It all started simply enough, just another 6th grader who wanted to find some identity by learning to play an instrument in the school band. Who would have guessed that 19 years later he would turn out to be among the few at the top? Although his is not a household name, even in many music circles, he has quietly racked up an impressive list of credentials by playing and recording with people such as Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Bob Seger, and the Bee Gees. He is involved in a new group called Life with fellow ex- Clapton member George Terry, as well as session work, and the opening of a musician-owned 24-track recording studio.
Though he still lives in Tulsa where he grew up, he has come a long way from the thirteen year old member of Mike and the Caveliers, his first taste of music, magic, and money. Soon after that he moved up to the popular local group. The Rogues Five, and was opening for Paul Revere and the Raiders and other national acts. After several years of playing around town with a series of club bands, he left Tulsa for the road and all the good and had that comes with it. For him, the road led to a group fronted by Tulsa trumpeter, Phil Driscoll, an unreleased album, and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
Modest and not uncommon beginnings for many drummers, but his career moved farther and faster than most. This interview explores the path that took him where he is today, his views on music, and the business of music.
RG: What made you choose the drums?
JO: When I was going to elementary school they had a school band and I wanted to play violin or cornet, something that was shiny. All the kids would carry around little cases at school and looked real important. They didn’t have a percussion player and everything else was full, so they said, “Here’s two sticks and a practice pad. You’re the percussionist.” I went home and told my Dad and he thought it was great because he was a drummer back when he was going to college. He gave me his pair of sticks.
RG: Did you play much when you were in high school?
JO: I was playing clubs every night. I’d work ’till two or two thirty at night, then have to get up at seven and go to school. So I neglected my school studies to play because I’d pass out at school all the time, falling asleep. I was getting in trouble because of long hair and being a musician. At the time it wasn’t a real hip deal to be a player.
RG: What was the first job that took you out on the road?
JO: Phil Driscoll, I guess. He was a trumpet player with a show band. I did that for a couple of years. We played the hotel circuit.
RG: That was when you were on the Ed Sullivan Show, wasn’t it?
JO: Yeah, we did the Ed Sullivan Show then. That was the last year he was on. I remember I saw the Beatles on there and I said, “I want to be on that show one day,” and there I went.
RG: You joined Bob Seger around 1971. How did that come about?
JO: I was playing in a group called Tulsa County. I was trying to play like David Teegarden because he was my idol. God love ya David. He was playing with Skip Knape in that Teegarden and Van Winkle group. Dick Sims and I were sort of proteges of theirs, so we went to Detroit to work, since they were big stuff’ up there at the time. They’d been doing some work with Bob off and on. Bob heard us play and after a while, he called us up to play with him. Bob Seger and the Borneo Band, that was the name of the band. We did an album called Back in ’72. At that time. Bob was big in Michigan but we played little clubs and nobody would even hire him as an opening act for a concert. Now the phone’s ringing off the wall for him. It’s about time because he’s great.
RG: What happened after Seger?
JO: Well, I played around Tulsa with J. J. Cale in some clubs before he was with Shelter Records. I worked with the Gap Band for a while and did part of their album. That was when Leon Russell hired me to work at Shelter Records studios. There was also a group I worked with called The Jazz Babies with Pat Ryan, who’s with Asleep At The Wheel now. That was my attempt at playing bebop, which I really like. To me. that’s the best kind of music there ever was. Leon came in and told me to quit playing all that jazz. He said you can’t make money playing jazz.
RG: You just did session work?
JO: Yeah, mostly we just did demos. Did an album with Georgie Fame there and Glyn Johns produced it. That was my first encounter with Glyn Johns. Mostly I got to watch. Leon would bring in some good sessions like Phoebe Snow. Andy Newmark, Jim Gordon, people like that. Got to watch a lot of stuff, you know, how it was done. It was all pretty new to me at the time. I did that ‘ till the end of ’72, just hanging around. No one was really serious about making records there; it was a good place to party after the clubs closed. We’d play but there weren’t any hits out of there.
RG: Was that when you started to go on the road with Leon?
