SKF NOTE: In August of last year I posted The Day Jimmy Madison Rescued Joe Morello. I remembered Jimmy Madison telling that story and I wanted to share it.
Yesterday I found the transcript of my interview with Jimmy Madison. Madison’s feature interview was published in October 1982 Modern Drummer. So here, in Jimmy Madison’s own words, verbatim, is the story of how Madison rescued Joe Morello. If I may say so, this original telling is better than I remembered.
Anyone know what Jimmy Madison is doing these days? I’ve searched the web for clues, coming up mostly empty.
Right before my lead question here, Jimmy Madison was telling me how he learned to play drums listening to Dave Brubeck Quartet with Joe Morello records.
Scott K Fish: Did you know what he [Joe Morello] was doing or were you going by sound?
Jimmy Madison: Mostly going by sound. But then, every time I would see him…. When I was 13 or 14, from having listened to Dave Brubeck records for a couple of years, the Dave Brubeck Quartet played in Cincinatti at a place called Castle Farms. It was one of those huge airport size hanger places with the fake palm trees. A big dance hall type place like out of the ’40s.
Brubeck played there and I went to see my hero, Joe Morello. I took my friend, Randy Bass, who was the other real good drummer in town. We got there early and the manager said, “The band’s not here yet. They’re coming from the airport and they’re going to come in the back door. I’ll give you a deal. You can sit on the stage with them if you’ll watch the back door for when they show up, so I don’t have to bother with it.”
So, we said, “Right!” We watched the door and they showed up in a station wagon from the airport, and we helped them bring the drums in and everything. We met Joe [Morello] and said, “It’s great to meet you.” He’s such a nice guy. And he’s always been a nice guy. He was like, “Yeah, guys. What’s going on?”
He started setting up the drums and I looked in the case and there was no snare drum.
I said, “Where’s your snare drum?”
He said, “Oh, you know. I just got one of those new Super Sensitive snare drums.”
This was when Ludwig first developed them. Before they were even released. And they had given [Morello] one to test out. He was in a New York airport and somebody stole it!
There was a dance band there in between the Quartet, and [Joe] was going to use the guy’s snare. It was an old drummer with an old, beat up shitty snare drum.
I said, “Listen, I’ve got the same snare drum you use.” The regular metal shell drum. “I’ll call my folks. They’ll bring the drum and you can use it.”
Joe said, “Great.”
My parents brought the drum down and got in for free. Joe played my drum all night, and Randy and I just sat, like, five feet away from him checking him out.
That was the first time I ever heard Take Five. Joe was playing all this shit and Randy and I were transfixed. I had never heard anything like that before. Guys like Max Roach never even came to Cincinnati. So we were flipping out.
Joe signed [my snare] drumhead and all that.
Years after that, whenever the Brubeck Quartet would play Cincinnati — and they use to play The Ohio Valley Jazz Festival — we would be right there waiting for them at the gate. We’d take the drums in and set them up for free. And we’d get in for free. And we were like Joe’s mascots.
Whenever we would do that, and everything was ready to go, and there was time to kill, Joe would say, “Come on, guys.” And however many there were of us drummers, he would take us and beat on a windowsill and show us things. He gave us a drum lesson right on the spot.
I learned how to do a lot of that finger drumming — which I have since forgotten. [Joe Morello] was my main influence through most of my high school years. Then, abruptly, I had this piano player named Ed Farr, and he was into John Coltrane.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Madison
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