It’s Good To Be Back!

Don’t let the title fool you; I guess I really never left 🙂 As usual, I’m way overdue and there’s just too much stuff to tell you about, so I’m going to start with some very cool recent activities, and work backwards in future blogs.

But first a brief update: You might know that I began Representing three of my very close drummer friends, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine and Rick Marotta, this past spring. And you may or may not know that I have been consulting for a company in the Percussion Industry for about a year. I only mention this because many of my friends in the business said that I couldn’t “retire” and, well, I guess they were right! Though I still refuse to admit that I’m back to work… at least not the way it used to be. I don’t ever see myself returning to the corporate world and working in an office. When people ask if I’m staying busy with my little venture “Viper Representation” my answer is, “I’m as busy as I want to be” unless it’s a beautiful, sunny, summer day, at which point my answer is, “I’m busier than I want to be.”

I’ll come back to how Viper Representation came to be in a future blog. Obviously it involves Steve Gadd, since I represent him, and he was the catalyst in, to quote Michael Corleone, “Pulling me back in” and as you can imagine, there’s a funny story that goes with it. But it’s an honor to be working with Steve, Peter and Rick who are three of my best friends and biggest drumming influences. Not to mention truly legendary musicians. We have a long history together and our relationships continue.

But one of the more recent very cool developments has been me finally getting off my ass and getting serious about playing the drums again. I’ve been dabbling here and there on my drums since leaving Zildjian in 2013, but it was my old friend Neil Porter asking me to play with his band “Grand Theft Audio” that was the push I needed. I’ve known Neil for 40 years and he was a friend of the guys in my first professional band “Trigger” that I joined when I was 14 in 1975. Neil didn’t play an instrument back then, but came to all our rehearsals and gigs and helped move our equipment. He was a roadie! Well years after Trigger, Neil took up the guitar and singing and formed “Grand Theft Audio” with another old friend and guitarist, Paul Gianelli, who I played with in several bands (“Voyager” and “The Features”) over the course of 10 or so years, and another guitarist/bass player named Paul Candilore. They’re all great guys and musicians and do quite a few gigs. Anyway, Neil said they had a gig in a month or so and needed a drummer and could I do it?

Part of me was like, “Yeah, I’m in!” and another part of me was scared shitless! Neil assured me I could handle the material and after he emailed me the set list, I was like, “I think I can do this.” The funny thing is: they’re all old rock tunes that I grew up listening to and for the most part are simple to play, but there was just one problem: I was seriously rusty! I had sat-in with my friend Bob DeLorenzo’s band “Larry’s Closet” for two Rolling Stones songs back in June and had begun playing more to get my hands in shape, but this gig was over 40 songs, an entire night’s worth of music. I didn’t want to let the guys down and most of all, I didn’t want to suck.

It’s funny how you hear a song and in your head, you can easily execute the drum parts… but when you actually sit down behind the drums your hands say, “Ah, not so fast buddy.” This happened a lot. And I kept thinking I could find a quick and easy shortcut to getting my time/feel better, my hands in shape, and my playing back to somewhere remotely close to where I was 20 years ago. I wanted it to happen overnight, but guess what kids: there are no shortcuts. At least not for me. So I started playing my drums for two plus hours a day, every day and little by little I saw and heard results. I had a lot of encouragement along the way from my father in-law (Vic Firth), Charlie Watts, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Rick Marotta, Kenny Aronoff, Gavin Harrison, Gregg Bissonette, Stan Lynch, Danny Seraphine, Myron Grombacher, Russ Miller, and a whole bunch of drummers I listen to for inspiration. I told Charlie in a phone call that I was having a hard time with the feel of “Paint It Black” (where he rides the tom tom during the verse) and he laughed and said, “You can play that – it’s very easy. Just don’t play it too fast.” Sage advice from my friend and hero. And he’s right! And when I told Vic about my upcoming gig, he said with a smile, “Are you getting paid?” My answer was, “I don’t know” and we both laughed!

I also went to see a few of my drummer pals in the weeks before the gig, so that gave me more inspiration. Keith Carlock came through Boston with Steely Dan in September, which is always a lesson. And a week or so later, King Crimson came through town with the triple drummer assault of Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto and Bill Rieflin. Truly amazing and very inspiring. The band had a night off before the first show, so Gavin and I had a nice, relaxing, dinner and talked about drums and life. Gavin is a phenomenal drummer and it was great see Pat Mastelotto, who I met in 1985 while working for Simmons Drums, and also great to meet and talk with Bill Rieflin. My old friend Russ Miller was in town visiting Vic Firth, so he came to the King Crimson show too. It was a total drummer hang!

Me and my good pal Keith Carlock after the Steely Dan show in Boston in September.

Me and my good pal Keith Carlock after the Steely Dan show in Boston in September.

Gavin Harrison and me after a fabulous dinner!

Gavin Harrison and me after a fabulous dinner!

L-R: Russ Miller, Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, me & Bill Rieflin - King Crimson 2nd show in Boston.

L-R: Russ Miller, Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, me & Bill Rieflin – King Crimson 2nd show in Boston.

The Grand Theft Audio gig was set for Friday, October 3rd. I had also been invited by my pal Nate Morrison, owner of the Drum Shop North Shore in Beverly, Mass to do a clinic for their “Wednesday Drum Hang”, which they do the first Wednesday of each month. I had agreed to do the October 1st Drum Hang several months ago, after I went to Danny Seraphine’s clinic there. A little more about Nate and the Drum Shop North Shore. It’s a fantastic place that’s reminiscent of the drum shops we (well, those of us who’ve been around for a minute) remember as kids. The vibe is great and they do these events and drum clinics to promote drumming and the drum community and it works!  So with our one and only GTA rehearsal on Tuesday, my clinic on Wednesday and the GTA gig on Friday, it made for a busy, but productive and very fun week. I was honored to have my friend and drumming legend, Dave Mattacks, in the audience at the clinic. It was great to see many old friends that I’ve known over 30 years, from my days at EU Wurlitzer. On my drive to the clinic I received a call from Steve Gadd, who was in England with James Taylor and he knew about the clinic and upcoming gig, so he said, “Give me a call if you need any help tonight.” So of course I called him and put him on speaker phone and he had the audience laughing!

Nate Morrison and me at Drum Hang.

Nate Morrison and me at Drum Hang.

Steve Gadd on the phone helping me out.

Steve Gadd on the phone helping me out.

Steve asked how many people were there and I said "A few more than you usually have." He loved it!

Steve asked how many people were there and I said “A few more than you usually have.” He loved it!

I had a great time doing Drum Hang and appreciate Nate inviting me. Of course there were a whole bunch of things I wanted to cover, but couldn’t due to the time and me talking too much. I hope to do it again sometime.

Then came the the gig on Friday night and I felt good and ready for it. The guys in the band made me feel at ease immediately. It was a private party, so we were the entertainment and background music, but the people really seemed to dig it. I had a blast playing again. Loading my drums into my car, then setting them up, brought back so many great memories. This was the first time I played my ’74 Gretsch kit out on a gig. I bought the kit in 2005 to replicate the kit my Dad bought me in 1974, that I stupidly sold in the 80s. They were originally covered in a Gold wrap and my friends at Gretsch Drums (Paul Cooper and Fred and Dinah Gretsch), were kind enough to recover them in Midnight Blue Pearl to make it an exact replica of the kit my Dad bought me. I kept them in my office at Zildjian until I left in 2013, then here at my house. They sounded fabulous at the gig! I use all vintage hardware and a mixture of mostly old cymbals. Playing drums and doing gigs is what led me down the path of working in the drum industry for the past 30 years and it felt great to be back home, where it all started for me. Anyone who’s played a gig knows what I’m talking about… there’s really nothing else like it.

And best of all, my son John Jr, two brothers Chris and Matthew, and best childhood friend, Mike Mahoney, (who gave me my first snare drum in 1972 and a big part of why I became a drummer) were all there to watch and support us. It was especially cool to look out there and see my son, a great drummer himself, in the audience giving me the “thumbs up.” Sidebar: I did indeed get paid for the gig! Vic was very happy to hear this 🙂

Here are few pics from my “comeback gig” with Grand Theft Audio…

L-R Paul Cadilore (bass, gtr & vocals), me, Neil Porter (lead vocals & acoustic gtr) Paul Gianelli (gtr, bass, vocals)

L-R Paul Cadilore (bass, gtr & vocals), me, Neil Porter (lead vocals & acoustic gtr) Paul Gianelli (gtr, bass, vocals)

Here's another shot of the lads...

Here’s another shot of the lads…

Yours truly behind my vintage '74 Gretsch kit.

Yours truly behind my vintage ’74 Gretsch kit.

Here's my kit moments before the gig started.

Here’s my kit moments before the gig started.

This was taken at "Viper Studios" before I packed up my drums for the gig.

This was taken at “Viper Studios” before I packed up my drums for the gig.

So now that I’ve been re-bitten by the drumming bug, I’m “all in” and feel the same love and enthusiasm I felt as a kid. Next month I’ll be attending PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention) which I’ve been going to for 30 years, but this time I’ll be attending it (for the most part) as a “civilian” much like I did at NAMM back in January. I have a few Viper Representation meetings scheduled, but will otherwise be there to enjoy three days of great drumming, the drum community and connecting with my Industry friends.

And looking ahead to 2015, there’s serious talk between me and my former “Trigger and “Voyager” bandmates Mike McKee, Frank Hussar, Paul Bencal and Paul Gianelli to do a reunion gig, with the addition of Neil Porter and Paul Candilore. Now that will be a blast! So stay tuned!

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading! See you soon!

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A Kinder, Gentler, NAMM Show…

John DeChristopher

I can’t believe it’s the middle of March and I haven’t posted a blog yet yet this year. The good news is it’s the middle of March… the bad news is there’s no sign of Spring and this has truly been the Winter from Hell. I can’t complain too much, since I’ve managed to escape the cold for warmer climates a few times this year, and dodged several snow storms. Our most recent trip was last week in Boca Grande, FL, a beautiful little hidden treasure on the southwest coast of Florida. I sent some pictures to Andy Newmark and he agreed that it’s reminiscent of Bermuda. See for yourself. 

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Escaping the cold weather has been a recurring theme this Winter. Which segues nicely to my next topic… this year’s Winter NAMM Show. I’m going to jump around a bit, so try and stay with me! First a little background: I’ve…

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A Kinder, Gentler, NAMM Show…

I can’t believe it’s the middle of March and I haven’t posted a blog yet this year. The good news is it’s the middle of March… the bad news is there’s no sign of Spring and this has truly been the Winter from Hell. I can’t complain too much, since I’ve managed to escape the cold for warmer climates a few times this year, and dodged several snow storms. Our most recent trip was last week in Boca Grande, FL, a beautiful little hidden treasure on the southwest coast of Florida. I sent some pictures to Andy Newmark and he agreed that it’s reminiscent of Bermuda. See for yourself. 

