SKF NOTE: Joe English was tough to interview. Here’s what I wrote as part of the interview introduction in the June 1986 Modern Drummer:
“Joe English agreed to to this interview in 1980. Then he disappeared. In 1983, I got approximately three-fourths of this interview on tape, when Joe disappeared for another three years. I nicknamed him the Howard Hughes of Drumming. I had no positive proof that Joe was a bad guy. He never returned my phone calls or answered my letters, but I have two grandmothers who are guilty of the same thing, and they’re not bad people. The last quarter of this interview was, finally, taped at the tail end of 1985, and I submitted it to MD in March 1986.”
I left MD’s employ in 1983. Rather than have someone else finish them, I had Ron Spagnardi’s okay to complete a handful of interviews I started. Joe English was one of them.
Today I came across Joe English’s recent video testimonial in which he asks fans of his Christian music to forgive him because, he says, it was all a sham. “Jesus was not in the music I was doing,” Joe says in his testimonial. And Joe explains what could be reasons for his frequent disappearing acts while I was trying to complete his interview.
I’m glad Joe has his life together. I still think the Joe English Band released several excellent albums. They weren’t just good Christian music, they were good music. I was not, as Joe says in his testimonial, in awe of him because he had played and recorded with Paul McCartney. I liked the Joe English Band: the songs, the message, and Joe’s singing and drumming.
This excerpt from our interview appears in the 1986 MD interview. I like it for what Joe says about our mutual friend Jaimo.
Joe English: When I moved near to Macon, Georgia I lived on a farm that was owned by the Allman Brothers Band. I had heard about them from their first album when I was living in Syracuse.
Theirs was a real different sound.
When I lived on the farm I use to go to Jaimoe’s house. I didn’t know how good a drummer Jaimo was. He played good with the Allman Brothers, but when I went to his house and heard him play – he was incredible. I said, “This is the guy who’s on the record?”
So I told Jaimoe that I wanted to get a few lessons from him. He says, “Joe, you don’t need any lessons.” I said, “Okay. Don’t call them lessons. Let’s hang out together.”
Jaimoe’s idea of a lesson was to lay on the floor and listen to John Coltrane for a long time. And then listen to Elvin Jones. And then to go from his stereo room into his music room and just play together for hours on end. Those were some incredible times.
I use to tell people how incredible Jaimoe was. They wouldn’t know. It was as if it was Jaimoe’s secret. I don’t think he ever got a chance to really get outside, like he would when he wasn’t with the Allman Brothers. He completely blew me away.
When I tell people what a musical highlight that was, they think that I must have just gotten caught up in the who Allman Brothers scene. But it was the furthest thing from that.
I had dabbled with jazz, but I went from not doing it at all to getting into that kind of jazz. I’d just come out of Jaimoe’s house sweating.
And before he and I ever got together he told me that he and I would have to go over some things.
The first thing he had me do was take my drums completely apart. I stripped every part, cleaned them, and put them back together. And then we’d play. Maybe that was for discipline. It makes me laugh to think about it now, but it was some serious practice. It was good. I got a whole different outlook on drumming. A quick lesson in how to play outside.
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