What I Learned From Roy Burns 40-Years Ago

When I went to Roy Burns’s early 1970’s drum clinic in Moline, Illinois, I don’t think I had ever heard him play – not even on record. I knew of Roy from Rogers drum ads in Down Beat magazine. And I owned Roy’s Drum Set Artistry album – but I don’t remember if I bought it before or after the Moline clinic. It’s likely I bought the album after studying a Down Beat transcription of Roy’s Red Phantom Rides Again drum solo on that album.

Anyway, it was a worthwhile clinic. Here, some 40-years later, are my four take aways from the Burns clinic:

Roy told the clinic goers about a clinic he gave in another state. Roy was at the music shop early and struck up a conversation with a young drummer. Roy asked if the drummer was attending that day’s drum clinic? “No,” said the young drummer, “Roy Burns can’t play.” “Have you ever heard him play?” asked Roy. “No,” said the young drummer. “Well,” Burns replied calmly, “I’m Roy Burns. And if you don’t like my playing – fair enough. But maybe you could at least hear me play before you make that decision.”

At the Moline clinic, Roy was demonstrating drum rudiments on a snare drum. He said the two rudiments drummers practiced least were the single-stroke roll and the double-stroke roll. That made no sense, said Roy, because all of the rudiments were a combination of the single- and double-stroke rolls.

Burns was also asked by a clinic goer if he recommended practicing with heavy drumsticks. Roy said, “No. Do trumpet players practice with rags stuffed in the bell of their trumpets, so it will be easier to blow air through their horns on the gig?”

Thank you, Roy!

-end-

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