LaMont Atkinson Jr. has lived a life led by rhythm and tunes.
From early grade school learning the drums to serving his country in the United States Army Band, Atkinson, 51, can be found every weekend as the DJ of the Federal Way Farmers Market through his budding radio station, Bolt 365 Radio.
An Ohio native, he joined the Army Reserves after graduation in 1987 at the age of 17, quickly jumping into the artillery unit.
Throughout the course of his 31-year career, Atkinson split his service time between reserves and active duty. He held various military occupations, such as his start in combat arms and field artillery, then moved into a logistics type of job in supply and warehouse and a repair position, before transitioning into the Army band system — where he remained from 1999 through his retirement.
Atkinson, who retired as an E-6 staff sergeant, served in Germany and Korea. But despite his attempts, he never had the opportunity to serve in the combat zone, also known as “the sandbox,” he said.
Some people tell him he’s “one of the lucky ones” to avoid deployment, Atkinson said, although he also realizes the enhanced leadership and experience a deployment brings a soldier.
Military service runs in his extended family, including grandparents and aunts or uncles, but the musical talent and passion is closer to home.
Atkinson’s father played the drums and his mother sang in a church choir. His grandmother and “the hostess with the mostest,” Nettie Lemley (previously Nettie Atkinson), owned a bar and nightclub named the Venture’s Inn during World War II. The establishment was located near Oberlin, Ohio, and closed around 1947 after the war ended..
“I draw from those areas of my life regarding my interest in entertainment,” he said. He started on drums in fifth grade, and is now a full all-around professional drummer and percussionist. Atkinson also plays bass, guitar and keys, and is a singer.
As an Army musician (42R), Atkinson played the drums and percussion for the band. He also had opportunities to sing and perform other musical endeavors beyond his specific occupation.
Atkinson played in the small Army band, consisting of up to 40 people. Bands are broken down into music performance teams, ranging from rock and brass to concert and jazz bands to the ceremonial band for formal events. Atkinson’s talents spread throughout the various musical stylings, allowing him to perform as a drummer and vocalist.
“Our goal is to educate, entertain and inspire the public,” he said. “We go out and try to hit those three areas for our country and tell people about what we do.”
Throughout his career, Atkinson has performed at Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners games, at massive shows with pyrotechnics in Korea, several change of command ceremonies, and even played holiday tunes at the governor of Washington’s mansion. At a Fourth of July show on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2013, Atkinson was awarded the Post Commander’s coin for an outstanding performance.
Atkinson took part in a road trip to the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to meet and play for service members who had been injured while deployed.
“That experience there, outside of performing for them, was an eye opener as to why the Army band [exists] and why we do what we do … it really drove home our purpose,” he said.
As a veteran, Atkinson incorporates moments of remembrance of service members’ sacrifices into his daily life, he said. He also recognizes the progress of an increasingly diverse military.
“It wasn’t like that before, when it comes to gender, ethnic groups, or other [groups],” he said. “Memorial Day is to honor and look at those accomplishments and the growth made in today’s military.”
Prior to the pandemic, Atkinson performed as a theater musician and with various local artists up and down the I-5 corridor.
When one canceled show in spring 2020 turned into a year-plus halt of the entertainment industry, Atkinson became a CNA at Life Care Center in Federal Way in order to keep the bills paid and remain connected to the community, he said.
With his Bolt 365 Radio station founded in April 2018, and an array of entertainment industry groups in the works, Atkinson — also know as DJ Rez — is returning to his rhythmic roots on song at a time.
For more information or to listen to Bolt 365 Radio, visit www.bolt365radio.com.