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Escaping the cold weather has been a recurring theme this Winter. Which segues nicely to my next topic… this year’s Winter NAMM Show. I’m going to jump around a bit, so try and stay with me. First a little background: I’ve been attending the NAMM Show for 30 years (I first attended as a retail buyer in 1984) and have since attended as an Exhibitor with Simmons Drums in 1986, Drum Workshop 1987-1989 and with Zildjian from 1989-2013. That’s a lot of standing around. Some of the longtime music industry veterans will remember when Winter NAMM in Anaheim, CA was the smaller of the two shows and Summer NAMM in Chicago was the show. That was up until 1990. That was the last year Summer NAMM was held in Chicago and in many respects, the beginning of the end of Summer NAMM as we knew it. It was my second Summer NAMM working at Zildjian and my sixth Summer show overall. By today’s standards, I guess I was already a NAMM veteran, but personally I think you need to be well into the double-digits before you can call yourself a “veteran.”

But those of us who were around then saw the emphasis shift from Summer NAMM to Winter NAMM, in terms of new product introductions and overall show attendance. In 1992, Summer NAMM was held in Atlantic City, NJ and Lennie DiMuzio and I were the only people from Zildjian who attended. I went under protest. I’m sure some would jump at the chance for an all expense paid (well, almost all; you can’t expense gambling debts!) weekend in Atlantic City, but not me. In 1992 my son was 5 and my daughter almost 3, and between business travel and all the nights and weekends I was out at local shows, Atlantic City was the last place I wanted to be on a weekend in June. But hanging with Lennie D. made it enjoyable, needless to say. 

In 1993, NAMM began holding the Summer show in Nashville and that definitely helped revive it, but it would never return to the really big show it once was. Winter NAMM had officially become the show. Zildjian sent a good size contingent to Summer NAMM in Nashville, and I attended that show every year up until 1998, when I volunteered to stay back and mind the fort. Coincidentally, that was the same year I moved to Scituate, MA and the thought of giving up a week of Summer weather in my little beach town wasn’t something I wanted to do. They got along fine without me and I’d make many more trips to Nashville throughout the years to come. Nashville is a great town, but not exactly the best place to be in July (no offense to my Nashville friends). 

When you add up all the Summer and Winter NAMM shows I’ve attended over the past 30 years, it’s over 40 shows, so on the one hand, I’d seen enough NAMM shows for a few lifetimes. But on the other hand, the thought of going to NAMM and seeing old friends without being tethered to a booth all day, as well as escaping the cold Northeast, was certainly enticing. And then I found out Hal Blaine was being inducted into NAMM’s Hall of Fame, so that cinched it – I bought my plane ticket and booked my hotel. And the good people at NAMM, especially NAMM President Joe Lamond, helped me book a room at the Anaheim Marriott which had long been sold-out. Joe invited me as his guest to attend the event where Hal was being inducted into the Hall Of Fame and I was able to bring Steve Smith and his wife Diane, my old friend and former DW boss, Don Lombardi, and great drummer, Daniel Glass. Also seated at our table was former Yankees outfielder, Bernie Williams. I saw Bernie perform the night before with my pal Joel Rosenblatt on drums and Bernie can play some guitar! He’s the real deal! I had a chance to chat with him at our table and he’s truly a class act… and that’s coming from a lifelong Red Sox fan! 

So let’s fast forward to Winter NAMM 2014. My first time attending the show as a “civilian” and it was everything I hoped it would be and maybe a little more. It was great seeing so many old friends, whether they be artists, or industry friends. I had lunch with my pal Jason Bittner then stopped by the Zildjian booth and saw some familiar faces including my former team, Sarah Hagan and Kirsten Jensen, and a few new faces. I also had a chance to chat briefly with Craigie and Debbie Zildjian. Zildjian introduced their new Kerope line, which is based on the original K Zildjian cymbals made in Istanbul, Turkey. Zach Danziger helped design the Kerope line and he and Paul Francis, Zildjian’s Director of R&D, did a nice job demoing them on the booth. The cymbals sound great and were well-recieved at NAMM. Paul celebrated 25 years with Zildjian in January. Congrats on 25 years, Paul! 1989 was a good year for hiring at Zildjian. They got some great guys! Haha! 

The weather was perfect for running in the mornings and I took full advantage. I had a few meetings scheduled on Thursday and Friday, which left Saturday open to wander the show and keep things loose. Thursday night was a chance to have dinner and a lot of laughs with old friends. As I mentioned earlier, Friday night Hal Blaine was inducted into NAMM’s TEC Hall Of Fame, along with Todd Rundgren. Jim Keltner and Chad Smith presented the award to Hal, which was very cool. I’m glad I was there to see it. Saturday was the typical insane day at the show, and I had an early dinner and spectacular martini (with blue cheese olives) with my good friend, Cathy Calato. Saturday night Tama Drums celebrated their 40th Anniversary with performances by some of their top artists, including Simon Phillips and Protocol II. The show opened with performances by none other than Billy Cobham, and Lenny White! Billy, Lenny and Simon were the guys that put Tama Drums on the map in the early days, followed by Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. What was so cool about Billy and Lenny being there (besides them being Billy Cobham and Lenny White), is even though they’re no longer Tama artists, they agreed to be there for their historical connection and to celebrate Tama’s anniversary. Well done Tama! That’s the way to do it! I spoke with Lenny that afternoon on the NAMM floor and then after the show and he said, “This is how the business should be… no bullshit or politics” and he’s right. I hung out in the green room after the show with Simon and his lovely girlfriend, Billie, and caught up with more old friends. I was beat after the Tama party and had every intention of calling it a night, but decided to take a quick stroll through the Marriott bar and bumped into an old friend and decided to have a glass of wine. Ah, just like old times… So much for getting some sleep! We talked business (no getting around that at NAMM) and even though he had more questions than I wanted to answer after a long day, it was great to hang and catch up. I took a quick walk through the floor on Sunday before my car picked me up to bring me to LAX. I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to do NAMM from now on… three days, a totally loose schedule and staying at the Marriott. Here are some pics from the show….  

This was taken during the cocktail reception by NAMM’s official photographer. L-R: Joe Lamond (NAMM President), Jules Follett (publisher of “Sticks ‘N Skins”), Hal Blaine, me and Denny Tedesco (son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and director and producer of the incredible documentary film “The Wrecking Crew”). 

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Whenever Chad Smith is involved, there’s bound to be laughs and high jinx and that night was no different. Here he is attempting to grope me. L-R: Brad Smith (Hal Leonard Publishing and Chad’s brother), Don Lombardi (President and Founder of Drum Workshop), me and Chad Smith. 

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My first day at the show I spotted Rich Mangicaro at the Gon Bops booth and I said, “Rich, we really need to get that picture together, along with Bobby Boos.” A minute later, who comes walking up, but Bobby Boos! This is a fun shot because anyone who knows the drum industry, especially the cymbal business, will recognize Bobby Boos (former Sabian Artist Relations Manager), Rich Mangicaro (former Paiste Artist Relations Director) and me. At one time we were all competitors and things certainly got contentious at times, but there was mutual respect. Or as I like to say, “There was honor among thieves.” I wish we thought to get Norbert Saemann from Meinl in this pic, but at least his booth is in the background. Next year Norbert! 

 

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Here are two guys whom I have great respect and affection for: Mike Brucher, west coast sales rep for Zildjian and Ludwig and someone that I thoroughly enjoyed working with for many years (left). If there’s anyone who truly defines the term “industry legend” it’s the man on the right, the one and only, Jim Catalano aka J-Cat. Jim is responsible for bringing Ludwig Drums back from the dead many times. Both of these guys are my friends, and also two of the hardest working people in the drum business. I salute you both!IMG_9786  
This was taken at the cocktail reception before Hal received his Hall Of Fame award. Not one, but two of the members of LA’s legendary “Wrecking Crew.” That’s Don Randi (also the owner of LA’s famous “Baked Potato”) on the left and of course, Hal Blaine in the center. 

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This was just one of those photo ops. We were all coming out of the men’s room before the show and my pal and great guitarist Andy Timmons wanted to take a picture. Jim Keltner, Andy Timmons, Don Randi, Hal and me. 

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Another photo op too good to pass up. Joe Testa (Vic Firth Artist Relations Director), Joe Porcaro, Vic Firth and me. We were photobombed by Kirk Covington! 

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Here’s the legendary Joe Porcaro and me… 

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Two of my longtime friends that go back to the early days of my career in the music industry… Matt Frenette (Loverboy) on the left and Bill Gibson (Huey Lewis And The News) in the center. Also two of the baddest (meaning greatest!) drummers on the planet! 

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I was meeting with Don and Chris Lombardi at Drum Workshop and was pleasantly surprised to bump into my old pal Shawn Pelton (SNL and a million sessions) outside the DW booth. 

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Here’s another old friend, Gene Okamoto, who recently retired from the Pearl Drum Company. Gene and I go back to when he worked at Drum World in San Francisco in the 80s. Congrats on your retirement, Gene! Maybe you’ll do a better job at staying away than me! 

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My old and dear friend and incredible drummer, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and me. Smitty and I go back to 1980 when he was attending Berklee College and I was working at EU Wurlitzer. 34 years and counting! 

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This was the invitation for Tama’s 40th Anniversary Party. Thanks and congrats to all my friends at Tama: Ken Hoshino, Bill Reim, Terry Bissette and Aaron Vishria. 

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This photo is with legendary drummer Jamie Oldaker, Eric Clapton’s longtime drummer and a huge influence on my drumming. Jamie is on Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard. I remember trying to play along to I Shot The Sheriff” and totally butchering it as a 13 year old. He’s also on Clapton’s Slowhand. His playing on “The Core” (and the entire record) is amazing. I got to work with Jamie briefly in the 80s when I was at DW, but unfortunately we never got to work together during my years at Zildjian – he’s a longtime Sabian artist. However, we’ve become friends and it was great to see him at the show. Thanks for the inspiration, Jamie! 

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Here are some pics from past NAMM shows… 

This was Winter NAMM 2009 when Zildjian honored the late Freddie Gruber with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Education. L-R: Steve Smith, me, Jim Keltner and Freddie. IMG_9514 
This was from NAMM 2013, my last show with Zildjian. My old friends Paul Francis and Chris Ryan. Paul and I started at Zildjian in 1989 and I met Chris in 1990 or 1991 when he was working for Drum Kat. Congrats on 25 years, Paul! I missed it by this much. I guess some things aren’t meant to be 🙂
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This goes back to 2000 with two of my best pals, Jerry and Rick Marotta. 
Jerry me & Rick NAMM 2000
With two more of my heroes, Gary Mallaber (Steve Miller) and Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac). NAMM 2009. 

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Peter Erskine and Herbie Hancock… enough said! 

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NAMM 2005, taken after one of Zildjian’s famous autograph sessions. I always tried to coral the guys for a photo before they scattered and it wasn’t easy! Check out the lineup there, including our dear friend the late great Ian Wallace. 

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NAMM 2012 with the legendary Steve Jordan. 

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Yes, that’s Gary Sinise. 

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And lastly this classic from NAMM 1994 or 1995… the late-great Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta and me. 
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Well, that’s it for now but I’ll write again soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading…

JD

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Just Some Great Pics Of My Drummer Pals!

Charlie Watts & Steve Smith after Steve's performance with his group Jazz Legacy. Regatta Bar - Cambridge, MA. Sept 19, 2006.

