Freddie Gruber – Greatest Disservice: Drum Teacher to Student

SKF NOTE: Here’s the back story on my interview with Freddie Gruber.

In this part of the interview I ask Freddie, “What do you think is the greatest disservice a teacher can do to a drum student?” And Freddie gives a direct answer.

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James Black on his Drums, Cymbals, Tuning

SKF NOTE: The full back story on this interview is posted on my blog here.

James Black is speaking here from his New Orleans home. I was in my Modern Drummer office. In this excerpt Mr. Black is answering my questions about this 1960s vintage Rogers drumset, his cymbals, and his drum tuning preferences.

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James Black on Playing Brushes

SKF NOTE: The full back story on this interview is posted on my blog here.

In brief, my James Black interview appeared in the December 1982 Modern Drummer. The first person to get me excited about James Black’s drumming was Jaimoe.

Later, Jim Keltner called me from New Orleans where he was touring with Bob Dylan. Jim said James Black was one of the first persons he called when he was there. James attended the Dylan concert, then he and Jim stayed up until the wee hours talking drums.

James tended to give brief first answers to my questions. I would wait for James to finish his thought. Then I would ask for a more detailed answer.

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Joe English: McCartney Gave Me a Fantastic Break

SKF NOTE: Joe English was tough to interview. Here’s what I wrote as part of the feature interview introduction in the June 1986 Modern Drummer:

Joe English agreed to to this interview in 1980. Then he disappeared. In 1983, I got approximately three-fourths of this interview on tape, when Joe disappeared for another three years. I nicknamed him the Howard Hughes of Drumming. I had no positive proof that Joe was a bad guy. He never returned my phone calls or answered my letters, but I have two grandmothers who are guilty of the same thing, and they’re not bad people. The last quarter of this interview was, finally, taped at the tail end of 1985, and I submitted it to MD in March 1986.

This excerpt is from my September 7, 1983 phone interview with Joe English.

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Max Roach and Steve Gadd


SKF NOTE: Yesterday I remembered an early 1980s phone conversation I had with Max Roach.

I couldn’t remember why Mr. Roach and I had the conversation. But this morning I can fill in the blanks.

I was still Modern Drummer’s Managing Editor, because I remember talking with Max at my MD desk, on my MD phone. We were perhaps discussing a Modern Drummer festival. The first MD Festival took place years later, but it’s quite feasible the idea for MD hosting a drummer event was in play. Drum forums and clinics were certainly in play at that time.

I was floating the idea of having Max onstage with one of his contemporaries: Philly Joe Jones, for example.

To my surprise, Max didn’t like that idea, saying something like, “It seems everytime I’m invited to these events, the people in charge want to pair me with Art Blakey or another drummer like that. I’d rather be onstage with Steve Gadd.”

When Max said that, I froze for a moment, picturing my hero, Max Roach, getting carved up onstage, in public, by Steve Gadd.

Max just didn’t have the chops to compete with Gadd. Didn’t Max know that?

Remembering that conversation and my thinking at the time makes me cringe.

Max Roach, as he demonstrated throughout his career, was a pioneer. His point was, why do something that’s been done so often before? Like putting Max onstage with Art Blakey? Why not be creative by doing something like putting an older generation drum pioneer (Roach) onstage with a new generation pioneer (Gadd) and listen to what happens.

Of course, Max Roach was spot on. I had some musical growing up to do.

Instead of fretting over who had the most chops, I should have been imagining the musical possibilities of pairing Steve Gadd and Max Roach.

I’m sorry I missed that.

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Music and Theater: The Maine Community I Know


Music and Theater: The Maine community I know
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • July 30, 2018

Andrew Harris said the last time David Mallett performed at DeerTrees Theatre in Harrison was about 20 years ago. Mr. Harris, DeerTrees’ Artistic and Executive Director, was speaking to the July 21 audience — including me — waiting to hear a live concert from “David Mallett and Friends,” with Michael Burd (bass), Robby Coffin (guitar), Roy Clark (keyboard) and Susan Ramsey (violin, viola, background vocals).

DeerTrees is among unique theaters, movie houses, Grange halls, and churches throughout Maine, given facelifts and renewed purpose for showcasing quality performing artists. In my experience, hearing of these places is mostly through word of mouth, social media, and weekly newspapers.

I spoke by phone this week with Andrew Harris. He said DeerTrees was a dream fulfilled in 1936 for “prominent opera singer Enrica Clay Dillon.” Built “on an old deer run,” using local timber, the 350-seat theatre was the acoustic equal of the best theaters in New York City. Ethel Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Edward Everett Horton, Dame Mae Whitty, and Rudy Vallee are among the distinguished artists appearing at DeerTrees.

Full story on Facebook
Full story on Piscataquis Observer

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Rick Latham Asks for Help with Surgery Expenses


Rick Latham

SKFNOTE: I wanted to pass along this urgent request from a guy I first got to know a little bit back in my Modern Drummer days. If you can help Rick Latham raise $100,000 for medical expenses — I thank you in advance.

Thanks also to “Dave HCV” at for bringing this to my attention.


Rick Latham Surgery And Recovery

Hi Friends,

As I am wrapping up work and all my things here in Milano, I am preparing for my return to L.A. this coming Tuesday, to schedule my surgery. I remain Positive and Confident, Strong and Feeling Great! However, I will certainly feel more relieved after the removal of the mass in my chest. I still need all the help and support I can get and humbly ask for your donations to my GoFundMe campaign, as well as your good thoughts and prayers. Every bit helps and is so much appreciated.

Full story

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