The Sixties (continued)
The “British Invasion” of the ’60s literally changed the consciousness of the world. Most of the musicians that are in their thirties today were directly influenced by the music of this era. Since there hasn’t been another musical era as important as this one in almost twenty years, it made sense to study the music that inspired all of those great groups in the ’60s: blues and country.
There is a generation of musicians today whose roots might go back to the ’60s. The reason electronic drums have taken over such a major portion of the pop music industry; the reason nine out of every ten drummers all sound the same today, is due in large part to their not having any foundation to their drumming. The roots of rock and roll drumming are not Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts. Too many young players are concerned with the biggest drumset, the fastest chops, the most cymbals, the ability to play odd time signatures—and yet these young players couldn’t play a twelve bar blues—the foundation of rock and roll—if their lives depended on it. It’s time to re-examine where we’re coming from.
In 1964 the world changed. When The Beatles released “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (their sixth single) in the U.S., the effect was awesome. Drummer Max Weinberg of the E Street Band said, “That whole music revolution of the ’60s channeled a lot of nervous energy of musicians, who are now thirty to thirty-five years old, into something that really helped people instead of being destructive.” Thousands of garage bands fell together. Ringo Starr was responsible for thousands of kids wanting to play drums. Canadian drummer Bob DiSalle, perhaps best known for his work with Bruce Cockburn, said that seeing the Beatles made him decide to become a professional musician. “All of a sudden, there were these four people that brought it to the world’s attention, basically, that young people could do well playing music; that it was a possibility. It wasn’t just something that you did for a while, but then you go to school and get serious about other things. So I just followed through.”
This was the first time since Elvis Presley that music became an event. A moving force. It’s been said that music is a reflection of the society in which it’s played. In the case of the Beatles, I’d say that society was affected by the music. What drove a lot of drummers up the wall was that Ringo wasn’t “technically” a great drummer. He wasn’t Buddy Rich. He wasn’t Gene Krupa. He wasn’t anywhere near the drummers that drum teachers in America were using as role models for students.
Ringo did everything wrong and that’s why he was so right. I can remember being ten years old and hearing Gene Krupa play a press roll for the first time, and then hearing Buddy Rich play a solo, and then picking up a pair of sticks and trying to imitate them. The psychological effect was incredible. Ringo offered hope. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Every aspiring drummer in the world could imitate or at least come close to imitating Ringo. The positive effect was that it was a style of drumming young drummers could imitate almost immediately, and those that wanted to continue to progress technically could do so. But, for those people who were bored silly by endless rudimental studies on a rubber pad in a closet-sized room in the local music shop, Ringo offered hope.
Robyn Flans conducted an interview with Ringo in the December/January 1982 MD. Speaking about himself, Ringo said, “Rock was coming in and that’s where I went; that was my direction. I was purely rock and roll. Drummers or musicians are either going for jazz or rock…I used to get so mad at the drummers who wanted to play jazz because… I always felt it was like rats running around the kit if you played jazz and I just liked it solid.”
Over the years, Ringo has had a lot of criticism thrown at him. Drummers try to diminish the success of the man by attacking his technique. Jim Keltner’s statement in the November ’81 MD sums up Ringo’s contribution to the history of rock drumming: “You couldn’t ask for anything better than to have done what Ringo did. To play twelve years with (The Beatles) and have that kind of success! Not just commercial success—we all got off on those records. You can hear those records and you hear great, great tasty drum things. There’s nothing to astound you paradiddle-wise, or anything like that, but it’s perfect. Nobody else could’ve done it any better, I’m sure.”
The next most influential band to emerge was The Rolling Stones. The Beatles and The Stones were opposites in almost every way, but the one thing that they had in common was that both bands were firmly rooted in the music discussed in Parts I and II of this series. In The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, author Irwin Stambler writes: “…some of the disparity between the two groups was based on a difference in musical roots. The Beatles took their lead originally from the rock movement of Presley, Holly and the Everlys, and rock is recognized as being essentially a blend of watered-down blues and country music. The Rolling Stones evolved from the British skiffle craze, which received its incentive from the more brutal, seamier tone of ‘roots’ blues.”
Drummer Charlie Watts was working as an advertising agency designer when he was asked to join The Stones. His musical background (as discussed in the Aug./Sept. “82 issue of MD) was jazz, and he’d had experience playing in blues bands at that time. Watts finally joined in ’63 and The Stones “went out on a club circuit with repertoire of Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley material and some of the wildest R&B yet heard.”
The band has continued to evolve for almost twenty years. Charlie’s contribution, similar to Ringo, was perhaps his ability to turn thousands of kids onto drumming. If you told Charlie that he played great drums, he’d say you didn’t have any ears, possibly because he weighs himself against great jazz drummers like Dave Tough, Big Sid Catlett, Buddy Rich and Tony Williams. But, as great as those players were—if anybody else had played with The Rolling Stones besides Charlie Watts—it wouldn’t have been the Stones.
