If Ringo Wants to Be in Our Magazine

SKF NOTE: Memories of Modern Drummer magazine co-founder Isabel Spagnardi make me smile. Isabel was MD publisher Ron Spagnardi’s wife. I don’t, and didn’t, know the specifics of Isabel’s work at MD. My impression is, and was, that she, as wives often do, took care of the nuts-and-bolts of MD‘s business while Ron focused on creating each MD issue.

Isabel was something. I liked her very much. She, I think, liked me and my work. But I think I puzzled her. I was a bit of a riddle, even though I never meant to be. Isabel, in turn, sometimes surprised me with her reactions to my actions.

Take the night I set up the Dec. 1981/Jan. 1982 Modern Drummer interview with Ringo Starr.

My managing editor salary was $12,000 a year. I lived in one room with no cooking facilities in a New Jersey rooming house. The other tenants were mostly transients, guys working temporary jobs who needed a place to stay for their job’s duration.

I called Ringo at his Los Angeles home from the black wall payphone in the rooming house hallway. In those days I could charge after-hours business phone calls from that payphone to MD. This was the early 1980s. Pre-smartphones. I was calling Ringo at the time I was asked to call.

A gentleman answered the phone in LA. I identified myself and explained my reason for calling. The gentleman asked me to please hold.

A moment later Ringo came to the phone. I think I did okay trying to sound normal. In truth, I felt out-of-place speaking to the guy who, by his Ed Sullivan Show appearances and Beatles records, was a major influence on my life starting when I was age 12.

Ringo and I had a short, cordial talk. I focused on the task. I was just doing my managing editor job, making sure Robyn Flans would be all set for her exclusive Ringo interview.

Days later, when Isabel received MD‘s monthly phone bill, she asked me why I’d placed that night call to Los Angeles.

I explained I was arranging Ringo’s interview. After my explanation, I half expected some show of understanding, if not appreciation, for my initiative. After all, there was no overtime pay, no comp time. It was just me doing what needed doing to secure Ringo’s interview.

But, after I finished speaking, Isabel stared at me in silence, then said, “If Ringo Starr wants to be in our magazine he can call us during normal business hours.”

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Check Out ‘The Drummer’s Devotional’ Podcast


SKF NOTE: On January 18, 2022 I received an email from Jeremy Brieske (pronounced Brisk-ee). Mr. Brieske’s podcast, The Drummer’s Devotional, is, “A one-year project where we learn about a different drummer every day.”

Professionally produced, Brieske’s podcast episodes are short and to the point. Listeners are given a crash course of bio and music on each drummer. Then, I suppose, it’s up to individual listeners to seek out more info on their own.

I like the format.

Mr. Brieske wrote me on Jan. 18 to tell me he used my Smoky Dacus interview as backgrounder for Smoky’s episode of The Drummer’s Devotional. Brieske presents a solid portrait of Smoky in just over seven minutes.

I also learned I can better serve readers of this blog by offering the spelling of certain names as they sound. After listening to Smoky’s Devotional I added to his first blog post here that his last name, Dacus, is pronounced (Day-cuss).

Throughout the internet, Dacus’s nickname is spelled either “Smokey” or “Smoky.” Again, I used “Smokey” when I transcribed and posted his interview. I just now found Dacus’s gravestone. The name carved there is “Smoky.” I will make the correction throughout this blog.

At any rate, I’m happy the interview was of help to Jeremy Brieske and his The Drummer’s Devotional. It’s a fun, instructive podcast available on Spotify.

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The Outfit of Famous Drummers 1964

SKF NOTE: I never owned a Ludwig drumset, but in 1964 this full-page magazine ad was a dream builder or me. I wouldn’t own a drumset for another five years, and my first set was a mutt kit of Gretsch and no-name Japanese drums.

Interestingly, this $464 drum package (drums and cymbals) would cost $4,173.04 in 2021. The cumulative rate of inflation since 1964 is almost 800-percent.

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Calling Jimmy Davis of Centerport, NY

SKF NOTE: Jimmy Davis was a grade or two behind me at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, NY. He was a quiet kid, shy, with a good sense of humor.

He was also an outstanding drummer with deep jazz roots who loved Tony Williams. Jimmy’s drumset, like the Gretsch four-piece post here, was modeled after Tony’s signature drumset with Miles’s Second Great Quintet.

Around 1969, my friends/garage band members and I invited Jimmy to try out with our band as a replacement for our regular drummer who had just quit.

Knock on Wood is the only song I remember rehearsing in my parents’ garage that day. Instead of the song’s stock tap-tap-tap-tap break, Jimmy played a blistering drum interlude that absolutely dispirited our guitarist. While removing his guitar and putting it back in its case, the guitarist said, “I’m going to have to get a lot better if I’m going to play with that guy.”

And that was that. What began as a trial for a new drummer ended up with the total break-up of the band.

My sister, Maribeth, texted me today looking for Jimmy Davis. She’s part of a committee looking to notify all the members of Maribeth’s high school graduating class of an upcoming class reunion.

I told her the last time I saw Jimmy Davis he was living upstate New York in a town whose name I can’t recall. And I told her I’d see if I could find him.

So, Jimmy, if you read this blog and you have an interest in your high school reunion – please send me an email through this blog.


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Barry Keane – Recording Lightfoot’s ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’

SKF NOTE: Excerpt from our January 13, 2022 interview. Barry Keane has been drumming with Gordon Lightfoot on record and onstage for 46 years. Here he shares the story of how the classic song, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, was recorded in one take.

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