RIP Zutty Singleton (1975)

SKF NOTE: My self-study of drummers started in the 1960s. By age 14 I started my lifelong study of the history of drummers, drums, and drumming. Liner notes, magazines, local jazz radio stations, and books were my prime information sources. Music albums were available as vinyl 33 1/3 RPM long-playing records, holding an average 20-minutes of music per side. An album with a total 45-minutes of music was a bonus.

This October 9, 1975 Zutty Singleton obituary (Down Beat) reminds me of how difficult it was, for many years, to find records of some of the noted drummers. With the first historical drummers, like Zutty, who started recording in 1928, recording techniques didn’t do drummers justice. The popular 78-RPM records were limited to about two-and-a-half minutes per song. Drummers were often forced to record with partial drumsets. Bass drums, for instance, were verboten or covered with muffling blankets.

Obit writer Arnold Jay Smith tells us Zutty started as a New Orleans drummer who became “a major influence on Chicagoans George Wettling and Dave Tough.”

“His solos were not mere show-offy flaying of sticks, but improvisations that interwove the melody with drum, cymbals, sticks and brushes into a quiltwork…,” writes Smith.

Digital technology has made all kinds of music available as never before. Want to see/hear Zutty Singleton? No problem. Just type his name in your web browser and hit the “search” button.

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