LONG coach journeys in the company of musicians, like the one from Bergamo in Italy to Ljubljana in Slovenia that the RSNO took me on in May, are often enlivened by reminiscences of tours past. And every tour is likely to produce a couple of tales to add to the repertoire of the raconteurs. “That’s one for the memoirs,” the seasoned veterans note as a fine story does the rounds.

Few, however, are the players who actually carry out the threat/promise to write the book of their career, so take a well-deserved bow Principal Percussionist of the Orchestra of Scottish Ballet and regular freelance guest with the BBC Scottish Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestras, Martin Willis. His self-published 250-page record of 30 years as an orchestral musician is entitled Just Another Drummer, and can be yours for a mere £8.99. I guarantee there are ample chuckles between its covers to justify the investment.

Not so very long ago – and certainly around the time that Willis was emerging from Scotland’s conservatoire, then the RSAMD and usually called “the Academy”, to begin his professional life – some of his colleagues might have taken a dim view of his book. The tales he tells would circulate on the tour bus, but there was a sort of omerta on sharing them with ticket-buyers – an extension of the maxim common to artists of all disciplines that “what happens on tour stays on tour”. However, as Willis notes early in his book, many of the bad habits and indulgences of yesteryear are now very much in the past, not least a hard-drinking culture that musicians and journalists shared and which was the root of many quotable incidents and much unintentional hilarity. In fact he makes the point so regularly in Just Another Drummer you may think he protests too much, but it is in part to record that former age, for all its faults, that Willis wrote the book.

For all that, he has been quite brave. Willis names names, and presumably has secured the permission of most of the colleagues he depicts to do so. There are some he carefully does not name, but anyone with an interest in Scotland’s orchestral scene will be able to make a fair stab at guessing a few of those left anonymous, not least because he sometimes provides a helpful physical description by way of hint. There is a bold honesty in all of this, so that the stories acquire the weight of reportage. Willis is not only not guilty of “fake news”, he also resists the temptation to add superfluous embroidery to the rich tapestry of musical life.

What emerges is not just collection of funny anecdotes, although there are plenty of those, but a vibrant picture of what being a working musician in Scotland is like. Those currently studying at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire would be well-advised to read it, people who enjoy going to concerts and wonder about the people playing them may have their eyes opened, and those currently working here will have to buy it in order to see if they rate a mention. There is no index.

There are however acknowledgements, and they include one thanking the PA to the managing director of this newspaper for her help in granting permission to reprint a long extract from a Herald news story. I pointed this out to her when the book had just arrived in my mail. It was only when I read it, however, that I realised that the author of the piece about the difficulties experienced on the BBC SSO’s ground-breaking tour to China at the start of the new millennium was, in fact, myself.

The conspicuous absence of my own name in those acknowledgements has not, I hope the author will note, stopped me from wholeheartedly recommending Martin Willis’s book. I’m sure that will be fixed for the reprint.