Frankie Dunlop – Johnny Rowland Showed Me Key to Coordination

SKF NOTE: An excerpt from the edited transcript of my 1984 interview with Frankie Dunlop.

Just before this part of the interview we had been discussing Frankie’s formative years as a drummer. The reference here to Charli Persip and Ed Shaughnessy is from earlier in our discussion, Frankie talked about watching those two drummers in New York City jazz clubs, studying their hand-feet coordination and their use of double-bass drums.


Frankie Dunlop: [T]he one who really showed me the key to coordination was my teacher in Buffalo, Johnny Rowland. When I left Buffalo to move to New York, he’d been percussionist with the Buffalo Symphony for thirty to forty years. I’ve been in New York [City] for twenty-five years and Johnny’s still with the Symphony. So he’s got to be seventy-five, eighty years old.

He’s a very good instructor. He had that love in his heart and a will to share his knowledge for a small amount of money. And he didn’t have to do that. And even though he was involved with symphonic pieces and the classics, he knew just what to teach a new drummer so he could play jazz or whatever he wanted to play.

If you asked a thousand young drummers if they wanted to study with the percussionist from the Buffalo Symphony they’d say, “No. I can’t get what I want out of a cat who’s playing in a symphony. I’m a jazz drummer.”

But my experience was the complete opposite. I learned more about coordination from Johnny Rowland at a time when even the average drummer in Buffalo thought it was a drag that I was studying with him.

He showed me all the intricacies and gave me the kingpin lessons in all the things that would lead me to coordination and independence. How to be able to play modern. And I realized from one simple little exercise that you could practice on your knees that this was the same kind of stuff that I heard [Charli] Persip and [Ed] Shaghnessy playing.

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