Hop On The Bus, Gus…

Steve Gadd at the airport in Amsterdam to begin Mission From Gadd Europe - April 22, 2010.

Steve Gadd at the airport in Amsterdam to begin Mission From Gadd Europe – April 22, 2010.


My first encounter with Steve Gadd didn’t go well for me. It went like this… It was the fall of 1975, I was in the 10th grade playing in my rock band “Trigger” and disco was getting popular, so the guys in my band wanted to learn “Do The Hustle” by Van McCoy. Like any true rock fan, I was a staunch “disco hater” and against the idea, but was overruled and it was decided we would learn the song – it was a hit and our band got gigs because we played songs people liked. I’d heard it on the radio a bunch of times and dismissed it as another disco song with a simple, repetitious beat. However, when we practiced it as a band, I couldn’t get it to feel the way it did on the record. And I could never put my finger on why it didn’t sound right to me. It was a simple enough beat and the guys in the band were fine with how I played it – but when the breaks came, the drummer on the record, whoever he was, played them way hipper and cooler than me. And there was this “lift” in his playing that just made it feel so good. I thought, “How could a disco drummer be so good?” Of course, I would learn 20 or so years later, it was Steve Gadd. No wonder! I felt a sense of relief… now it all made sense. Of course it sounded and felt great!

I told Steve that story about 12 years ago over lunch, and he laughed and said, “That’s a good tune.” But it’s a great example of how Steve can make even the simplest beat feel hip and cool. By the time I realized who Steve Gadd was, after hearing Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, our relationship had improved dramatically, although we hadn’t even met! I remember seeing the movie “One Trick Pony” and being floored by him. I actually met Steve for the first time in 1982 when I was working at EU Wurlitzer, and he was doing a photo shoot for Zildjian right next door. Armand Zildjian, Lennie DiMuzio, Jerry Donegan and David Deranian, came into Wurlitzer to borrow some cymbals for the shoot, and Lennie suggested I deliver them so I could meet Steve. Steve doesn’t remember it, but I do. The photo shoot was for this famous Zildjian ad…
$(KGrHqRHJFMFDVT5sSN8BQ8PuNbznw~~60_35
We met again a few years later at a NAMM show when I worked at DW, and when we met again a couple of years after that, in October 1989, at the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert in LA and I was working for Zildjian, he said, “You look familiar. Have we met?” After that, I was in! He does have an amazing memory. I worked closely with Steve when I produced the 2003 Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards that honored him and Armand Zildjian (I could write entire blog about that!), and the six “Mission From Gadd” tours from 2005 until 2011, and there is no one more dedicated than he is. He’s a true perfectionist and it shows in his body of work. And I know this might piss off Rick Marotta, but Steve might be the funniest guy I know! Ok, he’s right up there with Rick. And speaking of Rick, if you ever get him and Steve together in a room, be sure to record it, because you’ll hear some of the funniest and wackiest stories you can ever imagine. I’ve been together with them a number of times and each time my stomach hurt the next morning from laughing so much.

Steve's great sense of humor...

Steve’s great sense of humor…


A quick sidebar: Two years ago, April 2011, I met The Drum Brothers (Alessandro Lombardo and James Payne) in Milan, Italy during a Zildjian Artist Session. They showed me The Drum Brothers website and asked for my help in getting some artists involved and of course Steve Gadd was on their wish list. I said to the guys, “How about you make it funny and have Steve make a cameo appearance delivering a pizza while you guys are practicing” and they loved the idea. My initial idea was: Steve shows up at the door delivering a pizza and says, “Hey, are you guys drummers? I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the drums. Can you show me a few things?” Then it cuts to him playing “50 Ways”, saying “How am I doing?”. I knew Steve would be into doing it for a laugh, it was just the logistics of him being in Italy to do it. Well, a year later he was in Italy with James Taylor, and playing a show in Milan with a day off. This was our chance. I called him and reminded him of the idea and how funny it would be, and to cut a long story short, he met with Alessandro and James and they made one of the funniest videos ever! Steve improvised a bit, which I think made it better. It was an instant YouTube sensation!

We did our first US Mission From Gadd tour in April 2005. Steve hadn’t been on a clinic tour, or done many clinics in almost 20 years, so there was a lot of excitement. It did take some convincing, though. Being the humble guy he is, he wondered if people would really want to come out and see him. He came to the NAMM show that January of 2005 and I brought him to the reception for our top independent drum dealers and one-by-one, they all said, “Steve, we’d love to have you for a clinic.” He was finally convinced. Who’d have thought that 30 years after learning “Do The Hustle” I’d be traveling around the US on a tour bus with the guy who recorded that song. Or more to the point: who’d have thought that I’d be touring the US with Steve Gadd! We had some amazing times on those tours… In fact, it was Steve who got me back into running again. Our first date of the first “Mission From Gadd” tour in April 2005 was in San Antonio, TX and Steve had been telling me for months that I should take up running again. So we went to a sporting goods store and I bought some Nike running shoes and that’s when I started running – on the first Mission From Gadd tour, and I’ve been hooked ever since! The first thing Steve asks me when we talk is, “Have you been running much?” Some of the greatest memories and funniest moments in my 24 years with Zildjian were with Steve on those Mission From Gadd tours, or just hanging with Steve.

