Your mentors,who helped you be the drummer you are?

moodman

Well-known member
My buddy Don Jesse was a couple of years older than me, a better drummer and played in the "rival" band.
He could tune drums really well and before I learned how, he would come to my gigs and say "let me tune your tubs"
Mostly they sounded great but sometimes they'd sound really weird and he'd be watching from the audience and laughing at me.
Our bands often gigged together and we'd do a 'drum battle' which we worked on ahead of time, leaving the last part unscripted, and that's when he would blow me away on chops. It took me half a century to finally be able to kick his butt a little, but I did.
Don played in one 3 piece group, Guitar front man , Don on drums and playing trumpet with one hand, the B3 player on keys and trumpet too. Later in life, Don, a master brush player, worked with sax man Tommy Wills almost exclusively.

In high school I played with a popular band and we got 'taken under the wing' of a drummer who led his own band, He got us to join the union, helped us with getting gigs and looking and being professional. His band Keetie and the Kats, put out a record in '62 that I think, really displays Keetie's talent. The drums are tuned and recorded great, his parts significantly contribute to the arrangement and I feel his band was ahead of the curve at that time.


Later the band was Keetie and the Kasuals


My other mentor was and older drummer in my town named Mike Brown. I didn't know him at all but had heard of him.
He calls me up one day and asks if I would help him take his drums to a gig. Happy to, I went with him to Franklin College about 20 miles from our town. We talked drums on the ride and it was really informative to watch him play from behind the concert band.
The concert was nearly over when he motioned for me to come to the drums, handed me the sticks and said "play the jazz beat"
I was a little startled, but did as I was told and played that spang-a-lang, nothing else, (that is no fills,played snare and kick and hats) til the tune ended. The audience applauded, everybody in the band was smiling at me, I didn't know what to think. We packed up his drums, he took me home. I had never spoken to him before, I have never seen or spoken to him since but, feel like I should look him up and say Thanks for throwing me in the water, guess he knew I could swim.
 
Last edited:

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
My first instructor ever, a professional studio drummer -- a great player and an equally impressive person. I started lessons with him back in the early '80s. He guided me for five consecutive years. He's still the primary influence behind my technique and style. We aren't identical drummers, but I internalized many of his attributes, as he was my lone mentor from the ground up. He cultivated and solidified my love of drumming. I've admired other drummers over the years but have modeled myself after no one else.
 

planoranger

Junior Member
Ronald Gould, who played in the New York City and Joffrey Ballet Companies was my mentor. Although I had a teacher prior to him, and that instructor gave me a fine foundation into drumming, Mr. Gould taught me how to be a musician as well as a professional. He would often let me sit in the pit during rehearsals and performances to see "how it was done." That kind of experience was priceless; no amount of money could buy it.
Aside from the orchestral stuff that I learned from him, he taught me how to play musical theater and night club gigs(he grew up in the era when you had to play everything from symphonic music to "stage shows"...those don't exist anymore...if you watch any of the old musical movies on Turner Classic Movies you will periodically see those).

Plus...he was the most modest guy you ever want to meet. I found out much later that, prior to joining the NYC Ballet, he played with the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra. You know who played with that orchestra just before him? Billy Gladstone!!! So...after I found this out, I remarked to him,
"I never knew you replaced Billy Gladstone." He turned me and said, "Let's keep one thing straight. I might have followed him, but no one ever replaced Billy Gladstone."
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I grew up in super rural Colorado on an Indian Reservation - so our exposure to music is minimal...with the exception of my music teacher that happened to move to our little town from (I don't know where actually) - Howard Searle.

He was a drummer and opened my eyes to guys like Weckl, and Gadd and really got me on the right track from day 1. He would let me come over to his house (Which was like just like a 3 minute walk from my house) and play his 70s Ludwig 5 piece black panther rig...he'd get to the band room early so I can practice - he let me take the quads home over a summer so I could practice to my heart's content, helped me tune my drums, etc.

I was notoriously ego driven at that age and a bit of a hot shot - so I never made being around me musically easy and we grew to not see eye to eye on a lot of things - but I wouldn't be the player I am today without his guidance and help.

