Woody Herman: Davey Tough Was Magic in His Eyes

SKF NOTE: I first heard John Von Ohlen on Stan Kenton’s Stan Kenton Today: Recorded Live in London album. And, son of a gun, I happened upon a YouTube video of the 1972 Kenton band in concert in London — and John Von Ohlen is set up front and center. Nice!

I thoroughly enjoyed my October 12, 1974 interview with John. He was as genuine a human being as he was a drummer. Straight ahead.

Reading through the unedited interview transcript I find gems all over. Here’s John with insight on Woody Herman’s love of drummer Davey Tough.


Scott K Fish: Did you ever have the desire, or the chance, to speak to Woody [Herman] about any of the classic big band drummers that worked with him?

John Von Ohlen: He loved Davey Tough. That was his favorite. He wouldn’t downtrod anybody else — because he had some great drummers — but, Davey Tough was the magic in his eyes. Always was.

There’s a three- or four-record set called The Thundering Herds. Davey’s on a couple of those [tracks]. He’s playing a closed hi-hat and nothing else. The band is smoking on these fast tempos, and if you listen real close, Davey’s playing on the closed hi-hat. But it’s burning.

I’m not saying he played that way all the time, but he was just going at it on the closed hi-hat — and it was really going.

But I never nitpicked Woody’s head too much. Not like I did with Stan Kenton when I was in his band.

But, I know Woody loved Davey Tough, Don Lamond, and Jake Hanna. He loved all those guys.

Jake Hanna was probably my favorite.

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