The South 40 mailroom’s Kevin Simon: A drummer in a blue suit
Simon’s band, Poppies 3, consisted of himself and two of his high school friends—Craig Gardner and Randy LaBrott. Born and raised in South St. Louis, Simon was always surrounded by musical influences. Until age nine, Simon was the only one of his three brothers who did not play the drums, so he decided it was time he followed in their footsteps and picked up the sticks.
For Simon, it proved difficult to pinpoint just one reason why he loves the drums. “[I love] how creative you can be,” he said. “You know a lot of people think drums are not as musical, that they’re not a musical instrument, but they are. It all depends on how you play them and the feel you give a song.”
After honing his skills for nine years, Simon began playing in bars. Years later, after living in North Carolina and starting a family, Simon returned to St. Louis and joined Gardner and LaBrott in Poppies 3. “It was an exciting band,” he said. “We had a good five-year stint. We were on the road pretty solid for the last two years.”
The band started writing original music, insistent on not being just another cover band. Simon recalled surreal moments when he heard his music on display: “I’d be riding down the street and my song would be playing on the radio.”
Though you may never have heard of Poppies 3, don’t be too quick to brush the group off; four of its songs were in rotation on 93x fm, a local pop station, in the early 2000s. The band was sponsored by Jägermeister and Jim Beam and even wrote the song for the HeadBlade, a razor blade Simon endorsed. In the early years of the band, Poppies 3 was even featured on Channel 2 (KTVI, a Fox affiliate); its song “Tabloid Tuesday” echoed through St. Louis every Tuesday morning.
The trio also had the opportunity to play with a handful of prominent bands. The group opened for a sold-out Nelly Furtado concert at The Pageant and even played in Hollywood’s Palace in a contest for unsigned bands. Though their genre of choice was pop, the members took a risk during that performance and played punk/rock songs, which paid off.
“It absolutely freaked us out [when] we won,” Simon said. “We had labels knocking on our doors; we had a lot going for us.”
But that life didn’t last forever. In 2004, the band broke up due to disputes among the musicians. Although Simon misses the nomad life, he felt it was the right thing to do at the time. “You’ve got responsibilities, and sooner or later you have to say, ‘This is my responsibility now.’”
That responsibility was to his son and daughter, who were in high school at the time. Simon’s pride in his kids is visible in the smile that instantly crossed his face when he mentioned their accomplishments—his son works for Ford Models, Inc., and his daughter plans to be a teacher.
Two years ago, when Poppies 3 broke up and responsibility hit, Simon began working here at Wash. U. Although it’s not a glamorous life on the road, he said he’s happy with where he has ended up. “There’s so much diversity here, it’s incredible. It’s very interesting to see these kids start as freshmen, and I’m still here when they leave.”
Besides jamming with friends, Simon still plays with the local cover band Green Eggs and Ham. There’s no stopping Simon from continuing his passion; as far as he sees it, he’ll carry his drumsticks until his hands can’t hold them anymore. “It’s always going to be in my blood. I’m probably going to be playing drums and singing when I can barely walk. As long as I can wheel myself up to the drum kit, everything will be OK.”