Sunday, December 4, 2011

Daniel Glass and the History of Early Rhythm & Blues Drumming at The Drum Exchange in Seattle

Earl Palmer and Daniel Glass

Put on an old blues or r&b record.  You always know the drums are there at the very center of it all, but sometimes it’s hard to hear exactly what the drummer is doing.  (The bass drum is usually the hardest for me to find on an old record.)  But that’s exactly the sound and the feel that I want-- so when I started trying to learn how to play drums I looked for some help.  That’s when I learned about The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming by Daniel Glass and fellow drummer Zoro.  (Find it HERE.)  It’s a goldmine, packed with drumbeats from a hundred or so r&b classics, but also packed with history-- stories and information about people like Earl Palmer and Fred Below.  I’ve only skimmed the surface of what it contains, but it’s there for me.

Then yesterday Glass, a regular member of the Royal Crown Revue, came to Seattle and put on a free drum clinic at a local drum store called The Drum Exchange.  I took my seven year old, who likes to steal and scatter my drum sticks and knows how to do a rock beat or two.  (At one point during the clinic Glass thrilled him by saying, “We all started with something like this, right?” and then played Raff’s first drum beat.)  The Drum Exchange provided a beautiful room for the clinic, with a raised stage so that everyone (there had to be 50-75 people--  a full house) could see.  Rafferty and I were in the first row.  It was all a bit like Christmas.  Glass and the Drum Exchange passed out dozens of gifts-- drumsticks, cymbals, t-shirts.   Rafferty got a pair of sticks of his own, and a chart of r&b beats for his wall.

But the real gift was Glass.  For more than two hours he told and played the history of drums and rhythm in America, starting with military and marching beats that got turned “ragged” down in Louisiana close to New Orleans.  He told about the introduction of tom toms from China, bass pedals, cymbals from China and Turkey, high hats, and the smaller bass drums and ride cymbals courtesy of be-bop stars like Max Roach and Kenny Clark.  He put it all in the context of slavery, the gay nineties, prohibition, World War II, the swing era, be-bop, rock and roll, and finally, even a moment or two about Ringo Starr on Ed Sullivan.  (If Glass saw it first hand he is remarkably well preserved.)  And he did all this with incredible respect for the drummers and history that came before him.  Glass is a true historian.  He’s gone back and talked to them, interviewed them, listened to every beat, even played with them.  (He can tell you the first time a drummer hit the crash cymbal on the "one," and the first record to include the high hat.)  And then he shows you.  That, of course, was the other treat-- when Glass would turn to his left handed drum set and play.  Rafferty was squirming a bit during the lecture portions (prohibition?  be-bop?) but no one squirmed during the drum exhibitions.  

(Well, I take that back.  I was squirming.  Whenever I see someone so good I wonder why in hell’s name I even bother to head down to my basement and irritate my neighbors.  As the saying goes, you can’t get there from here.)

But-- if you ever get a chance to hear Glass talk or play, take advantage.

And if you love early r&b, get his book.

As for my squirming-- it doesn’t matter.  I can’t get there-- but like the duffer who once in a while hits a soaring drive-- I like trying.

Learn more about Glass HERE.  Learn more about The Drum Exchange (great store, with expert help and cool stuff) HERE.


Anonymous said...

Peter, Thanks for the story. I wish Daniel Glass was coming to my neck of the woods. My 12 year old son doesn't know it yet but he is getting a Pearl Vision drumset aand Sabian cymbals for Christmas. Hopefully he'll take of with it...

I wonder if Keith Robinson makes house calls????


Peter said...

You mean he DOESN'T READ THIS BLOG!!??!!?? No-- that is a GREAT present. He will be thrilled. Your own life will be miserable. Think Little Ricky. As for Mr. Glass-- just keep an eye out on his blog. He seems to do a lot of these, and he is a great spokesperson for the early r&b drummers.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I'm hoping he gets all his info from your blog second hand from me !! He's currently in Jr. High Band and plays the snare, which he thoroughly enjoys, and the now have him playing the Tri-Toms. He doesn't much care for them. He's a short guy and when he's marching they hit him halfway down his leg.....Maybe I should grab some hearing protection from work?????


Peter said...

Ah! Well, if he knows the snare I'm wondering if HE makes house calls. Maybe he could come to Seattle and show me something. I think marching band is a good first step towards the Chess sound. Several of those guys spent time in marching and military bands.

Daniel Glass said...


Wonderful write up, thanks so much. I just reposted to Facebook and Twitter, and maybe we can drive so more traffic to your blog.

All the best to you and Rafferty!

Daniel Glass