Sandy Nelson: Introductory Phone Conversation with Scott K Fish (1982) 

SKF NOTE: Finding snippets of unrelated phone conversations within my Modern Drummer interview cassettes is affecting how I digitize my cassettes. These unrelated snippets are also reminders of my work habits — and my work-around tricks — pre-internet, pre-digital sound.

Case in point: This green 90-minute cassette is relabeled “Bill Maxwell 8/17/82” on side A. Side B was originally marked as Side A of my phone interview with Owen Hale on 1/12/82. But I scribbled out that info and wrote “Sandy Nelson” on that side of the green cassette.

What’s actually recorded on this green cassette?


Mostly it’s Bill Maxwell’s interview. Bill was in New York City on business — including a Radio City Music Hall concert with Andrae Crouch, The Winans, and Shirley Caeser — and wanted to come to the MD offices to say hello, and to conduct his interview.

Blank audiocassettes were usually at a premium in MD‘s office during my time there (1980-1983). Ideally, I could have kept all of my cassette interviews intact. That is, it would have been great having blank cassettes on hand, but I didn’t.

I’m sure I had already transcribed Owen Hale’s interview, which was published in the November 1982 Modern Drummer — ten months after I interviewed Owen. When Bill Maxwell showed up in my office and agreed (suggested?) we do his interview right then and there — I bet I had no new cassettes, so I grabbed the best of my on hand tapes and recorded over Owen Hale’s interview. (Sorry, Owen.)

Then, after transcribing Bill Maxwell’s interview tapes, I must have needed a tape to record my conversations with drummers and other people I was cold calling for my MD “History of Rock Drumming” series. I would hook up my trusty old Radio Shack suction cup mic and tape recorder to my MD land line telephone, and start the tape rolling before I dialed the phone number. That way, I would have backup information (dates, phone numbers, names, etc.) in case I was unable to take notes while speaking on the phone. Plus, I could be more relaxed and focused for my conversations.

So, Side B of this green cassette begins with what I believe is Earl Van Dyke’s phone answering machine and me leaving him a voice message. Mr. Van Dyke was keyboardist and bandleader of Motown’s famed Funk Brothers studio band.

Next on Side B is this recording of my brief, first (phone) conversation with the great Sandy Nelson. I later interviewed Sandy for “The History of Rock Drumming.” I posted the transcript of our interview here. Later, I believe someone (Robyn Flans?) did an MD feature length interview with Sandy.

I don’t know if my nervousness comes across in this soundfile. But I was very nervous. Sandy Nelson was a major influence. I owned and listen to his drum solo 45-rpm hit singles — Let There Be Drums, Drums Are My Beat — time after time. Just getting to speak with him was an honor. And when Sandy tells me at the start of our conversation, “You got the wrong Sandy Nelson” – I had to think quick to — hopefully — persuade him to talk with me.

Finally, Side B of this green cassette ends with an excellent remaining segment from Owen Hale’s 1/12/82 interview, with Owen answering an MD reader’s question, “Is it possible to earn a living as a studio drummer?”

For now, here’s Sandy Nelson.

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Bill Maxwell on Learning Bebop Drumming (1981)

: Andrae Crouch, The Winans, Freddie Hubbard, Koinonia — Bill Maxwell’s work as drummer and producer is among the best. Bill first came to my attention through my ears in 1981. No pre-judging on my part. The full story of my meeting and interviewing Bill Maxwell is posted here.

My typed transcript of Bill’s interview is 61 pages — at least twice as much material than space allowed in his MD feature. Here’s another excerpt.


Scott K Fish: How did you develop your Bebop drumming?

Bill Maxwell: There was always moonlighting. We would do maybe one jazz song a set. There was this Black club called Trevor’s Club in Oklahoma City where I grew up. It was a great place for me. I started going there when I was about sixteen. They had Sonny Stitt, Roland Kirk, Kenny Burrell — mostly the Black traveling club acts. I’d go hear them all.

Roland Kirk was very nice to me when I was sixteen. I would talk with him about music and his feelings. He could tell I really appreciated it — and he let me play with him. He was real encouraging.

In those kind of situations I’d play Bebop.

There was some pretty good musicians around there and we would do things at night. After everybody quit we would have instruments set up out in the area. We’d all go out and get loaded and set up and play free music. Anything that came to our mind — no form — and we’d just see how long it would take us to do it. And we’d get into Bebop in that.

Posted in Backgrounder Interviews, SKF Blog | Tagged , , , ,

Rod Morgenstein: How I Got My Drum Sound on Dixie Dregs’s ‘Industry Standard’ Album

SKF NOTE: Sometimes, when drummers such as Rod Morgenstein, or drum industry people, were willing to answer Modern Drummer readers’ questions by phone, I would grab the nearest cassette, tape the call, and transcribe the answer for publication. I never thought that 35-years up the road I’d be digitizing these calls and making them available for the drumming historical record. The sound quality is less than perfect, but audible.