Charlie Watts & Steve Smith after Steve’s performance with his group Jazz Legacy. Regatta Bar – Cambridge, MA. Sept 19, 2006.


I know, once again I’m woefully behind at blogging. I started writing a blog last Wednesday, October 30th, but couldn’t concentrate due to the impending Game 6 of The World Series between my team, The Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m happy to report the game had a positive outcome 🙂

In my last blog I discussed several great drummers that I feel are somewhat overlooked in terms of notoriety and I had intended to continue with that theme (there are lots more) but instead, I’m going to dedicate this to being a photo blog (is there such a thing?) I have literally hundreds of photos from my 24 years at Zildjian and I’m slowly but surely scanning and organizing them… You never know when you might need photos 😉

The above photo of Charlie Watts and Steve Smith was taken at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, MA on September 19, 2006. There’s a great story that goes with it… Charlie was in Boston with the Stones to kick off their “Bigger Bang Tour” at Gillette Stadium the following night, September 20th. Charlie had invited me to the Stones rehearsal on Monday, Sept 18th and I mentioned Steve playing the following night with his group Jazz Legacy, a tribute to all the Jazz greats. I knew Charlie would dig it. He’d heard of Steve, but wasn’t too familiar with his playing. Some of you might recall my story about bringing Charlie to see Brian Blade at the Regatta Bar nine years earlier, in October 1997. So fast forward to the night and Steve is seriously throwing down! He’s playing the shit out of the gig, not overplaying, but definitely throwing in a few tricks and Charlie is completely blown away by Steve’s technique and musicality. Who wouldn’t be!? After the set, we go back to Steve’s room and I introduce Charlie to Steve, as well as Dave Mattacks, who was also there. Charlie tells Steve how much he enjoyed the show, and while they’re chatting, Steve says, “We actually met back in 1981 when I played with Journey. We opened for you in Philadelphia and when Steve Perry said, “Thanks for making our album Escape, #1″, the audience booed us off stage”! Charlie was mortified. He said, “I’m so sorry. You played in Journey? Were you that good then” to which Steve humbly replied, “Probably not”. One of my favorite stories and I ever write a book, that story is going in it!

I’m going to jump around here… here’s another classic. This was taken after a Dave Matthews show at the Worcester Centrum in December of 1998. Steve happened to be in town and wanted to see the Dave Matthews Band and meet Carter. It turned out Carter was a huge fan of Steve’s and was thrilled to meet him. I remember him telling Steve that before joining DMB his fusion band “Secrets” covered a few Vital Information songs.

Me, Carter Beauford and Steve Smith. Worcester Centrum - Dec. 1998

Me, Carter Beauford and Steve Smith. Worcester Centrum – Dec. 1998

This one goes all the back to 1993, Kenny Aronoff and me in Mexico during Kenny’s clinic tour. This clinic tour was a killer, but also a blast and a great experience. This might’ve been taken after consuming tequila, but I can’t be sure 😉

Me and Kenny Aronoff, somewhere in Mexico. April 1993

Me and Kenny Aronoff, somewhere in Mexico. April 1993

This photo of the legendary Manu Katche and me was taken in September 2012 before the Peter Gabriel show in Boston. Manu was on tour with Peter Gabriel for the 25th Anniversary of “So” and this show ranks as one of the top five best shows I’ve ever seen! What can I say about Manu? His playing is always perfect and absolutely beautiful. And he’s also one of the nicest and most humble people you could ever meet. A great friend and a great musician.

The legendary Manu Katche and me backstage at the Peter Gabriel show - Boston Garden Sept 2012

The legendary Manu Katche and me backstage at the Peter Gabriel show – Boston Garden Sept 2012

This is one of my favorites! I know I’ve posted this before, but this picture is so important to me. All of these guys are not only my drumming heroes, but they’re also my dear friends and brothers.

It doesn't get much heavier than this! Steve Gadd, Gregg Bissonette, me and Peter Erskine at the Guitar Center Drum-Off Finals - Los Angeles, CA - Jan 13, 2013

It doesn’t get much heavier than this! Steve Gadd, Gregg Bissonette, me and Peter Erskine at the Guitar Center Drum-Off Finals – Los Angeles, CA – Jan 13, 2013

And of course there’s this pic! Ringo Starr and me… I’m standing with a Beatle! What else is there to say?

Visiting with Ringo before his show in Boston - June 2010... a week before his 70th birthday.

Visiting with Ringo before his show in Boston – June 2010… a week before his 70th birthday.

Besides this picture including the late-great Dave Carpenter, it’s also significant because it was taken after Montreal Drum Fest 1998, which was the last date of Vinnie Colaiuta’s one and only US clinic tour. Dave Carpenter and Randy Waldman joined the tour for the last few dates and performed songs from Randy’s CD “Wigged Out” which had just been released. It was an incredible tour. Sitting behind Vinnie every night was beyond amazing. We also had many laughs and lots of great food.

Randy Waldman, me, Vinnie, Dinah & Fred Gretsch and Dave Carpenter. Montreal Drum Fest - Nov 1998.

Randy Waldman, me, Vinnie, Dinah & Fred Gretsch and Dave Carpenter. Montreal Drum Fest – Nov 1998.

Here’s another great picture taken by my dear friend Jules Follett and published in her fabulous book, “Sticks N Skins” which I was proud to be part of. It was taken after Hal Blaine performed with The Wrecking Crew at NAMM (2008 I believe) and you can see it’s literally a “who’s who” of drummers and Music Industry people.