Also in ’64, a band emerged from England called The Dave Clark 5, led by drummer Dave Clark. There was a time in the mid- ’60s where this group took away the number one spot on the hit charts from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The reason for the formation of the Dave Clark 5 was that Clark needed to raise money for his soccer team to get to Holland to play in a tournament. Sports had always been his first love. “Records are for enjoyment,” he said. “There’s no message in our music; it’s just for fun.” Until they disbanded in ’67, The Dave Clark 5 had a number of hits. “Glad All Over,” “Bits And Pieces,” “Because” and “Catch Us If You Can” were a few.
Two other bands that emerged in 1964 that were great bands but didn’t really break new ground in drumming were The Animals and The Kinks. John Steel was the original drummer with The Animals, a hard-driving blues-based group. Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Bill Doggett and Bill Haley inspired this group, fronted by the great vocalist Eric Burdon. Lillian Roxon, in her Rock Encyclopedia, called The Animals “the antithesis of British pop.” Some of their better-known hits were “House of the Rising Sun,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “It’s My Life.” But, many of the lesser known tracks on the albums were excellent remakes of blues tunes, and to this day, they’re excellent to listen to and learn from.
Mick Avory drove the Kinks through their classic songs, “You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All of the Night,” “Set Me Free” and “Tired of Waiting.” The Kinks were arguably the forerunner to “heavy metal” music, and as a team player, Avory continued to create excellent music—often times groundbreaking—through the ’60s and ’70s, and even into the ’80s.
One of the greatest favors that British musicians did for Americans in the ’60s was that they exposed American music (blues and country) to the American public. Listeners would hear the Beatles sing “Roll, Over, Beethoven” or “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” and not realize that they’d been written and performed first by Chuck Berry and Little Richard respectively. In 1965, rock came back to the blues. A consistent trendsetting band that has attained legendary status was The Yardbirds. Drummer Jim McCarty’s contribution was his ability to play totally unconventional pop songs with strange melody lines and varied time feels. “Like the early Stones, they used standard materials—Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson—though always remaining more faithful to the original than the variation-prone Stones.”
“For Your Love,” “I’m A Man” (Muddy Waters’ song), “Heart Full of Soul,” “Smokestack Lightning” (Howlin’ Wolf’s song), and “‘Over, Under, Sideways, Down” are a sampling of The Yardbirds’ material. Most of their records are out of print, unfortunately, but there are still some around. The band recorded an interesting album with Sonny Boy Williamson (who was discussed in Part I: The Blues Influence) and spawned three of rock’s greatest guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
The Moody Blues had a hit in ’65 called “Go Now” with Graeme Edge on drums. Their influence as a group wouldn’t really be felt until ’68 with their albums Days of Future Passed and In Search of The Lost Chord. In 1969 they released On The Threshold of A Dream and To Our Children’s Children and continued on into the ’70s, disbanded and reformed recently. The musical influence of The Moody Blues was their melodies, orchestrations and lyrics more so than a contribution to drumming.
Bobby Elliott was the original drummer with The Hollies in ’65 and still sits in the drum chair of that band. “Look Through Any Window” was their first hit. In 1966 they released “I Can’t Let Go,” “Bus Stop” and “Stop, Stop, Stop.” Original member Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash) left the band in 1968, but the Hollies held on and in 1969 released “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Bobby Elliott was, and is, a strong, creative drummer. Some feel that The Hollies would’ve gotten more recognition had they not surfaced at the same time as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Hugh Grundy, a former bank employee, arrived with The Zombies at this time on a hit called “She’s Not There.” Grundy played very inventive drums throughout his career until ’69 when The Zombies released an album called Time of the Season (along with a single of the same title) and disbanded.
By 1965, American bands started to appear, particularly in the blues idiom. Famous British rock stars would refer to their influences in interviews. The result was that the public started to look for the real thing.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band released an album called Butterfield Blues Band in ’65. Paul Butterfield had been hanging around Chicago bars since he was sixteen and learned from the blues masters like Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Little Walter. He is a premier harp player and this was a kick-ass band that combined the best elements of folk, blues, rock and jazz. The original drummer was Sam Lay who had been a part of Howlin’ Wolf’s great band. The album came with these instructions on the record jacket: PLAY IT LOUD! The original band consisted of Butterfield on harp and vocals, Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield on guitars, Jerome Arnold on bass, and Mark Naftalin on keyboards.
The next album, East- West, had Billy Davenport on drums and was the album that was responsible for crossing many, many kids who had been staunch rock fans over into the jazz camp.
