Art Blakey on Chick Webb’s Drum Lesson

art blakey photos

SKF: Here’s Art Blakey recounting his drum lesson from Chick Webb.

Down Beat: [T]he public in the swing era always looked to the drummer for a wild solo. After that, as time went on, people began to appreciate the drummer for what he was doing all around, musically.

Art Blakey: When I first started playing drums, we had a trap table. I had temple blocks and a stick with a black string on it to the ceiling. …I wasnt playing drums, I was twirling sticks, and I’d say “bam” and throw the stick out, and the people would say “aaaah,” and it’d come back, and I’d catch it. Big deal.

Chick Webb came in to hear me, and he said, “You’re a drummer, kid?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

He said, “Bring your drums in the dressing room.”

So I brought my drum in there; he said, “Roll.”

I said, “Rat-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta.”

He said, “__________,” slammed the door, and walked out.

I said, “Mr. Webb….”

He said, “Look, rhythm is on the drum — it ain’t in the air.”

Source: Drum Talk – Coast to Coast, Down Beat, 3/26/64

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