Shelly Manne: A Bluish Bag

SKF NOTE: Going through my old cassettes, looking for keeper material and discarding the rest, I found a 90-minute tape of one of my Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon radio programs on WMHB at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

That day, June 18, 1989, I included A Bluish Bag among the tracks I played.

This version of Shelly Manne and His Men is one of my favorite jazz groups of all jazz groups: Shelly (drums), Monty Budwig (bass), Conte Condoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (alto sax), Mike Wofford (piano).

What jumped out at me the first time I heard A Bluish Bag was Monty Budwig’s bowed walking bass lines through the entire song. Uptempo too.

A cool arrangement — with some tasty Shelly Manne, and strong work by all the players.

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Preserving Maine’s Country Music Legacy

It’s important to preserve Maine’s country music legacy
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • April 14, 2018

One afternoon in 1973, legendary country musician Johnny Cash was writing to his 18-year-old daughter, Roseanne, at a table in his tour bus. When he finished, Cash handed Roseanne a song list he titled, “100 Essential Country Songs.” “Here’s your education,” he told her.

Earlier that day the two were on the bus, swapping songs. “I was on the road with dad, and we were just talking about songs. And I said I don’t know this one, I don’t know that one. Then I said I don’t know that one either. He grew alarmed,” Roseanne told an interviewer.

Thirty-six years later, 54-year-old Roseanne Cash picked a dozen songs from the 100 and recorded her album titled, “The List.”

Roseanne had learned all 100 songs, “The list was kind of a template for a personal legacy, and…for what great songs sounded like.… At this point in my life I’m not only interested in my ancestry, I’m interested in my musical ancestry. It wasn’t just a personal legacy, it’s a cultural legacy.”

Cash’s list and the importance of musical cultural legacy was on my mind this week visiting the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Mechanic Falls….

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Sandy Nelson: I Basically Had One Drumset

SKF NOTE: Let There Be Drums, Drums Are My Beat, Birth of the Beat — Sandy Nelson had a string of drum solo hit records I loved. So did lots of other drummers and pop music fans. I was glad to have the chance to interview Sandy Nelson (May 13, 1982) for my History of Rock Drumming series. After an initial rough start phone call, Mr. Nelson was very gracious with his knowledge and time.

Here’s an excerpt from the Sandy Nelson transcribed interview where Sandy describes the drumset he used on all his hit records.


Scott K Fish: Did you use the same drumset on all those records?

Sandy Nelson: Yeah. I basically had one set in those days. I wasn’t like the other session men where they had two or three [drumsets]. I had a Ludwig silver sparkle. I’m still using it now, but I’ve painted it black. In the place I’m playing, it looks good. It’s just the old Ludwig drums. I bought them in 1962.

But I have to admit — the drum world would understand this — that I’m not using the Ludwig bass drum. I’m using a Gretsch. It punches through a lot better.

Primarily, Let There Be Drums was two small tom-toms, then the regular floor tom 16-inch, and nothing special about the snare. Just a regular standard Ludwig snare about 1962 vintage.

I don’t have that snare anymore. I wish I did. But I have one like it that’s a little deeper. I think it’s 8-inches. It’s still an oldie too.

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What Freddie Gruber Made Clear


SKF NOTE: Starting with my first posting of excerpts of my interview with Freddie Gruber, skeptics came forward asking: Did Freddie ever make any records as a drummer? How could Freddie teach drums if he never demonstrated his ideas while playing on a drumset?

Well-known jazz writer Barry Ulanov wrote his “Shape of Drums to Come” column after seeing Freddie Gruber perform. In the last few months I found, digitized, and posted a phone interview with Jim Chapin describing Freddie Gruber’s drumming back in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Personally, during our interview sitting at Buddy Rich’s NYC apartment kitchen table, Freddie gave me guidance on holding drumsticks, traditional grip, that answered a physical problem I had wrestled with for decades. I was gripping the sticks wrong. Even though I was sure I understood how to hold drumsticks — especially in my left hand — it was impossible for me to develop stick control beyond a certain level.