Bob Dylan had been inspired by bands like the Beatles, The Animals, The Byrds and in this year he used electric instrumentation on Bringing It All Back Home with Bobby Gregg on drums. Gregg was with Dylan again on the classic album Blonde on Blonde and although the musicians on these records may have been overshadowed by the giant personality and talent of Dylan, they nevertheless became trendsetters in rock by virtue of association. Gregg was a solid drummer and can be heard on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35,” “Just Like A Woman” and “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”
Bob Dylan’s first public appearance with electric instruments occurred at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Prior to that year, electric instruments had been banned from the festival. The Butterfield Blues Band appeared at that festival by themselves and later backed up Dylan for a set with Sam Lay on drums. The crowd booed Dylan off the stage and that happened all over the world. Folk purists were, to a great extent, unwilling to accept the changes that Dylan’s music was going through. But, his influence on rock music was right up there with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
In 1967, Butterfield formed a “horn band” and released The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and in ’68, In My Own Dream. Philip Wilson was the new drummer. It’s my opinion that Wilson, after Fred Below, took blues drumming to the next level. His playing on these two albums is superb. He later went on to play avant- garde jazz and is currently writing a cookbook of musicians’ favorite recipes. But, his blues drumming has withstood the test of time and has yet to be taken to the next level by anyone else.
Live At The Regal hit the record racks about this time and it remains a classic, classic album by B.B. King. The drummer is Sonny Freeman, who played with B.B. for seventeen years. This record is the apex of Chicago-style blues. There isn’t a drummer alive (except for Sonny Freeman) who wouldn’t learn something from this record. Period! When a drummer learns to play the blues authentically, he learns three vital elements of professional drumming: (1) He learns to play a backbeat. (2) He learns how to swing. (3) He learns how to play with dynamics. Sonny Freeman’s playing on Live At The Regal is a college-level lesson in these three vital areas of drumming.
Another drummer who played very musically with a New York band called The Blues Project was Roy Blumenfeld. He was one of the first rock drummers to use mallets and colors in his playing. Later, members of this band would go on to form Sea Train and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Finally, three pop groups emerged in 1965. Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Turtles and The Byrds. Paul Revere and The Raiders had a string of good rock hits. The drummer was Mike “Smitty” Smith. “Steppin’ Out” was the first hit, followed over the years by “Just Like Me,” “Kicks” and many more. Joe Corerro, Jr. took over the drum chair in 1967. After several good albums and longstanding appearances on national TV on a Dick Clark show called “Where The Action Is,” lead singer Mark Lindsay started a solo career that ended Paul Revere and The Raiders.
The Turtles began as a surf band and turned into a “message oriented folk/rock band. “It Ain’t Me Babe” was a remake of a Dylan song with Don Murray on drums. Murray left and was replaced by an extremely visual and competent drummer named John Barbata. John would later play in the Jefferson Starship until a car accident put him out of commission and he was replaced in that band by Aynsley Dunbar.
With Barbata on deck, the Turtles cranked out some great records. “You Baby” in 1966, followed by the group’s biggest hit in ’67 called “Happy Together.” In 1970 the group disbanded and the two lead singers emerged with Frank Zappa as Flo & Eddie.
The Byrds were far and away one of the best bands from this era. They were responsible for the birth of folk/rock “that posed the American challenge that helped break the early ’60s stranglehold of English groups on the rock scene.” All of the members were basically folk musicians, except drummer Mike Clarke who “had been a jazz buff…and had performed with a number of jazz groups before joining The Byrds.” I mentioned that Hal Blaine had played drums on some of the Byrds hits such as “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I double checked with Hal, who said that Mike Clarke definitely played on a lot of The Byrds records.
There was nothing terribly complex about Clarke’s style. In the tradition of the best rock drummers at this time, he was a team player. The strength of The Byrds was their songs, vocal harmonies, and lyrics. Other familiar hits were “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “All I Really Want to Do,” “Fifth Dimension,” “Eight Miles High,” “Mr. Spaceman” and “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.”
In 1967 Mike Clarke left the group with several other members, and when the Byrds reformed, Kevin Kelly was the drummer. They recorded an album called Sweetheart of the Rodeo which was arguably the first country/rock album.
Again the group switched members and in ’69 Gene Parsons became the drummer. Parsons was a very strong player; an excellent rock drummer. This version of the Byrds got a career boost by being musically featured in the movie Easy Rider. In 1970 they recorded an album called The Byrds which was half live, and they took off again. After a few more ups and downs, and a reformation of the original members in 1973, The Byrds broke up for the last time.
The offshoot bands from the Byrds is amazing: The Flying Burrito Brothers; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Manassas; The Hillman, Souther, Furay Band and Gene Clark’s solo albums all were offshoots from The Byrds.