JO: Yeah. Towards the end there he fired the Shelter People Band. So he asked if I wanted to go on the road. He was taking the Gap Band with him, so we started to rehearse. Meanwhile, Carl Radle, who I’d gotten to know through doing some sessions with him, had been going over to England to see Eric Clapton when he was out of commission. Carl said he’d been talking to Eric about getting a new band together. We got a tape together of stuff” we’d done so Eric could get an idea of what we played like. Carl had sent it four or five months earlier and I just kind of forgot about it. So a week before we were to go out with Leon, Carl called up and said Eric was ready to go. I stayed up all night trying to figure out what to do. I talked to Leon’s manager about it and he talked to Leon. So Leon came to me and said he wanted me to go. He said if it had been anyone else but Eric he’d have been mad but he wanted Eric to get back to doing something. So that was the beginning of our six year extravaganza.
RG: How did you meet Clapton?
JO: I first met him in the Miami airport at the baggage claim area. He’s a lovely guy. We walked in and he thought I was the keyboard player and Dick Sims was the drummer. I was trying to act like a real hot shot anyway; you’ve got to maintain your cool meeting one of the legendary guitar players of the whole music industry. We were staying at 461 Ocean Blvd., that’s where we did the album. Tom Dowd produced that album. Al Jackson had done a couple of cuts before we got down there because I was still doing an album with Georgie Fame. I had no idea what I was getting into. It was a much bigger deal than I had expected. The ’74 tour and that album were like the event of the year. We started work on that album and finished it in two weeks. Cut all the tracks, overdubs, mixed, did everything and like that it was out. That’s when I met George Terry. He was a session player down there at the time. A guy named Albhy Galuten was hanging out around the studio and he did some synthesizer work on the album and Karl Richardson was like the assistant engineer and those two guys are coproducers with the Bee Gees. Then we loaded everything up and took off for Barbados for about two or three weeks to start rehearsing for the tour. You can imagine trying to rehearse in a beautiful place like that. Here I was used to playing night clubs, then all of a sudden I was in front of thirty or forty thousand people.
RG: How did you relate to large audiences like that?
JO: I was nervous; I was scared. Eric was even nervous. He hadn’t played in front of anybody for three years except for that Rainbow deal and the Bangladesh deal. We rehearsed in a movie theatre, behind the screen. The first gig was in New Haven, Conn. All those people…
RG: Did you tend to ignore them?
JO: I tried to but I was nervous. There were hundreds of press people and all the media, you know. It was like a big deal.
RG: How many albums did you cut with Eric?
RG: What kind of a set do you play in the studio?
JO: I play my Yamahas. 20″ bass, 8×12, 9×13, and 16×16 toms and a couple of Roto-Toms. But then I went to a 22″ bass drum because that’s what I was using on the road. I usually carry two of everything on the road.
RG: What was it like to record at Olympic studios with Glyn Johns?
JO: It’s like a huge theatre-sized room and they put the drums up on a riser in the middle of the room. Glyn uses a three-mic technique, an old BBC. Technique of recording drums, which you get the actual drum sound, so you don’t mike in real close, you don’t have to tape everything up. I use everything live except I put a wallet on the snare drum every once in a while. That’s why I really like working with Glyn because he likes that real live, fat drum sound, as opposed to 461 Ocean Blvd. where you can tell they taped everything up and miked everything about an eighth of an inch away from the head, which I really don’t like. It confuses me to have all that stuff stuck all around me.
RG: What kind of cymbals do you use?
JO: Mostly Zildjian. A 21″ Rock. 19″ medium ride, a 22″ Chinese cymbal and 14″ 2002 Paiste hi-hats. I’ve got a bunch of different cymbals. I’ve got some crash cymbals and a 16″ sizzle and some heavier hi-hats if I need a heavier sound instead of that sissy sounding 14″ for certain kinds of tunes.
RG: How long have you played Yamaha drums?
JO: Since about 1975, when I went to Japan for the first time with Eric. I think they’re wonderful drums. They sent me the new recording model, since I lost my others in the plane crash. They’ve been just wonderful to me. Sometimes around town for jazz gigs though, I use a Premier Kenny Clare kit. I used my new Yamaha’s on this Peter Frampton tour and they sounded really great. I’ve been using Dean Markley sticks. They’re balanced incredibly well. When I was in L.A., I met a guy named Paul Jamison, who works for Jeff Porcaro. He designs and builds great snare drums. I’m going to get him to build me a metal and a wood one.
RG: Basically you use the same set in the studio you use live?
JO: Yeah, pretty much. Live I’ll use a little more stuff. On the gig it sounded good to add some concert toms because we were doing old songs of Eric’s. But in the studio the stuff we were doing didn’t call for it. Plus, in the studio, I play the bare essentials. I was brought up to. When I first started playing it was chop city and the guys around town said, “You’re going to have to learn to play two and four. That’s what we want to hear.” You can compromise but always make sure you’ve got that back beat going because that’s what’s happening when you’re making records. Al Jackson was king at that.
RG: What kind of heads do you use in the studio?
JO: It varies. Usually medium weight Remos, just white rough coat heads. It depends on who’s recording it. I’ll use clear heads on the bottom; it seems to bring out a little more deep tone.
RG: Do they ever tell you what heads to use?
JO: No, but I’ve always found that if you mike in real close you’ve got to tune the drums lower to get a deeper sound. I’ll change the heads for the room, you know. I’ll work with the engineer. I’d rather work with them than get in a big fight because it makes for a bad relationship. So I meet halfway and say, “Yeah I’ll change the heads but I’ll leave the bottom ones on.” But it seems a bit confining to me to have the drum taped up. The drum was made with two heads and when you start taping everything, you’re relying on electronics to make everything sound good. They didn’t do that in the thirties or forties, even in the fifties they didn’t do that. The technology of recording has become so advanced. I’m not that old but I do think in the old kind of schooling because I’ve worked for the old guys. I’ve worked with Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns. And Tom Dowd used to record John Coltrane records before I was even born. When you sit behind the drums, he gets that sound. Sometimes I’ll have an engineer who doesn’t like something to come out and sit down at the drums and 95% of the time they agree it sounds good there. If it sounds good, there is no logical reason why it shouldn’t sound good through the speakers.
RG: Do you always use your own set in the studio?
JO: I try to but sometimes my set doesn’t sound good in the studio even if I work with it. It depends on the room again, that’s why so many studios have their own set that they’ve worked with. I’ll use my own pedal, snare, and cymbals, which is mainly what I use. A lot of times I’ll overdub the fills. That’s what I really like, you know, two drum tracks. That’s what I did on “Motherless Children” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” You come up with all the ideas you should have played on the original track. No, I don’t mind. I’m working with Peter Frampton and I use his drum kit in the studio because he comes the closest to getting Glyn Johns’ drum sound of anyone I’ve worked with. He’s a drum fanatic. He’ll spend more time on the drums than on his guitar. If he gets the drum sound right and he’s happy with it then everything else falls into place.
RG: What is your approach to tuning?
JO: I just tune them by ear. I tune the bottom head a little tighter than the top one and go down that way from the smallest drum.
RG: You don’t tune to any certain notes?
RG: Do you compromise between the sound you want and stick response?
JO: Yeah. See I tune my heads pretty tight; it helps with the stick rebound. In a big hall it still sounds deep to me.
RG: So you use bottom heads in concert?
JO: All the time.
RG: How often do you change heads?
JO: I’ll keep my snare drum head on ’till it breaks. I’ve got the same one on there I had with the last two tours with Eric. A Remo head. It’s all worn out but it’s not bagged out in the middle; it sounds fine. I don’t beat them that hard.
RG: What drummers have influenced you the most?
JO: Gene Krupa is all I used to listen to when I was beginning. With headphones I used to play along with his Carnegie Hall concert with Benny Goodman. That’s still the greatest record I’ve got. I’ve always been an Elvin Jones fan. And Tony Williams and Sonny Payne, who used to be with the Count Basie band. As far as rock and roll drummers. I’ve always been a Charlie Watts fan. I like Keith Moon and Ginger Baker. Jim Keltner’s been a big influence on me. I like Steve Gadd a lot. also Jeff Porcaro, and Steve Smith with Journey.
RG: Do you feel competitive with other drummers?
