John Stamos is celebrating America’s birthday with America’s band — and giving back to those who’ve made this country great.
The 53-year-old television star hosted the PBS concert special A Capitol Fourth on Tuesday, broadcasting live from the West Lawn of the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. The festivities featured performances by country songstress Kellie Pickler, Voice winner Chris Blue, Motown legends the Four Tops — plus the Beach Boys, who had a little help from Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath on vocals and Stamos himself on drums.
Stamos’ friendship with the groundbreaking rock icons dates back over three decades. He’s performed with them numerous times in concerts over the years, appeared in the music video for their 1988 smash “Kokomo,” and played on several of their recordings. But for Tuesday night’s Fourth of July performance, Stamos debuted a brand new red, white, and blue maple drum kit, custom made for him by craftsmen at Ludwig.
“Ludwig was the drum set I always dreamed of having as a kid,” Stamos tells PEOPLE exclusively. “[Jazz drummer] Buddy Rich was an inspiration to me and when I started playing. I wanted to be just like him, [and] he played Ludwig. I didn’t turn out to be Buddy Rich but I love having drums like him.”
As a young stickman, Stamos saved his pennies and bought a blue vistalite set — which unfortunately he later sold at a pawnshop. “Ludwig always seemed to me to be the most authentic kit,” he said. “I love the history and I love the sound. Ludwig works very well with The Beach Boy’s catalogue. I told the good folks at Ludwig that I’m performing with the Beach Boys for the PBS A Capitol Fourth broadcast and they offered to make me an awesome spectacular red, white, and sparkly blue drum kit!”
When Stamos, a longtime advocate for veterans and servicemen and women, learned that the audience in Washington D.C. would consist of many military personnel, he insisted on gifting the drum set to a family who had sacrificed to protect America’s liberty.
The (almost) brand new Ludwig kit were given to the family of retired United States Marine Corps Master Sergeant Mike Schneider, whose connection to music runs deep. While serving in the Marine Corps in the mid-2000s, he experienced two traumatic brain injuries that ultimately lead to an epileptic seizure disorder. Unable to take on a typical job, and struggling with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, Schneider received treatment at Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There he participated in a music therapy program, which fostered a passion for playing the piano, guitar, and singing.
A father of four, all of his children are musical — three are musicians, and the other is a dancer — but Schneider’s son Owen’s dream was to play the drums. Tragically, the boy was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a nervous system disorder that impairs coordination, and doctors told him it would be impossible for him to ever manage the instrument. But while sitting in at his father’s music therapy classes during “Family Day” at Water Weed, Owen had a chance to get behind the kit. Not only did he display a talent for it, the act of drumming helped his upper and lower body to coordinate with each other in synchronized movement.
Encouraged, he eventually earned a place in his middle school band, but lacking a kit of his own cut into his practice time. Now with the red, white and blue kid given to him by Stamos, he’ll be playing like Buddy Rich in no time.