Ralph Macdonald RIP (1944-2011)


Silver Member
I just read that Ralph MacDonald has passed away. Back in '83 I saw him at Zildjian Day at the Berklee Performance Center :


I apologize if I posted this before. At any rate from what I remember...

It started out with Larry Londin, (who I missed except for a cymbal crash at the end!). Then Peter Erskine came out asked to give a hand to "Larry's powerhouse drumming". (Later that night, Peter Erskine's jazz group played, followed by Steve Smith's Vital Information). During his clinic he explained why he has everything set up low and close like he does, "I'd rather deal cards than stack soup cans!". He had a great, relaxed sound, and I wish I could remember what he claimed Elvin told him about his time concept. It had something to do with a bear in the woods. This broke everybody up. That was followed by Steve Smith, who explained stuff he did with Journey. He asked if anyone out there played double bass drums. That was met by some hollering and a guy in the front pumping both fists. He played some dazzling fast parts in response to questions. Then he chuckled a little when he struggled to play something slow for a moment during an explanation of a fill. Following that, Vinnie Colauita came out and joked around. People would yell out some odd time thing or the "Black Page" and he'd start playing it. He said, "I know, you're all waiting for the man of the hour- Steve Gadd" This was met by a chorus of "Shut up and play!" from the audience, and wisecracking banter back and forth. At one point in front of the stage he said something like, "...you know, a ridiculous pattern like reggae in 21/16." Then he went back to his set and played it.

Then there was a break and a "special guest" was supposed to be there. All of a sudden, Louis Bellson comes out to a standing ovation and says, "I know you were expecting 'BR'!" He then went on to say how honored he was to be on the same stage as Larry, Peter, Steve, Vinnie, Steve and Ralph. There was a Remo pre-tuned double bass drum set all ready for him to go (quite the item at that time). And he killed on it, to another standing O. Then he gave a lengthy intro to Steve Gadd, who hadn't arrived yet.

One thing I remember him saying was that when he first heard about Steve he was told by some band director, "I've got a 14 year student who can sight read better than anyone in your band, has rock solid time and near perfect pitch." Louis said, "I don't want to meet him!"

Steve came out and gave Louis a big hug, followed by Ralph MacDonald. And after the applause died down, they launched into playing. Every note they played was pocket gold. Each of the other clinics started out with talking except for this one, but during Q&A, Steve was surprisingly uncomfortable, because his sound would betray anything less than total relaxation and command. Ralph did a lot of the talking and was very funny and engaging, saying that it's never a problem "when Gadd is on your side!"

At one point somebody asked how the Steely Dan charts were. To which a troll in the audience yelled out, "They were boring". After an awkward silence, they answered a couple of more questions and then decided to let their playing do the talking. They left the audience standing and cheering.

Rest In Peace, Ralph MacDonald:



Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Another percussion icon that will be missed. I think every album I had from the 70s that had percussion on it was him :(