Joey Maya's The Drummer of Miami Beach Chronicles Miami's Early Punk Scene

Joey Wrecked with the Reactions in 1981.
Joey Wrecked with the Reactions in 1981. Photo by Pepi Susi
click to enlarge Joey Wrecked with the Reactions in 1981. - PHOTO BY PEPI SUSI
Joey Wrecked with the Reactions in 1981.
Photo by Pepi Susi
Joey Maya's new memoir, The Drummer of Miami Beach: The Story of Joey Wrecked, has plenty of sex and drugs, but where the book really shines is in its depiction of rock 'n' roll. There are a thousand autobiographies by famous rockers such as Keith Richards and David Lee Roth that depict what it's like to be a superstar playing in front of thousands of fans. The Drummer of Miami Beach reveals the underbelly of what it's like to be a struggling musician, the heartbreak of never quite making it big, and the hard work even punk rockers put into their craft. Much of the book portrays a scene that hasn't really been chronicled: rock music in the '80s in Miami (though it does take some detours to Gainesville and New York).

Under the stage name "Joey Wrecked," Maya drummed in countless bands, but the main ones were the Reactions, Battalion of Saints, and Circus of Power. He gave up the rock 'n' roll lifestyle in the late '80s. He's happily married with two teenage daughters and works as a financial manager in Hollywood. But when an author friend showed him a book he was working on, Maya began to reminisce. "My friend, who's an insurance agent, wrote a good book about an insurance agent," he says. "If a book can be good about an insurance agent, imagine what I could write about what I lived through."

So he began describing his teenage band, the Reaction, which filled all kinds of Miami venues with its energy. He wrote about the nervous audition he passed to join the established Battalion of Saints — he wasn't sure how he would get back to Miami if the bandmates didn't like the way he played their Northeast shows.

But for those not interested in a book that will make readers long for a Spotify playlist of all the obscure bands Maya raves about, there's also plenty of the aforementioned sex and drugs. But what does his wife of nearly 20 years think about those racy exploits? "She knows it's way in the past and enjoyed the story. If it was just about girls, she'd call me out on it, but she knows it's more substantial. Since I've been publicizing the book, someone texted me a racy pic from the past. It was a semipornographic picture of me backstage with the Reactions. I was driving, so she saw the text first. She laughed. It kind of crystallized what the book was all about."

Because he still lives in South Florida, how does the music scene compare to his heyday? "There are talented people playing here; there always have been. But if you live in a city that doesn't support you, it's hard to put in your best effort. Miami has had a lot of booms and busts. In the early '80s, we'd have 400 people come out to see the Reactions play on a Tuesday night. In the late '80s, there was a vibrant scene in South Beach with the Cameo and Washington Square. In the '90s, you had Churchill's. There's some decent bands out there now, but I don't see the numbers coming out to support them. I hope it picks up."

In The Drummer of Miami Beach, Maya heads to New York, thinking it's the only way he can ever make it big in music. That move eventually led to his working in the financial sector, a time of his life that's getting a book of its own. It's titled A Punk on Wall Street.

Joey Maya. 7 p.m. Saturday, October 27, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-4408; Admission is free.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland