Joe Morello: It’s a Combination of Everything (1978)

Joe Morello - RCA 9784-4-RB Bluebird

SKF NOTE: This morning, while reading through the transcript of my March 7, 1978 talk with Joe Morello, I came across this exchange with Joe about teaching drum students. (Or, as Joe calls them, “kids.”) He was very open to helping drummers successfully navigate whichever avenue or road they wanted to travel.

This part of the conversation ends with Joe trying to explain Billy Gladstone‘s way of playing. Joe calls Gladstone “the greatest technician of them all.”


Joe Morello: I think of it like different avenues, different roads.

Okay. When you start off you’ve got to learn how to play. Somebody has got to say, “This is your right hand, and this is how you hold the stick. Here’s the reason why you hold it this way.

If you want to play this way [matched grip], here’s the reason why it can be done.

It’s all the same.

Work on that and develop a certain control. And once the kid has a little control, then you can say, “Okay, now which way do you want to go?” Here’s this way, or try that.

Teach them rudimental things and say, “Here’s how to apply it to the [drum] set.

If you want to be a rock drummer — go that way. I don’t want to make you into something you don’t want to be.

[If a kid asks,] “Am I holding the stick right?” Well, how does it feel to you? Is it comfortable? Then hold it that way.

Scott K Fish: You won’t insist that a kid hold his stick a certain way?

JM: Nah. If it’s natural for him, why try to change somebody over? I mean, I can show him what I do, and if the kid….

billy gladstone

Billy Gladstone (Photo by

Some of the teachers teach this stiff wrist motion. They squeeze very tight here [between thumbs and index fingers] and they call it fulcrum. My answer is, “Fulcrum all!” They’ve got these bulging muscles here [fulcrum areas]. I don’t have any [bulging muscles] there at all. I don’t have any callouses. I must be doing something wrong.

Then after about three or four years of squeezing hard, and using all stiff wrist motion, they tell the kid to loosen up.

But all of this fingers and wrists! It’s a combination of everything.

Billy Gladstone, I think, was the greatest technician of them all — that I’ve seen in my life — and I took a few lessons. He didn’t even want to even teach me. And he was, uh, a “legitimate” drummer. But the guy had this method — everything was so loose.

He’d take the sticks and he’d go like this [plays fast single stroke roll], and he’d get this finger thing, kind of. But he’d get… like a doorbell almost.

“Jeez,” I’d say, “I want to learn that. How do you do it? Everything is so loose.” It was just so natural, you know? [Gladstone] said it’s like when you walk. If you had to figure out every muscle — you couldn’t even move.

It’s a kinetic type thing, you know.

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Dave Weckl – Learning Different Styles as a Kid (1983)

SKF NOTE: This excerpt is from my August 5, 1983 interview with Dave Weckl. Dave talks about learning different styles of drumming, starting when he was a kid, through St. Louis drum teachers, and by playing along with records. His father, a piano player, introduced Dave to Pete Fountain‘s records with Jack Sperling on drums. “Jack was my number one influence when I was first starting,” said Weckl.

Modern Drummer published a much shorter version in April 1984 as an “Up and Coming”profile of Weckl. I’ve posted a print version of Weckl’s full interview here.

Dave Weckl is 23-years old here. He was living in Bridgeport, CT getting ready to go on tour with Simon and Garfunkel — arguably the first major gig that put Weckl on the map.

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How Gadd’s Riff Became Part of ‘Fifty Ways’

SKF NOTE: Steve Gadd was inducted into the Rochester (New York) Hall of Fame on April 22, 2018. Steve was joined as a new inductee by longtime friend and band mate bassist Tony Levin, and by one of Steve’s great percussion mentors, John Beck.

I know because I watched interviews with Steve and friends at the Democrat & Chronicle web site discussing the genesis of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” There’s also footage of the Hall of Fame ceremony. Paul Simon flew in to honor Steve and Tony. And Paul gives the audience his recollection of how Steve Gadd’s drumming came to be such an integral part of “Fifty Ways.”

And in looking for more stories, photos, videos of Gadd’s Hall of Fame induction I found a musical excellent posting of live footage of Gadd and Levin with Mike Mainieri at The Red Creek Inn, Rochester, NY performing the song “Love Play.” Mainieri’s album, “Love Play,” is a favorite, and it includes some of favorite Steve Gadd drumming.

Congratulations Steve Gadd.

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Neil Peart: The Fundamental Relationship of Music and Listener (1984)

SKF NOTE: This is from the transcript of one of my 1984 Neil Peart interviews. The back story is here. I remembered this exchange about drum clinics after I saw Jeff Wald’s YouTube video of a Peart clinic given eight years after this interview. (I’ve not watched most of this video.)

Neil’s points here about the music primacy of ears (audio) over eyes (visual) are timeless.


Scott K Fish: Why don’t you like giving drum clinics?

Neil Peart: Partly temperament, again. It’s uncomfortable in that context. The overriding negative is: I don’t believe in their value.

SKF: You never went, as a kid, to a drum clinic?

NP: No. I’ve done clinics a couple of times, just to say I can. I talked about influences and discussed their application and use. Then had questions and answers. I don’t think anything valuable is imparted at clinics. The maxim “teach by example” is best.

SKF: How were the [clinic] questions asked of you?

NP: Good.

SKF: So, why are clinics of little value?

NP: A good answer to a good question isn’t necessarily helpful. I see music as an inner struggle for assimilation. You can only learn so much from other musicians.

SKF: A drummer seeing you in concert might be a football field length away. That’s not the same as seeing you at a clinic.

NP: No, but our records are my ideal performance, the way I conceived the songs. Just slightly ahead of me. Justifying them after the fact is a bit redundant.

SKF: How can a kid figure out what you do with electronic percussion [just by] listening to your records?

NP: He doesn’t need to. He needs that level of understanding in 20 years. If what you need to know is how to go: bass drum, snare drum — that’s what you should be worried about. Not how to run digital sampling to eight pads, integrated with your foot. That’s not where you start.

SKF: When you see drummers play, don’t you like to be as close as possible?

NP: Seeing isn’t important either. Music is not a visual medium. I’ve seen bands from [both] a distance and close. Both are interesting and exciting, but aren’t fundamentally moving the way music is. Sometimes I hear a song live that has much more impact because it wasn’t communicated properly on record.

SKF: I asked Max Roach how he learned to play. I was asking him about stickings, because at the time of the interview, stickings were a big thing.

[Max] said he never worried about that. If he heard Papa Jo Jones play something on record, Max would imitate the sound. Very often he would see Papa Jo [live] playing the same song, and Max would see that Papa Jo got the same sound a different way.

NP: Absolutely. That’s so important. The way you interpret what someone else did sends you off into your own zone.

I grew up in a small town. It was a long way to go to see a concert. Concerts were rarer then anyway. Clinics were practically unknown in Toronto. Toronto was a long way away from where I was, for a kid who didn’t drive or have a car.

All those things were very remote. but the record store wasn’t. My record player wasn’t. And my brain wasn’t. And those were what you needed. You listened to something and tried to imitate it. Maybe you learn it your own way. So what? Maybe you learn it a harder way. But again, so what? If you’re sending yourself into more difficult areas, you’re setting yourself up for further experimentations in those areas. You’re only helping yourself.

As much as visuals are an important part of a Rush concert, it’s not just the music. With a record, it’s just the listener and the music. The fundamental relationship. I’m not convinced there’s much of a difference listening to a drummer on record, or seeing him in a drum clinic.

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Shelly Manne: A Bluish Bag

SKF NOTE: Going through my old cassettes, looking for keeper material and discarding the rest, I found a 90-minute tape of one of my Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon radio programs on WMHB at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

That day, June 18, 1989, I included A Bluish Bag among the tracks I played.

This version of Shelly Manne and His Men is one of my favorite jazz groups of all jazz groups: Shelly (drums), Monty Budwig (bass), Conte Condoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (alto sax), Mike Wofford (piano).

What jumped out at me the first time I heard A Bluish Bag was Monty Budwig’s bowed walking bass lines through the entire song. Uptempo too.

A cool arrangement — with some tasty Shelly Manne, and strong work by all the players.

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Preserving Maine’s Country Music Legacy

It’s important to preserve Maine’s country music legacy
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • April 14, 2018

One afternoon in 1973, legendary country musician Johnny Cash was writing to his 18-year-old daughter, Roseanne, at a table in his tour bus. When he finished, Cash handed Roseanne a song list he titled, “100 Essential Country Songs.” “Here’s your education,” he told her.

Earlier that day the two were on the bus, swapping songs. “I was on the road with dad, and we were just talking about songs. And I said I don’t know this one, I don’t know that one. Then I said I don’t know that one either. He grew alarmed,” Roseanne told an interviewer.

Thirty-six years later, 54-year-old Roseanne Cash picked a dozen songs from the 100 and recorded her album titled, “The List.”

Roseanne had learned all 100 songs, “The list was kind of a template for a personal legacy, and…for what great songs sounded like.… At this point in my life I’m not only interested in my ancestry, I’m interested in my musical ancestry. It wasn’t just a personal legacy, it’s a cultural legacy.”

Cash’s list and the importance of musical cultural legacy was on my mind this week visiting the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Mechanic Falls….

Full story

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Sandy Nelson: I Basically Had One Drumset

SKF NOTE: Let There Be Drums, Drums Are My Beat, Birth of the Beat — Sandy Nelson had a string of drum solo hit records I loved. So did lots of other drummers and pop music fans. I was glad to have the chance to interview Sandy Nelson (May 13, 1982) for my History of Rock Drumming series. After an initial rough start phone call, Mr. Nelson was very gracious with his knowledge and time.

Here’s an excerpt from the Sandy Nelson transcribed interview where Sandy describes the drumset he used on all his hit records.


Scott K Fish: Did you use the same drumset on all those records?

Sandy Nelson: Yeah. I basically had one set in those days. I wasn’t like the other session men where they had two or three [drumsets]. I had a Ludwig silver sparkle. I’m still using it now, but I’ve painted it black. In the place I’m playing, it looks good. It’s just the old Ludwig drums. I bought them in 1962.

But I have to admit — the drum world would understand this — that I’m not using the Ludwig bass drum. I’m using a Gretsch. It punches through a lot better.

Primarily, Let There Be Drums was two small tom-toms, then the regular floor tom 16-inch, and nothing special about the snare. Just a regular standard Ludwig snare about 1962 vintage.

I don’t have that snare anymore. I wish I did. But I have one like it that’s a little deeper. I think it’s 8-inches. It’s still an oldie too.

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