Missed Opportunity with Charles ‘Keep A-Knockin’ Connor

SKF NOTE: Regret comes at solitary times; driving a car long distance, or at my computer searching for a blog post topic. Sometimes, like now, I remember opportunities to interview drummers, to capture their stories, lost.

When I was at Modern Drummer (1980-1983), Cozy Cole was still alive. He died on January 9, 1981 before we interviewed him. I was about to write “before we had a chance to interview him.” But that’s not true. While Cozy was alive we had opportunity to interview him. Our opportunity was lost when Cozy died.

I’m not casting blame on the MD editors, myself included. The list of drummers to interview was long; the available publishing space per MD issue was short.

I called Swan Song Records to request an MD feature interview with John Bonham about 15-minutes after Swan Song knew Bonham died. Lost opportunity.

As with Cozy Cole, unexpected death is, by definition, unexpected. The lost opportunity is regrettable, but not caused by malice, oversight, or neglect.

One drummer I chose not to interview was Charles “Keep A-Knockin'” Connor, known best as Little Richard’s performing band drummer. The precise timing on this event is blurred. I remember being sent a press kit by someone working at a radio station where Mr. Connor worked at the time.

The press kit included a photo of Connor onstage with Little Richard, a bio, and a 45-rpm record Connor made that sounded, as I recall, like Little Richard’s music.

I was almost certainly writing my five-part History of Rock Drumming at the time. The first two parts may have already been published. I had already spoken with drummer Earl Palmer who played on most of Richard’s hit records. Palmer said, with few exceptions, he played on Little Richard’s studio dates, while Connor did Richard’s live appearances.

The History of Rock Drumming was about the recorded history of rock drumming. When I was interviewing drummers who played on an artist’s records and concerts – we’d talk about any overlap. But uncovering and writing about the history of rock drummers who played on live dates was beyond the scope of my project.

So, I passed on interviewing Charles “Keep A-Knockin'” Connor.

Now, and for a number of years, I regret that. Even if I wasn’t able to use his story in the History of Rock Drumming, I should have, at the very least, grabbed the opportunity to record Mr. Connor’s story for posterity.

I’m sorry, Mr. Connor, I didn’t. I’m glad someone else did.

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