I have heard people say, when speaking of another drummer, “He is as good as any big name drummer. He just never got a break.” I have also heard this comment, “The only difference between one drummer and another is fame. They are equally good except for publicity.”
I do believe that there are many young drummers with great talent who have received little or no publicity. Carl Allen, the brilliant drummer with Freddie Hubbard, is a case in point. Although Carl has broken through to achieve some notoriety, he deserves more and I believe he will achieve it.
Another young drummer of great ability is Rick Latham from Texas. Rick, a contemporary musician with drive and surprising rhythmic ability, is slowly making a name for himself. When Jim Keltner heard him in California he said, “Who is this guy? Wow!”
Chad Rager, who now resides in the Midwest, is also a young drummer who gets looks of approval from the older heads in our business. He is with a group that is get ting ready to cut their first album. In addition to being a terrific drummer, Chad is unusually articulate and his clinics have turned a lot of heads in his direction.
Joey Farris, from the South, plays jazz and southern funk equally well. He is the “new-guy-in-town” in New Orleans, and is already being noticed and hired by the top musicians in that city. He is also a fine teacher.
Chad Wackerman, who I have known since he was 12, has finally broken through with Frank Zappa. He has been playing very well for some time, but has just recently begun to receive the publicity and notoriety he deserves.
In a way, the first four drummers I mentioned just need some more breaks. I am certain they will continue to develop and build great reputations. I believe this because they are dedicated to being well-rounded, successful musicians in contemporary music.
My own theory about breaks and publicity is that, “You can’t keep a good man down forever.” If you play well and keep playing well, someone will hear you and give you a break. Then it is up to you to take advantage of the break and become a successful musician.
Sometimes a young drummer will get a break and blow it. Booze, drugs, being late and missing rehearsals are all ways to blow it. Becoming arrogant and thinking you have it made after achieving your first good job is another way to blow i t . One break does not a career make. You must go from one opportunity to the next over a period of time in order to really establish yourself. You must earn your reputation.
You have to give credit to all of the big name drummers we have grown up with. To maintain and sustain a career over a period of years is no easy task. In order to do this, these drummers had to keep developing and learning all the time. Also, their experience helps them to keep growing. However, if you just sit back once you have achieved some publicity, you won’t be famous for long. You must keep improving.
Last but not least, publicity and notoriety create pressure. People expect a lot from you and then continue to expect more and more. In a way, the old saying “You are only as good as your last performance” is really true.
The greatest drummers play their best under pressure. Pressure can come from other musicians. It can also be created by the need to always do a little more, to keep up with the times, to make a living, to do something new, to keep your energy up when traveling, and to play well even when you are tired or not feeling well.
If you are a talented young drummer, take heart! You will get your chance. You never know when opportunity will knock. It often comes when you least expect it. Remember, you never know who is in the audience—another drummer, a producer, a guitar player looking for a new drummer, a singer who wants to put a new group together or a record company executive—you never know. So, play your best every time and remember “You can’t keep a good man down forever.”