A musically inclined reader passed along the following note: “Really enjoyed the ‘One-hand Band’ article [in the March/April Amplitude], but as a leg amputee I was reminded of Andrew Tkaczyk’s story. Just in case you ever do a ‘one-legged musicians’ piece in the future.”
For those who aren’t familiar with Tkaczyk (we weren’t), he lost his right leg above the knee in 2015 when his hardcore metal band, The Ghost Inside, was involved in a deadly tour-bus accident. It took years for him and other band members to recover from their physical and psychic injuries; they resumed live shows in 2019 and released their first post-crash album in 2020. Last fall Tkaczyk told Loudwire how limb loss has changed him as a musician and as a person; you can also follow him on Instagram @illgrip, and you can check out the adaptive kick-drum pedals he uses in this post. We also recommend this series of videos about Tkaczyk’s long road back, shot by the rehab hospital that delivered his care.
As our correspondent suggests, Tkaczyk is just one member of an impressive lower-limb-different music scene. Here are some other figures you should know.
Our one-hand band was purely hypothetical, but The Resilient is an actual all-amputee group. Well, almost all—the lineup includes one able-bodied guitar player (Greg Loman), flanked by triple amputee Juan Dominquez on drums, right above-knee Nate Kalwicki on guitar, and bilateral above-knee Tim Donley on lead vocals. The three limb-different members are all wounded veterans who met at Walter Reed almost 10 years ago; Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has a bit part in their origin story. The fellas can play; they’ve released three singles (give a listen at the band’s web page) and are at work on a full-length album. Meet the band in this spot from CBS Sunday Morning.
He’s been a professional musician for more than 30 years and an amputee for less than one, but Johnson does not seem to have missed a beat (forgive the pun) after losing his right leg below the knee last July. He’s dropped at least three new recordings since the first of this year, including covers of a timeless 1958 Motown hit and a 2019 release by indy R&Ber Nick Waterhouse. Dig a little deeper into the catalog and you’ll find an awesome, gut-bucket throwback version of Elvis Presley’s top-selling single and a faithful, note-perfect homage to the Godfather of Soul. Johnson is about our age and specializes in the classic R&B we remember fondly from high school dances and jazz band concerts—lots of horns, Hammond B3, and hollow-body Gibson. He brings a ton of talent to the amputee musicians’ community; check out his whole catalog at Reverb Nation.
We bet you’ve never heard of Aarons, even though she was nominated for a Grammy in 2018 and a Country Music Association Award in 2019. That’s because she belongs to a rapidly vanishing species, a fulltime songwriter who does not perform. She’s also a low-key person from a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, who’s most comfortable out of the spotlight. The spotlight keeps finding her anyway; Aaron has penned three Billboard number ones and collaborates with hitmakers such as John Legend, Demi Lovato, Maren Morris, and Justin Timberlake. She chose amputation three years ago, just before receiving her Grammy nomination, to end years of debilitating pain from rheumatoid arthritis. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Aarons told a Sydney newspaper a few months post-surgery. “I’m out of pain for the first time in 18 years, and I feel amazing.” View/listen to her biggest tunes on Spotify.
Brimblecom came to regional prominence in the late 1990s drumming for a pair of Kansas City-based indie bands, the Creature Comforts and Blackpool Lights. Ewing’s Sarcoma claimed his left leg below the knee in 2005; five or six weeks after the operation, he was back behind the drum kit at a church gig. “I was back to playing well way before I was back to walking well,” he recalls. Now based in Nashville as a session drummer, Brimblecom uses his music industry connections to stage one of each year’s biggest amputee fundraisers, the wildly successful ThunderGong! show. The proceeds support the Steps of Faith Foundation, which Brimblecom established in 2013 to support uninsured and underinsured amputees. The 2020 featured appearances by national acts such as Lyle Lovett, Foo Fighters, Brandi Carlile, Nathaniel Rateliff, Blake Shelton, and Wynonna Judd. Stay tuned for info on the 2021 lineup.