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.


Here’s a video I shot moments before our first clinic in Tilburg, Holland on Mission From Gadd Europe, April 22, 2010.

I have a million funny stories about Steve. In 2005, after the first “Mission From Gadd Tour” we started talking about and planning the next one, which would be a West Coast tour in October of 2005. One day, we’re on the phone and he said, “I heard Dennis (Chambers) received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music. That’s great. Tell him I said congratulations.” At the same time, I was in contact with PAS who was inducting him into the PAS Hall of Fame later that year at PASIC in Columbus, OH – it was a busy year! So I contacted Roger Browne, the President of Berklee College, and said wouldn’t it be great if Steve received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee too. Roger, who’s a drummer himself and huge Steve Gadd fan, thought it was a great idea and put the wheels in motion and asked me to contact Steve just to let him know. So I called Steve and I’ll never forget his response; it was hilarious! It was something like this, “Berklee wants to give me an Honorary Doctorate? Wow, that’s great. I’m really honored. You know, John… I was in the army too… do you think they can make me an Honorary General?” And we both broke out in hysterical laughter! Another “you had to be there” moment, but for weeks and months after that, every time we spoke he’d say, “Hey John, how’s it going with making me a General?”

Steve is one of the best joke-tellers you’ll ever meet. Just like Hal Blaine… it’s their perfect timing. Another great story goes back five years ago, June of 2008, I was in London planning for the 2008 Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards, which took place in December of that year and was originally going to honor Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. Sadly, Mitch passed away a few weeks before the event. Anyway, I was having dinner with Mitch and Steve White, (who performed beautifully at the event), and Mitch was asking all these questions about Steve Gadd. All of a sudden my phone rings and it’s Steve! Steve White gave me a little smile thinking I’d planned it, but it was purely coincidental. I handed the phone to Mitch, and he Steve chatted away for 10 minutes, telling each other how much of a fan they were of each other. It was a beautiful moment and a great night.

The last official, full-blown “Mission From Gadd” tour we did was in Europe in 2010. It was actually two tours, due to the volcanic ash over Iceland and having to postpone the first five dates of the tour in April. When we rescheduled the five dates for September 2010, we added another 10 or so dates to the tour. The first tour in April was a bus tour like all the other “Mission From Gadd” tours and challenging at times due to some long hauls. The second tour in September was all fly dates, which was harder, but we made the best of it, and a big thanks to Steve’s drum tech, the legendary Yard Gavrilovic. On all the previous US Mission From Gadd tours, I was Tour Manager, Drum Tech, PR, you name it. Having Yard with us made it much more comfortable, but don’t tell him I said that – he’ll want to be paid more next time! When we finally made it to England for the rescheduled date in Reading, my good friend and boss at Simmons Electronic Drums, Glyn Thomas, was there and it was a thrill to introduce him to Steve. Glyn hired me in 1985 and gave me my start in the music industry. They hit it off like old friends. In fact, Glyn drove us from the store where we did the “meet & greet” to the venue and it was great to catch up with him. Both of the European tours were amazing, though exhausting when all was said and done. We got a lot of mileage out of the Mission From Gadd concept (no pun intended) and I consider all of those tours some of my best work, and proudest accomplishments.

Me and my dear friend, the legendary Yard Gavrilovic (and he is!)

Me and my dear friend, the legendary Yard Gavrilovic (and he is!)


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

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


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

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


Carol and Steve Gadd. Last date of the first leg of “Mission From Gadd Europe” – Sevilla, Spain – April 2010.


Mike Mangini, Steve and Me. London Drum Show - Sept. 2010

Mike Mangini, Steve and Me. London Drum Show – Sept. 2010


Steve and Vic Firth sharing some laughs while doing an interview at the London Drum Show - Sept 2010.

Steve and Vic Firth sharing some laughs while doing an interview at the London Drum Show – Sept 2010.


There are lots more stories and lots more to say, and I promise to continue this some time in the future… For now, here are some more photos and thanks for reading…

Happy Birthday, Steve! Love, The Viper xo 🙂

Our tour bus for the first leg of Mission From Gadd Europe - April 2010.

Our tour bus for the first leg of Mission From Gadd Europe – April 2010.


Steve and Carol Gadd on the bus, somewhere in Amsterdam - April 2010

Steve and Carol Gadd on the bus, somewhere in Amsterdam – April 2010


The most important member of the tour crew: The Espresso Machine!

The most important member of the tour crew: The Espresso Machine!


In our hotel in Paris... Steve trying out the eye mask I gave him - Sept 2010.

In our hotel in London… Steve trying out the eye mask I gave him – Sept 2010.


