Published: July 2, 2008
Updated: May 23, 2013 at 11:12 AM
DOWNTOWN - On any given night, music lovers leaving the St. Pete Times Forum seem to continue the party on the way to their cars.Sitting under the overpass on Morgan Street, Chris Harris, aka The Bucketman, stops them in their tracks with his fast-paced rhythms beat out on plastic pickle buckets.The street performer makes his living this way (supporting a wife and three children), playing after every hockey game and most concerts at the Forum, as well as after Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field. He also travels the Southeast playing at concerts and festivals including Gasparilla, New Orleans' Mardi Gras and Savannah's St. Patrick's Day celebration.Harris, 36, had private drum lessons while growing up in St. Petersburg, and by the time he was a Dixie Hollins High School senior, he was helping teach percussion at nearby Boca Ciega High School. He trained with Drum Corps International, a national, competitive youth marching band.Harris earned a business degree from the University of South Florida and taught percussion in Pinellas County schools. In the mid-1990s, he played buckets on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City before hitting the road.Q. Why buckets?A. When I was a kid I saw the buckets in a television commercial and thought it was the neatest thing. Then, in 1995, some bucket players came to Tampa from New York City and I saw the opportunity they had and knew I could do it. I knew the training I received in the drum corps would convert to buckets, but it was like starting over because it was so different.Q. How do buckets differ from drums?A. Buckets don't return energy like a regular drum does. The bucket absorbs a lot of the energy.Q. Do you play other instruments?A. I play bass guitar, and I'm a full percussionist.Q. Your performances seem to demand the energy of a full-contact sport. How do you stay in shape?A. What I do to keep my body in shape is the martial art of aikido, a Japanese defensive art. The physical training is part of my lifestyle and I constantly try to apply the principal of ki spirit or life energy to my playing. ... When I play, all my muscles are relaxed.Q. What do you enjoy about performing?A. I fell into street performing and fell in love with being able to share my talent unconditionally. You can watch my show and walk away. You can watch my show and give me a $100 bill. ... When I'm done playing, I'm on an emotional high. I feel great about what I've done. When you have 1,000 people screaming at you because of what you do, it's really great.Q. What was your biggest tip and the most memorable?A. A guy saw me playing in Clearwater and he gave me his drum set, which was worth $1,400. In Savannah on St. Patrick's Day, I made $2,400 in one eight-hour day of the festival. That was the most in one day. At Gasparilla one year, a guy with his head wrapped completely in paper towels gave me a $100 bill. You never know what people will do.Q. What do you hope people get from your music?A. My job is to take them out of their life for 15 minutes and leave them walking away with a smile on their face and an impression that hard work pays off.BUCKET MANIAFor information on Chris Harris, go to www.bucketdrummer.com.