The year 1966 saw three great rock drummers rise to public recognition. The first U.S. tour of The Who was in ’66, with drummer Keith Moon. (T. Bruce Wittet wrote a very thorough piece on Keith in the June ’82 MD.) In brief, Keith brought freedom to rock and roll drumming. He had been influenced by surf music and big band music and he was one of the first rock drummers to use two bass drums. Even though The Who had as much of a reputation for being the band that destroyed their equipment—they quickly became one of the strongest rock bands ever. Tommy, The Who’s rock opera, was released in 1969 in the U.S. and skyrocketed the band’s career. People who had dismissed The Who as a novelty act were now taking them seriously. Moon’s death was tragic. He left us with a legacy of drumming that will never be duplicated.
Bernard Purdie was another great rock drummer at this time. His work with Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, particularly, is classic rock drumming. Purdie is credited with being the pioneer of the hi-hat “bark” accents, and at this time he was one of the top studio drummers. Purdie was Aretha Franklin’s music director and he’s also had several albums released under his own name on various labels.
In 1966, Long Island, New York, started to pump out its own brand of music. The most successful of all the Long Island bands was the Young Rascals, who later became simply The Rascals. Drummer Dino Danelli was one of the first rock drummers to play with clean technique but he was not sterile sounding. He’d come from a jazz background and a New Orleans R&B background when he joined The Rascals. “Good Lovin’,” “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” and “Lonely Too Long” were three early hits, and their albums The Young Rascals and Collections have withstood the test of time.
In ’68 the band started to change musical directions. “Groovin” was released. It was a great summer song, followed by “A Girl Like You,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “People Got To Be Free” and “A Beautiful Morning.” In ’71, Felix Cavaliere and Dino were the only two original members in the band, and the music started to drift more towards jazz. The final Rascals album, Island of Real, was released in ’72 and then the group disbanded. Danelli played in a few offshoot bands for a while and then stopped playing drums to pursue his painting. He’d been responsible for the creation of several of The Rascal’s album covers. Recently, he’s been getting back into playing the drums.
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention released their first album, Freak Out, in 1966. Zappa is still very active and creative today and the list of drummers and percussionists that have been through his bands is amazing: Jimmy Carl Black, Art Tripp, Billy Mundi, Aynsley Dunbar, Ruth Underwood, Chester Thompson, Ralph Humphrey, Ed Mann, Vinnie Colaiuta and Terry Bozzio to name a few. The Mothers of Invention can certainly be credited with being the first band in rock to utilize the entire percussion family.
Buffalo Springfield was a top rock band in 1966. Their drummer, Dewey Martin, had come from a country/bluegrass background and had performed with The Dillards, Patsy Cline, Carl Perkins and Faron Young. Basically a team player, Martin was involved with this great band that has left us some classic rock songs like “For What It’s Worth.” Like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield became a launch pad for several first class rock bands. Stephen Stills and Neil Young had several solo albums and group projects, Richie Furay did the same. “In 1967, at the height of its powers, the Springfield was being favorably compared to such landmark groups as the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Most observers expected still greater things to come, when the group suddenly and irrevocably separated in mid-1967.”
The Monkees were an extremely popular pop band in ’66. Some people thought they were the next Beatles. Basically, they were four people who’d won auditions to act on the TV show. Of the four members, Mike Nesmith was the only real musician, followed by Peter Tork. Davey Jones and Mickey Dolenz were primarily actors. Hal Blaine played on almost all of the Monkees records, although towards the end of their career, Dolenz is reported to have played drums on some selections and he did learn to play well enough to perform with The Monkees in concert.
The last pop group to surface in ’66 was The Association. Ted Buechel, Jr. was chosen as drummer but he also sang in the band and knew how to play guitar. His role as a drummer was as a timekeeper. He colored the songs beautifully and he played what was right for The Association’s music. The band’s two most remembered records are “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish.”
1967 might best be remembered as the year that improvisation came into rock music. Trumpeter Don Ellis published a column in Down Beat around this time called “Rock: The Rhythmic Revolution.” Ellis had been primarily a jazz musician, but his analysis of the way rock drumming changed rock and jazz is excellent. Although it’s a bit lengthy, it’s so good that it bears repeating. He begins in bold letters: “THERE HAS BEEN A RHYTHMIC REVOLUTION IN ROCK OF EQUAL SIGNIFICANCE TO THAT WHICH TOOK PLACE IN THE BEBOP ERA.” Ellis goes on to say, “In drums, whereas in bebop the sound went to the cymbals, in rock music (although the cymbals are still used) the opposite has happened, and the basic patterns have gone back to the drums. One of the reasons, I suspect, is that because of the high level of volume at which a great deal of rock is played, the cymbals give no definition to the time, and merely add a blanket to the overall sound. So the burden of time-keeping has now come back to the snare and bass drums. This also gives it a more solid rhythmic feel.