So Mr. Searles - consider both and apology and and a thank you for everything!!

(However let it be known that when and if we do see each other again - I'm calling you "Howie" instead of Mr. Searles and you can't do anything about it because I'm not 15!) haha.

(Not me in the pic - but a picture of Mr. Searles how I remember him in his prime)
 

Attachments

planoranger

Junior Member
First---
moodman...thank you for opening this thread. It's nice to see "where we came from" and who influenced us as drummers

I grew up in super rural Colorado on an Indian Reservation - so our exposure to music is minimal...with the exception of my music teacher that happened to move to our little town from (I don't know where actually) - Howard Searle.

He was a drummer and opened my eyes to guys like Weckl, and Gadd and really got me on the right track from day 1. He would let me come over to his house (Which was like just like a 3 minute walk from my house) and play his 70s Ludwig 5 piece black panther rig...he'd get to the band room early so I can practice - he let me take the quads home over a summer so I could practice to my heart's content, helped me tune my drums, etc.
You were really fortunate to have a "general" music teacher who was also a drummer. It's nice to have a kindred spirit as your music leader. My school district was stocked by brass and woodwind players.


I was notoriously ego driven at that age and a bit of a hot shot - so I never made being around me musically easy.
I was just thinking about drumming and ego the other day. I think we as drummers NEED a healthy, well-balanced ego. Think about it: we're the ones who are looked upon to set/maintain tempo and groove. Plus, while there may be multiple guitarists and keyboard players in a band, there's usually only one of us. So we need that ego so that everything remains strong.

And...I don't know about you...but...when I go see a band with a drummer that I never saw/heard before, my first reaction is to try to compare his/her playing to mine (again...ego). That lasts for about 5 minutes, until I tell myself to shut up and listen...you'll probably learn something.

As far as the "hot-shot" aspect goes....show me a teenager that isn't!!! Go ahead....I dare ya!!!:cool::LOL:
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
First---

You were really fortunate to have a "general" music teacher who was also a drummer. It's nice to have a kindred spirit as your music leader. My school district was stocked by brass and woodwind players.
Yes - 100%. He would do cool things like giving me CDs of drummers or like the VHS of "burning for buddy" etc. He also had the foresight to actually keep me off drums in school band for a long time and had me play sax to be more rounded musically until later in high school when I finally got to cut loose. I think that may have also been an ego check haha...in all fairness though - I was 1st chair Colorado all state sax...so that may have backfired haha.


I think some ego is healthy - as long as it's realistic. I have a fairly good feel for where I stand in the world of drumming - and now a days I'm constantly humbled by these linear-quintuplet-oddtime-monsters that are like 16-25 so my days of feeling like a 8 of a player are gone....but being confident in one's ability - especially when you actually sit down behind the kit is super valuable.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I understand the tendency to compare oneself to other drummers. It's really quite natural, as sizing up one's environment has survival implications from an evolutionary standpoint. Still, it's something I stopped doing a long time ago. Every drummer is different. Because of that, we'll all have strengths and shortcomings. Comparisons are rarely equal in that regard.

These days, I interpret music with holistic ears, digesting it as an amalgamation rather than as a backdrop for the showcase of isolated parts. My definition of a good drummer is one who supports the music, blending with it, not standing out from it. He's focused on dynamics, not on chops -- on feel, not on superhuman speed. In a sense, and this may sound campy, he's more spiritual than physical. You can't copy him, because much of what he's doing is immaterial. His intangibilities make him unique. The music flourishes in turn.
 

moodman

Well-known member
First---
moodman...thank you for opening this thread. It's nice to see "where we came from" and who influenced us as drummers


You were really fortunate to have a "general" music teacher who was also a drummer. It's nice to have a kindred spirit as your music leader. My school district was stocked by brass and woodwind players.



I was just thinking about drumming and ego the other day. I think we as drummers NEED a healthy, well-balanced ego. Think about it: we're the ones who are looked upon to set/maintain tempo and groove. Plus, while there may be multiple guitarists and keyboard players in a band, there's usually only one of us. So we need that ego so that everything remains strong.

And...I don't know about you...but...when I go see a band with a drummer that I never saw/heard before, my first reaction is to try to compare his/her playing to mine (again...ego). That lasts for about 5 minutes, until I tell myself to shut up and listen...you'll probably learn something.

As far as the "hot-shot" aspect goes....show me a teenager that isn't!!! Go ahead....I dare ya!!!:cool::LOL:
you're most welcome, more than anything else I was motivated by wanting to give Keetie some exposure
I've never met another drummer who had heard of him.
true we need a well-balanced ego yes, coming from the confidence and authority that experience and knowledge give us
agreed too, when watching another drummer, I've learned something from almost every drummer I've met or watched
 
Last edited:

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Chuck Tilley for a whole summer in '79. He was attending the same school I was, 2 grades higher, and I recognized him from a concert he played a year earlier. I asked him to teach me to play and he said he would teach me the rudiments. Haskell Harr and the black rubber practice pad for a whole summer. In the audition the next year for marching band, I outperformed the timbale player, but they said I should play the small bass drum since I was new. Eventually I graduated up to snare, and was teaching myself drum set at home - not reading but listening.

In the 8th grade I had a chance to study with Larry Mathis (University of Alabama percussion head) but Dad got late paying for the lessons and it abruptly ended. I'm pretty sure if I had stuck with him, I'd have found a path playing drums as a career.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Chuck Tilley for a whole summer in '79. He was attending the same school I was, 2 grades higher, and I recognized him from a concert he played a year earlier. I asked him to teach me to play and he said he would teach me the rudiments. Haskell Harr and the black rubber practice pad for a whole summer. In the audition the next year for marching band, I outperformed the timbale player, but they said I should play the small bass drum since I was new. Eventually I graduated up to snare, and was teaching myself drum set at home - not reading but listening.

In the 8th grade I had a chance to study with Larry Mathis (University of Alabama percussion head) but Dad got late paying for the lessons and it abruptly ended. I'm pretty sure if I had stuck with him, I'd have found a path playing drums as a career.
My first drum book ever, back in the early '80s, was Haskell W. Harr's Drum Method, Book One. Golden stuff.
 

Ryan Culberson

Well-known member
John Snider Jr. Originally from Bakersfield but now living in Miami. His father was a jazz drummer who was good friends with Louie Bellson and Murray Spivack, so Jr. learned from the absolute greatest.

I wish I would’ve retained even 10% of his wisdom and tuition, but I’m afraid I was too young and too dumb to appreciate it at the time. Took lessons from him for over 10 years. To this day, he remains the most impressive drummer I’ve ever seen.
 

gish

Senior Member
I took some lessons in my formative years, from 3 different instructors. Unfortunately, those 3 were basically snake oil salesmen just looking to take money and keep you confused as opposed to actually mentoring. Private instruction wasn’t my path to improvement; listening to music, going out to see live music, and believe it or not Modern Drummer magazine were my cornerstones. There is one local drummer who made a huge impact on me, and has carved out nice career for himself in an area that is nowhere near being considered a musical capital. Not sure I’d be the player I am without his influence, and I’m quite certain he doesn’t realize his level of impact on my playing.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
I never had any lessons as a drummer. Basically self-taught. My parents would help me purchase what I needed, but I studied and learned on my own. I TRULY, wish I had used a teacher when I was younger. I still actually may get a teacher locally after all of this covid crap is gone. So. . .sometime in 2024 maybe???
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Obviously my first teachers guided me in the basics - reading and some technique - and I emulated the players of the day, Ringo and Hal Blaine. While I was never expressly mentored, I did pay close attention to what a drummer friend did. He was Dennis St John, best known for playing with Neil Diamond from 1970-81, who also did a fair bit of studio work in Atlanta, Memphis, and eventually Los Angeles. We had many discussions about drums and drumming, the music business, and his brushes with several great artists. I guess I inferred a mentorship until he passed away in 2012.