JO: No, I hate competition. You’ve got to keep your playing up and keep yourself together. I think a lot of what you do and where you go is if you’re there at the right time or who you know and your personality. Getting along with people has a lot to do with where you get in your career. A lot of drummers are competitive and if you don’t play a lot of chops they don’t realize your worth. Billy Cobham’s great at what he does; I could never hope to play like him. But I’m not into that kind of playing. I respect Billy Cobham for what he plays and I would think he would respect me for what I play. But unfortunately there are drummers that would just as soon step on you as look at you. You’ve got to have a little bit of ego, but you don’t flaunt your ego around because it will be your downfall in the long run. People won’t hire you if they can’t get along with you.
RG: Do you ever feel burnt out musically or just at a loss for inspiration?
JO: Yeah, at least two or three times a year. It comes in spurts.
RG: What do you do?
JO: Oh, I get discouraged when I’m not getting any better. Sometimes I get an attitude that I was better seven years ago. Maybe it comes with age and you settle down in what you play.
RG: Is it that or do your standards go up?
JO: Maybe that’s it. Maybe you simplify your playing to fit what’s called for. Yeah, I get stuck in ruts but luckily I’m a be-bop player: I like to play be-bop a lot. I’ve had good enough gigs where I can stay here in Tulsa and I can go and play some be-bop and get it out. you know, because that’s the most relaxing way of playing music and creating I can think of. for myself. I mean I can play Coltranes’ “Impressions” and I feel great after that because I’ll forget how bored I am with rock and roll.
RG: So getting into different kinds of music helps?
JO: Yeah, it helps. A lot of drummers can only play one type of drum, like rock and roll is all they can play. So when they get bored there’s nothing else for them to turn to. I can cut a country and western gig if I had to but I don’t really like that style of music that much. You can tell from “Lay Down Sally.” That was kind of country oriented. But then I can also turn around and play “Tulsa Time” with Eric and that’s completely opposite, drumming wise. It’s rock and roll, bash away, you know. Also you tend to practice more.
RG: How do you see the drummer’s role in the band?
JO: He’s the timekeeper first of all. It’s to make the tune happen. I mean, if you are making records, the drums are what people are going to listen to most. And that’s one thing too, I’ve got a lot of gigs because I have pretty good time. I’m not saying I’ve got great time, but I’ve got pretty steady meter. And that’s another thing people like, too.
RG: How do you relate to audiences in clubs and concerts? Do you play to them or are they just sitting in listening?
JO: No, I don’t play to them anymore. I used to try and do that but not anymore. I just play to who’s onstage as a band. I used to think I had to play good for that front row, gotta make them smile. The audience has gotten so weird anyway at concerts and clubs. They’ve had so much shoved down their throats that they’re so fickle and so spoiled that you’re going to have to be some kind of fantastic deal to make them even dig it anymore.
RG: Have concert audiences changed?
JO: Yeah. It depends on who you play with. I mean Eric’s crowds were always pretty tame. With Eric’s crowds you get people of the age bracket that used to hear him when he was with John Mayall and Cream. Okay, that was one era of his musical career. Then the next people used to listen to him when he was in Blind Faith, and you get the next crowd that used to listen to him when he was with the Dominoes. Then you’ve got a three year lapse when all those people were getting older. So he comes back and does 461 and goes to a whole new crowd but he still pulls those other three generations of people back to see him. Then you’ve got your “I Shot the Sheriff” crowd and then you’ve got “Lay Down Sally” which appealed to a whole lot younger audience. So you’ve got 17 year olds up to 37 or 38 year old people coming to see you play, because his career spans that long. People still come to hear him do “Layla.” Most people that come to hear “Lay Down Sally” don’t even remember “Layla”!
RG: How do you feel about drum solos?
JO: I hate drum solos: I can’t do drum solos. I’ll take fours playing a be-bop tune, you know. Eric used to make me take them because he knew I hated them. I’m basically a pretty shy person so when the spotlight goes on me I completely panic. And I really used to play some floozie drum solos: really bad because I’m not a soloist.
RG: You’re not geared to that?