“The patterns the snare drum and bass drum are playing, instead of being sporadic, are now more regular in the sense that they are played continually. The basic patterns are now in even 8ths (as opposed to the traditional triplet feeling of most jazz). This has made another extremely important development possible: some very complex polyrhythms. The rhythms the typical rock and R&B band plays today would have scared the bebop inventors half to death! (Remember: Bebop started over 25 years ago!) This does not invalidate bebop, but it certainly does make it ‘old fashioned,’ just as bebop made swing sound dated. But each music has its own validity and excitement within the genre. The new rhythmic revolution in rock music can go much further, but it is important to see to it that it always swings.”
1967 offered the widest variety of music up to that point. From New York, The Vanilla Fudge started turning people’s heads around with their brand of rock. Carmine Appice said his style of drumming “came from listening to a cross between Sandy Nelson, ‘Wipe Out,’ Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Joe Morello. My drum teacher, Dick Bennett, was a big band teacher. He taught me how to tune my drums real low and deep to get a real big sound out of them. In school, I played tympani, bass drum, snare drum and all those instruments in the percussion section. When we started getting into The Vanilla Fudge classical-rock-symphonic sound, I utilized the drumset as a percussion section. I had the first gong in rock in ’68 and that year I started the big-drum fad also. I figured if you had bigger drums, they’d be louder and sound more like tympani.”
The Fudge’s first hit was a remake of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.” One writer described the success of the band as “…the overt pain present in their dinosaur arrangements. Instrumental riffs were carried out to the point of extinction. It was like listening to a stereophonic martyrdom.” Nevertheless, this was 1967, the year of experimentation. The Vanilla Fudge broke some new ground and Carmine went on to become one of the most popular drummers in rock, playing with Cactus, Beck, Bogart & Appice, KGB and Rod Stewart.
California was teeming with exciting bands and exciting new drummers. Don Stevenson drove Moby Grape to high energy levels. He was one of the best rock drummers and Moby Grape’s first LP was so good that every song was released as a single. Their second LP, Wow/Grape Jam was another fine album. Personal conflicts finally broke this band up.
Canned Heat was kicking out “boogie” music in the tradition of blues greats like John Lee Hooker. In ’67 they had a hit single called “On The Road Again” that only showed one side to the band. Drummer Fito De La Parra was a fine blues/rock drummer who could support the band and solo as well.
Bill Kreutzmann was the single drummer for The Greatful Dead. Originally the band played a combination of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and bluegrass. Mickey Hart joined the band around ’67 and he and Bill Kreutzmann became one of the most successful “two-drummer” combinations. Their experimentation with ethnic percussion instruments is interesting. They played ethereally but effectively for the band and The Dead remain one of the most popular concert bands.
The Jefferson Airplane were much more than a significant group from San Francisco. Formed in 1965 as a band that copied material and wrote some originals, they continued to evolve. In 1965, the drummer Skip Spence left and joined Moby Grape as a guitarist and Spencer Dryden joined the Airplane. Dryden had started playing drums and vibes at age ten. When he met the Airplane he’d “worked for IBM, been a music teacher and actor, and had considerable credits as a jazz drummer. Among the jazz artists he had accompanied were Charles Lloyd, Bobby Hutcherson and Paul Bley.”
The band’s sound fell together after Dryden joined and their second album, Surrealistic Pillow—featuring singer Grace Slick—”is today considered one of the most important and most often played rock albums of the decade.” The hit singles off this album were “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love.”
Dryden was the best drummer for this band. He could be rock solid, throw in a military snare (as in “White Rabbit”) or he could fall into his jazz drumming as he did on After Bathing At Baxters. The Jefferson Airplane released an excellent live album called Bless Its Pointed Little Head that’s a good showcase for Spencer. Dry den quit the band in 1971 and joined The New Riders of The Purple Sage.
Country Joe and The Fish were another “acid rock” band from the West Coast. Chicken Hirsch played drums and is perhaps best represented on the band’s album Electric Music for the Mind & Body.
Terry Cox played drums with Pentangle, an English folk/rock band that featured Bert Jansch and John Renbourn on guitars and vocals. Pentangle played excellent music—they were all exceptional players—but at the time they hit the U.S. the audiences were more inclined to louder bands. Cox had a lot of good ideas and much of this music holds up today.
