Blakey: ‘Is There Anything I Can Do to Make You Sound Better?’

840009_art_blakey_md_cover_skf“See, I wanted to become a great drummer, but just in the sense of having musicians want to play with me — not to be better than Buddy Rich or to compete with someone. I will not compete that way; I’ll compete through my band. If musicians have a preference and they say, ‘I want to play with Bu,’ that just knocks me out. And I’ll ask, ‘Is there anything I can do to make you sound better? What do you want me to do behind you when you play?’ My head never got so big that that wasn’t my goal — to play with people.”

Source: Art Blakey, by Chip Stern, Modern Drummer, September 1984

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SKF Interview with Jackie Santos 1983

SKF NOTE: Jackie Santos, according to the latest info I’m finding, is now a Percussion Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is also keeping busy in other areas of teaching and performing. Good! I enjoyed my time with Jackie very much. He is a dedicated, excellent player — and a great guy.

Jackie was touring with the group Tavares in 1983 when I interviewed him for Modern Drummer.










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Did Vinnie Ruggiero Create Alan Dawson’s Swiss Rudiment Innovations?


Alan Dawson

SKF NOTE: In a large manila envelope full of letters and cards I saved from my years at Modern Drummer, I found a handwritten letter from Alan Dawson. Mr. Dawson’s letter is dated August 21, 1981, which is, as I write, 35-years ago to the day.

“Here’s a list of the swiss rudiments that you requested…..” Dawson’s letter begins. That is a reference, I believe, to a request from my friend, drummer Paul T. Riddle, who was still with the Marshall Tucker Band, and who was — and I’m sure remains — a great Alan Dawson admirer.

Before interviewing Alan Dawson for MD, I asked Paul if he had any questions for Alan Dawson. And I believe Paul asked if I could get a copy of the Alan Dawson’s swiss rudiments. I don’t think Alan had any copies when I interviewed him — and he must have mailed me a copy of the rudiments and innovations.


Vinnie Ruggiero

What I missed in Alan’s letter — until I re-read it a few days ago — is his sentence, “the [Swiss Rudiments] “INNOVATIONS” which I believe originated from a drummer-teacher in upstate New York. I think his name is Vinnie Vigerro. (I’m not at all certain of this.)”

Surely, Alan Dawson was referring to Vinnie Ruggiero from Rochester, NY. As I wrote in an earlier post, since the early 1980’s I have personally heard stories about Vinnie Ruggiero from great Rochester, NY Joe English and Roy McCurdy. I’m sure in 1981 when I read Alan Dawson’s letter I had no idea who he was talking about.

Is Vinnier Ruggiero the originator of the Swiss Rudiments Innovations Alan Dawson uses in his teaching?

I don’t know. Jon McCaslin points out that Vinnie’s drum method book is now available from Vinnie’s son. And with the internet as a way of connecting with other drummers — I can’t think of a better time to find the definitive answer.

Finally, I smiled reading Alan Dawson’s reference to “a talented little drummer by the name of Terri Lyne Carrington….” Indeed!


Vinnie Ruggiero Photo Credit


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Scott K Fish Mel Lewis Interview 1978

SKF NOTE: In this earlier post I wrote of how pivotal a moment was my meeting and interviewing Mel Lewis. This interview was notable for another reason. It was published in the April 1978 Modern Drummer along with my Carmine Appice interview which was the cover story. A freelance writer back then, I had no idea both interviews would be in that issue; no idea Carmine was picked as the cover story. The was a morale booster for sure.







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The Making of a Joe Morello Ad

SKF NOTE: The making of an in-house ad for Modern Drummer. Here’s a nice letter from Joe Morello written to me after I had been MD‘s managing editor for one month. Joe was among the drummers I interviewed MD when I was a freelance writer. Also, one of my first goals at MD was to increase and improve MD‘s photos.

I have two memories of MD‘s in-house ads prior to my arrival: The ads were copy heavy, and the ad photos were neither compelling, nor were the photos of drummers. My idea was to switch to photos and endorsement quotes from known drummers — like Joe Morello. My ideal was a having first-class drummer photos as full-page “Who Reads Modern Drummer?” ads. Include the drummer’s name, band affiliation if needed, the drummer’s quote about MD, and MD subscription info. Period.

Eventually, MD‘s “Who Reads Modern Drummer?” ads were more photo than copy, but publisher Ron Spagnardi evenutally reduced the photo’s size and inserted more copy.

Pre-internet, still photos of drummersstill photos of drummers were like gold to aspiring drummers. Short of seeing drummers live at clinics (rare), or in concert (rarer for minor age drummers), or on t.v. (rare) – photos in magazine drum ads provided hours of study when I was growing up.





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Marshall Tucker Band: Merry Christmas 1981

SKF NOTE: From among my yards of drum memorabilia. A Christmas card from the Marshall Tucker Band with my very good friend, Paul T. Riddle.




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Noble & Cooley Drum Catalog 1985





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