LANGLEY — Braxton Burke is the world's fastest drummer. With his hands.
It's necessary to point that out because there's also a division for feet in the arena of World's Fastest Drummer Extreme Sport Drumming, in which other Kentuckians also have fared very well.
We'll get to that, but for now, just know that these extreme drumming competitions are trademarked: Battle of the Hands and Battle of the Feet.
Braxton Duran Burke, 21 — yes, the Duran is after the band Duran Duran — is the reigning world champion in the Battle of the Hands, held this month in Nashville.
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Burke is an Alice Lloyd College student who lives in Langley, a Floyd County hamlet near Martin where the population of butterflies and amiable dogs seems to be as great as the number of people.
Burke's grandfather was a drummer. His father, Donnie Burke, is a drummer. But according to his mom, Traci, Braxton didn't show an early interest in drums.
Then one day in middle school, he suddenly found the drums calling out to him. But he didn't tell his parents about it at first. They would call the house after school, and he would tell them he was doing homework.
But the drumming bug had bitten Braxton.
"One day, I was about 12, and Dad was doing this killer groove on the drums," he recalled. "I was like a bobblehead. I had this killer motivation."
Burke was initially inspired by The Light That Blinds by Shadows Fall, which was on PlayStation's Guitar Hero II.
One day, Traci Burke walked into her house and wondered what talented drummer Braxton had brought home. That's when she got one of the bigger shocks of her life. (The biggest shock of was finding out after sending Braxton to college that she was pregnant with her daughter, Te'ghan, now 2.)
The talented drummer was Braxton, and he later had some explaining to do about all that under-tended homework.
"It's in the blood," Traci Burke said of her son's musical talent.
Burke soon told his parents that he wanted to stop playing football and take up marching band at Allen Central High School.
What propelled Burke onto the world stage was a case of serendipity involving his senior pictures.
It took some doing to find a photographer to shoot Burke with his drums, but Steve Porter, of Porter Studio in Prestonsburg, loved the idea. While taking Burke's senior pictures, he saw his raw talent.
"His personality is awesome," Porter said. "He's just really a great musician. He has the attitude that goes along with being a great musician — doing whatever it takes. It doesn't have to be his way."
Porter, who also plays keyboard, told Burke and his parents about the National Association of Music Merchants show in Nashville, which features some of the superstars in the drumming industry as well as a speed-drumming competition that draws musicians from around the world.
Perry Dattillo of Robards, Ky., won the Battle of the Feet in 2014, with 840 singles. Spencer Dalton of Brandenburg won the Battle of the Feet in 2013, with 846 singles.
Burke already was playing pretty fast. After he heard the frenetic drums on The Light That Blinds on Guitar Hero II, he was hooked on speed drumming.
"I said, 'Man, I have got to learn how to do this.'"
Burke and other competitors measure their speed on an electronic device called a Drumometer, which looks like a combination Frisbee and tambourine hooked up to a metronome.
Competitive speed drumming draws enthusiasts from around the world. In 2014, a California student originally from Beijing won the hands division. Traci Burke said her family has met competitors from Turkey and Italy.
The website Extremesportdrumming.com lists Tom Grosset as the record holder, with 1,208 strokes a minute. Mike Mangini, drummer for Dream Theater, was the first man to break 1,200. Speed-drumming competitions have been held around the world, including in Singapore and India.
When Burke attended music merchants show in 2013, he entered the speed- drumming competition on a whim and placed sixth. He placed second in 2014 and won in 2015, with 953 strokes in one minute. He has gone as high as 1,055 strokes a minute and estimates he will need to work three to four hours a day to set the world record he wants.
Speed drumming is a matter of physics, he said.
"It's the most basic physics equation: Speed equals distance over time."
Sure, drumming showboat performers can pound the Drumometer in a big and flashy way, but it's steady work that wins the prize.
"The only way you're going to get that dexterity is through the musicality," Burke said. "Find a good song or artist you really like."
Among his favorites: Thomas Pridgen of the band The Mars Volta (2006-09), Mangini, and Aaron Spears of The Gideon Band.
Despite the glory of being named world's fastest for 2015, the prize comes with no cash. Burke will receive a raft of drum-related gear, including an interview with Modern Drummer magazine. He also gets a free supply of Church's Chicken (drumming, drumsticks — you make the connection); unfortunately, Church's has stores in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina but none in Kentucky.
The honor also doesn't get him any freebies at the Dairy Queen in Martin, where Burke works. It does, however, make his family very proud.
Says Traci Burke: "To see my husband do something is great. But to watch my son, you can see how passionate he is about drumming. ... I felt like my heart was going to explode."
Burke said he remembers his Christian faith when he plays: "I always try to play for God's glory. ... It gives me an opportunity to change the conversation into a message of the gospel. It can serve as a portal to talk about theology."