Donn Bennett, Don Lombardi (President/Founder of DW Drums), me, Danny Seraphine, Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, Billy Amendola (MD Magazine), Clem Burke (Blondie) & Evan Stone. Marriott Hotel - Winter NAMM 2008

Donn Bennett, Don Lombardi (President/Founder of DW Drums), me, Danny Seraphine, Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, Billy Amendola (MD Magazine), Clem Burke (Blondie) & Evan Stone. Marriott Hotel – Winter NAMM 2008

Another great pic from Jules Follett’s book “Sticks N Skins”… this was taken at PASIC 2008 in Austin, TX after Roy performed with his band “Fountain of Youth” at the Saturday Evening Concert. Besides Roy Haynes, there are some serious heavyweights in this photo, including Omar Hakim, Luis Conte, Ndugu Chancler, Joe Testa and the late Freddie Gruber.

Ndugu Chancellor, Omar Hakim, Roy, Freddie Gruber, Joe Testa, Tony Smith, Luis Conte & Daphnis Prieto - PASIC 2008. Austin, TX - Nov 2008

Ndugu Chancler, Omar Hakim, Roy, Freddie Gruber, Joe Testa, Tony Smith, Luis Conte & Daphnis Prieto – PASIC 2008. Austin, TX – Nov 2008

That same year at PASIC (2008) I received the President’s Industry Award, which was a huge honor and to this day one of my proudest achievements in the Music Industry.

PAS President Gary Cooke presenting the PAS President's Industry Award. Nov 2008. Roy Burns is seated to my left - he was inducted into PAS' Hall of Fame that year.

PAS President Gary Cooke presenting the PAS President’s Industry Award. Nov 2008. Roy Burns is seated to my left – he was inducted into PAS’ Hall of Fame that year.

Here’s a picture of me with the award and Craigie Zildjian to my right and Debbie Zildjian to my left.

Craigie Zildjian, me, Debbie Zildjian. After receiving the PAS President's Award - Nov 2008 Austin, TX

Craigie Zildjian, me, Debbie Zildjian. After receiving the PAS President’s Award – Nov 2008 Austin, TX

Here are a few more…

Vic Firth, Charlie, me and Joe Testa (Vic Firth A/R). June 12, 2013 - TD Garden, Boston, MA

Vic Firth, Charlie, me and Joe Testa (Vic Firth A/R). June 12, 2013 – TD Garden, Boston, MA

Me and the legendary Jack Bruce of Cream at the Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards honoring Ginger Baker. Shepherd's Bush - London, England December 2008.

Me and the legendary Jack Bruce of Cream at the Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards honoring Ginger Baker. Shepherd’s Bush – London, England December 2008.

Mark Mondesir, Andy Newmark, Peter Erskine, Charlie Watts, Steve White and me. Charlie Watts gig at Ronnie Scott's in London - March 2004.

Mark Mondesir, Andy Newmark, Peter Erskine, Charlie Watts, Steve White and me. Charlie Watts gig at Ronnie Scott’s in London – March 2004.

My man, Keith Carlock!

My man, Keith Carlock!

Max Weinberg, me and Charlie Watts - backstage at the Prudential Center - Newark, NJ Dec 13, 2012

Max Weinberg, me and Charlie Watts – backstage at the Prudential Center – Newark, NJ Dec 13, 2012

Joe "Fonzie" Testa, me and Steve after the first "Mission From Gadd" clinic is San Antonio, TX - April 2005.

Joe “Fonzie” Testa, me and Steve after the first “Mission From Gadd” clinic is San Antonio, TX – April 2005.

Sitting behind Charlie's drums before the Rolling Stones sound check. Dec 13, 2012 - Prudential Arena Newark, NJ.

Sitting behind Charlie’s drums before the Rolling Stones sound check. Dec 13, 2012 – Prudential Arena Newark, NJ.

Glyn Thomas, me and Steve. Reading, England - Sept. 2010

Glyn Thomas, me and Steve. Reading, England – Sept. 2010

Me, Gavin Harrison and Steve Gadd. Reading, England - Sept 2010

Me, Gavin Harrison and Steve Gadd. Reading, England – Sept 2010

The tour itinerary for the second leg of Mission From Gadd Europe.

The tour itinerary for the second leg of Mission From Gadd Europe.

This was taken at the Nashville Artist Session – May 4, 2011. I started Zildjian Artist Sessions in 2002 and they’ve become highly anticipated annual events around the world.

Tom Grignon, Harry McCarthy, me and Jack Bruno. Nashville Artist Session - May 4, 2011

Tom Grignon, Harry McCarthy, me and the great Jack Bruno. Nashville Artist Session – May 4, 2011

If you’re a drummer or music fan, I guarantee you’ll recognize some of these guys! This was taken immediately after one of Zildjian’s legendary NAMM Autograph Sessions. It was a great hang with some really great artists!

Zildjian Autograph Session - Winter NAMM January 2005

Zildjian Autograph Session – Winter NAMM January 2005

Well that’s all for now and I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane… I’ll be back again soon, but in the meantime, thanks for reading…
JD

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Some Love For Under Appreciated Drummers! Part I

First of all, I know I’m woefully behind at blogging. I promised I’d post often and I admit, between the beautiful summer we had in Boston, along with traveling, I’ve let it slip. But, now that we have colder weather to look forward to (said with heavy sarcasm) , you can look forward to more regular blogs from me! 

In case you didn’t know, I created another page on Facebook called “Johnny D’s Drummer and Music Industry Friends.” I reached the maximum number of friends on Facebook and thought this would be a cool way to connect with more people and also allow drummers, artists, industry friends, or anyone, to interact directly with me on a drum community page. So if you haven’t checked it out, please do and don’t forget to “Like” it! I invite anyone to post pictures, videos, etc – it’s a place for drummers and music industry friends to hang and share information. 