Other 1967 drummers worth including were Danny Smythe with The Box Tops for “The Letter” and “I Cry Like A Baby”; Brian Keenan with a gospel group turned rock called The Chambers Brothers and a fine album called Time Has Come. David Getz was a New Yorker who fired up Big Brother & The Holding Company when Janis Joplin was a band member. Getz could play piano as well, and had BFA and MFA degrees and had spent a year in Poland studying music on a Fulbright Scholarship. Check him out on Cheap Thrills, probably the best album Janis ever did. Hughie Flint was playing blues with John Mayall, a musician whose band catapulted numerous British rock musicians into fame. Brian Davison was the drummer with The Nice, a band that featured Keith Emerson and was forerunner to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Procol Harum had an excellent drummer in B.J. Wilson. That band’s first hit was the classic song “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Colin Peterson drummed with The Bee Gees initially. Between 1967 and 1969, the group released several great songs: “New York Mining Disaster—1941,” “Holiday,” “I Can’t See Nobody,” “Massachusetts,” “I Started A Joke” and “Words.”
The Incredible String Band, led by Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, came out of Scotland. This was foundationally a folk band that had a revolving/evolving membership and wrote music that included unusual percussion instruments from all over the world. Their second album, The 5,000 Spirits of The Layers of the Onion, was hailed as a masterpiece in 1968.
The Buckinghams had hits with “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,” “Kind of a Drag” and “Susan.” Jon-Jon Poulos was the band’s drummer, but many of the studio recordings were done by John Guerin.
The Left Banke released “Walk Away, Renee” with George Cameron on drums. The Youngbloods came out with “Grizzly Bear.” Drummer Joe Bauer had a background in jazz and country music. The band’s tour-de-force was probably “Get Together,” released between ’69 and ’70.
Aside from Carmine Appice, the three other pioneer drummers of 1967 were John Densmore, Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker. Densmore was a West Coast drummer who’d played in jazz bands in high school, and in college developed interests in literature, anthropology and Transcendental Meditation. The “star” of The Doors was singer Jim Morrison, who also wrote most of the hits like “Light My Fire,” “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times” “Unknown Soldier,” “Hello, I Love You,” “Touch Me” and “Tell All The People.” But, the other three members of The Doors were excellent musicians. Densmore could be rock solid or he could be ethereal. He had the technique and the good taste to bend either way. Again, he was a team player, but in many ways he had to fill the roll of a show drummer or a circus drummer, by cueing off Morrison’s vocals and stage moves. After Morrison’s death, Densmore, Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek continued as The Doors, finally breaking up in 1973. Kreiger and Densmore went on to form The Butts Band, which has since disbanded. Record sales in 1982 indicate that The Doors are more popular today than they were in the ’60s, which is nothing short of amazing.
Cream was one of the “supergroups” of the ’60s. The three musicians, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, were all phenomenal instrumentalists. On record, they were much more contained than in live performance. In concert they became famous for their extended jams, and one of the best legacies of this is the live album of Wheels of Fire. Baker had a firm foundation in blues, jazz and African drumming. He took over the drum chair in Alexis Koerner’s Blues Band from Charlie Watts because Watts didn’t feel his drumming equal. Baker brought a primitiveness to drumming and a sophistication as well. His use of the tom-toms was totally unique and he was an inspiration for the next generation for his use of double bass drums. There are a few recorded extended solos of his drum feature “Toad,” but he was equally inventive for his playing in support of the band.
After Cream, Ginger formed a huge group called Air Force that never reached the level of success that Cream had. He was also a member of a short lived but excellent group called Blind Faith, which featured Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Rick Grech. His last band was the Baker-Gurvitz Army. Baker is presently living in Italy where he’s teaching drums.
Jimi Hendrix was an American guitarist who had to find himself a group in England. Enter Mitch Mitchell. Basically a self-taught drummer (see Dec. ’81/Jan. ’82 MD for an interview with Mitchell), Mitch still managed to incorporate a jazz feel to his playing. He was the perfect drummer for Jimi Hendrix, who took the electric guitar into new dimensions. There’s some excellent footage of Mitchell in the movie Monterey Pop, and all of the Hendrix albums, from Are You Experienced? to Electric Ladyland and beyond, attest to the versatility of this giant. Mitchell was as adept with brushes as he was with sticks and his drumming is among the few that have remained fresh over the years.
1968 was no slouch year for drummers either. Some who played well, such as Paul Whaley with Blue Cheer, Ric Lee with Ten Years After (a very fine drummer with excellent taste and technique) Jim Capaldi with Traffic (also a superb rock drummer/singer/songwriter) Frosty with Lee Michaels, Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Band, Tim Davis with The Steve Miller Band, Greg Elmore with Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Paul Wheatbread with Gary Puckett and The Union Gap (most of the records done by Jim Gordon), were perhaps overshadowed by the tremendous talents and innovativness of other drummers in 1968. Bobby Colomby, Doug Clifford, Levon Helm, Ian Paice, Buddy Miles, Kenny Jones, Mick Fleetwood, Nick Mason and Ron Bushy all hit the limelight in this year.
