Freddie Gruber Has No Recordings; How Do We Know He Can Teach?

SKF NOTE: If there are no band or performance recordings of drum teachers — how do we know if what they’re teaching is valid?

Rafik Mankarios (or someone able to post under Mr. Mankarios’s “RM Drums” YouTube account) listened to this Freddie Gruber audio excerpt on my YouTube page, Freddie Gruber: Learning, Teaching Awareness of Rhythm, Melody, Harmony in Drumming, and posted this response:

Unbelievable how even the legends have fallen in the overblown, over exaggerated, overdramatized myth of Freddie Gruber…of whom you will not find a SINGLE DRUM TRACK, audio or video of his SUPPOSED playing! He’s never gotten further in his ”lessons” than how to hold sticks, and a philosophy on life!!! Sheeps following the piper…?

In the early 1980s, when preparing to interview Freddie for Modern Drummer, I faced the same lack of Freddie Gruber recorded material. Rather than dismiss Freddie’s teaching, I took a different approach, speaking with respected drummers who saw and heard Freddie when he was an active drummer. Also, I read the famous 1947 Metronome The Shapes of Drums to Come column about Freddie by one the most respected jazz writers, Barry Ulanov.

An interview with Freddie was first suggested to me, I believe, by Jim Keltner. The interview took place in Buddy Rich’s NYC apartment – one of Freddie’s closest friends. Around the same time period I celebrated Mel Lewis’s birthday in Mel’s NYC apartment with Freddie and Adam Nussbaum.

When I spoke with Jim Chapin, author of the famous Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer book, he had high praise for Freddie Gruber. Mr. Chapin, during our phone conversation, actually mouthed an example of how Freddie Gruber’s drum solos sounded, because that was easier than trying to put that sound into words.

Neil Peart met and studied with Freddie and, after Freddie’s death, Neil provided the biographical tribute on The Official Site of Freddie Guber.

And, during my interview of Freddie Gruber, he helped me solve a nagging physical question of mine which I wrote about here.

I’ve learned my whole life from drummers, from non-drummer musicians, without knowing or caring if they had ever cut a record. And I’ve heard stories praising local drummers — like Gaetan Caviola — who I did hear on two albums. But based strictly on those two albums, I would not have put Mr. Caviola in the same class as Louis Bellson, as did musicians I met in Iowa and Illinois who knew Caviola personally.

Fair enough if one drum teacher’s methods don’t hit home with us. But as far as dismissing Freddie Gruber as a teacher I close with my favorite Sherlock Holmes admonition: “How dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”

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