“I’m a traitor. I came to Montauk to surf, and now I play golf,” the man known as the “Thunder From Down Under,” said last week at his house in Montauk. Anton Fig, the drummer responsible for driving the orchestra for the David Letterman show for the past 25 years, loves the links, the Montauk Downs course in particular.
On Saturday night, he will light the fire under Skollie, a band of three world-class musicians rocking upstairs at the Montauk Downs to benefit what the drummer, and many others, believe to be one of the finest public courses in the country. With state park funds spread thin in the current economy, the links could use some help keeping up appearances. “Manpower is diminished. They’re looking at alternative ways to raise money. I’d like to give back,” Mr. Fig said.
Skollie (South African slang for a lowlife) also includes Blondie Chaplin, a guitarist with the Rolling Stones for the past 10 years and the vocalist on the Beach Boys hit “Sail on Sailor.” Keith Lentin, with Link Wray for years, plays bass. Both men played on Paul Butterfield’s most recent album. All three musicians have made music together for decades going back to their early years in South Africa.
Karlus Trapp will get things started with an acoustic set. Doors open at 8 for an evening of what promises to be some of the best music East Enders are likely to hear all summer, a bargain at only $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Mr. Fig offered his surf-to-golf conversion apologetically as someone who had grown up surfing in and around Cape Town. Turning coat was probably out of his control, he said, “a predestination story,” a genetic response.
“My father was an excellent golfer. He had a one or three handicap. In my 30s, I was drawn to it. I have been in Montauk for almost 25 years, the first 15 surfing. Then, I played the Montauk course. It was love at first sight. Since then I’ve played on courses around the country and I think this is one of the best. Each hole is a real individual, different every day. Dad did play Montauk on one of his visits.”
Mr. Fig started playing drums at the age of 4. He came to the U.S. in the early 1970s and studied jazz and classical music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston before moving to New York City in 1976. “I did session work plus gigs with all different bands.
He has played with Miles Davis, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Tony Bennett. The CBS Orchestra has backed the likes of Stevie Wonder, Little Richard, B.B. King, Al Green, and Eric Clapton. The list goes on.
Mr. Chaplin hails from Durban, Natal, South Africa. He started playing music at an early age, but apartheid caused him and his band, the Flames, to seek more and better opportunities in England. He was 16. Ginger Baker, the legendary drummer for Cream and Blind Faith, a resident of South Africa, said Mr. Chaplin had to be good to get out of South Africa when he did on music alone. He caught the attention of the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson in London, resulting in a spot in that band for a time and roots in Los Angeles, now his base. But more recently, in New York he worked with Keith Richards on his solo album, “Wingless Angels.”
Mr. Lentin has lent his bass guitar and production skills to a number of bands starting with Spider, a group that included Mr. Fig, Manda Blue, Holly Knight, and Jimmy Lowell. He, too, was born in Cape Town and shared the dream come true of making it in the music biz in the U.S.
“No, I don’t play golf, but I’m going to make Fig wear a helmet so he doesn’t get hit in the head with a ball,” Mr. Chaplin said.