Friday, February 19, 2010

Recommended for your iPod/MP3 player - Part 3

Although not jazz per se, those of us who learned drumming in the late 1950s and early 1960s were heavily influenced by a few drummers. Some we knew about, which are listed below, and others we didn't because they were on nearly all of the hits of the day as behind-the-scenes session drummers whose names are finally surfacing. More about them later.

Every aspiring young drummer, and many inspired to take up drumming, were influenced by Sandy Nelson. Among his hits that received much air play are Let There Be Drums, Teen Beat, and Birth of the Beat. Sandy's idol - mentioned further on - was Earl Palmer.

Cozy Cole played with musicians ranging from Louis Armstrong's early New Orleans style jazz to bebop. He was one of the few who managed to make the transition from early jazz to swing to big band to bebop. He had a top 10 hit with Topsy, making him one of the very few drummers to have a top hit on a drum-centric recording.

While there were many groups that played a role in the surf music craze in my era, the most popular was The Ventures. They went through a few drummers early on, but Mel Taylor's amazing, if somewhat simplistic, grooves influenced us and it was reflected in our playing. Back in the day a lot of teen and garage bands were strictly instrumental groups playing at local sock hops and teen clubs. Vocals didn't become required until the British Invasion.

The unsung drummers I mentioned above - those prolific session drummers who dominated all of the hit records - influenced us all even if we didn't know who they were. Bear in mind that this was long before the world wide web where you could look up the musicians on a recording (or a wiki page), and there was no Rolling Stone Magazine. The only periodicals that covered music for the masses were Downbeat Magazine, the excellent and short-lived, The Jazz Review (not to be confused with the British journal Jazz Review, and local publications, all focused on jazz.

Hal Blaine is one of those unsung drummers who, today, is a legend. His resume includes this amzing list of recordings Hal played on, and much of his story is told in Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician (Book).

Equally as prolific and sadly no longer with us is Earl Palmer. Fortunately Earl got the recognition he richly deserved, and his life story can be read in Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story. There is a CD titled Backbeat: The World's Greatest Drummer, Ever! that has 30 songs on which Earl played that will give you a sense of history and Earl's accomplished playing. It's safe to say that had Earl not come along many grooves we associate with popular songs from back in the day would not have happened. Earl was that inventive and good.

The final session drummer who had a significant influence over my generation is Panama Francis. Had he never stepped foot in a studio to make an early rock or pop record he would still be remembered as one of Cab Calloway's best drummers, as well as a highly respected jazz drummer who evolved with the music. His studio work and contributions to rock and pop recordings are still relatively unknown, so I am hoping that folks who stumble upon this blog will dig deeper into this remarkable man's career and contribution to music.

In my next post I'll recommend videos of some of the old timers and giants of bygone times. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million.

No comments: