‘Twas a Drummer Invented Country Rock: Jon Corneal

SKF NOTE: Interesting news story. I’ve listened to – and like – a lot of country rock since I owned an advance copy of The Byrds’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo in 1968. But I confess I was not familiar with drummer Jon Corneal until reading this item. Looking forward to learning more about his music and career.

The Byrds drummer, country-rock pioneer plays Fort Myers show
CHARLES RUNNELLS, CRUNNELLS@NEWS-PRESS.COM

You’ve probably never heard of Jon Corneal. But if you’re a fan of ‘60s and ‘70s country rock, you’ve almost certainly heard his music.

The Auburndale, Florida, native is often name-checked as the genre’s very first drummer, and you can hear his playing on classic country-rock albums by…The Flying Burrito Brothers (“Gilded Palace of Sin”) and The International Submarine Band (“Safe at Home”).

Corneal’s friend Gram Parsons often gets credit for inventing the genre, but Corneal insists he’s the one who came up with the idea first.

Corneal…says he introduced Parsons to country music and played with him in early ‘60s rock band The Legends and later pioneering country-rockers….

Corneal, 68, says he came up with the idea of combining country and rock while touring in the ‘60s. His band and crew members often played country radio stations on the road, and they’d usually stop at country bars to listen to the jukebox and live bands. Then, when he returned home, he’d go back to listening to rock ‘n’ roll.

Soon, the two sounds started to merge in his mind, and “country rock” was born: Country songs with electric guitars, pop melodies, a driving drum beat and a rock ‘n’ roll attitude.

Corneal…says he’ll play “some of the authentic sounds of country rock” — music from what he calls the “canon” of ‘50s and ‘60s country songs that all the great country-rock bands pulled from. Songs such as Ray Price’s “I’ve Got a New Heartache” and Dale Noe’s “It’s Such a Pretty World Today.”

“I’ve been doing this for 55 years!” Corneal says. “People don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve been doing this for 55 years.”

Corneal blames his anonymity largely on his chosen instrument: The drums. Drummers are almost always pushed to the back of the stage and hidden from music fans — who usually pay more attention to the singer and guitarist, anyway.

Corneal says he’s not bitter about being ignored by music historians and country-rock fans, but he’d still like to get some credit.

“I hate to toot my horn, but I’ve paid my dues,” he says. “Gram gets all the press. Which is crazy, because he’s dead and he doesn’t need the acknowledgment!”

Full Story 

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