JO: No, I wasn’t brought up to be a soloist. I’m not an exhibitionist—I don’t like to pound my wares on people. And if you talk to 80% of the audience, they don’t like drum solos either. They’ll say they are very boring. They are actually. Drum solos, I think, were made for Buddy Rich. He does drum solos and he’s good at it, so if you want to hear a drum solo go see Buddy Rich play.
RG: Did it help you to have Eric make you play them?
JO: Not really. It made me mad more than anything. It really did because it embarrassed me. I wasn’t greased up to do a drum solo and he’d throw them in the weirdest places. Finally he quit doing it. It was made more of a joke than anything really. It was like picking on the kid. Some nights I’d be playing good so I’d kinda get a cocky attitude playing. Eric could tell I was cooking along pretty good. so. “We’ll put him back in his place: we’ll make him do a drum solo.”
RG: Are you happy with your performance on records?
JO: Most of them. Some of them I’d like to have done over, but at the time it was like a group vote. You can always do it better.
RG: As far as keeping tempo, do you just let it happen or do you concentrate on it?
JO: No. I just let it happen. You start thinking about the time and you start messing up. It took me a while to learn that because I used to be playing with Leon and he’s got the most impeccable time of anyone I’ve ever been with. If it even rushes or drags a hair, the drum machine comes out and there you go. you have to play along with that silly electronic gizmo.
RG: That’s sort of a slap in the face.
JO: Yeah, it really is. But it’s not too bad for your time really.
RG: Have you ever found it hard to play certain feels, like if you’re playing on the front of the beat that the band catches up and it turns into a footrace?
JO: Sometimes. You know you’re going back to that age-old thing that if it rushes it’s the drummer’s fault. But that’s not necessarily true.
RG: Have you ever gotten used to recording, since it’s such a high pressure situation?
JO: I try to blank it out: that I’m not in the studio. Just know the song and know what you’re going to play. I gel real bored in the studio actually. I’m good for about three takes, then I’m bored with the song. I’ve already played what I’m going to play on it and you have to sit around while they change the chords or something. On the first take I’m the best usually because I’m playing what comes naturally. The next time I’m playing kind of what I remember I played on the last take, plus I might play this. By the third one I’m pretty well stereotyped and by the fourth one I’m trying to change my part. I give it all I’ve got and if the other cats ain’t got it together then I’m a victim. I’ve got to tug along with them ’till they get their parts down. But a lot of times we hit it on the first take. “Lay Down Sally” was the first take. With Eric or Peter you’re working in a pretty loose situation; there’s not a lot of pressure. It’s not like a session where you go in and they want to cut three tunes in three hours and by God, if you can’t do it we’ll get somebody who can. There’s those kind of sessions too, which I don’t want to get into.
RG: How do you like being on the road?
JO: I like it every once in a while. It gets kind of old. It’s like anybody, I mean, you go on the road and you get tired of being on the road and you want to go home. You go home and you get tired of being at home and you want to go on the road.
RG: How many tours have you done with Peter Frampton?
JO: A tour of America the end of ’79. I actually came in after he had another drummer, Gary Malabar, and I was on the road with Eric. And a tour of South America.
RG: How did you meet Peter?
JO: He just called me up actually, and wanted me to play on his record. I don’t know how he found me. He had been in a car accident and he had listened to that Slowhand album the whole time, he said. He liked the drummer on it and said, “Call that guy up.”
RG: So how did your South American tour go?
JO: Good. The crowds were real good.
RG: Was it mostly stadiums or auditoriums?
JO: We played one outdoor show and the rest were like colleseums, 12 or 16,000 seats.
RG: What countries?
JO: Argentina, Brazil. Venezuela, Panama, and Puerto Rico.
RG: Is that a hassle, going from country to country with visas and passports?
JO: Yeah, it is actually. It’s pretty hard to get around. You’ve got to go to the consulates usually every country you go to and get your work visa stamped and show your passport. The crowds are real good. It’s all government-run things. The government is all involved with the concerts down there.
RG: Tell me about Life. Who all is in the group?
