In an earlier post I wrote about my interview with Freddie Gruber. It took me a long, long time – and several attempts on different days – to make Freddie relaxed enough to allow me to turn on my tape recorder and interview him.
Today I remembered an incident in the wake of our interview. As was my practice during my years at Modern Drummer magazine with everyone I interviewed, when I had transcribed and edited his interview for publication, I mailed Freddie a copy to review before publication. And I welcomed any corrections or additions he might want to make to the piece.
Freddie read the interview and telephoned me. He was okay with the interview. He told me he had also shown it to Buddy Rich, asking Buddy what he thought about it. (Freddie was in New York City staying as a guest in Buddy Rich’s apartment.)
I asked Freddie THE QUESTION I feared asking, but knew I had to ask: What did Buddy Rich think of the interview?
Freddie said Buddy thought the interview was okay, but he also thought some of the questions I asked Freddie were — I think he used the phrase typical drum interview questions.
I heard that and started feeling defensive, but realized this was a great opportunity for me to improve as a drum writer.
If he had the chance to ask him, I told Freddie, I would love to know what questions Buddy Rich would ask drummers in an interview.
Son of a gun if Freddie Gruber didn’t ask Buddy Rich my question. The only interview question Buddy suggested, said Freddie, was, “What’s the world’s greatest four-bar drum break?”
Freddie continued telling me about his exchange with Buddy while I’m asking myself, “What IS the world’s greatest four-bar drum break?”
Freddie brushed off Buddy’s question as nothing special. “That’s easy!” Freddie said. “Everybody knows that!”
I’m thinking while Freddie’s talking, “They do? I don’t!” And I’m dying to know the answer. But after Freddie’s last remark I wasn’t going to ask, and tip my hand as the woefully ignorant drummer/writer I, at that moment, imagined myself to be.
Mercifully, Freddie finished his story by answering his own question to Buddy: “It’s Shadow Wilson. Queer Street.”
Modern Drummer Features Editor Rick Mattingly later asked Buddy about his Queer Street remark. As I recall, Buddy modify his world’s greatest four-bar drum break remark a bit. Shadow Wilson’s wasn’t the only drum break to fit that category, citing Bobby Colomby’s drum break in the Blood, Sweat and Tears song, Spinning Wheel as another example.
Buddy’s point: It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a better drum break for those two songs.