Another year has come to a close. Looking back, 2017 was an amazing year. Our visitor hits set a new record. I interviewed more drum heroes, reviewed quality products, and shared historical studies. If you are interested in reading this year’s posts search for “2017.” Posts already set for 2018 include exclusive interviews with Marisa Testa, Eric Hood and Rob Perkins, as well as product reviews for Domain Cymbals, and the Ahead Wicked Chops Pad. I will reflect on my beginning with my first drum teacher and I even have a discovery that challenges one of my past postings. We will also be posting the long-awaited interview with David Abbruzzese. I’m even planning to post an audio interview and a Facebook Live broadcast. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!
Monthly Archives: December 2017
The Youngest Drummer Boy
Our last history post of the year presents the story of “Little Morris” who was said to be the youngest boy enlisted on either side during the Civil War. You may recall that I’ve posted about Charles Edwin King, the youngest drummer boy killed during the Civil War. Morris survived the conflict and left behind a legacy that became a legendary story in the press.
I would like to thank our friend John Hennessy, Chief Historian/Chief of Interpretation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park for providing me with multiple sources on several drummer boys whose experiences took place at or around Fredericksburg. This includes several newspaper clippings challenging the story of Robert Henry Hendershot (see past posts here and here) who claimed to be “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” More to come.
Titled “Drummer Boy Morris: A Lad Who Went to War When Only Eleven Years Old” this account presents Morris’ experiences at such a young age. (I am posting a period news clipping below in its entirety. It is taken from the Jed Hotchkiss Papers which are on file at the Library of Congress. I have been unable to dig up any additional source material online. I have been able to find multiple versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” sang by a variety of singers with the last name Morris).
At the tender age of 10 ½ Morris was presented to Captain J. Murray of Company D., Nineteenth Virginia Battalion. Despite his young age he was accepted to fulfill the role of a drummer boy. At the time he was the youngest enlistee on either side of the war. After being treated harshly by the men of Company D. Morris transferred to Company A., Nineteenth Virginia Battery of Artillery where he served under Captain J.F. Chalmers until the end of the war. Following the war Morris grew up to be a popular citizen around Richmond who shared his experiences from the war. His drumsticks and portrait were put on display. (Click image for full-size)
Video Product Reviews for 2018
This coming year I intend to do a lot more video product reviews. I already have a few scheduled including Domain Cymbals. Here are some samples of past reviews: Bumwrap Drum Company, ProLogix, DrumkitAccessories.com, Drumtacs, TnR Products (see below). If you are interested in having your product reviewed in the coming year contact me at email@example.com. OFF BEAT routinely receives thousands of hits and is a great way to promote your product.
Profile: Chuck Biscuits
If you are into punk and hardcore music of the 1980’s and 90’s chances are you have heard the punk-powered drumming of Chuck Biscuits. Biscuits is a Canadian drummer best known for his work in rock acts such as Danzig, Black Flag, D.O.A., Circle Jerks and Social Distortion. With a resume like that it’s easy to see how Biscuits is a very influential drummer from that genre.
In 1982 Biscuits became a member of the budding band Black Flag, best known for backing their obnoxiously brilliant singer Henry Rollins. Biscuits toured with the band for only five months and recorded the widely bootlegged 1982 demos for the “My War” album.
Following his time in Black Flag Biscuits filled in briefly for the Red Hot Chili Peppers during their Freaky Styley tour. Soon after he was recruited by producer-genius Rick Rubin to become the drummer for Danzig. Biscuits joined Danzig in 1987 and appeared on the band’s first four albums and one EP.
In 1988, Biscuits contributed some drum tracks to Run-DMC’s “Tougher Than Leather” album. In 1990 he also recorded drums for singer Glenn Danzig’s final album with the band Samhain.
In 1996 Biscuits joined Social Distortion between the recording and release of the band’s “White Light, White Heat, White Trash” album. Biscuits is credited on the album’s liner notes, although Deen Castronovo’s playing was featured on the record. Biscuits went on to play with bands such as The Four Horsemen.
In 2009, Biscuits was the subject of an internet death hoax. A blogger received what he considered to be a legitimate death notice from someone close to the drummer. That individual had been in contact with someone he believed to be Chuck Biscuits prior to this event. The hoax was eventually debunked.
A former art student with a talent for drawing and sculpture Biscuits has pursued the creative outlet of an artist.
Here is a link to a great article on Chuck Biscuits on Modern Drummer’s website.
PS: According to his bio: Biscuits used Pro-Mark DC-10 marching sticks to drum. His drum kit at the beginning of Danzig was a black Premier Resonator, though he switched to a chrome covered 70’s era Ludwig Classic Maple kit for Danzig II, and continued with that kit to record and tour for Danzig III and Danzig IV. Biscuits was usually seen using Zildjian cymbals. His regular ride cymbal sound during his work with Danzig was a Zildjian 22” Earth Ride. Biscuits also favored Paiste RUDE cymbals. He used medium and rock ride cymbals as crashes. Biscuits mainstay snare with Danzig was a Sonor steel model, though he also used a Ludwig Piccolo snare. With D.O.A. and Black Flag, Biscuits used an older blonde maple Ludwig kit. For Social Distortion, Biscuits used a Boom Theory kit, including a Bridgedeck snare built by Al Adinolfi.
Looking Back: Marching Band
Like many of you my first musical performance came via school bands. The one band that stands out in my mind is Marching Band. No other ensemble had the same level of precision and performance as the drumline. The camaraderie that existed between the members of the drumline was exceptionally strong. Although most of the drumline participated in other school bands, there was something special that happened when we were in formation on the marching line. We practiced all the time and performed in halftime shows, band competitions, band festivals and parades. We were The Keystone Oaks Golden Eagles Marching Band.
My first year as a member the school purchased all new equipment. I remember they were Pearls with a chrome finish. They looked cool but it was a polishing nightmare. The percussion instructor they hired was exceptional and he had us crushing our rudiments and playing his original cadences in no time. The first two cadences we played were called “T.E.” (his initials) and “Africa,” a tribal piece that gave us white boys some street cred’. We also performed a cadence called “D.C.” which apparently was a school tradition. I have no idea what it stands for but it was a jam.
I played on the snare line each year. My second year we traveled to Nashville to participate in a national band competition. I think we came in second place. I was made a co-captain my senior year. I was picked to participate in Pitt University’s Senior Day where we performed the half-time show with the Pitt Drumline. Those dudes were mind-blowing. I never saw a paradiddle used in so many ways. I remember we played a medley of The Who’s Pinball Wizard. I failed and tried to keep up.
That was the good stuff. I also remember performing in sweltering heat, marching in the rain and mud, freezing my ass off in the bleachers, having burning blisters and bleeding knuckles, dodging horse shit on the parade route and hours and hours of monotonous practice to make it all possible. The title of “band buddy” topped it off. Regardless of all that, we were the coolest section of the band, maybe next to the tubas, but it was close.
After graduation I attended an art school so my marching days were over but for others it had just begun. Music majors continued their time on the drumline well into their secondary education. Take my co-author and friend Rich Redmond (pictured above with me). Like me, Rich played snare for four years in the J.M. Hanks High School Marching Band. He was also a captain for three years. Upon graduation Rich became a member of the Texas Tech University ZIT drumline. There he played snare for three years and instructed the fourth while writing all of the drumline’s music. I asked Rich what the drumline meant to him. He said, “It was a great period of time to develop my rudimental playing and chops. That time created muscle memory that will never go away.”
This proves how valuable playing in the drumline was to both of us. It shaped my high school years and Rich’s college years. It inspired us as drummers and sparked many musical memories. Today, the drumline continues to influence me as a drummer. Many of the tom fills I do around the kit can be attributed to the drumline. I often approach the kit almost like a set of quads, playing front to back instead of left to right. I still practice my rudiments although they are nowhere near where they should be. I’ve even entertained the thought of buying a marching snare or a Kevlar drum pad. I do have a huge pair of marching sticks with rubber ends that I use to practice on hard surfaces from time to time.
With that said I want to thank our percussion instructor Tom Early and my fellow Golden Eagle drummers: Eric, Tim, Keith, Gay, Chris, April, Freddie, Jason, Josh, Rob, Mike, Jeanette and Gina. We kicked ass.
Not drum-related but appropriate for this week.
This week marks the 155th Anniversary of The Battle of Fredericksburg. I live in Fredericksburg and I am surrounded by the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville and The Wilderness. I’ve written multiple books and articles on the subject and posted here about The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock. Today I want to share a documentary that I co-wrote, co-produced, and appeared in titled “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” This story tells of a unique event that has become the face of The Battle of Fredericksburg.
