The story of Jay Nichols is one of peaks and valleys, much like his native land of Tibet.
When Jay was still in his mothers womb, the Dali Lama came to his family’s Yack farm guided by a vision. The Dali Lama placed his hand over Jay’s mothers belly and proclaimed “This child is the chosen one and that he will bless many people with his gifts”.
The oppressive rule of Tibet by the Chinese soon forced the expat, Nichols family to head high into the Himalayas with all their yaks. The Nichols lived a sequestered life with little contact from the outside world for the next 18 years. Occasionally a package from distant family would be smuggled over the boarder and make it to the Nichols Yak farm. The items from such care packages took on an almost religious like importance to the young Jay. In one such package a pair of chopsticks arrived. When Jay’s mother showed him how they were used to eat, Jay dropped them at first try. The child was delighted at the sound the sticks made as they crashed to the floor. Jay soon was tapping the sticks against the dinner table making the most amazing sounds. Jay was obsessed with the chopsticks and the sounds he could get striking then against other objects. It soon cut into his Yak tending chores. Jay’s parents although disappointed at his lack of attention to the Yak herd were quite pleased with his rhythmic abilities. On another such package a copy of DownBeat Magazine was included for Jay’s father who was a fan of Jazz music. In it there was a picture of legendary drummer Buddy Rich behind his mammoth drum kit along with a transcribed drum solo. Jay was spellbound by the drum kit and all the pretty notes on the paper. Jay’s mother noticed his keen interest and had been a Sousaphone player in her college marching band. She decided that she would teach young Jay how to read music.
Jay took to reading music and tapping out the rhythms like a Yak to a grassy knoll. After word got back to family in the States about Jay’s musical gift, regular packages started coming every six months or so. The packages would be packed with drum transcriptions for Jay to play. Jay and his father soon crafted a drum set out of hollowed logs and stretched Yak skin for drum heads. The drum set was the Himalayan version of the great Buddy Rich set complete with Yak bell. Jay would practice constantly whenever his Yak tending chores were done. Jay’s drum playing and music reading skills grew by leaps and bounds, his playing echoed through the Tibetan hills. Unfortunately this attracted some unwanted attention and on his 18th birthday Chinese troops stormed the Nichols Yak farm and the Nichols family was deported to the United States.
News spread fast about the deportation of this swinging Himalayan drummer who could play all the Tony William’s solo transcriptions note for note. Soon young Jay found himself at the Berkley College of Music with a full scholarship. Jay did exceptionally well in school and finished his 4 year degree in just 3 short years. While at school he insisted on only playing drums with Yak skin heads. This preference along with Jay’s natural feel became legendary at Berkley. Jay was then referred to as the father of the “Tibetan Swing Sound”.
Upon Jay’s graduation from Berkley, he was offered numerous high level touring Jazz gigs. News had spread far and wide of the “Tibetan Swing Sound”. Everyone from Miles Davis to Boots Randolph wanted the “Tibetan Swing Sound” in their band. At the exact same time, Jay read that the Dali Lama was to be in Boston for a speaking engagement. Jay decided he must go talk to the Lama and tell him that his prophecy was coming true.
Jay went to the Dali Lama’s speaking engagement and afterwords went to speak with him. Jay told the Lama of the prophecy and blessing he had bestowed his mother while Jay was still in the womb. The Lama who is famous for his great memory said, “Ah yes, I remember that day”. Jay was so pleased the Lama remembered his mother. The Lama then said, “Sorry about that whole prophecy thing, I had eaten some toad stools growing near a Yak paddy earlier that day and started having visions. I blessed 5 pregnant women, 2 fat old men, 3 Yaks and a Burmese Tiger that day. I woke up in a barn with a chicken stuffed down my pants”. Jay was distraught, he told the Lama about his musical gift, the “Tibetan Swing Sound” and that he was living the prophecy. The Lama said, “Ehhhhh, yeah sorry about that kid. You’re a drummer? A musician? Do you know how hard it is to make a living doing that? You will need more than a blessing from me! You should probably go get a real job my son”.
Jay was crushed. He went back to his dorm room, grabbed his beloved chopsticks and threw them in the trash. Jay got on the next plane to Nepal with the plan to sneak back into Tibet and reclaim the family Yak farm.
After months of travel by foot through the Himalayas back to the family Yak farm, Jay found that there was nothing left of the farm. The Chinese had burned the farm, raped all the Yak and sold them into a life of prostitution. Jay knew there was nothing left for him in Tibet. His path was clear. He would head back to Nepal and live a life with the Sherpa people carrying goods for mountaineering expeditions to Mount Everest. That’s just what Jay did for the next 20 years.
In the year 2006, Matt Ryan was enjoying his off time from Bruce In The USA. Matt, an avid Cryptozoologist was on an expedition to the foothills of Mt. Everest to investigate the recent reports of multiple Yeti sightings in the area. It was on this trip that Matt noticed the one peculiar Sherpa guide who (day or night) never took his sunglasses off.
One day while hiking in very difficult terrain, one of the Sherpas fell and was gravely injured. Because of the mountainous terrain they could not radio for help. Having had to deal with this situation before, the Sherpas used another method to contact help. The sunglass wearing Sherpa began to tap out a rhythm on an empty log. The rhythm was complexly syncopated, yet had a great pocket feel and a beat you could dance to. The sunglass wearing Sherpa tapped out this groove for 2 hours and 20 minutes straight. He never dropped a beat and his time never faltered. Suddenly a rescue helicopter appeared over the ridge and the injured Sherpa was air lifted to safety. Matt who was a professional drummer before starting Bruce In the USA was amazed at this Sherpas rhythmic prowess. Matt asked the sunglass wearing Sherpa, “Where did you learn that crazy beat man?” The Sherpa said, “In the mountains of Tibet”. Matt being an avid cryptozoologist and professional drummer, remembered the legend of the missing father of the “Tibetan Swing Sound” and asked the sunglass wearing Sherpa, “Are you Jay Nichols, the father of the Tibetan Swing Sound?” The Sherpa who’s eyes were damaged by snow-blindness after living for years in the peaks of the Himalayas removed his sunglasses and said to Matt, “Yup!”
Matt introduced himself to Jay and for the next hour and a half proceeded to tell him the complete unabridged story of “Bruce In the USA-International touring act”. Matt knew at once that Jay Nichols and his “Tibetan Swing Sound” would be the perfect addition to the Bruce In The USA band. Matt offered Jay the Drum chair on the spot to which Jay replied “Lets blow this one Yak town, there aint no Yeti up in here anyhoo”. Matt and Jay flew back to the States and the rest is history.
Jay has been with Bruce In the USA since 2006. He blesses people every night with his musical gift and still only uses Yak skin drum heads.