Steve and Yard, no doubt conspiring against me, at the airport. Sept 2010

Steve and Yard, no doubt conspiring against me, at the airport. Sept 2010

Steve and me after a great run along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey - Sept 2010

Steve and me after a great run along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey – Sept 2010


With the guys from Road Crew in Portugal, after another great run - Sept 2010.

With the guys from Road Crew in Portugal, after another great run – Sept 2010.


The Mission From Gadd Europe Team after the last date in Portugal - Sept 2010. Tina Clarke, Yard Gavrilovic, Steve, me and Bob Wiczling

The Mission From Gadd Europe Team after the last date in Portugal – Sept 2010. Tina Clarke, Yard Gavrilovic, Steve, me and Bob Wiczling


We had tighter security than the Rolling Stones! You couldn't go anywhere without this!

We had tighter security than the Rolling Stones! You couldn’t go anywhere without this!


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

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


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! The Men In Black: Steve Gadd, Gregg Bissonette, me and Peter Erskine at the Guitar Center Drum-Off Finals – Los Angeles, CA – Jan 13, 2013


Steve in my office with one of his old, original Istanbul K Zildjians he used on many recordings. If that cymbal could talk! July 2010

Steve in my office with one of his old, original Istanbul K Zildjians he used on many recordings. If that cymbal could talk! July 2010

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in John's Drummer Pals
17 comments on “Hop On The Bus, Gus…
  1. Frank Hussar says:

    LOVE the Trigger reference Johnny!….God, I think I was out of the band by that time ( wasn’t I?) A dear fiend of mine will be Monitor Engineer when the Stones tour in a couple months, if you make it to either of the Boston dates, and you get the chance, introduce yourself to Rob Bull – tell him we used to play together when we were kids…we’ve been touring together with Martina for years…really enjoying your blog man!

    • Frank, glad you enjoyed the blog and caught the Trigger reference… you were DEFINITELY in the band then! It was fall 1975 – I’d joined the band six months before that. I’ll be sure to look for Rob when the Stones come through in June. Let’s get a Trigger reunion happening!

      • Frank Hussar says:

        That would be a blast John!…I’ve tried to locate Mike McKee, think he’s in Colorado…you ever hear from him?…

      • I’ve tried tracking Mike down, too… I haven’t heard from him in a long time… what about Dave Kilty?

      • Frank Hussar says:

        I think Dave still lives in Stoneham, has a drywall business…wife and kids too last I heard…Mike’s on Facebook (pretty sure that’s him – you’re the only one who still looks exactly the way we did all those years ago!!), I’ve attempted to leave messages with him there, but no reply. Someone told me that he was still playing, but into Bluegrass music…might have been Neil Porter from Stoneham, not sure…backlineguy@gmail.com is my email…drop me a line

  2. Carlos Guzman says:

    Hi Johnny D…Your stories are so insightful…! Love all the personal pictures which place us right in the story..I see a book in the very near future..BTW…I know a good publisher..:) Keep up the great writing!!! “Los”
    P.S. Rick is looking for you …:) chuckle!!!!

  3. Brock Avery says:

    thanks for the blogs John, really liking them. Take care Brock.

  4. Larry Aberman says:

    Just wanna be like Steve….always the coolest.

  5. Jim Wagy says:

    Love it Johnny D!
    Good stuff man!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!

    I was at the First Mission from Gadd on Steve’s 60th Birthday in Kansas City,
    I was also in the audience for the Berklee Zildjian Honors awards! That was a GREAT event you produced!! Thanks for the memories!!!!

    I was also at the Buddy Rich memorial concert in the audience at the Wiltern Theater, and at PASIC to see Steve, so I guess I’m following you, following Gadd About!!! 🙂 LOL

  6. dougie Z says:

    Great stuff, Chris! I first (knowingly) heard Steve play on vinyl about the same time as you on their first album “Stuff.” Your stories are amazing.

  7. Chris Moore says:

    I really enjoyed this blog! I too, was at the MFG tour at Explorer’s Percussion in KC, MO on Steve’s 60th and met you and Steve……he also graciously signed 2 13″ Signature Gadd snare drums for me. It was the clinic of my dreams, really. Best to you, and Happy Birthday, Steve!

  8. Phil Jarvis says:

    Hi John – Great read, really enjoyed it.
    Some interesting photos, too. Love the one of Steve’s old K !
    All the best,
    Phil Jarvis (England)

  9. Jim Wagy says:

    The thing is Steve was soooooo busy recording in the 70’s and 80’s, so by the time he started doing some events in the 90’s, a guy like me had waited 20 YEARS just to ever see him live or get a chance to meet him!! It’s really great that he has shared himself with the people that he has influenced so much these last 20+ years!!!! I try to get out to see him and grab a photo whenever I can!!! He is so gracious!!! He and Carol are just the best!!!

    One time I met him before a JT concert and showed him all my pics with him and I together from the 90’s to 2010……. We were both looking at how we had both aged together!!! LOL
    I bet you could do the same!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: