John Sparrow is living every Milwaukee musician’s dream. The percussionist has toured all around the world, performed at legendary venues like the Sydney Opera House and Red Rocks Amphitheater, shared the stage with some of music’s biggest names, and has earned a spot as the drummer of the Violent Femmes. Long before he was keeping the beat for Wisconsin’s most renowned rock band, Sparrow was cutting his teeth in polka combos, dabbling in jazz, and drumming along to Violent Femmes records in his basement.

Recently, Sparrow spoke to My First Band host Tyler Maas about many of the amazing experiences he’s had as a member of the Femmes, the unexpected circumstances that led to him landing a spot in the band, and all the projects that came beforehand. Over the course of the discussion, Sparrow talked about his years in The Danglers, unknowingly auditioning to become Violent Femmes’ cajón player, his eventual move to becoming the band’s drummer, using a grill during his performance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and playing the first musical notes in Fiserv Forum history.

My First Band is sponsored by Mystery Room Mastering and Lakefront Brewery. The show is edited by Jared Blohm. You can listen to My First Band on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you get podcasts. You can also listen to rebroadcasts of previous My First Band episodes on WMSE every Wednesday from noon to 12:30 p.m. CST. Music used in this episode comes courtesy of Devils Teeth (“The Junction Street Eight Tigers”) and Violent Femmes (“Not OK”).