I’ve posted here promoting my book, program and philosophy. I’ve taken that one step forward and developed course curriculum (see above) and training aids. I’ve presented samples of practical instruction and I’ve shared other teaching techniques from other educators. One controversial issue I hear is that drum lessons are a waste of time, especially with kids.
This response usually comes from drummers who have played for years with no formal training. Many drummers play cover tunes in bar bands and learn songs by listening. I respect that. I also understand that rudiments and reading music are not mandatory to being a good drummer. My comments here are directly in response to the criticism I received in an email challenging my opinion on drum lessons, specifically for kids.
I will start with my own experiences. I started taking drum lessons at the age of 12. It was mandatory if my parents were to purchase me a drum set. They wanted me to prove that I was serious about learning the instrument. I started out on the drum pad and a year later I got my first kit. My passion for learning resulted in me participating in a number of in-school and out-of-school bands. This included garage bands, marching band, symphonic band, stage band, choir band, jazz and percussion ensemble. All along I took lessons to improve my playing.
In garage bands I listened to cover songs in order to learn them but my education helped me do that in a more efficient way. When we wrote original music my contributions to the song were based upon my skill set. I didn’t just arbitrarily make things up. I put thought into it. The lessons I took as a kid blossomed and I became a well-rounded drummer. No matter what the situation, I was better prepared for the performance. I played better. I sounded better. I was better.
Why would anyone not want to be better at what they do? Mike Dawson, managing editor of Modern Drummer magazine, editor of FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids and a life-long student of the drums summed up my feelings. He said, “I find zero validity in any argument that states that striving to understand more about what you’re saying, doing, or creating is a waste of time. Especially with kids. The more you know, the more you know.”
So to the individual who emailed me I say thank you for taking the time to contact me. That showed an effort on your part. I receive thousands of hits but I don’t receive a lot of email here. My response is this. I believe that kids are far better students than adults. I believe that the earlier you start teaching a child something, anything, the sooner they will pick it up and enjoy the benefits of their knowledge.
UPDATE: Here are some great sources:
OFF BEAT: FUNdamentals Course Curriculum
Drum Player World: Drum Lessons For Kids
BANG The Drum School: Drum Lessons For Kids: Focus on Fun
Our friend Francesco Vecchio over at Francesco’s Drumming Blog has developed a wonderful book that contains 42-pages of Jeff Porcaro grooves. The book includes eight transcriptions of some of his most memorable performances, playing with artists such as Toto, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan and Michael McDonald. A biography on Porcaro introduces the reader to his extraordinary career. The transcriptions that follow are Lido Shuffle, Lowdown, Hold the Line, Gaucho, Africa, Rosanna, I Keep Forgettin’ and Georgy Porgy (Live).
You can view a 15-page preview of the book here.
You can purchase the book here. (Ebook version) – (Paperback version).
Francesco is a formally trained student of the drums and is on Facebook , Twitter and Soundcloud.
Mike and Mike’s Modern Drummer Podcast is holding a contest for the opening drum intro for an upcoming episode. Here is my submission. I wanted to come up with something different than what I believe to be most other submissions. The toms sequence was done via an Alesis sample pad with the acoustic drums layered on top. Both tracks were combined using Garage Band and then boosted in Audacity.
Slanted Snares. Then and Now.
While going through some photographs I noticed that these drummers from yesterday and today play(ed) with an extreme slant on their snare drums. As they use(ed) traditional grip it makes sense for them to use this approach. Most other drummers I’ve seen using traditional grip play on a standard flat snare.
The two living examples above discussed their unique snare drum placement. Both reference their sitting positions.
In an interview with Drum Gear Review Daru Jones explained his reasoning behind his slanted snare: I’m always experimenting with my sound and the look of my set-up. I started playing the snare drum tilted…I like to dominate the drums so I sit really high and come down hard.
Garrett Goodwin explained his philosophy to us via text: “My snare has evolved into a slant. I don’t play traditional grip. I don’t have some cool reason why I do it. I lean forward over the kit in an aggressive stance when I play, so it’s just where my ‘throw’ lands, it’s comfortable.”
Do you use a slanted snare or know of someone who does? (Pictured: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Daru Jones, Garrett Goodwin)