Blood, Sweat & Tears is often credited with being the first horn band in rock. Actually, black bands in Motown, blues and R&B had been using horns for years and years. Even Paul Butterfield’s horn band preceded Blood, Sweat & Tears by one year. But, BS&T caught on in a different way than any other band before it. Al Kooper had the idea for this group when he was with The Blues Project. Steve Katz, another ex-Blues Project member, was the second BS&T member, followed by drummer Bobby Colomby. Actually, according to Colomby, all three musicians had similar ideas for a band at the same time.
The first album, Child Is Father To The Man, was released in 1968. But, almost as soon as the album came out, the personnel changed. In an MD interview in May ’82, Bobby played down his role as a major innovator in rock drumming: “I wanted to sound like Elvin Jones and Max Roach. I was in the right place at the right time and people thought I was a genius. I wasn’t. I was a very average jazz drummer. The secret to my success was simply a matter of being with a band that was perfect for me and typified what I could play best.”
He may have been an “average jazz drummer,” yet his knowledge of jazz and his open mindedness in playing rock brought a whole new dimension to rock drumming. The second album, Blood, Sweat & Tears, had some incredible drumming. I put that album on after not hearing it for almost ten years. The freshness and originality of the drumming impressed me even more than it did in 1968. The next album, Blood, Sweat & Tears III, had some good hit songs, but the too common “personality conflict” syndrome crept in. Different members came and went and finally, in 1975, Bobby Colomby gave up playing drums professionally.
Ron Bushy was the drummer with a heavy-rock band called Iron Butterfly. Like “Wipe Out” before him, Ron Bushy had the dis tinction of playing on a song called “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” that became sort of an underground hit and a very popular drum solo.
Shortly after the first BS&T album came out, Columbia records released another album by a “horn band” called Chicago Transit Authority. Chicago band members swear that their band was together a year before BS&T, and documentation supports that, but it’s really irrelevant. Although the two bands were similar in using horns, the musical approach was entirely different. Chicago pianist Robert Lamm said, “Our roots are basically rock, but we can and do play jazz; Blood, Sweat & Tears is basically a jazz oriented combo that can play a lot of rock.”
Regardless, Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine won the acclaim and popularity of musicians and non-musicians alike. Beginning as basically a self-taught rock drummer (see Dec./Jan. ’79 MD for the Danny Seraphine interview), Seraphine studied privately with Bob Tilles at age fifteen and sharpened his skills incredibly. After that, he played in numerous bands in and around Chicago. “My objective was to play any kind of music put in front of me as good as it could be played, and to complement the music, while at the same time, express myself.”
Like Bobby Colomby, Danny was in a band that allowed him to experiment on record and in concert. “I think because I was fortunate enough to be able to lay it down on record, I was part of an evolution where rock drummers were really able to take it a few steps further than it was and bring in other influences. I think Bobby Colomby of Blood, Sweat & Tears and I were among the first to really do that.”
While drummers like Seraphine and Colomby were taking rock drumming into new areas, there was a school of drummers keeping the tradition of early rock drumming alive and well. Doug Clifford, with Creedence Clearwater Revival, became known with the band’s first hit “Suzy Q.” Creedence went on to become a major rock band with numerous hits like “Proud Mary,” “Born on The Bayou,” “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Travelin’ Band” to name but a few. Creedence’s music survives as superior rock ‘n’ roll, and Doug Clifford, in the tradition of Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr, stands as one of rock’s premier “backbeat” drummers. Creedence officially broke up in 1972.
Kenny Jones was with The Small Faces at this time. The band had been given somewhat of an endorsement by The Who, although they never reached the status of that band. They did have success with “Itchikoo Park” and later an album with a circular sleeve called Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Rod Stewart later joined this band, as did Stones’ guitarist, Ron Wood. Kenny was playing solid at this time, although his present work with The Who is a better testament to his abilities.
Another band, called Fleetwood Mac, with Mick Fleetwood on drums, came out of England as a straight-ahead blues band. Many of their tunes were copies of great bluesmen, particularly Elmore James. It wouldn’t be until much later that Fleetwood Mac would evolve to its present pop status.
The Electric Flag, another “horn band” featured the vocals and extremely powerful drumming of a huge young man named Buddy Miles. The Flag played “American Music,” but after two fine albums, the band broke up. Miles went on to form The Buddy Miles Express, best known for the timeless song, “Them Changes.” Buddy teamed with Jimi Hendrix in 1970 for the classic Band of Gypsys album.
Bob Dylan had been out of commission after a serious motorcycle accident. During that time he made a series of demo tapes with a band living near him in upstate New York. The musicians Dylan recorded with came out with an album called Music From Big Pink in 1968 and they called themselves The Band. Big Pink was totally immersed in the great rock ‘n’ roll tradition, but it went further and encompassed all kinds of music. The result was a sound that turned the best of musicians around and had everybody loving the music, yet not really understanding why.