JO: It’s comprised of George Terry, who used to be with Eric. He wrote “Mainline Florida” and “Lay Down Sally” and helped Eric quite a bit on a few other songs. And Joey Murcia who played guitar with Andy Gibb and I think he’s been on some of the Bee Gees stuff. And Howard Cowart, who played bass with the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb. He was at one time the J. Fred of J. Fred and the Playboy band. “Judy in Disguise” was his hit. Joey was the guitar player on Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman.” I think they were all involved in playing on Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia.” That was the first song Criteria ever had out. And a guy named George Bitzer, a blind piano player. He played with Andy Gibb and on some of the Bee Gees stuff. Also a guy named Don Fidele on backup vocals. There’s two girls in the band, Jamene Miller and Kitty Woodson.
RG: How long has it been organized?
JO: It’s been going on for about eight or nine months. We cut some demos and tried to get some people to listen to them. George and Kitty have done most of the work. The past few months we went down and finished cutting everything. Tubby Ziegler is playing on some of the stuff. He’s the other drummer. We’ll probably use two.
RG: What do you hope this group will do for you?
JO: Make me rich. No, just kidding. It’s good to feel like you’re part of a band. It’s better for my creativity to feel like part of a group; to contribute equally instead of backing up one guy and know ing you’re really very easily replacable. When you work for solo artists they’ve always got it together, what they want to hear and you’ve got to play it that way. It’s kind of hard to get excited sometimes about something.
RG: Do you think about fame?
JO: No, I don’t care about that. Maybe you can make it good as a group but not individually. I don’t care about myself being famous. No, give me my money and let me go home. That’s one thing I like about playing behind some of those guys, the heck with all of that.
RG: So in that respect you like the advantages of being in those situations but you don’t like the drawbacks of the notority?
JO: I like to go down the street and be just like anyone else. Plus I can do that and still play with all those famous peo ple. I’ve said to people that I play with Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton and they say, “Sure you do.” Really, they don’t know, they don’t know whether to believe me or not, unless they can identify with what you look like. In my own mind I know I did so I’m not looking for that.
RG: Well I guess on the album covers it’s Eric you see mostly.
JO: Yeah, we’re on the cover too. Well, not on the cover but on the inside, which is okay.
RG: Would it have mattered to you if they weren’t there?
JO: No, as long as they put your name and you get credit for what you did. It’s nice that they do because a lot of solo artists don’t put people’s pictures in there and Eric used to do that. He actually treated us pretty fairly.
RG: Do you have any comments on the business of music?
JO: Not really. I could go into it but I’m not going to because I might get into trouble if I start naming people’s names. I just know that if you’re going to get into the music business and get royalties and stuff, you better get your business together beforehand because they’ll screw you in two seconds. As long as you’re doing good they’ll treat you great but when they don’t really need you anymore they don’t give a shit about you anymore. I’d rather not get into it because I’m not a qualified businessman. They don’t tell me how to do my job and I don’t tell them. I think musicians ought to be running the music business.
RG: When it goes from playing a club and going home to making major money real fast is that a problem?
JO: Yeah, you watch other people make mistakes and hope you don’t make the same ones, especially with money.
RG: But there’s no way to know ahead of time exactly what to do?
JO: No, because I made a lot of money with Eric and I spent a whole lot of money too because I didn’t take care of the business right. I thought, “This is great. This is going to go on forever!”, instead of putting it away.
RG: For a young player coming up there’s no way to know what to expect?
JO: Everybody’s going to be treated different and they’re going to treat it differently. There’s probably a lot of guys who might make a lot of money and might automatically know what to do with the money. But after Uncle Sam gets it there’s not a whole hell of a lot left really. If you’re talking about making a lot of money, you’ve got to make a whole lot of money. There’s only a fist full of people who make money like that anymore.
RG: What would it be like if you had a big money offer to go on the road with an act you didn’t like?
JO: That’s a hard question. I don’t think I’d do it. I’d be making good money but I’d be miserable, because I like perfection and if I ‘m not happy with what I’m playing you’re just fooling yourself, no matter how much money you make. I think there’s a way to make money and be happy at the same time. That’s pretty hard to do anymore; have fun at your job.
RG: It seems like when you’ve been playing a long time it gets harder to keep the magic in the music. It’s so easy for it to turn into just a job.
