Isaac Kinchen was born in Uptown New Orleans, at Flint-Goodridge Hospital, in 1963. He was raised between the bayous of Assumption Parish and the rolling hills of Adams County, Mississippi. His career in music began when he played the flutophone and then the drums at McDonogh #14 Elementary School. He continued playing the drums and other percussion instruments through his high school years in the marching and concert bands at O. P Walker Senior High School, and in the marching band at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Isaac came from a musical family. His mother sang, and he spent his youth surrounded by music. In addition to the drums, Isaac learned to play keyboards, harmonica, tambourine, and all percussion instruments. He always gravitated back to drumming. Once he joined the Golden Comanches, his unique drumming style caused his Big Chief Juan Pardo to name him “The Running Drummer.” Isaac says, “I’m the heartbeat. I make them run and jump. It energizes the tribe and it energizes me.”
Isaac did not expect to become a Mardi Gras Indian, but when he was young, he used to hang out with musicians he knew, including members of the Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe. In retrospect, it seemed inevitable. Isaac’s family has a significant Choctaw heritage. His Uncle Larry ran uptown and always took Isaac along. Isaac said, “He was wild.” On Mardi Gras Day, he would first catch Bo Dollis and the Wild Tchoupitoulas and then go downtown to visit his aunt, where he would see Big Chief Tootie Montana.
In 2007, Isaac’s Chief said, “You know all the positions from hanging out with us. You’ve always been drumming; now you need to put a suit on.” Isaac did put a suit on, and he has been The Running Drummer with The Golden Comanches ever since.
His grandmother sewed and he spent plenty of time with her when he was young. Isaac’s grandmother and great grandmother did beading on wedding gowns and Isaac observed this growing up. When it came time for Isaac to sew, his Chief helped him. Isaac’s sewing style is distinctive. He says “I sew big and high.” He particularly loves to achieve a ripple effect on his suits. Isaac likes to sew late at night, when he feels the spirit come. He says, “That helps me go back to who I am and where I’m from.”
Of his role as drummer, Isaac says, “When the spirit comes over you, it takes you…the songs tell a story. When I put that suit on, I become a whole different person. I’m masking to show honor to the people who came before me. I am the heartbeat and I need to be there for my Chief to sing. He’s going to sing all day long and I’m going to be right there with him.” Isaac’s Chief Juan Pardo calls his drum “The Ringer” because of its unique style.
Isaac lives in Lacomb now. When he’s not drumming or sewing, he is an excellent cook. He loves to listen to Bobby Womack and Willie Nelson. He is proud to be The Running Drummer of the Golden Comanches.