Everyone in The Band played several different instruments and the drummer, Levon Helm, was no exception. He is one of the best rock singers, definitely a classic drummer, and he also plays a mean mandolin. Levon had been brought from Arkansas to Canada to back up singer Ronnie Hawkins in 1958, a musician with a repertoire of songs by Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and most of the other great rock ‘n’ rollers of that era. Levon took over leadership of of The Band after they left Hawkins, under the name Levon and the Hawks, The Crackers or The Canadian Squires.
In ’65 and ’66, The Hawks backed Dylan on his electric tour which was a torture trip. Fans booed them and often times threw bottles and other projectiles onstage. Levon chose not to go on the tour, and a couple of years afterwards, Big Pink was released.
The second album, called The Band, has taken its place among the best rock albums ever produced. Levon’s drumming seemed to be an extension of his singing; a tight/loose player, with a melodic bass drum and one of the best drum “sounds” in the business.
Any one of their albums, but particularly the first two and then Rock of Ages (a live album with added New York horn section), Moondog Matinee (a collection of old rock ‘n’ roll tunes) and Northern Lights/Southern Cross, beautifully illustrate Helm’s great approach to drumming.
The Band called it quits with the best rock movie ever made, The Last Waltz, and a superior album of the same name. Levon went . on to record four solo albums and got into movie acting, particularly, the role of the father in Coal Miner’s Daughter.
Pink Floyd was actually formed in England in 1964. Nick Mason, the original drummer who’s still with Pink Floyd, was an architecture major in school and an excellent timpanist. The band played mostly to local underground audiences—their sound was described as a “melange of hyperamplified sound, intricate light patterns and almost concert-length renditions, with some songs lasting twenty or more minutes.” Their first album was released in 1967, but the band didn’t receive worldwide acclaim until 1969 with the release of Ummagumma.
Mason was a rock solid drummer and also a songwriter. Their album Dark Side of the Moon (1973), is one of the best-selling rock albums of all time. Pink Floyd’s influence would be felt more in the ’70s.
Another drummer from England that had commendable success in the U.S. at this time was lan Paice with Deep Purple. Although they were an English band, their first three singles weren’t released there. In the U.S., the band had a hit with “Hush,” a remake of a Joe South tune, followed by “Kentucky Woman” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” Paice was an excellent drummer. He was only twenty when he joined the group, but he had the taste to play in the pocket when necessary—and he also had the facility and brains to solo. Once again, Paice’s influence was probably felt more in the ’70s.
There were several drummers in 1969 that made significant contributions: Mike Botts with Bread, Jerry Shirley with Humble Pie, Simon Kirke with Free, Garry Paterson with The Guess Who, Jimmy Fox with The James Gang, George Grantham with Poco, Mike Kellie and Bryson Graham with Spooky Tooth, and Floyd Sneed with Three Dog Night.
I want to close this chapter by mentioning Al Jackson, a rock drummer who is almost universally recognized for his significant contributions to rock drumming. Jackson was a member of Booker T. and The M.G.’s. In 1962, they had a hit single with “Green Onions,” and over the years, until Jackson’s murder in 1975, Jackson recorded and performed with Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Otis Redding, and he was in large part responsible for the “sound” of Al Green.
Jon Landau wrote: “Al Jackson kept perfect time, played with extraordinary simplicity, was exceptionally powerful, got the toughest sound and left the vocalists with the maximum amount of space in which to do their thing.” Landau went on to quote Jackson as saying, “In some tunes, the straighter you play it, the better. You try to stay out of the way because you are selling the tune itself and not the drummer. He could get fancy but what would it really matter? You’d be taking away from the tune and the artist. The simpler you keep it, the better.”
Photojournalist Valerie Wilmer wrote a posthumous piece on Jackson. In it she spoke to Duck Dunn, a bassist who worked closely with Jackson on almost all his recordings and performances: “I’d go out and I’d play with other drummers, jam, and they’d always ask me ‘How does Al do this?’ and ‘How does Al do that?’ They wanted to know how he tuned his drums. Other drummers tuned their drums better than Al ever hoped to tune ’em. “He didn’t do anything, you see. He just played.”
Several major drummers came to the public attention in 1969, but moreso in the ’70s. Space limitations prevent me from going into the drummers just mentioned. But, in the final chapter of The History of Rock Drumming, we’ll learn about, among others, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson with The Allman Brothers; Don Brewer with Grand Funk Railroad; Clive Bunker with Jethro Tull; Mike Giles with King Crimson; Bill Bruford with Yes; John Bonham with Led Zepplin; and Jim Keltner—all pioneer drummers who first surfaced in 1969.