Rhys Clark

He played drums on Billy Joel's "Piano Man" album, for only one track, Captain Jack. Plus he played for Hoyt Axton and Freddy Fender later on. IIRC he was Billy Joel's first "touring" drummer as well. Anybody have any more info on him? He simply dropped of the radar.

From what I got on Google, he is originally from New Zealand.
 

musicmaker

Junior Member
My dad was a huge fan of Rhys Clark when he was a pop star in Australia before he played with Billy. He's kept up with his career and said he's still playing and he lives in Huntington Beach in southern California. He saw him in Vegas last year and said he's still a great drummer. My dad e-mails his wife from time to time to find out where he's playing. He wouldn't give me her personal email address to share, but said you can email rhys@highseasmusic.com if you want anymore info.
 
How did his relationship with Billy Joel come about? There's a video on YouTube of Billy performing Captain Jack on some TV show in 1974 and the drummer is no doubt Rhys Clark. He's got a nice looking oyster colored diamond pearl drumset in the video.

Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs-L77JpMnM

Granted, he's no Bonham, but he's still friggin great!
 

musicmaker

Junior Member
I got an email from Rhys Clarks wife. She said he's out of town and she always gets his e-mails anyway since he doesn't care for computers. In response to how Rhys got together with Billy she said Rhys came to the US with an Australian band to record an album. My dad told me he was a big pop star over there. His band was in the middle of recording the album and they ended up splitting up and most of the band went back to Australia, but Rhys stayed here. He started working as a studio drummer for the record company where his Aussie band was recording. They had just signed a guy from Long Island named Billy Joel and he was coming to L.A. to record his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, so Rhys played drums on the album. When they finished recording Billy went back to New York. Then a few months later he started auditioning musicians for a touring band. He hired a New York bass player and guitar player, but couldn't find a drummer he liked, so he asked Rhys if he would consider moving to New York and going on tour with him. Rhys was about to go to England to see if he wanted to work with a band there, but decided to go to New York because he thought Billy was very talented. He moved to Long Island and lived with Billy while they rehearsed and did some recording there. Then the L.A. record company owner called and said he wanted the band to come to L.A. to record another album and get ready to go on tour. They moved to L.A., but the guy who was producing the new album said he wouldn't produce it unless he used his own musicians. Billy tried to get him to change his mind and use his band, but he wouldn't so the band didn't get to play on Piano Man. Rhys ended up playing on Captain Jack because they didn't like the drum track when they recorded it with the other drummer. Rhys worked with Billy for four years, but he stayed in L.A. when Billy moved back to New York.
 
Interesting story. It should be known that the other drummer on the "Piano Man" album was a rather famous drummer in the 70's, Ronnie Tutt. Makes me wonder why they scrapped his version of Captain Jack.
 
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Well, found videos of the two other songs from this program, along with Piano Man. The video in the first link I posted was removed. However, this other one has a better picture.

Somewhere Along the Line- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RwGQXeT_o

Piano Man- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xb0b5d6YOQ

Captain Jack- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efc8I9khsz4

This was done in March of 1974 if I remember.

While at it I found two more Billy Joel videos with Rhys as drummer, they're from a "Midnight Special" episode he did in October 1975. Guess shortly thereafter Billy went back east to record "Turnstiles" and Liberty DeVitto became his drummer. The Ballad of Billy the Kid and Travelin' Prayer were performed.

Travelin' Prayer- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHr1O9QeTnw

Ballad of Billy the kid- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uksIys9CNSg

In the beginning of Traveling Prayer, he sure is snappy at playing the snare drum.
 

charliedrummer

Senior Member
I realize this thread is several years old but this past weekend I picked up the new Legacy Edition of Billy Joel's Piano Man CD. In addition to the studio album this special edition includes a second CD of the live radio broadcast Billy did with his band in Philadelphia (WMMR) in 1972. Captain Jack is one of the songs played that night with Rhys Clark on drums. The liner notes discuss how he made a major error at one point in the song but through the wonders of modern technology, they were able to fix it for this particular CD. There's also mention that the original recording containing the drumming mistake made its way through various bootleg distributions and that purists probably won't like how it was removed from the current offering. Does anyone know where I might be able to hear the original, just for curiosity's sake? I've tried Youtube but haven't had any luck.
 
I realize this thread is several years old but this past weekend I picked up the new Legacy Edition of Billy Joel's Piano Man CD. In addition to the studio album this special edition includes a second CD of the live radio broadcast Billy did with his band in Philadelphia (WMMR) in 1972. Captain Jack is one of the songs played that night with Rhys Clark on drums. The liner notes discuss how he made a major error at one point in the song but through the wonders of modern technology, they were able to fix it for this particular CD. There's also mention that the original recording containing the drumming mistake made its way through various bootleg distributions and that purists probably won't like how it was removed from the current offering. Does anyone know where I might be able to hear the original, just for curiosity's sake? I've tried Youtube but haven't had any luck.
Big Rhys Clark fan here too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZpqrwD1yyY
(go to 1:25 to hear his slip-up)

I have recently been in touch with Larry Russell, the bass player with Billy from 1971-72
and he told me Rhys played a custom built Blaemire kit (with Ludwig hardware) on the WMMR concert. He still owns this drumset...
 

charliedrummer

Senior Member
Thanks for link. It's exactly what I was looking for. I'm really enjoying listening to the WMMR recording. The toms sound nice and full, at least under headphones. Do you know whether Rhys Clark used a 4 or 5 piece kit for this particular performance?
 
