What Freddie Gruber Made Clear

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SKF NOTE: Starting with my first posting of excerpts of my interview with Freddie Gruber, skeptics came forward asking: Did Freddie ever make any records as a drummer? How could Freddie teach drums if he never demonstrated his ideas while playing on a drumset?

Well-known jazz writer Barry Ulanov wrote his “Shape of Drums to Come” column after seeing Freddie Gruber perform. In the last few months I found, digitized, and posted a phone interview with Jim Chapin describing Freddie Gruber’s drumming back in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Personally, during our interview sitting at Buddy Rich’s NYC apartment kitchen table, Freddie gave me guidance on holding drumsticks, traditional grip, that answered a physical problem I had wrestled with for decades. I was gripping the sticks wrong. Even though I was sure I understood how to hold drumsticks — especially in my left hand — it was impossible for me to develop stick control beyond a certain level.

Much of what Freddie said that afternoon about holding drumsticks I heard before from other sources. Freddie showed me “how,” and was patient in explaining “why” — physically, mechanically — there was an optimal way to hold drumsticks. Even when I questioned him, he wasn’t insulted, he wasn’t dismissive. Freddie answered my questions. He clarified, he took aspects of holding drumsticks that most of my drumming life were muddy, and made them clear.

So, I understand the Doubting Thomas-es needing to see and hear their drum teachers. I had some of that skepticism when I asked Freddie, “Let’s say I’ve come to you for the first time for drum lessons. What happens next?” Freddie answered all my questions, and more, and I know he can teach. Because I learned a great deal from him.

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