JO: Yeah, but music’s changing all the time so if you change with the music then you won’t get bored. People that have the same jobs for 30 years get bored with their jobs and do the same damn thing everyday. They don’t ever change. At least with music you’ve got a little bit of a change and a variety of stuff to choose from. That’s why I like to play a little bit of every kind of music because it breaks up the monotony.
RG: Have you had a chance to play with any stars besides the ones you tour and record with?
JO: Oh, not really, because I’ve kept pretty busy just playing with Eric and Peter. The time I had off I’ve come home to be with my family and to get away from all that to balance myself out so I don’t end up being an idiot. It’s been my own choice. I could have moved to New York or L. A. or Miami or someplace and hung out with all those people. Probably be doing a lot of work but still I’ve got other responsibilities too. I’ve been lucky enough to have good enough gigs where I can afford to live here in Tulsa. I may have to move one day, I don’t know.
RG: To keep the business going, so to speak?
JO: Yeah, it’s just that work’s not that plentiful anymore. Everybody’s starting to cut back and I’m going to have to start hustling again.
RG: I guess it would be sort of, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
JO: Yeah, but it takes a lot of promoting to put your name around. I suppose a lot of people still think I’m playing with Eric. Working with Eric for six years, people automatically thought that you don’t do anything else. Peter’s the same way.
RG: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting, what would it be?
JO: Don’t quit. Practice, listen to a lot of records. Just observe, you know. I did when I was growing up. I watched all the older musicians, watched who made it, who didn’t, who screwed up. Just watch the patterns to follow. I think personality has a whole lot to do with it. When you’re young you should try to develop a very likable personality and get along with people. People really like that a lot when it comes to a working situation, I think, because I know a whole lot of guys who are real good who sure are jerks. I’ve been guilty of doing that myself sometimes. But you can get along with people if you’re a good player and you’ve got a lot of self-esteem about you. If you’ve got some kind of goals then you’re going to make it one day. Just don’t get too big for your britches!
RG: You went back to Florida last year to do some session work. Who was that for?
JO: It was at Middle Ear, the Bee Gees’ studio. That was around February or March of ’81, and it involved doing just the drum tracks. They were real sticklers for time, especially Barry Gibb, and they wanted to create the song a beat at a time, which if you’re a drummer, will put you through the wringer. I spent 3 weeks doing that. They had a Dr. Beat thing they would calibrate to the millisecond. Then they would create the drum track by itself. Their whole idea was that they couldn’t get a drum machine to play like a human, so the other alternative is to get a human to play like a machine, which they can do. You know what the song is supposed to be like and they want to create a one measure loop, but they want to do it beat by beat. So you’ve got the Dr. Beat going in your headphones to the tempo of the song and Barry will give a count. What they want first is the hi-hat pattern, so your first beat is on one. Then they stop the tape and measure that beat and see how close it was with the Dr. Beat. It had to be within 8 milliseconds, which is almost undetectable. If you were off, you’d do it again. They would have you do the other hi-hat beat on the 3. They can actually put the ands in with the board; the 1 and 2 and. Next you put on the snare drum, then the bass drum. The bass drum part was one and three. You put both the one and three on, then you go back and put in the and beat. You had to put the and on separately.
RG: Every stroke in the measure is separate?
JO: Yeah, and you had to use the same attack every time so it’s smooth. Then, after that they put on the open and close of the hi-hat exactly on the beat.
RG: Is each stroke on a separate track?
RG: It all adds up to just one measure. You don’t do an 80 measure song a stroke at a time?
JO: No, that’s all they want. They’re going to create the song out of that one measure loop. They can put variations anywhere they want to as they make the song through the board.
RG: After you do that measure and each stroke is measured, are you through?
JO: You’re through for now. Next, the guys at the board go to work and they go through the chord chart and figure out what drum beat goes in each measure and start cutting tape. This particular song ended up with 65 edits in it, and they put it on a slate machine before they put it on the 24 track. It seems like a hard way to make a record, but I was real interested in it. Now they’ve got the whole song done with the loop and you hear a count and you’ll hear the drum track only. Now they’ve thought out where the fills are going to be and there’ll be a blank space. Nothing will happen, but the Dr. Beat will go through there. Now you’ve got to go back and do the fills beat by beat.