Thanks for link. It's exactly what I was looking for. I'm really enjoying listening to the WMMR recording. The toms sound nice and full, at least under headphones. Do you know whether Rhys Clark used a 4 or 5 piece kit for this particular performance?
it was a 5 piece 2-up, 1-down setup. Ironically this was the very exact drum set as seen on Billy's 1975 appearance on the Midnight Special. He didn't use the Blaemires all the time, during the 1973-74 "Piano Man" tour he was playing a OBP Ludwig Hollywood kit, as seen on his appearance on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert""

What was neat was how he had his 14 inch crash cymbal mounted right on the top center of his bass drum, in front of the rack toms.

Midnight Special 1975, with the Blaemires:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2NkNwJBuk8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWdccjZksWs&feature=related

Rock Concert 1974, with the Ludwigs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqjGPIYJsh0
 

Mendozart

Platinum Member
it was a 5 piece 2-up, 1-down setup. Ironically this was the very exact drum set as seen on Billy's 1975 appearance on the Midnight Special. He didn't use the Blaemires all the time, during the 1973-74 "Piano Man" tour he was playing a OBP Ludwig Hollywood kit, as seen on his appearance on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert""

What was neat was how he had his 14 inch crash cymbal mounted right on the top center of his bass drum, in front of the rack toms.

Midnight Special 1975, with the Blaemires:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2NkNwJBuk8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWdccjZksWs&feature=related

Rock Concert 1974, with the Ludwigs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqjGPIYJsh0
Thanks for posing this BB. I remember seeing this on DFO. Just love to see others who had played Blaemires, they really are unique and awesome drums.
 
Thanks for posing this BB. I remember seeing this on DFO. Just love to see others who had played Blaemires, they really are unique and awesome drums.
Glad you liked it... as a matter of fact Rhys is still playing them as well:
All pix are from 2011.





He is currently playing with a local Southern California band, the Michael Chain Band. Surprised they are still open headed, would have thought he would have converted them to double headed. He got these drums when he first started touring with Billy Joel in November 1971, making them now 40 years old... From the pictures the FT is a 16 inch, and the top toms are 12 and 13 inchers. Now the bass drum, I have trouble discerning if it is a 22 or 24.
 

Mendozart

Platinum Member
Glad you liked it... as a matter of fact Rhys is still playing them as well:
He is currently playing with a local Southern California band, the Michael Chain Band. Surprised they are still open headed, would have thought he would have converted them to double headed. He got these drums when he first started touring with Billy Joel in November 1971, making them now 40 years old... From the pictures the FT is a 16 inch, and the top toms are 12 and 13 inchers. Now the bass drum, I have trouble discerning if it is a 22 or 24.
Good stuff BB! I just looked up his band website, and I think I'm going to try to make the gig at the Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano. I do a ton of gigs in that area. Bass drum looks to be a 22.
 
Essentially a copy of a Ludwig Big Beat/Hollywood then. If you listen to Captain Beefheart's Spotlight Kid album, Rhys played on the song "Glider" and he no doubt used the Blaemires on that recording. I am also pretty certain they were used on the Piano Man album as well.

I haven't gotten into what cymbals he used, I asked Larry and he said they were Zildjian's, A Customs I believe...

Good stuff BB! I just looked up his band website, and I think I'm going to try to make the gig at the Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano. I do a ton of gigs in that area. Bass drum looks to be a 22.
 
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From a Billy Joel concert in Memphis from 1974... if you listen throughout he is heavy on the toms... I love the nice "boomy" sound to them, no question the toms had both heads intact here. I think he was using his Ludwigs on this perfromance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4qX0aLBms0&feature=related

And from the same show, Captain Jack. Seems all you can hear during the song is his bass drum, no doubt its being played wide open with no outer head whatsoever.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI3jHKSjl30&feature=related
 
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One last note of detail... the manager (or was it the sound engineer?) at WMMR was so pleased with the sound of Rhys's drums, that he bought an identical set of Blaemires to use in their recording studio shortly after.
 

Mendozart

Platinum Member
One last note of detail... the manager (or was it the sound engineer?) at WMMR was so pleased with the sound of Rhys's drums, that he bought an identical set of Blaemires to use in their recording studio shortly after.
Smart man, that manager/sound engineer was. ;-p
 
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