour to an hour and 10 minutes break every night for the next 27 days.
He admitted the first two weeks were terrible, but Van Buren had made up his mind he would drum for 25 days.
“Once I got to 25 days and endured all the grueling effects in the beginning, I got used to it,” he said. “It was almost routine.”
Van Buren was sponsored by McDonald’s, which would bring him bags of food daily to eat while he continued to drum. There were no rules on how fast or slow he could drum, he just couldn’t fall asleep.
“The conundrum of that is if you go too slow and you’re exhausted you’re gonna fall asleep,” he said.
He broke Tracy Burroughs’ record of 505 hours and extended that to 720 hours or 30 days.
“You’re pushing your psyche to its limits to endure something like that,” he said.
After holding the record for three years, Van Buren’s record was broken by Boo McAfee, who drummed for 738 hours in 1981.
But McAfee’s record was only published in the 1983 and 1984 Guinness books. Van Buren is still compiling much of his research on the record, but said the record was not printed in Guinness’ annual edition from 1992-2000. The record itself dates back to the 1960s.
Although the listed marathon drumming record is much less than McAfee or Van Buren’s previous endurance drumming records, Van Buren has no desire to set out and break it.
“It’s too hard,” he said. “I couldn’t see me spending that much time trying for something that hard.”
In fact, at the World’s Fastest Drummer competition, hosted by McAfee, Van Buren established a new category and became the world record holder for fastest drumming while hanging upside down.
He invented the category as a way to combine his drumming and what he already does for health reasons. Hanging upside down stretches his spine, Van Buren said.
In 10 minutes, he drummed 6,300 single stroke beats while inverted. After six or seven minutes of hanging upside down by your ankles, that’s when the side effects start to kick in.
“Your arms freeze up, your head swells like a balloon, you’re fighting staying conscious,” he said.
Despite that, he would try to break this record again, he said.
“I’m hoping there’s going to be people who follow me and try to break that record,” he said.
Besides breaking and setting records, Van Buren has established a solid professional music career, while also designing printed circuit boards for electronics.
His music career continues today. He is finishing his first vocal album after releasing three instrumental albums. His music can be heard around the world, but locally in the 1990s his music was used in forecasts by the Weather Channel.
“What I find fascinating is my first three CDs; since they didn’t have any vocals on them, they are readily available in someone else’s language,” he said.
Van Buren isn’t sure what he’ll pursue after he releases this first vocal album, but his dream is to produce a full soundtrack for a futuristic, cult film similar to one of his favorites, “Blade Runner.”
Currently he’s teaching drum lessons at Music & Arts’ two Frederick locations.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post,
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)