RG: Do they write the fills out?
JO: Well, they’ll talk them to you and they pick each pitched drum they want you to hit to create an effect for the song.
RG: Does that mean they’ll have them tuned to certain notes?
JO: Yeah, they’ll have maybe 6 toms and they’ll call each a number. 1 through 6, and say, “On this fill, hit 1, 3, and 6,” or however they want to break it up. After you’ve got the fills, you go back and do the cymbal crashes.
RG: Do you do the fills at the drum set, or do you just set the single drums up?
JO: You do it at the set. You see, normally, if you’re playing a tom-tom, your snare would rattle a bit, and if you took it all away it would sound like an overdub. This way it sounds like a full drum set. If you want to hear how that’s done, it’s on the album. They didn’t use the track that I did though.
RG: You just did one track?
JO: Yeah, we did one track. Porcaro and those guys did some the same way. Russ Kunkel did one the same way. I know what hell he had to go through too. I mean, it was fun and I was glad to experience their concept of making a record like this.
RG: Does doing it that way make the track work better?
JO: Well, it makes a perfect track. They cut some live and some with that concept, and they had like 20 tracks to pick from for the album. Then they mix it down to sound like it was done at one time.
RG: In September of ’81 you went back with Frampton. How did that come about?
JO: It actually came about like the last time I went with him. I had done his album, but I was on the road with Eric. He came through Tulsa playing and 4 days later he called me up. This time he rolled through town again, and 4 days later I got a call from him again. The same thing happened. He has kind of a new band, with Arther Stead, John Reagan, and Mark Goldenberg. It’s become a real good, tight band. I really respect Pete as a musician, and I like playing with him. Everybody gets along well: it’s a good family atmosphere, and I would like to continue. We’re all behind him. We still give it as much in front of 4.000 people, as we would in front of 60.000. I’d like to see him get hack and do something. I helped one guy do that. Eric, and I hope we can get another guy going; sell some records, and have fun. Everybody is an equal partner, including Pete. No one thinks anyone’s better than anyone else. I really enjoyed that tour and I hope we can do it more, but I’m also involved in these other things as well, so I want to try to schedule things as I can.
RG: What do you have planned for the future?
JO: I like my family life; my choice is to live here and maintain the best of both worlds. As long as I can go on the road and get that out of my system, and still be able to come back and have time off and be with my family. I can keep both things up. I can go have fun playing for all these people and making money; be around all that fast-paced life, and still come back and have my family, and it balances out perfectly. I don’t have to get back into the rat race after I get off the road. I’m probably giving up a lot of sessions I could do in L.A., but that’s the sacrifice I have to make not to be divorced. I’m going to be one of those guys who can say I made my marriage work and still kept in the music business. The word entertainer goes along with drugs, divorce, suicide, and everything else. So me and a few other fellow musicians here in town are going to get into the recording business ourselves. Tulsa’s always had a lot of good musicians, but we never really had the facility to work. We’ve had demo studios with Richard Paris, but it’s for their own use: it’s not a commercial studio. Now, I also want to get into this thing on my own with these other people, and be a part owner in a studio that’s owned by musicians. The Muscle Shoals guys made it work, so it can be done. We’re going to put in some very good equipment, and we’re going to try to do some records out of here, finish them, master them, and then take it to the record company and say, “Here, you want to buy this record? It’s finished!”
RG: Would you ever get into the engineering part of it?
JO: I’m going to try to. I’m going to try to learn all of it. So why not own part of one? I don’t want to grow old seeing all these guys that are real good around here die. I’ve done well: I want to see these other people do well too; people that I respect and who are very good players. I don’t want to see their careers go down the drain, because they can’t go anywhere else or no one’s going to find them or whatever. I want to do this because I don’t want to look back when I’m 50 or 60 and wish I would have done this and fulfilled all the goals I’d like to do. I don’t want to go along and still do well in my career and watch all these other people fail. We’re offering to give them those facilities to see if they can do something, and that’s as fair as you can get.