Re: How did you "go pro"?
Have been playing since I was about 14, and joined – and left – a lot of bands along the way. But I found I could make money playing dinner dances in my home town (in England). It was typical ballroom dance stuff but taught me a lot, and importantly I had to join the Musicians Union to be part of this thrill ride.
So I play on, through college, making a little money here and there until I give up the drums for a couple of years to finish college. Then I'm in London, in 79 , out of college, with a sucky job as a photographer's assistant, and I'm playing drums for a lame prog band when I'm asked to join a kind of new wave band that played a lot of old Doors stuff. They were fun even though the lead singer couldn't sing and was a junkie. Trouble was my drums were stolen from the rehearsal room – I think it was an inside job, but the singer OD'd a year later so...
They were just a small Premier kit, but that was all I had. FYI for the kids, back then there were two kinds of drums: extremely expensive and ludicrously expensive. And I had very little money. Then like magic there was an ad in the Melody Maker. Pearl was dumping drums in the UK market at giveaway prices to drive Premier out of business (fast forward: mission accomplished). It was buy Jap drums or don't drum. I bought the Pearl kit.
I was about to consider playing on with the new wavy band when Charlie, the lead singer, called and said he'd heard a relatively well-known singer needed a drummer to go on tour (he'd had a big hit a year or so earlier and was trying to keep the mo going). And Charlie had arranged a audition for me – maybe he felt bad about the drums. I had to learn four songs and come up with a drum part for an acoustic song he was going to play with the band.
So I rented a car and drove my new drums and crappy borrowed cymbals (I was only half way there) and played in a pub basement with a lousy guitarist and a great bass player. The manager was a little bemused by my crappy cymbals although I tried to explain the situation, and I was pretty sure I'd failed the audition.
Phone call next day and I'd got the gig. But I had to be in the Musicians Union. So I dug out my old membership and had it resurrected (pay back dues etc) and next thing I know I'm in New York City playing at Max's Kansas City. Long story short, came back to NYC after the tour, married an American girl and am now a US citizen. Left the Pearls and some nice Zildjians in a chick's basement on the Upper West Side back in the 80's – it was a crazy time. I really should go back and get them. Now I play Slingerland drums in my basement. Because I can finally afford to.
Re: How did you "go pro"?
I started playing in bars and clubs for next to no money, then one day decided to get in touch with a wedding band agency - didn't really expect much, but have been getting around 80 well paid function gigs per year ever since... A nice way to pay the bills