In Memoriam

Johnny Craviotto

Johnny CraviottoJohnny Craviotto, who died on July 15 at age sixty-nine, may have passed on, but his legacy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Craviotto thrived in the music industry as an innovator and a dear friend to many. His handcrafted solid-shell drums were the epitome of custom drum building and remain some of the most coveted instruments in the world. In this special tribute, players and friends from the industry share their stories about what Johnny meant to them, and how his legacy lives on.Johnny was such a lovely guy and a master drum craftsman. What can you say, really? Just a wonderful vibe all around. I was fortunate to have had a very memorable dinner in Frankfurt with Johnny, along with some other magnificent drum artisans—Ronn Dunnett, Curt Waltrip, Cooper Acoutin, Todd Trent—full of great stories and laughter, and it will remain a cherished memory. He leaves an incredible legacy of top-shelf drums and great times.
Todd Sucherman

The best way to describe Johnny is “master craftsman.” But he didn’t just craft beautiful wood into incredible instruments—he crafted meaningful relationships. His passion for music and drums was equally powered by his passion and love of people, and that heart shines through every piece of musical art that his hands ever made. I’ve never known someone who could match his meticulous attention to detail and the years of study and research that he dedicated to his craft. I will always strive to treat people with the love and respect that he showed me. May we all walk as humbly and kindly as you did, Johnny. You are missed.
Chris Tyrrell
Lady Antebellum

I first met Johnny at Neil Young’s ranch during a recording for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young [the American Dream album] in 1988. He’d brought the first four snare drums produced for a start-up custom snare drum company called Select. It would later be called Solid. That began a friendship that would last until his passing. I’ve played Johnny’s drums since he began making them, and I watched him become the finest drum maker in the world. Nobody has matched his work with wood. I’ll treasure my deep friendship with him forever and will always be grateful for his encouragement and generosity. Those drums changed my life for the better. They’re part of who I am.
Chad Cromwell
Neil Young

Johnny called regularly to talk about many things, but mostly to say thanks for playing his drums. Sometimes it was with pure excitement: “I got an idea and I want to run it by you!” He always valued your opinion. His instruments are on an entirely different level, something you have to play to understand. It’s obvious to those of us who knew him personally how much of his life, love, and passion he poured into everything he made. My respect for what he built, and the deep relationships he had with all his artists, is second to none.
Jason McGerr
Death Cab for Cutie

During the past ten years of being on the Craviotto team, I became quite close with Johnny. At times I’ve even referred to him as my crazy uncle. We spoke on the phone almost weekly and would often get together for lunches or dinners or beers and talk about whatever. It was almost as if building instruments for me to play was secondary to the nature of our friendship. I’m sure he made everybody feel a similar way. He was a complete artist. A drummer. An inventor. A father and husband. A lunatic with a heart of gold. And he was a great friend. I was lucky to be a part of his life and feel lucky that he was part of mine. I’m going to miss him and will always think of him when I play and look down to see his signature inscribed on the inside of my drums.
Ronnie Vannucci
The Killers

There isn’t anything unsaid about my dear friend Johnny Craviotto’s work. He was an elite craftsman—one of the finest our industry will ever enjoy. What truly made Johnny so special was the unique relationship he had with everyone. We all felt loved, respected, and mentored, but in the same way that he crafted each drum, those friendships were individual and very personal. His absence now leaves a vast expanse in our industry and an even greater emptiness in my heart. The only true way to celebrate him is to try to carry forth the values he instilled in us through those friendships and apply them to our respective trades as musicians, artists, and craftsmen. That would make him smile.
Ronn Dunnett
Dunnett Classic Drums

Johnny had a special presence about him. He had this fantastic energy everyone wanted to be a part of. His laugh, handshake, and heart were enormous.

Every day was an adventure with Johnny. We selected wood once in this place he called the Catacombs. Once there, he started throwing these huge boards around like toothpicks—singing and yelling the entire time. Occasionally he’d stop to examine one, only to deem it unfit and start again. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere. After searching through several large piles, he found exactly what he wanted. Johnny used it as a teaching moment and explained exactly what he was looking for and why.

Johnny’s passion for life, for his craft—and for sharing it—was so incredible. I think the energy and enthusiasm Johnny shared is evident in every Craviotto drum. It’s part of our secret formula.
David Victor
vice president, sales and marketing,
Craviotto Drum Company

Johnny will forever be in a class of his own. I had the pleasure of knowing him since the start of my career. He had such a kind spirit and was so encouraging to everyone, regardless of what they were doing. His legacy will live forever through the next generation of drum craftsmen he inspired, myself included.
Sahir Hanif
Masters of Maple Drums

I got a surprise phone call from Johnny Craviotto many years ago. My first drum teacher, Allen Herman, connected us. Johnny told me how much he liked my approach and style of drumming and insisted on making me a drumset. Very flattering! He even flew out to Maxwell’s drum shop for the premiere of my film Life on Drums and announced that I was now a Craviotto artist. What love and dedication Johnny had for handcrafted instruments. I will miss him very much. Johnny is the Stradivarius of drum makers. Thank you, Johnny.
Billy Martin
Medeski Martin and Wood