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The Oak Ridge Boys’ Drummer Fred Satterfield Interview (1981)

SKF NOTE: I don’t remember precisely how I came to interview Fred Satterfield. Photographer John Lee, who had established himself in country music circles as a skilled, reliable pro, may have suggested Fred for a Modern Drummer interview. John was with me either in New Jersey or Pennsylvania when we went to see the Oak Ridge Boys in concert. The band had a crossover hit song, Elvira — and they were excellent musicians and singers.

The Oak’s band was much more than a backup band of players who stayed in the background while the Oak Ridge Boys sang. At the afternoon concert I attended, yes, the singers were the headliners, but all the musicians onstage performed as a band.

“Honor your health, keep a positive attitude, and stay fluid,” Fred says in closing this interview. That’s still great advice.

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Tony Williams: ‘A Tribute to Miles’ Photo (1994)


SKF NOTE: A unique photo of Tony Williams by Hiroyuki Arakawa from the A Tribute To Miles CD booklet. The music is a mix of studio and live performances by Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet minus Miles Davis. Sometimes the group recorded and performed in various incarnations as the VSOP Quintet. The rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams was consistent throughout the VSOP recordings. The trumpet player on A Tribute to Miles is Wallace Roney.

Posted in Drum/Music News, SKF Blog | Tagged , , ,

Scott K Fish’s Choice for ‘Super Slick’ Drum Intro Du Moment

Derek Martin’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone

sue_recordsSKF NOTE: Production and sales of music cassettes were declining. Music CDs were gaining in popularity. Retail stores — mostly music and big box stores – often had cut-out bins piled high with music cassettes. It was a great time for collectors. When I spotted cassettes I thought I should have in my collection, I bought them, not knowing if I’d ever have a chance to own that music again.

Eventually, I stopped listening to tapes. More music than I ever imagined became available on CDs and then digital music. But I kept boxes of music tapes for years, and now I am able to digitize that music and listen to it.

From Sue Records: 1958-1966 Itchy Twitchy Feelings comes Derek Martin’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone. I don’t know any of the session musicians. My hope is someone reading this post will know and tell the rest of us.

But here’s my point: This drum intro is so slick — it had me laughing when I first heard it yesterday. It still has me smiling. Well done. Using a baseball analogy, it’s as if the snare drum is a runner racing to steal a base, and at the last moment the runner slides into the bass drum: Safe!

Posted in Audio, SKF Blog | Tagged , ,

Rethinking Customers Who Acted Stupid

scottkfish_barndoor_drumsticksSKF NOTE: Thinking back on my years as a professional drummer, there were very, very few times I snapped in anger at customers. The common thread involved someone mistreating my drums because they were drunk, showing off, or just lacked respect.

One quiet weekday night I was sitting alone at the rear of the Steamboat Lounge, Davenport, IA on a band break. The lounge was a rectangular building with a raised platform stage for the Millard Cowan Trio near the dance floor.

The upper floor offered customers tables and chairs with an open view of the dance floor and bandstand. But, as I said, this was a slow night – possibly a Monday – and the Steamboat Lounge was almost empty. That’s why I wasn’t certain I heard a short metallic ping sound from one of my cymbals onstage.

From my seat at the back of the club the stage lights were dimmed. Nobody was onstage, and no one was near my drumset. A moment later I heard a second short metallic ping and whispering from the balcony.

Walking quietly toward my drums, still looking for the the ping source, I spotted a well-dressed adult couple standing above my drumset, a short distance from the white balcony railing. We made eye contact.

I can’t remember our specific conversation, but I do remember the man telling me, in his very nonchalant manner, that he had been dropping pennies from the balcony onto my cymbals.

“How would you like it if I went to your office and dropped stuff all over your desk?” I asked. I told the couple the drums and cymbals were my work tools, which I had worked years to buy, always treated them with great care, and what in the world made this pair think it was okay to drop pennies on someone else’s musical instrument?

I was angry. The couple apologized. Later, the club owner, Millard Cowan, told me the way I handled that incident “wasn’t cool.” I deferred to Millard, but I didn’t fully agree with him, and I was disappointed Millard didn’t also see my side of the story.

I was 23-24 years old. Maybe it was the tail end of a bad day, and strangers dropping pennies on my drumset was the straw that broke the Fish’s back.

In hindsight? I would be angry, but I would first try handling the situation more diplomatically. My behavior reflected on Millard’s club — which I wasn’t thinking about at the time. And perhaps I could have turned the situation(s) into a teachable moment.

Posted in Revisiting My Life in Music, SKF Blog | Tagged , , , , ,