Speaking of my new page, we had a great discussion recently where I asked my friends who they felt were some of the “under appreciated” drummers and got hundreds of great comments. If you know anything about me and my obsession for drum trivia and minutia, you’ll know that I live for this stuff. Yeah, I’m that guy who when Steve Miller’s “Swingtown” comes on the radio yells, “Who played drums on this song?” Or Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets To Paradise?” The answer to both is the great Gary Mallaber! I used to love to quiz my co-workers at Zildjian with drum trivia and almost always stumped them, even the drummers. There are many great and under appreciated drummers, Gary Mallaber being an excellent, if not the best, example. Did you know that Gary played on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” album? Not just the song, but the entire record? And at a mere 23 years old.

Studio drummers by nature of their profession tend to go more unnoticed than a drummer who’s a member of a popular band. It’s perfectly logical that Ringo Starr is going to be more well known than say, Gene Chrisman. Gene was part of the “Memphis Boys” and recorded countless hits including Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds”, “Kentucky Rain”, “In The Ghetto” and Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man” to name a few. Now I may be a little bias because Gene and Gary are friends of mine, but to me, they’re very under appreciated. Yet when you hear them, you can’t help but totally dig their playing! 

Here’s a pic of Gary Mallaber, Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and me from 2009. 

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And then there are drummers like Mick Fleetwood who are certainly well known (heck, one the biggest bands in the world is named after him!) but is under appreciated by many drummers. He comes from the “less is more” school of playing for the song and has created some of the coolest sounding beats that are just perfect for the song. Listen to what Mick plays on “Second Hand News.” Of course, having a bass player like John McVee certainly doesn’t hurt! 

Another great drummer that is very under appreciated is Floyd Sneed. He was the original drummer for “Three Dog Night” and played some of the funkiest-rocking beats ever! Dennis Chambers and I were on a clinic tour 20 years ago (1993) and I had recently re-discovered Three Dog Night and we started talking about how much Floyd Sneed had influenced us both as young drummers. That night at the clinic (I think we were in Kansas City) Dennis went on for 10 minutes about Floyd Sneed. I think we even tried contacting him but it was before the days of the Internet and Google and finding people with a computer key stroke.

Then there’s the great Johny Barbata. Johny is the drummer on The Turtles’ “Happy Together”, “She’d Rather Be With Me”, CSN&Y’s legendary live record “Four Way Street”, Jefferson Starship’s “Count On Me”, “Miracles”, “With Your Love” and lots more. 

The last guy I’m going to mention here in Part I (and certainly not the least), is my old pal and great drummer, Stan Lynch. If you don’t already know, Stan was the original drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He played on all their hits. Besides all those great Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker songs, Stan also plays on Jackson Browne’s “In The Shape Of A Heart” – one of my all-time favorite songs. And that’s Stan singing the high harmonies on those TP and the HB hits. He’s also an accomplished and highly acclaimed producer and songwriter. I could go on for days about Stan. 

Below is an e-mail Stan sent to me, Gregg Bissonette and Myron Grombacher. It was a photo of a very young (maybe teenage) Charlie Watts that I’d never seen before. 

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Well that’s it for Part I but stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll talk about some other great drummers, like Bill Gibson (Huey Lewis and the News) and Myron Grombacher (Pat Benatar) for starters. And if there’s anyone else you can think of, feel free to leave them in the comments section. 

In the meantime, thanks for reading and see you again soon!

JD

 

 

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No Drummers Were Harmed While Writing This Blog…

Ok, I know it’s been a while since you heard from me, but I’ve been busy. Who knew semi-retirement could be so exhausting! Lots of great adventures this summer. Martha’s Vineyard for four days in late June, where I got to see not only Rick Marotta, but one of my best pals, Harry McCarthy! Then to Bermuda for a week, home for a couple of weeks, then back to Martha’s Vineyard for two incredible weeks, where we entertained family and friends. Martha’s Vineyard is truly a little slice of heaven off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Harry McCarthy, Rick Marotta and me. Rick's house on MV - June 22, 2013

Harry McCarthy, Rick Marotta and me. Rick’s house on MV – June 22, 2013

Having dinner at Atria in Edgartown... our favorite restaurant in MV... June 19, 2013

Having dinner at Atria in Edgartown… our favorite restaurant in MV… June 19, 2013

Harry McCarthy & me. Gayhead Lighthouse - Martha's Vineyard - June 21, 2013

Harry McCarthy & me. Gayhead Lighthouse – Martha’s Vineyard – June 21, 2013

The view from our hotel room in Bermuda... July 2013

The view from our hotel room in Bermuda… July 2013

More of Bermuda.. you can see why we go back there every year!

More of Bermuda.. you can see why we go back there every year!

How do you celebrate the 4th of July while vacationing in a British Colony? With Budweiser and pizza, that's how! July 4, 2013

How do you celebrate the 4th of July while vacationing in a British Colony? With Budweiser and pizza, that’s how! July 4, 2013

Running in Bermuda is a killer due to the heat and humidity, but this view makes it more bearable! July 6, 2013

Running in Bermuda is a killer due to the heat and humidity, but this view makes it more bearable! July 6, 2013

After getting back from Bermuda, The Doobie Brothers came through town (almost literally – they were right next door in Cohasset, MA) and I caught up with old buddies (and drummers) Ed Toth and Tony Pia. I first met Ed in 1997 through Carter Beauford. Ed was playing in Vertical Horizon, a great band from the Boston area, that went on to enjoy some commercial success. I signed Ed around 1998 or 1999 and he joined the Doobie Brothers in 2005 after longtime drummer Keith Knudsen passed away. Tony Pia played with Maynard Ferguson and was introduced and recommended to me by Gregg Bissonette. He replaced Mike Hossack in 2010 who passed away in 2012, one of the two original Doobie Brothers drummers (John Hartman is the other). It was great to see Jim McGathey and Steve Pappone, Paul Francis and Jeff Westhaver from Zildjian, who also went to the show.