Much of what Freddie said that afternoon about holding drumsticks I heard before from other sources. Freddie showed me “how,” and was patient in explaining “why” — physically, mechanically — there was an optimal way to hold drumsticks. Even when I questioned him, he wasn’t insulted, he wasn’t dismissive. Freddie answered my questions. He clarified, he took aspects of holding drumsticks that most of my drumming life were muddy, and made them clear.

So, I understand the Doubting Thomas-es needing to see and hear their drum teachers. I had some of that skepticism when I asked Freddie, “Let’s say I’ve come to you for the first time for drum lessons. What happens next?” Freddie answered all my questions, and more, and I know he can teach. Because I learned a great deal from him.

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Krupa: The Sound That Launched a Million Drummers

SKF NOTE: I am among the millions of drummers first inspired by Gene Krupa’s sound to play drums and study drumming. Krupa has described his role in drum history as making the drummer a high priced guy. Others say Krupa was first to bring drummers to the public’s attention.

There’s no question Krupa’s influence is great, and cuts across many musical styles. Jazz drummers, rock drummers, country drummers — they all point to Gene Krupa’s primary influence.

This is a great movie short of Krupa fronting one of his big bands and trio. The soundtrack seems slightly out of sync with the movie, but it also appears to be a film of Krupa playing live. Unlike a few interesting Krupa clips where he is clearly mimicking, playing along with a pre-recorded song.

Notice Krupa uses his snare drum, not a ride cymbal, as his primary timekeeping instrument. In fact, he really has no ride cymbal. The year 1947 was right on the cusp of Kenny Clarke‘s innovation: keeping time on the ride cymbal.

At one point here, for a second or two, you see Krupa playing with his left (snare drum) arm held above, not below, his right (hi-hat) arm. This awkward way of playing is one reason Kenny Clarke said he first tried using a ride cymbal, liked it, and soon that way of playing drumset stuck.

Krupa’s snare drum playing here with big band and trio is exactly the sound that grabbed my attention on record more than a half-century ago. It’s very musical. Combined with Krupa’s showmanship it’s easy to see why so many people — musicians and listener’s — liked him.

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Henry Glover: Remembering Levon Helm

SKF NOTE: This is an excerpt from a 22-minute recorded interview I did around 1982 with American songwriter, arranger, record producer Henry Glover. I was, according to what I told Mr. Glover at the start of this interview, just four months into my research for the five-part “History of Rock Drumming” published in Modern Drummer.

My plan is to transcribe the Glover interview and post it on my Life Beyond the Cymbals blog.

Meanwhile, this audio clip features Glover talking about discovering The Band. Glover was an A&R man for Roulette records when Ronnie Hawkins came in to record some songs. Hawkins’s backup band was the musicians who later left Hawkins to form their own group: The Band.

A major Levon Helm fan at the time of this interview, I was intrigued by Henry Glover’s stories of Levon as a drummer, as co-founder of the RCO All-Stars, working on The Last Waltz, and producing the wonderful Muddy Waters’s Woodstock Album.

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Music Fans Stuck in the ’60s


SKF NOTE: I write a weekly column in Maine for the Piscataquis Observer newspaper. Sometimes my columns are about music. Like this week’s column.

A lot of music fans are stuck in the ‘60s
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • April 2, 2018

“I’m stuck in the ‘60s,” Eileen said, explaining her choice of music on her iPod and car radio. Lots of Beach Boys, Four Seasons, Motown, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and so on. Now and then — almost as if the iPod is weary of hearing the same tunes — the song rotation plays Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” or Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy” — some wonderful ‘60s songs that, to my ears, never grow stale.

There’s no telling on any given day what’s on my personal MP3 player. Those of you reading my column recently won’t be surprised when I tell you my MP3 player includes several podcast episodes. Music? It depends on my mood. But chances are excellent I’m listening to one or more jazz albums, usually a Miles Davis album. Recently, I’m discovering vibist Cal Tjader’s albums with percussionists Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria.

Jazz as a music genre is tough to define. One reason is the way jazz has changed and continues changing over time, always a reflection of the times, with a small number of visionary musicians leading the musical stylistic changes. So Louis Armstrong was a jazz pioneer starting in the 1920s with both his trumpet playing and singing. Thirty years later trumpet player Miles Davis began emerging as a different sounding visionary.

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