The Final Chapter
The ’70s were a drummers smorgasbord. You could have as many drummers as you wanted and as much of a variety as you wanted. It seemed like rock and roll branched off into hard rock, heavy metal, jazz rock, country rock, soft rock, disco, soul, r&b, pop, art rock, punk rock, new wave . . . nothing was simple anymore. The boundaries between popular music, classical and jazz were broken down, but it was as if the boundaries had been made of mercury. They scattered all over the place.
In 1969 an album was released called The Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers were a hard rocking band who had the ability to improvise like jazz musicans. The band showcased the talents of Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson—a dual-drummer combination who were like Mutt and Jeff. Butch’s background was rock and roll with a twist of classical music. Jaimoe was also out of the rock and roll tradition with heavy jazz influences. When they played, Butch was like a D-9 bulldozer and Jaimoe was like dynamite, exploding here and there.
The band cranked out several classic rock albums, but perhaps the best was The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East in mid – ’71. This is a brilliant live album that captured the drive and improvisatory skills of each of the band members. The Allman Brothers Band suffered the loss of two key band members, Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, early on. After a couple of reformations, Jaimoe finally called it quits in ’81 and went on to pursue a solo career. Drummer Frank Toler took his place alongside Butch Trucks. Butch and Jaimoe became role models for a whole string of “country/rock” bands who were to follow.
On Time hit the record stores in 1969. That album was the beginning of the phenomenal success of Grand Funk Railroad, a power trio (until ’72 when Craig Frost was added on keyboards) that had the rare distinction of disgusting critics and journalists for years, while at the same time delighting fans and knocking out one gold album after the next. Drummer Don Brewer played solid rock and arguably had the ability to play convincing solos. The group disbanded in 1976 after their final album Good Singin’ Good Playin’, which was produced by Frank Zappa.
1969 was the year Jethro Tull released a brilliant album called Stand Up. Tull’s music was originally a blend of blues and jazz, and Clive Bunker was on drums. Bunker played incredibly well; an authoritative player who could play solid backbeats, had the ability to solo and improvise, and was extremely colorful. Bunker left in 1971 after the release of Aqualung. In 1972 the “self-taught” Barriemore Barlow took over the drum chair for almost the next ten years. “Since that departure,” he said, “I’ve been involved with various experimental units, working with musicians of the highest calibre. The new outlook is very refreshing.”
King Crimson, another band that received tremendous acclaim and was the launch pad for other great bands, actually culminated in ’68 with guitarist Robert Fripp and percussionist Michael Giles. Giles had had more than eighteen years playing experience by this time, yet he was only twenty-six years old. He began playing in ’54 in jazz and skiffle bands, and during the ’60s he traveled throughout Europe with several bands and was also a very active studio drummer.
In The Court of the Crimson King became one of the best sellers of 1969, and the follow up album, In the Wake of Poseidon, sold as well. By 1972, Giles had left the band and his position was taken over by Bill Bruford. Giles has remained off the scene for too many years. His name keeps popping up as being a significant influence on many of the best drummers in rock music today.
Bill Bruford debuted in 1969 with Yes, a drummer who “…is very rarely content to just play a straight beat. He usually figures in with the whole rhythm of the song and the bass player a lot.” Bruford usually played the unexpected, and even his drumsets were unique and ever changing. In 1979 he told MD correspondent Michael Shore, “In Europe and England there’s a looser attitude toward the set-up. One might start out with a marimba and a snare drum. It’s a much healthier attitude. If the rest of the world is…on a conventional kit, you sound that much more unique. I’m a rock drummer but I don’t like most rock drummers. They tune the heads slack. They plod and are unimaginative. I love jazz. My style is in the grey area between rock and jazz.”
Bruford left Yes after the Close To The Edge album and was with King Crimson until that band broke up in ’74. After playing with Gong and Genesis for a short spell, Bruford recorded four solo albums on Polydor records: Feels Good To Me, One Of A Kind, The Bruford Tapes and Gradually Going Tornado, which are all out of print! (Readers can write letters of protest to Polydor.) As of ’82, Bill is back with a reformed King Crimson and continues to be a pioneer, particularly in the electronic percussion field.
Santana was the first rock band to incorporate Latin music. The original percussion section consisted of Mike Carrabello on congas and Jose “Chepito” Areas (a poll-winning percussionist in Central America) and seventeen-year-old Mike Shrieve on drums. The band’s appearance at the Woodstock Festival catapulted them to stardom. Shrieve was a fiery player with a lot of chops and a lot of taste. He has credited Chepito as being a tremendous aid in his understanding of Latin rhythms. Shrieve left the band in 1977 and had a band called Automatic Man and then Go with Steve Winwood and Japanese percussionist/composer Stomu Yamashta. Go released three albums, including one live package, all of which have a tremendous amount of energy and creativity. Shrieve is brilliant on these albums. I interviewed Mike in 1979 while he was forming a band called Patterns, that disbanded. In 1982 he formed Novo Combo, one of the better new bands to emerge in the last few years.
Alice Cooper became a success in 1970 with the release of Love It To Death. The drummer was Neal Smith and the band was mainly noted for it’s gruesome theatrics. The original band broke up in 1974 and Whitely Glans played for Alice Cooper, while Neal Smith formed a band called Billion Dollar Babies with three of the ex-Cooper members.
ZZ Top blew in from Texas with drummer Frank Beard. This trio played the blues and rocked it up quite a bit. Neil Young started releasing a bunch of good rock and roll after he left Buffalo Springfield. He worked with a band called Crazy Horse which had Ralph Molina on drums and had two hits with “Cowgirl In The Sand” and “Down By The River.” In 1970 he joined the existing Crosby, Stills & Nash and they released Déjà vu with Dallas Taylor handling the drumming. Perhaps his biggest selling album was Harvest in 1972 with some excellent rock drumming by session man Kenny Buttrey.
Several singer/songwriters became incredibly popular throughout the ’70s, supported by the talented drumming of Russ Kunkel. Russ played on James Taylor’s second album, Sweet Baby James, which had a single called “Fire And Rain.” Kunkel used brushes on the record in a non-traditional manner. He played the brushes as if they were sticks and he got a tremendous sound out of the drums. “Fire And Rain” was the forerunner to Carol King’s albums (she played piano on Sweet Baby James) like Tapestry, one of the best selling rock records in history.
Russ Kunkel is extremely important in the history of rock. He went on to record almost all of Taylor’s records and he also worked with Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne among many, many others.
Studio great Hal Blaine was being kept busy in the studio and on the road, particularly with John Denver. In 1971 Denver’s hit “Take Me Home Country Roads” catapulted him to superstardom.
California gave us one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever with Little Feat in 1969. Little Feat was the first lp, followed by Sailin’ Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, The Last Record Album, Time Loves A Hero and an excellent live album with the Tower of Power Horns called Waiting For Columbus.
Richie Hayward drove this band through it’s tumultuous tunes without mercy. Basically a self-taught drummer who used to listen to a lot of jazz records, Hayward was one of those drummers who do almost everything wrong (if you’re going by the book) but has created one of the few original styles in rock drumming. For some reason, despite great critical acclaim for their albums, their live performances and their individual abilities as musicians, Little Feat was like the Wright Brother’s plane. It would get off the ground for a short time and then it would come back down again. Such was the career of this band. Chief songwriter Lowell George died in 1980 and the band dissolved for a while. In 1981, Paul Barrere took all the existing members, except keyboardist Bill Payne, and did some dates. But as far as rock drumming is concerned—they don’t come much better than Richie Hayward.
Genesis was formed by Peter Gabriel, who was playing drums for the band originally. John Mayhew took over the drum chair and recorded the band’s first album in ’69, called From Genesis To Revelation, which was not well received. A second lp, Trespass was cut and Mayhew left and was replaced by Phil Collins, an ex-child actor. Collins has developed into one of the most creative people in rock and roll. Onstage, Genesis starting using “visuals and theatrics on which they would subsequently found their reputation.” The ’71 album, Nursery Cryme, was followed by Foxtrot in ’72 with two of Genesis’ best-known songs, “Watcher of the Skies” and “Supper’s Ready.” A 1973 live album, Genesis Live, was well received and preceded Selling England By The Pound and the band’s first hit, “I Know What I Like.”
When Peter Gabriel quit in 1975, drummer Phil Collins became the lead singer, and in ’76, Chester Thompson joined the band on drums to take some of the load off Collins. Also, in ’75 Collins recorded two lp’s, Unorthodox Behaviour and Moroccan Roll, with Brand X.
Genesis continues to be a top-draw act. In 1981, Phil Collins released a solo album called Face Value that had to have been one of the best rock albums of that year at least. His drum sound on records was like artillery and his songs were excellent.
Mick Fleetwood was mentioned earlier as an original member of Fleetwood Mac, an English band that was originally a blues band. In fact, in 1969, they released an lp entitled Fleetwood Mac In Chicago and the British version was Blues Jam At Chess. Fleetwood was a solid blues/rock drummer and at one time that band employed three of the finest British blues guitarists: Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green.
Between 1970 and 1975, Fleetwood Mac went through several personnel changes and released a string of good albums in Kiln House, Future Games, Bare Trees, Penguin, Mystery To Me, and Heroes Are Hard To Find. In 1975, Mick Fleetwood and John Mc- Vie (the band’s original bassist) along with Christine Perfect, a singer/songwriter/pianist who’d been with another British blues band called Chicken Shack, and who was married to McVie, teamed up with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks for the new Fleetwood Mac. In ’75 they released Fleetwood Mac which became a monster record, followed by Rumours in ’77, another monster record.
Mick Fleetwood plays exceptionally well with McVie on bass. Fleetwood’s use of tom-toms in unison with McVie’s bass lines is very subtle, but it creates an incredibly strong bottom to the band’s music and is quite unique.
Perhaps the most popular rock drummer of ’69 and the most influential was John Bonham. Led Zepplin grew out of a resurrected version of The Yardbirds, and Bonham was actually the second choice. Guitarist Jimmy Page had wanted Procol Harum’s drummer, B. J. Wilson, but Bonham got the job. His style was extremely aggressive and perhaps the most amazing characteristic of Bonham was his ability to play intricately and forcefully at the same time. Anyone who has seen Zepplin’s movie, The Song Remains The Same, might’ve had the same feeling that I did. How does he keep up that pace? From 1969 until the death of Bonham in 1981, Led Zepplin grew into a monster act that influenced hundreds of bands. The tragedy of Bonham was his inability to channel his tremendous energy and creativity, and his phenomenal success into healthier activities. Still, John Bonham earned himself a secure place in the history of rock drumming.