Dinner before the Doobie Brothers show. L-R: Jim McGathey, Steve Pappone, me & Ed Toth - July 12, 2013

Dinner before the Doobie Brothers show. L-R: Jim McGathey, Steve Pappone, me & Ed Toth – July 12, 2013

Tony Pia, me & Ed Toth, after the Doobie Brothers show - July 12, 2013

Tony Pia, me & Ed Toth, after the Doobie Brothers show – July 12, 2013

Two very recognizable faces and legends in the drumming world... Rick Marotta & Vic Firth. Dinner at Atria in Edgartown. July 24, 2013

Two very recognizable faces and legends in the drumming world… Rick Marotta & Vic Firth. Dinner at Atria in Edgartown. July 24, 2013

South Beach in Katama... it's not Bermuda, but it's pretty darn nice. July 31, 2013

South Beach in Katama… it’s not Bermuda, but it’s pretty darn nice. July 31, 2013

I had dinner recently with a drum industry colleague and friend who works in Artist Relations (my former job for anyone just tuning into the show) and our conversation brought back many great memories of working in the drum industry for 30 years and inspired me to get back here and write. I won’t mention this person’s name, because associating with me could be the end of a great career! 🙂 He encouraged me to keep sharing my experiences in the drum industry and our conversation really inspired me to do so.

We talked about why we got into working in Artist Relations in the first place. Besides hanging out with rock stars and getting free tickets to concerts, it’s because we’re drummers and who better to relate to drummers than a drummer? (I was being sarcastic about hanging out with rock stars and free concert tickets). What I’m getting at is, even after being out of the biz for six months, I still feel very connected to it and it’s due to having so many artists and industry friends who keep in regular contact and also because I’m a drummer. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! Just because I don’t work for Zildjian (or in the drum industry) it doesn’t mean I can’t relate to drummers… In fact, one could make the argument that I can relate to them even more now. I won’t get into non-drummers who think they know the drum industry… nope, that’s for another time.

Besides having dinner with the aforementioned drum industry friend, I heard some great music this week and saw some of my oldest and dearest friends, which also inspired me to write. When I returned from Martha’s Vineyard last Saturday I caught “Bellevue Cadillac” at Scituate Heritage days. A great band with old friends Doug Bell, Jimmy Capone and Andy Bergsten, playing their butts off. The next day, Sunday, I was blown away by “Low Rider” (members of the original “War”) who played (and sounded exactly like) all those great War songs from the 70s. I was pleasantly surprised to bump into Alvino Bennett, an old friend from my days living in LA, who was playing with Dave Mason. Heritage Days is an annual festival that takes place in my hometown of Scituate, Mass and I’ve been going every year for the past 15 years since I’ve lived there. A few years ago I worked with the organizer, Gerry McMorrow (who also owns Scituate Music), to have Zildjian be an official sponsor of the festival and provide backline cymbals for all the performing acts. It’s been a great arrangement and I hope it continues. Plus, I get to sit in the VIP section! 😉

Alvino Bennett and me at Scituate Heritage Days - August 4, 2013

Alvino Bennett and me at Scituate Heritage Days – August 4, 2013

On Tuesday night my good buddy Steve Gorman and the Black Crowes were in Boston, along with the Tedeschi Trucks Band with my pal JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwell on drums. Talk about being inspired… x 2! Now that’s how music is supposed to be played! Steve joined us for dinner before the show and had me cracking up as usual. I can’t remember the last time I hung so late. The Crowes finished at 11pm and I hung out until almost midnight rapping with Steve, JJ and Tyler. Kind of like the old days at Zildjian, except I didn’t have to wake up at 6:00 a.m. the next day! The following night was the total opposite end of the musical spectrum, seeing Adam Nussbaum at the Regatta Bar with Steve Swallow. Adam is such a special player and besides being a very funny and great guy, he’s truly one of the very baddest of the bad! Paul Francis and Jeff Westhaver from Zildjian were also there, as were drumming greats and friends, Dave Mattacks and Skip Hadden.

We go all the way back to 1990... a great friend and drummer, Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes. August 6, 2013

We go all the way back to 1990… a great friend and drummer, Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes. August 6, 2013

My buddy JJ Johnson & me. Another really great drummer and friend. August 6, 2013

My buddy JJ Johnson & me. Another really great drummer and friend. August 6, 2013

Here's Adam Nussbaum, looking very fit before his gig at the Regatta Bar... August 7, 2013

Here’s Adam Nussbaum, looking very fit before his gig at the Regatta Bar… August 7, 2013

Well, I’m going to wrap up it here. But I want to thank my industry friend for that inspiring dinner conversation. You know who you are 😉 We’ll have to do it again sometime. And to all my artist friends who might (but probably won’t) read this, thanks for your continued inspiration, both musically and spiritually, and most of all, your continued friendship. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’m very blessed to have the memories and relationships I have after all these years, and will cherish them always.

Until next time, thanks for reading… I’ll be back again soon!
JD

For anyone who knows me, this shirt needs no explanation.

For anyone who knows me, this shirt needs no explanation.

My brother Chris and me goofing around... as usual! July 31, 2013

My brother Chris and me goofing around… as usual! July 31, 2013

My handsome son, John Jr & me. And my wife Kelly and her sister Tracy in the background. August 2, 2013

My handsome son, John Jr & me. And my wife Kelly and her sister Tracy in the background. August 2, 2013

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After 50 Years, The Stones Are Still Rolling And The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World!

After 50 Years, The Stones Are Still Rolling And The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World!.

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