Fred Gruber on Dave Tough: 'I Have a Great Love for this Man'

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
Fred Gruber on Dave Tough: 'I Have a Great Love for this Man'


SKF NOTE: Excerpted from my interview with Freddie Gruber in late 1983 or early 1984. This is an instance where I recommended a drummer have a feature interview and the rest of the Modern Drummer editorial staff outvoted me. That means much of this interview was never published, while some of it was published as an MD Focus on Teachers interview.

This exchange took place at Buddy Rich's kitchen table in Buddy's New York City apartment. Buddy was not present. In this part of the interview Freddie and I were talking about drummers he met during his lifetime. Freddie had just finished talking about Big Sid Catlett. I asked Freddie next about Dave Tough. Freddie's whole demeanor changed. He became very reflective.

Dave Tough had a major impact on Freddie. Part of me was wishing Freddie would share specifics of his time with Dave Tough. Maybe what Mr. Tough said could help others. But the greater part of me respected Freddie enough not to pry.

Still, this Gruber/Tough exchange is one moment from all of my drummer interviews I have thought about many times since.

Scott K Fish: How about Dave Tough?

Freddie Gruber: Extraordinary! Extraordinary with a band. His feel. His ability to be sympathetic to the arrangements, to play with a band.

I mean, as a teacher, what is it you can say about Dave Tough that's not really good? He exemplifies what you should really do with a band. And I'm sure if you took the time to interview all the great big band drummers of toay, I can't imagine in my right mind any one of them not saying how really marvelous the magic - the magic - of Dave Tough was.

He was only unsung to a degree. Not within the confines of the business or any conscious drummer. But, unsung to the public because Gene Krupa brought the attention and focus....

SKF: Because [Dave Tough] wasn't a soloist?

FG: It isn't just that. Gene had such an ability to bring attention to himself. In fact, he did that for drummers.

I did an interview recently, somewhat of a documentary of Gene, and I'll say exactly what I said at that time: Gene Krupa alone was solely responsible for bringing attention to the drummer and his role within the orchestra to the world at large! He alone did that. More than anything, Gene brought focus and attention to the drummer. Not to take away from his validity as a drummer and what he did as a drummer.

SKF: Did Dave Tough ever speak to you about his own approach to the drumset?

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals Click Here to Read the Full Freddie Gruber Exchange