Jim Keltner was thrown into the public eye around 1969. An extremely versatile, gifted and creative drummer, Keltner propelled bands like Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ry Cooder and Ringo Starr, and he became a role model for the next generation of studio drummers. (Bob DiSalle’s description of Keltner’s style in this issue is so beautiful that I won’t try to improve on it.) Recently Jim has been recording with Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder, as well as touring with both men. Like Bill Bruford, Keltner is always restless to improve, expand, tear down and build up his abilities. He co-led a band called Attitudes that released a couple of albums, he co-wrote and sang on Ry Cooder’s last album and he’s been experimenting with electronic percussion.
Another drummer who broke tradition in 1969 was Gregg Errico with Sly and The Family Stone. On songs like “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Stand,” and “Everyday People,” Errico’s funk use of the hi-hat and bass drum particularly were very innovative. Sly’s music set the stage for major changes in rock music, but this was also the music that inspired many jazz musicians to “crossover” in jazz/rock fusion.
Drummer Tony Williams had been hailed as a “boy genius” in jazz circles since he first appeared with Miles Davis when he was seventeen. Around 1970, Tony left Miles and formed a band of his own and released a record called Emergency with Larry Young on organ and John McLaughlin on guitar. Most people consider this record to be the first “fusion” album, from a band that influenced the entire musical direction of the ’70s. Williams has said, “From my standpoint there were bands that influenced me at the time. I remember Gary Burton’s band with Steve Swallow and maybe Larry Coryell. Then I would listen to the Charles Lloyd group. I was also heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix.”
Williams’ drumming at this time was awesome. Carmine Appice told me, “Tony Williams was the only drummer to ever floor me in twenty seconds. Totally blew my mind. When I was with the Fudge, I was on an ego trip. I went to hear Tony and said to myself, ‘Alright. Let’s see what you can do.’ He had a four-piece set with an 18″ bass drum and I didn’t know where he was coming from or where he got his rhythms from.”
Tony released Turn It Over after Emergency!, then Ego, The Old Bums Rush, Believe It, Million Dollar Legs and Joy of Flying. His contributions to both jazz and rock are immense. When we realize that Tony was seventeen when he joined Miles, and that he was only twenty-two when he recorded Emergency!—his contribution is even more staggering.
Williams’ guitarist John McLauglin went on to form the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1970, a band that showcased one of the great innovators in drums: Billy Cobham. Cobham had come up playing jazz and r&b and his first shot at success was with a shortlived band called Dreams, that also featured Michael and Randy Brecker, and John Abercrombie. Cobham developed a massive drumset and he was one of the few drummers who had the technique and the taste to play it all. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created challenging music using a variety of time signatures and tempo changes. Cobham was one of the first drummers who made other drummers think about the way they were holding their sticks. Most of the great “technicians” up to Cobham held their sticks traditionally (Rich, Bellson, Morello), and Billy used matched grip, plus he had a right-handed drummer’s set-up but played his hi-hat and ride cymbal with his left hand (although he had the ambidexterity to play either way). Billy was also on Eumir Deodato’s record, “2001,” which became a hit single. That record was certainly one of the first “crossover” records and the unique musicianship influenced a ton of people.
Billy left the Mahavishnu Orchestra, formed his own bands and recorded several records under his own name; the most successful and talked about is probably Crosswind. Today, Billy has a new band called Glass Menagerie and remains a very well respected percussionist.
Miles Davis recorded Bitches Brew in 1970, that featured Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, Charles Alias and Jim Riley (three drummers and a percussionist). This was a milestone recording that smashed the walls between rock and jazz. DeJohnette remained with Miles for a while before going off on his own. He recorded several albums for CT1 records—a company that was thriving at this time. Jack remains an enigma in drumming. He’s well respected by almost every drummer and although it would be easy to say that his own music leans more toward jazz—that wouldn’t really be accurate. DeJohnette’s the “thinking man’s drummer” who can handle himself in any situation.
Lenny White joined up with Chick Corea in Return To Forever. “I played high-energy music, all dexterity, a lot of emphasis on notes/technique.” RTF was really coming out of the same mold as the Mahavishnu Orchestra. After RTF, White formed his own band, Twennynine, that played primarily dance music.
Weather Report released their first album in 1970. The drummer was Alphonse Mouzon and the percussionist was the brilliant Airto. Mouzon played very well on this record but his stay was short-lived. He went on to play and record with McCoy Tyner and then with Larry Coryell and The Eleventh House, and then released solo albums.
Airto should be included here because he was one of the first percussionists in rock/jazz. He performed with Weather Report and Miles Davis in addition to just about everybody else who was making records at this time. After Airto, rock bands started to add percussion players and drummers were aware of more possibilities for sounds than the basic snare, bass, toms and cymbals. “Percussion does not mean just time,” Airto said. “Percussion means many colors.” Airto also played amazing drumset on some sessions, including the original Return To Forever albums.
1970 also gave us Tommy Aldridge with Black Oak Arkansas, Corky Laing with Mountain, Bill Ward with Black Sabbath, Jocko Marcellino with Sha Na Na, Nigel Olson with Elton John, and Bob C. Benberge with Supertramp. The Winter Brothers, Edgar and Johnny, had a succession of fine drummers including Red Turner, Randy Z., Bobby Caldwell, Bobby Ramirez and Chuck Ruff.
Jim Gordon surfaced with Delaney & Bennie, then Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and the legendary Derek & The Dominoes band. Gordon is a well-schooled musician with a thorough knowledge of all aspects of his instrument. His work in the studios in the ’60s is phenomenal, and like his close friend Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon served as a role model for the studio drummers who came after him. (Look for a Jim Gordon interview in the Jan. ’83 MD).
Last, but not least, Carl Palmer blew lots of people’s minds with his drumming in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. It was written that, “After their first appearance in the Fillmore East in New York City in May 1971, the Cash Box critic stated emphatically, ‘Emerson Lake and Palmer have no faults.’ ”
Carl had enormous technical facility—he’d started out to be a jazz drummer—and began his professional career with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and then The Atomic Rooster. Brown had a hit called “Fire” in 1968. ELP’s debut album was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, followed by Tarkus and then Pictures at an Exhibition, both in 1971. Fans loved the band, but soon after ’71 the music was called “techno-rock” and if the sales of records were any indication of their popularity, ELP had lost much of its popularity. Finally, Carl, Keith and Gregg went separate ways (although Palmer insisted the group hadn’t broken up), and Carl went to work rehearsing a band called PM. When that didn’t get off the ground he became part of a supergroup called Asia.
In a Down Beat interview, Carl discussed his own conception: “My approach, in general, is to be as musical as possible. My own personal attitude toward percussion has been to develop two things: the technical side of it and the musical side of it. To commit yourself to one style inhibits your progress.”
After 1971 ticked past we’d seen Stephen Bladd with the J. Geils Band, John Willie Wilcox with Todd Rundgren, John Hartman and Keith Knudsen with The Doobie Brothers, Tris Imboden with Loggins and Messina, Albert Bouchard with Blue Oyster Cult. ELO introduced Bev Bevan, and Cat Stevens, in the singer/ songwriter tradition, had a string of tremendously successful Lp’s, especially Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat. Stevens’ drummers were Harvey Burns and Gerry Conway.
Styx began recording in 1971. John Panozzo, on the band’s first hit single “Lady,” brought in a Bolero rhythm! He continues to draw from various influences and it’s a credit to both he and the other members of Styx that they’re able to create popular sounds from such varied influences. (Panozzo was interviewed in the July ’82 MD.)
A funk group called Tower of Power came out of the Bay Area of California in 1971 with East Bay Grease. Drummer David Garibaldi made everybody take notice of his funk style. Together with conga percussionist Brent Byars, they formed a killer drum section. Garibaldi’s time was impeccable—it had to be for him to work out the beautiful musical patterns he played. Tower of Power disbanded, and Garibaldi left around the mid-’70s to pursue spiritual studies. He worked with a band called Takit for a while and he’s been the winner of the R&B Drummer category for the past four years in the MD Reader’s Poll. Presently, David is doing clinics, teaching privately, and playing with various groups on the West Coast. “My style or feeling on drums is what many people consider a black style,” Garibaldi told Down Beat magazine. “But, there are a lot of players that have that feel. There’s one drummer I don’t want to forget to mention so younger drummers who haven’t gotten into him will hopefully do it now. He’s Mel Lewis. I used to listen to him on old records of Maynard Ferguson. Mel is doing all this great left hand stuff all the rock and roll players are trying to get into now.”
Andy Newmark left a strong impression on the music scene for his drumming on Carly Simon’s hit single, “Anticipation.” New mark went on to record with Sly Stone, particularly on a track called “In Time” which again blew everybody’s mind. That track in particular turned into a tremendous favorite with jazz players. The album Fresh was used extensively by Miles Davis as an instruction record for his band. Newmark remains a top session player, turning up on albums such as John Lennon’s Double Fantasy.
Drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson were working with Al Green to knock out a new sound. Green’s records were arguably the first to feature the drummer playing a backbeat on a tom-tom instead of a snare drum. Green said, “Al Jackson was the most influential drummer that I have ever known. He played things that wouldn’t normally be played. So, when we had the misfortune of losing Al Jackson it kind of dampened my spirits as far as the package was concerned because I rode on the rhythmic patterns that he played.”
Isaac Hayes wrote the music for the movie Shaft. The drumming on that record started a new trend, particularly with the sixteenth notes on the hi-hat.
Maurice White had been a jazz drummer and a session player at Chess Records in Chicago. Among other veteran jazz musicians, he’d worked with Ramsey Lewis. Jazz artists like Les McCann, Ramsey Lewis, and The Crusaders, along with Sly Stone from the rock side, inspired a while new assault of black bands like the Ohio Players, War, Kool and The Gang and perhaps the most powerful and far reaching of them all—Earth, Wind and Fire. MD correspondent Robyn Flans did an excellent interview with the band’s percussionists: Ralph Johnson, Freddie White and Philip Bailey in the Feb./Mar. ’82 issue. All three are tremendously talented drummers with a firm grasp of jazz and rock. Maurice White also found ways of introducing traditional African instruments, such as the kalimba, in the band’s repertoire. E, W & F is still going strong today and they’ve had hits like “That’s The Way of The World,” “Shining Star” and “After The Love Is Gone.”
Rod Stewart’s first real claim to fame came with the 1981 release of Every Picture Tells A Story and the hit single “Maggie May.” The drummer on the date was Mickey Waller, another rock solid English drummer. Waller had teamed up with Stewart in Jeff Beck’s band on an album called Truth released in 1968 and Beck-Ola in ’69.
Marvin Gaye rhythmically broke out of the somewhat traditional Motown mold with his “concept” album, What’s Going On, in 1971.
In 1972 Corky Laing reappeared with West, Bruce & Laing, a short-lived power trio. Foghat started kicking out their versions of essentially British blues/rock with Roger Earl on drums. Steely Dan’s first record was released, called Can’t Buy A Thrill, with drummer Jim Hodder. The writing team of Becker and Fagen pre sented some challenges with the other “band” members. They didn’t want to tour, for one thing. So, the band broke up, and in 1975, Katy Lied came out with Jeff Porcaro on drums.
Jeff Porcaro became one of the top studio drummers; one of those guys where it would be easier to name the people he hasn’t played with than the people he has. Jeff’s drumming has always been poignant and correct.
Don Henley was a founding member (and drummer) of The Eagles in 1972. All of the members, including Henley, had experience in many other rock groups such as Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers and Linda Ronstadt’s backup band. The Eagles were unquestionably one of the hot bands of the ’70s. Henley was a functional drummer—but then again, you wouldn’t want to stick Elvin Jones in a band like The Eagles. Henley’s drumming was perfect for the material. Don also wrote or co-wrote much of The Eagles material and sang on a few of their hits. “Witchy Woman,” “Take It Easy,” “Desperado,” “Hotel California” and “Life In The Fast Lane” were some of The Eagles hits.
Somewhat in the wake of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album, Stevie Wonder gave us a series of brilliant albums: Music of My Mind and Talking Book in ’72 and Innervisions in ’73 that “…were enormous successes both critically and commercially, and sealed Wonder’s status as the most influential and acclaimed black musician of the early “70s,” according to Rolling Stone. The drummer who played on many of these records—although Wonder has a great unique style of funk drumming and played drums on several tracks—is Dennis Davis. The drums on Wonder’s records seemed to scrape away some of the “technical” aspects of funk drumming. Not that the rhythms weren’t sophisticated, perhaps they were just more musical than anyone up to that time (with the possible exception of David Garibaldi in Tower of Power).
What do Willie Nelson, Kiss, Bruce Springsteen, Herbie Hancock, The Marshall Tucker Band, Bob Marley and David Bowie have in common? They were all making musical waves in 1973.
Herbie Hancock, a pianist in the Miles Davis band with Tony Williams, branched out even further in his solo career (he’d already established himself as a prolific songwriter and recorded some albums, such as Maiden Voyage, that became jazz classics) and got into jazz/rock. Headhunters was released featuring Mike Clarke on drums (not the same Mike Clarke from The Byrds!) and the sophisticated funk was penetrating. Clarke’s drumming, along with Cobham and a few other “hot” drummers, was taking funk drumming to the extreme. It was fine drumming and necessary, but for rock music it could be paralleled with the evolution of jazz drumming. If you listen to, say, Elvin Jones in his peak years with Coltrane, and beyond Elvin to totally free-form drummers like Rashied Ali—it’s a long way from “ding-dingda-ding”!
Arranger Gil Evans made a comment on this era of music in an interview at this time. He pointed out that rock and jazz had gotten extremely elaborate and experimental melodically and harmonically, but rhythmically it had never made such extreme steps. Evans said that it seemed that the pendulum of rhythm was swinging far left to make up for lost time, and he predicted that it would soon settle back to midpoint.
In what had become country/rock music, several bands had sprung up in the wake of The Allman Brothers. The Marshall Tucker Band came out of Spartanburg, South Carolina with their first album The Marshall Tucker Band. They’ve had several hits over the years that have crossed over into pop, rock and country charts like “Can’t You See?,” “Heard It In A Love Song,” and “Searchin” For A Rainbow.” Drummer Paul T. Riddle is one of the nicest guys in the business. He came up listening to jazz records, and his drumming has a jazz touch. He is well aware of song forms and is one of those drummers who keeps growing and learn ing. He recently started an instrumental band called The Throbbers that allows him to stretch out and use his jazz roots a bit more, but The Tucker Band have always been improvisors. I interviewed Paul in the May ’81 MD and asked about the Tucker Band’s commitment to each other. He said, “When the six of us got together, musically speaking, it was all or nothing. And it’s always been that way. If we fall we’re gonna just all fall together. If we make it, we’re gonna make it together.”
Also in the country/rock vein, but of a harder nature than The Tucker Band, came Lynyrd Skynyrd from Florida. Bob Burns was the original drummer and appeared on the first album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. Lillian Roxon wrote: “The key to Skynyrd’s success, aside from their crisp, clean brand of rock, was their no-nonsense visual approach to music. They traveled. They played. Period. No frills.” Burns played on “Sweet Home Alabama”—the band’s first hit, and was replaced by Artimus Pyle in early 1975.
Pyle is an extremely colorful individual, another good human being, and a man with more guts than most ten men put together! Pyle’s style of drumming was “no frills” rock and roll. In 1977, after the release of Street Survivors, the band was involved in an airplane crash that took the lives of three of the band members and a member of the road crew. Recently, Pyle has his own band called the Artimus Pyle Band, still knocking out rock and roll and he is trying to pass on his valuable knowledge to those who are coming up the ranks after him.
Another extremely popular country/rock band that came to life in 1973 was a band formed by a fiddle player who had been a Sideman on albums like Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, New Morning and Self Portrait, and Ringo’s Beaucoups Of Blues— Charlie Daniels. This was another two-drummer band with Fred Edwards and Don Murray originally. Murray was replaced by Gary Allen, and after Gary Allen left in 1976, he was replaced by Jim Marshall. Fire On The Mountain is arguably the most popular Charlie Daniels Band album, and they’ve had several hit singles with “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “The South’s Gonna Do It.” Daniels’ music has always been a blend of rock, country fiddle tunes, and western swing, and the intensity of the band has varied with the different mixture of drummers.
