It’s not necessarily a bad thing when a kid becomes restless in church. Take the experience of Rustyn Vaughn Lee, who started playing drums in his church when he was only 3 or 4 years old.
“You know how kids meander, especially in church,” Lee explains. “You just wander around and mess with stuff.”
But it so happens that in Lee’s church was a drum set played by, Lee recalls, a pretty good drummer. The drummer, noticing Lee’s attraction to the drums, “sat me down and showed me a couple of things.”
It turns out that Lee picked the drums up pretty quickly and ended up playing in bands all the way through college, where he learned to play the piano and the guitar, too. In 2002, just 13 days after graduating, Lee — who was born in Las Vegas but had moved to West Virginia at age 12 after his parents’ divorce — returned to Las Vegas to pursue a dream of becoming a full-time performer.
Lee started off the usual way, knocking on doors and trying to land gigs any place he could. “I had to struggle for quite some time,” he admits, supporting himself by “doing odd jobs and all that kind of stuff.”
But, Lee continues, “I’ve been very fortunate the last couple of years.”
His roster of regular gigs includes dates at Red Rock Resort’s T-bones Chophouse & Lounge, where he plays at 5 p.m. Thursdays, with additional dates on selected weekends. There, Lee performs songs from the ’50s through the ’70s, “all the way up to the newer stuff.”
And, he says, “I have probably 400 to 500 songs memorized, so, yeah, I’ll take requests. I definitely want to play what they want to hear.”
Lee also is a songwriter, whose first solo CD, “Human Nature,” was released in 2009 (it’s available on iTunes). He’s now working on his second CD. His own sound is sort of a mix of indie and acoustic rock, influenced with a pop sensibility.
And, all these years later, Lee is having as much fun as he did when he was a kid trying to work off a bit of restless energy on the drum kit.
“It’s a blessing,” he says, “to do something you love for a living.”