Bermuda
 

nolibos

Well-known member
Chuck Brown. From the late sixties through 2012 Chuck taught just about every great drummer to come out of the SF bay area. He was a great teacher and a great guy. I really miss taking lessons with him.
 
Obviously my first teachers guided me in the basics - reading and some technique - and I emulated the players of the day, Ringo and Hal Blaine. While I was never expressly mentored, I did pay close attention to what a drummer friend did. He was Dennis St John, best known for playing with Neil Diamond from 1970-81, who also did a fair bit of studio work in Atlanta, Memphis, and eventually Los Angeles. We had many discussions about drums and drumming, the music business, and his brushes with several great artists. I guess I inferred a mentorship until he passed away in 2012.

Bermuda
Jon,

For those of us who aren't all that familiar with Dennis St. John, can you tell us more about him? Other than his great work with Neil Diamond, I know he had some of the most interesting selections of Slingerland drums af any drummer in the 1970's. Was he on most of Neil's recordings of the era? He seems to have gone under the radar in a major way in terms of recognition in both recording and touring. Greatly appreciated!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Dennis recorded with Roy Orbison (not sure that his tracks were the released versions,) and also Classics IV (that's him on "Spooky",) "Let Your Love Flow", "Spiders & Snakes", and the Diamond recordings from "Forever In Blue Jeans" through the Jazz Singer album & movie ("America", "Love On The Rocks" etc.) Also cut albums with The Lettermen, Linda Ronstadt, just a bunch of artists who didn't have their own bands. He had excellent time and a great feel, never any pushing or pulling, it was all smooth. With Diamond in particular, he went for the toms a lot, very evident in "Forever In Blue Jeans", "America" et al.

He did have some cool Slingerland kits, including the All American outift with red/white/blue sparkle concert toms. He was also the drummer who suggested to the president of Slingerland after watching a corps show in Chicago, that the cutaway quds/quints would make cool concert toms. I believe he had the first kit of those, which he eventually bestowed upon me. :)

cutaways-sm.jpg

All-American kit, which he loaned to me for a session in 1975. It was the only kit like it in L.A. - maybe anywhere - and I shouldn't have been surprised when the engineer knew that was Dennis' kit!

_allamerican.jpg

FYI, Neil used Hal Blaine on most of his L.A. recordings (thru about 1975) and described Hal as his favorite drummer. :) So that's Hal on "Cracklin' Rosie", "Sweet Caroline", "Song Sung Blue" etc.

FYI2 - yes, that's a ventriloquist dummy in the bottom photo. 😮
 
Last edited:

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Dennis recorded with Roy Orbison (not sure that his tracks were the released versions,) and also Classics IV (that's him on "Spooky",) "Let Your Love Flow", "Spiders & Snakes", and the Diamond recordings from "Forever In Blue Jeans" through the Jazz Singer album & movie ("America", "Love On The Rocks" etc.) Also cut albums with The Lettermen, Linda Ronstadt, just a bunch of artists who didn't have their own bands. He had excellent time and a great feel, never any pushing or pulling, it was all smooth. With Diamond in particular, he went for the toms a lot, very evident in "Forever In Blue Jeans", "America" et al.

He did have some cool Slingerland kits, including the All American outift with red/white/blue sparkle concert toms. He was also the drummer who suggested to the president of Slingerland after watching a corps show in Chicago, that the cutaway quds/quints would make cool concert toms. I believe he had the first kit of those, which he eventually bestowed upon me. :)

View attachment 94008

All-American kit, which he loaned to me for a session in 1975. It was the only kit like it in L.A. - maybe anywhere - and I shouldn't have been surprised when the engineer knew that was Dennis' kit!

View attachment 94009

FYI, Neil used Hal Blaine on most of his L.A. recordings (thru about 1975) and described Hal as his favorite drummer. :) So that's Hal on "Cracklin' Rosie", "Sweet Caroline", "Song Sung Blue" etc.

FYI2 - yes, that's a ventriloquist dummy in the bottom photo. 😮
Nice kit! I recognize the stool. That's what I sat on when I first touched drums - my brother's Ludwig Blue Sparkle 4-pc with the slotted tom mounts.
 
Top