Influences on Art’s Drum Career

There have been a number of musical influences in my life going as far back as early childhood but the earliest one has got to be my family.

How my family sparked my interest in music
My father was a talented jazz violinist who played the clubs in New York as well as having his own radio show. My mother and my aunt had a dancing and singing act in nightclubs. Suffice it to say, music was a family business of sorts.

Dad wanted me to play an instrument but not the drums. In dad’s day the drums were considered a timekeeper for the band and that was it. He also did not want me to play in a band because he knew the lifestyle that band members led and did not want that for me. Even with that being said dad never quit playing the violin, listening to records of the big bands, and encouraging me with music.

Thanks to dad’s refinishing job we always had stereos in our home that he was working on. Couple that with a huge record collection of old 78 swing records and my free time was filled with music. I used to lay right next to the speaker on the floor and listen to big bands like Benny Goodman and Chick Webb for hours on end. In those days they used to put the name of the musicians on the record label. This became very helpful to me because when I was listening to Benny Goodman, I would know if it was Davey Tough or Gene Krupa on the drums. Of course, at the time, I was too young to know who was who.

It was during this tme that I was able to really hear what drums were all about and I started playing on pots, pans, cookie sheets and anything else I could get my hands on. Dad tried but he just couldn’t squelch my desire, and I finally got pads to play on, and eventually a drum set.

Gene Krupa
My first drumming influence has got to be Gene Krupa. Gene has been widely regarded as the man responsible for drums being recognized as a musical instrument.

The Gene Krupa Story (originally released in 1959) really did it for me when I saw it in 1960. Gene had a musical touch that was great and always swung what he played. Gene did not have the technique Buddy and Louie Bellson had but he had a great musical feel to swing everything he played.

Billy Gladstone, Joe Morello and Eddie Shaughnessy
In the early 60’s, Billy Gladstone (drummer at Radio City Music Hall) was a great influence with finger control techniques. My teacher, Carl Wolf, learned finger control techniques from Joe Morello, and Carl worked with me on it tirelessly.

In the mid 60’s, I was studying the Vibes at Henry Adler’s music store in Manhattan. A lot of drummers were in the waiting room, and I listened to everything that was said. During my Vibes lesson, Sonny Igoe would be teaching drums in one room and Eddie Shaughnessy (drummer for The Tonight Show) would be practicing in another room. Eddie taught me to experiment with new musical ideas.

Mel Lewis, Louie Bellson and others
In 1966, Mel Lewis and Thad Jones had a big band at the Village Vanguard on Monday nights. I was there every Monday for about a year. Mel could swing that band so much that I would forget what time it was. They played a tune called “The Little Pixie” where Mel and the bassist, Richard Davis, would swing so hard that the whole place would go crazy. Every time they played that tune all the guys in the band had their feet stomping. I couldn’t wait for that tune every week. Mel was a perfect example of a drummer who had a lot of talent without much technique and was always in demand.

I remember that same year in New York I went to see Harry James, thinking Buddy Rich was with him but I had discovered that Louie Bellson was behind the drums instead. I think Buddy had just formed his own band. Louie Bellson was another favorite big band drummer of mine because of his swinging style and his ability to drive a band. Louie is an artist on the drums.

Sonny Payne was also one of the best swinging big band drummers.

Buddy Rich
I was especially influenced by Buddy Rich. Buddy developed unique techniques and their application to the drums. In the summer of 1953, The Jackie Gleason Summer Show with the Dorsey Brothers had Buddy Rich as the drummer. I was just a kid, but he knocked me out, even at that age. My father got me a 45 record called “Quiet Please”, featuring Buddy and I played to that record until it wore out. I thought I was hot, until my teacher saw me. I was trying to do the things Buddy was doing, but I didn’t have the chops, so I was playing with my arms very tense. I knew the importance drums had in playing time and swinging a band from the beginning, but I knew I had to develop my technique.

I first saw Buddy Rich “Live” in 1974, when he had “Buddy’s Place”. Buddy had the whole place laughing and swinging all night long. Buddy was a showman and was always a gentleman whenever I was in his company. I never saw him have a bad night. His abilities were amazing and I followed and studied him for the remainder of his career.

Many drummers have influenced me, but I would say mostly Buddy Rich, for his application of techniques; Joe Morello and Billy Gladstone for finger control techniques; and Louie Bellson for his swinging style.

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