Jimmy Davis – The Killer Drum Roll

SKF NOTE: In my junior and senior high school years I had a core group of musician friends who hung out together, listened to records, attended concerts, and reshuffled ourselves into a few band configurations. Clark played piano. George played bass. Our alto sax player was Chris. I didn’t own a drumset until I was 18, so I was usually lead singer. And Neil was the best musician among us, usually handling lead guitar and some lead vocals.

Our usual drummer, Cliff, was a couple of years older than the rest of us and had attended a different high school.

In time, Cliff moved on, and we called a rehearsal in my parents’ garage to try out a new drummer. Jimmy Davis, who was also in our high school, was younger than the rest of us by a grade or two. A shy, unassuming kid, Jimmy owned a four-piece silver sparkle Gretsch drumset with one or two cymbals. Certainly a ride; maybe a crash cymbal too.

I remember Jimmy as a guy who was active in school bands, but not a guy who played in garage bands. In a real way, while this rehearsal would tell the rest of the band if Jimmy was a good fit, Jimmy was checking us out to see if we’d be a good fit for him.

Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” was identified as a song we all knew. We kicked off the tune and when we reach the end of the second verse —

It’s like thunder, lightning
The way you love me is frightening
You better knock, knock on wood, baby

— we expected to hear Jimmy play the standard four eighth-note drum break. Instead, he went in and out of the break playing an accented drum roll that stopped us cold. It was a beautifully played break that impressed the rest of us. It impressed lead guitarist Neil in a way none of us expected.

“I’m going to have to get alot better to play with a guy like that,” said Neil. He returned his Telecaster to its case and left the band, basically going back to the woodshed.

Whatever happened to Jimmy Davis? I don’t know, but I think about him from time-to-time. Even though he turned my musicial world upside down, Jimmy was a good guy and an excellent drummer with a natural flair for the instrument.

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