Disco came into vogue around 1973 with the stylings of Barry White and tunes like “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby.” Probably no music caused more uproar among drummers than disco. It was definitely “dance” music and the drummers played the most simplified versions of funk drumming imaginable. In the later ’70s, artists like The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Michael Jackson would have tremendous commercial success built on a disco format. Disco drumming was a double-edged sword. For years the trend had been moving towards “perfecting” a studio sound in drums. Disco had a fascist effect on drumming in that it tried to get everybody to sound the same and succeeded to a great degree.
The movie and movie soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever gave the call-to-arms for the whole country to go disco. Rolling Stone writer Tom Smucker wrote: “For everyone who had never been out dancing and couldn’t quite figure out the scene, Saturday Night Fever wed the music of the Bee Gees to the unthreatening images of John Travolta’s glides and struts. And when that wedding turned out to be the most lucrative in the history of pop, old rock stars from Rod Stewart to the Beach Boys rushed to cash in; radio stations didn’t just add disco, they went all disco; and record companies competed to hire disco insiders and disco artists.” The basic disco beat was either 1 and 3 or 1,2,3,4 on the bass drum, 2 and 4 on the snare, and playing the “and” of 1,2,3,4 on a hi-hat or bell of a cymbal.
Kiss became a media phenomenon and easily one of the most popular rock bands of the ’70s. Drummer Peter Criss, inspired by Gene Krupa, Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr, became part of what he called “…the greatest rock group in the world.” Criss even studied with Gene Krupa for a while. In MD‘s Feb./Mar. ’81 issue, he told Rick Mattingly: “I still use the things he [Krupa] showed me whenever I play. In fact, my solos in Kiss were often based on Krupa’s “Drum Boogie.” Peter left Kiss in 1980 because, “Kiss is a heavy metal band, and my material was different.” He’d written a ballad called “Beth” which became one of the group’s biggest hits, and none of the other band members played on the cut. While he was still a Kiss member, he released a solo album that went platinum and was nominated for two Grammy awards. His second solo lp, Out of Control, as released, and at present Peter is recording a third solo lp, that he hopes will give him more recognition as a singer/songwriter.
Elektra records released the first album by Queen in ’73. One English writer wrote: “Queen is to heavy metal what the Vatican is to the local wood church. Olympian in sound, majestic in scope and quite pretentious in nature . . .” Most critics cite Queen as having a heavy Led Zeppelin influence. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock said: “In 1973-74 Led Zeppelin…(was) largely unavailable to British audiences and along came…Queen.” The theory being that if Led Zeppelin had been more visible, Queen wouldn’t have hit as big. Being that there is really no such thing as “if,” Queen did hit it big. Drummer Roger Taylor’s style of drum ming, coupled with bassist John Deacon, was described as “…constantly conjuring up visions of the Titanic bubbling to its fate.” Queen always had very strong vocals and Taylor remains a popular rock drummer. In the early ’80s he released a solo lp called Fun In Space.
Journey was formed with Aynsley Dunbar on drums, later replaced by Steve Smith. Aerosmith featured Joey Kramer, l0cc brought us Paul Burgess and Stuart Tosh, Orleans (a good band that never quite hit a top level of success) had a super drummer in Wells Kelly, David Bowie knocked out some great rock using Woody Woodmansey, Andy Newmark and Dennis Davis.
Reggae music took a chunk of rock and roll. Bob Marley and The Wailers released Burnin’ with Carlton Barrett on drums. Paul Douglas played drums for Toots and the Maytals, and perhaps the best known “reggae” drummer is Sly Dunbar. Similar to funk drumming, reggae drumming was as much built on what wasn’t played as what was played.
“Mighty” Max Weinberg, whose dream was to “be like Ringo,” was the third and final drummer with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Springsteen had released Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle around 1973 using drummers Vinnie Lopez and Ernie Carter. Weinberg answered an ad in The Village Voice and was chosen from more than fifty hopeful drummers. Born To Run was released in 1975 followed by Darkness on The Edge of Town and The River. Max was pure rock and roll drums. He’d been in rock bands since he was thirteen and played in the pit bands of some Broadway shows. His playing with Springsteen has evolved into consistent rock solid drumming, and Max had done records with Meatloaf, Jim Steinman and Gary “U.S.” Bonds, among others. Like the rest of the E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen, Max is carrying on the pure rock and roll tradition.
Finally, 1973 brought pure country music into vogue, pioneered by “outlaws” like Wille Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Nelson had been using his drummer for almost twenty years, Paul English, and then added Rex Ludwig for a while, but for the past few years it’s just been Paul. Waylon Jennings used Richie Albright for years until Albright left the band to produce records and his spot was filled by Buddy Holly’s drummer, Jerry Allison.
Neil Peart has won the Rock category in the MD Readers Poll every year. This past year he also won in Recorded Performance for Exit: Stage Left and All-Around Drummer.
Peart was actually the second drummer in Rush. John Rutsey played drums on the first Rush album released in 1974, but he quit soon after and Neil joined. Neil writes the lyrics to many of Rush’s songs and he has the unique position of being respected for his drumming and his writing. If he can’t inspire a fan to play drums, it’s a safe bet that he’ll inspire them to try to write.
Lillian Roxon wrote about Rush in her Rock Encyclopedia. She said, “The band has successfully bridged the gap between fantasy proper and fantasy rock, emulating the works of Ayn Rand and, generally, slanting their power-trio antics toward ideas of the future.” In the Apr./May ’80 MD, Peart credited Bill Bruford, Keith Moon, Carl Palmer, Phil Collins, Michael Giles, Kevin Ellman, Nick Mason and Tommy Aldridge as influences. He’s known for his ability to glide through odd time signatures and for his multi-percussion work.
The Average White Band blew everybody’s minds. Here was a Scottish band playing funk like black Americans. I remember a black comedian telling a talk show host that he was going to start a group called The Average Black Band that played European classical music like Bach and Beethoven! “Cut The Cake” was the band’s first single in 1974. The horn lines were crisp, almost like bebop riffs, and drummer Robbie Mclntosh played great. Mclntosh died from snorting an overdose of heroin and was replaced by Steve Ferrone, who has proved himself to be one of the better drummers in this genre.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive were cranking out some solid rock and roll in ’74, driven by Robbie Bachman, and Led Zeppelin had put the stamp of approval on a new band on Zeppelin’s record label. The band was called Bad Company, who had a smash single called “Can’t Get Enough” and they recorded four albums up until 1977. The band had a sabbatical for a while and is about to release a new album. Drummer Simon Kirke was a talented heavyrock drummer who had joined the band after being with Free.
The ’60s Jefferson Airplane had broken up, but several ex members formed a new band called Jefferson Starship. Dragon Fly was the band’s first album spotlighting drummer Johnny Barbata, ex-member of The Turtles. Barbata played great and was with them until a few years ago when a serious car accident forced him out of commission for quite a while. His spot was filled by Aynsley Dunbar. Dunbar remains an exceptional rock drummer. ‘He’d been with John Mayall, The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, The Mothers Of Invention and Journey. Rick Mattingly had an interview with Aynsley in the May ’82 MD.
A few strong acts came out of 1975 with some noteworthy drummers. A band called Kansas came out of the state of Kansas and had a sound that’s been called a composite of Cream and Yes. Phil Ehart gained tremendous respect as a drummer to reckon with. Heart, a Canadian band, broke in the States with a self distributed album that went platinum called Dreamboat Annie. Heart toured with and opened for acts like the Jefferson Starship and Journey, and finally broke loose as one of the major attractions of the ’70s. Michael Derosier was with the band until very recently when he was replaced by Denny Carmassi.
A group that had called themselves The Jazz Crusaders for almost twenty years dropped the name “jazz” and started selling records like a major pop act. They released an album called Chai Reaction which was a monster and showed the talents of drummer Stix Hooper. The Crusaders are still very popular as an act. Each band member has released solo albums and they are all much in demand studio musicians. Hooper had proved himself an excellent straight ahead jazz drummer and now he was leaning more on his Texas R&B roots with The Crusaders.
Peter Frampton had a flash of success with his album Frampton Comes Alive! John Siomos, ex-drummer from Mitch Ryder and The Voices of East Harlem, accompanied Frampton on three huge singles: “Show Me The Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel.” This was a refreshing sound in the singer/songwriter tradition.
Tom Waits, another singer/songwriter in a Bohemian tradition, had his most popular album Nighthawks At The Diner released in ’75. Waits wrote about the B-side of life: The losers, the hookers, the crooks, pimps and runaways, and he captured the lower essence of the ’50s beatnik era by blending his songs with a jazz cabaret flavor. He chose excellent musicians for his albums, usually a quartet format with Waits on piano, an acoustic bassist, a tenor sax, and either Bill Goodwin or Shelly Manne on drums.
One of the big surprises of the year was when rock and roll guitarist Jeff Beck came out with Blow By Blow, which was one of the best jazz/fusion albums ever. The follow up album was Wired and after that the least successful of the three albums, With The Jan Hammer Group.
Then at the peak of disco, Van McCoy had a hit with “The Hustle.” The record was a monster and its drummer was a young man from Rochester, New York who would stop everybody in their tracks, make them re-examine themselves, and start a trend of clones in his wake: Steve Gadd.
Steve Gadd is the perfect blend of jazz and rock drumming. He became the most in-demand studio drummer and it seemed like there wasn’t any style of music that Steve couldn’t burn up. His timing was impeccable, his ideas were fresh . . . possibly the only criticism that could be leveled against him was that he was over recorded. Gadd became part of a band called Stuff along with drummer Chris Parker, and for a span of a few years, these guys played on everybody’s records. They became the sound that every producer wanted. As we approach 1983, Steve Gadd remains one of the consistent drum heroes. That almost every studio drummer has tried to emulate his style is a testimony to his talent. Gadd seems to have built his style around Tony Williams and Elvin Jones to a large extent, and he is well schooled rudimentally.
From 1976 to 1979, rock and roll went through one of its rebellious cycles. New Wave and Punk Rock reached back into the ’50s and ’60s and mixed it with a citylife feeling, a frenetic anxious sound. Topper Headon with The Clash, Paul Cook with The Sex Pistols, Tommy Ramone of The Ramones, Clem Burke with Blondie and Stephen Goulding and Terry Chimes with Graham Parker were some of the new drummers of 1976. Boston was a semi-heavy metal band that had a hit single with “More Than A Feeling” and Sib Hashian was on drums.
In 1976, Capricorn records (the same label that had released records by The Allman Brothers and The Marshall Tucker Band) released Free Fall by The Dixie Dregs. The Dregs were a totally instrumental band that combined the technical aspects of, say, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, with a down-home country music. Drummer Rod Morgenstein hailed from Long Island, New York and he was a left-handed drummer. “I play like a right-handed drummer backwards,” he told Robin Tolleson in the Feb./Mar. ’81 MD. “When you’re five guys in an instrumental band,” he continued, “you have to be thinking of ways to get as many sounds as possible out of the instrument you play. You want to constantly keep variety of sounds, as well as variety of styles. Always change the sound. Always hit a different drum. Think of the drums as one of five instruments, as in this band, and what can they do to round out and complete what the others are playing. That’s a good way to think.”
1977 gave birth to another heavy metal band that has sold six million records to date—Foreigner. This band was made up of ex- Spooky Tooth and ex-King Crimson people, and Dennis Elliot had played drums on a tour with Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson in 1975. Ex-Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe Johanson showed up again in Sea Level, a band that was similar in content to the ABB, but had more of a flair for pop tunes. Jaimoe left and was replaced for a while by Joe English, a superfine rock drummer. English left the band and joined Paul McCartney and Wings after Denny Siewell and Geoff Britton and recorded Venus And Mars, Band On The Run and Wings At The Speed of Sound.
Joe English left McCartney after Wings At The Speed Of Sound and has released two albums of his own, Christian contemporary rock, on the Refuge label.
Two New Wave bands of lasting merit from 1977 were Talking Heads and Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Talking Heads were from the U.S.A. and the rhythm section of Tina Weymouth on bass and her husband Chris Frantz on drums was a simple and solid support for the band. Their albums Talking Heads ’77, More Songs About Buildings and Food, and Fear of Music sold reasonably well. In ’78 they had a modest hit with a version of “Take Me To The River,” written by Al Green. Rolling Stone wrote that the band’s success was due to their chief songwriter/singer, David Byrnes’ “…unwavering vision of a bleak world that transcended normal human emotion.”
Elvis and The Attractions came from Britain and their drummer, Pete Thomas, is one of the most creative of the new wave drummers. Elvis’ first lp, My Aim Is True was recorded with a country/rock band called Clover. It’s a great album. The Attractions played on his next three, This Years Model, Get Happy! and Armed Forces. “In (Elvis) songs, life occurs as a nightmare where the personal contacts that might provide a haven merely become an intimate extension of the web society has spun to imprison us all.”
In 1978 David Robinson and The Cars surfaced and Robinson was incorporating electronic percussion in an interesting way. Devo also came out of Ohio and their drummer, Alan Myers, had a mechanical style that blended perfectly with the group’s music. Bruce Gary played some solid drums with The Knack.
I’m sure MD‘s readers will be familiar with who’s who in drumming from late 1979 to today. Simon Phillips and Stewart Copeland come to mind as just two of the drummers who are extremely popular and are inventing new concepts.
Perhaps the biggest invention in recent years that has succeeded in angering some drummers; putting the fear in others; is used by still others as a creative extension, is the drum machines. The Linn LM-I and the Oberheim DMX seem to be the most popular as of this writing. These machines are actually replacing drummers in many instances and in other instances they are used in conjunction with a flesh-and-blood drummer.
Writing this five-part series gave me the first opportunity to look analytically at the history of rock drumming. I must confess that as I neared the close of this fifth installment—it was as if I was writing a sad ending. I don’t think the drum machines are to be feared. Rick Mattingly pointed out that not too many years ago, bands had a snare drummer and a bass drummer. The invention of the bass drum pedal knocked about 50% of the drummers out of the market. We forget that today. If anybody is to blame for the use of machines—we have to blame ourselves. We’ve created our own Frankenstein.
In one of his columns for this magazine, David Garibaldi wrote of a yearning for the “…return of the thinking drummer.” Drummers like Philly Joe Jones used to speak about being able to swing a seventeen-piece big band with a pair of wire brushes and a telephone book. The majority of young drummers today feel that they can’t be creative unless they have eight mounted toms, two floor toms, a deep snare, multiple cymbals and double bass drums! There is no magic in a drumset. We could walk through the show rooms at any NAMM show, late at night when no one’s there.
We’d be surrounded by every single option available in percussion. But, there’d be no sound. No music. If, for instance, Vinnie Colaiuta happened to be there and he sat down behind a massive drumset—then there’d be magic. By the same token Vinnie could make magic on anything. Steve Gadd used a pair of wire brushes and a cardboard box on one cut on the new Rickie Lee Jones album!
The magic is inside each and every one of us. Imagination, creativity, attitude, enthusiasm—all these are much more important than what we play on. We need to become individuals in our approach to music. If we’re all trying to sound like whoever is the hot drummer of the day—then what difference does it make whether record producers use drum machines? Every hot new drummer is hot precisely because they took a new approach to the drums. The clones might achieve fleeting or momentary success—but it can’t last.
I feel it’s vital for any drummer that’s going to create something new to be well versed in the old. Terri Lynne Carrington was in my office yesterday. Terri is a seventeen-year-old who has been playing with the greats of jazz since she was twelve! I asked her what she did different from all the other seventeen-year-olds to be as far advanced in jazz drumming as she is today. She said: “I started at a very early age and I was lucky enough to have parents who were supportive. And I listened to the music since I was five years old. My father started me off with music that I’d understand like James Brown, Ben Branch, Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, B.B. King. As a baby I played with those records and it just kept developing on from there.”
I believe that same approach needs to be taken by anyone who seriously wants to pursue rock drumming. Hopefully, this History of Rock Drumming will inspire several pioneers to study the roots of the music and their instrument, and we’ll see the return of the thinking drummer, because I hate sad endings.