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From buckets to beats: Exploring San Francisco’s Bucket Man

Update: I’m sorry to hear that Bucket Man, Larry Hunt, has died, aged 64 on 1 March 2023.

I met Bucket Man years ago, the famous busker in San Francisco, who I hoped was millionaire by now. He was featured in Will Smith’s movie Pursuit of Happyness.

These days Larry Hunt (that’s his name) gives drumming lessons – presumably on real drums, but I can’t be sure – for $6 an hour. Hmmm, maybe the lessons are on buckets.

He also has a little business on the side – his mate hands out flyers advertising him as an ‘Experienced and patient professional’. He sang me a song for a buck. If you can call it a song.

The Rise of San Francisco’s Bucket Man

Larry Hunt, better known as the Bucket Man, is a San Francisco street performer who has a unique way of playing music to locals and tourists alike. Whether it be the concrete pavement, light poles, or pans, anything would make a great music once he gets his hands on his drumstick.

His high-energy performances, which are made with spoons, bucket, and other percussion instruments through his unique style of busking, have made him a world-famous street musician and an icon of San Francisco’s street performing culture.

He also plays with his drumsticks on fire and puts them out with his tongue after playing!!

Hunt’s journey to fame began in his hometown of Bayview-Hunters Point, where he started drumming at the age of three. He’s been playing in the streets of San Francisco for 25 long years and even became a fixture in the city’s street performing scene.

In 2006, Hunt’s career reached new heights when he appeared in the movie Pursuit of Happyness alongside Will Smith. It brought him global recognition, and people who watched the film and came to San Francisco recognize him.

Gigs and events

Larry’s goal is to have a roof over his head and to play music that makes people happy. He occasionally gets invitations to play at some parties and his previous clients still connect with him. They probably missed his unique talent because he’s the only person in the world doing that style.

Aside from local invitations, the Bucket Man’s fame has been solidified through various appearances such as in the Intel commercial, Cece Williams and Janice’s Love Groove show, and even in a video of the Obama song produced live in Michael Walden’s studio.

Throughout his career, Larry has had a lot of support from people who have helped him keep going and have faith in him.

Larry even went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe because of his unique and one-of-a-kind art.

While he was playing, a tourist from Holland passed by and noticed the buckets he was using to make music. It turned out that the guy owned the company that manufactured those buckets that Larry had been playing for over a decade!

Larry then went on to play in Amsterdam and had another two-week gig at a plastic conference in Germany.

Larry Hunt with buckets of plastic buckets and his image on them.
Image: HK Plastics.

The Bucket Man’s unique musical style

What sets Larry from other musicians is his one of a kind percussions. Instead of the normal drums, cymbals, tambourines, maracas, chimes, and other instruments, he uses common household items such as a variety of bucket, spoons, pans, casseroles, and cans to create his unique style of music.

To an untrained hand, these materials are nothing but boring stuffs. But to San Francisco’s Bucket Man, it’s something of an art. It’s really cool how he can turn everyday objects into instruments that blend perfectly with his natural rhythm.

When you hear him play, you can’t help but get swept up in the energy of his performances. Making him a part of your tour in San Francisco can be fun, especially if you’re nearby. Try not to miss him. He has added to the city’s vibrant culture, and his influence on street performing will continue to be felt for years to come.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!