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I know I spend a lot of time talking about Jazz drummers on the blog.
But sometimes it can’t be helped especially when a recent conversation with a friend rekindled my memories about Roy Harte, one of the nicest Jazz drummers ever, and someone who did a ton for drummers of all musical persuasions.
Fresh Sound Records has made available a 3 CD retrospective of the label in a boxed set entitled The Complete Nocturne Recordings: Jazz in
Hollywood Series. [A separate posting on this set will follow this feature.]
Bob Yaeger and Chuck Molinnari opened the Professional Drum Shop across from the Musicians Union on
Vine Street in in 1959 where it still stands. I shopped there often. Bob
and Chuck are great guys. Hollywood, CA
But as long as
's Roy was around [on Drum City Santa Monica Blvd; around the corner from the Pro Drum Shop],
I just had to go visit with , too. Roy
Because if you were a drummer,
, like the family home, was the place where
they had to take you in. Drum City
For drummers, knowing Roy Harte was like having another father in your life.
Like he used to say: "Drummers are like hockey goalies; nobody knows how to talk to them except another drummer."
I went to high school in
in the late 1950s. At the time, there were
a number of fine young drummers in the general area including Harry Smallenberg
at Burbank High, Mike Romero at Burbank, CA and some guy named Bill Goodwin, who went
to North Hollywood High and whom I'd never met. Pasadena
Each year, Roy Harte would sponsor a competition for young drummers that involved our best effort at writing and then playing a 32-bar Jazz drum solo.
The ability to write the solo so that other drummers could read it and play it was a much a part of the competition as playing the solo itself.
You also had to use as many of the standard 26 drum rudiments as possible, but you could only use the snare drum when playing the solo.
One last requirement was that the solo had to be repeated at a slow, then a medium and then at the fastest tempo at which you could play it.
Entry forms which consisted of contact information and a blank sheet of music notation paper where available at
and had to be returned to Drum City about a month before the competition. Roy
The great day comes and a horde of drummers descends on
I entered it twice and I always had the feeling that
picked anyone of us who could actually
write a 32-bar drum part to play their solo in the competition. I was not among the finalists, but one of those selected was none other than Bill Goodwin. Roy
Well, Bill sat down at the snare drum, tighten the drum head to within a millimeter of splitting it in two and then proceeded to play a 32 bar solo that blew us all away.
The solo was so musical and just cooked like mad.
From that moment on, I certainly knew who Bill Goodwin was
During the playing of Bill's solo,
was standing off to the side grinning like a Cheshire cat. Roy
Everyone in the room knew we had just heard the birth of a great drummer, but you could tell just by looking at him that
was already taking ownership of the bragging rights to
I studied drums for a few years with Larry Bunker who lived in the Los Feliz area of the Hollywood Hills.
During one of my hour-long-trips into humility, Larry said: "You need some different drum sticks; let's go over to
We were at
in less than 10 minutes. Drum City
As we're walking in, Larry sees a bunch of drummers milling around the glass case where Roy stored the drum sticks and says to me: "Watch this; most of those guys don't know the difference between a paradiddle and a seven stroke roll [didn't I mention that Larry could be a little abrasive?].
In those days, the making of drum sticks hadn't progressed much further than a cottage industry so many of the sticks were poorly formed if not downright warped [think of the pool cue that Inspector Clouseau uses in The Pink Panther - that's how bad many of them were].
Roy, who was behind the display case, would reach down to the shelf and bring out a fistful of the model you requested and then the fun began as you started rolling the sticks along the top of the glass case until you found a pair that were in fairly good shape.
It took Larry a few minutes to find a pair he liked.
At the end of the display case,
always kept a rubber practice pad which you could use to try out
the sticks without hitting on the heads of the new drum kits that he had
displayed around the store. Roy
Next to the practice pad was a book with a slew of drum exercises based on the standard 26 drum rudiments which you could read through while trying out the sticks.
Larry is laying down all sorts of great drumming stuff when all of a sudden, Stan Levey, who [with his back turned toward us] had been among the group of drummers standing by
when we walked into Roy , says: "Hey let me try those
sticks." Larry pushes the pad and the exercise book toward Stan while
handing him the sticks. Drum City
Stan, who is all of 6’2” and 220 pounds, says: "Nah, I don't want to read that crap." He then goes over to a brand new set of Ludwig drums in the middle of the store and plays a gorgeous series of bebop drumming licks all over the drum kit.
When he's through, Stan gets up turns to
and says: "I like these sticks, put 'em on my tab, Roy ," and walks out of the store. Roy
After he leaves,
looks at Larry and me and says: "What
am I going to do, say 'No?'" Roy
For years, I was a first call drummer with Rudy Friml Jr., a music contractor who had a lot of gigs for TV series, TV commercials and radio jingles.
One day Rudy calls and says I need to bring a triangle to a recording date involving a TV commercial for a cigarette company.
It's a rush deal, so I'm over to Roy's Drum City on Santa Monica before heading to the RCA recording studios on Sunset Blvd where the session is taking place.
, you got a triangle in the shop? I need it
for a commercial gig." Roy
"Sure, here you go."
So he hands me the triangle and I'm just about out the store when he asks: "Do you even know how to play one?"
I replied: "Of course, why do you ask?"
He said: "Well, for starters, you took the triangle, but you left the holder and the wand [beater] behind!"
After a quick course in how to properly hold and play the instrument, both open and closed, and a lecture on whether the true pitch of a triangle is a G or an A-Flat or did I know that the class of instruments that the triangle belongs to is called an "idiophone" or did I realize that when struck properly the sound this bent metal triangle makes could rise about an entire symphony orchestra, I was dutifully allowed to leave and "Go attend your recording session."
When I brought the triangle back to
the following day, Drum City wouldn't allow me to pay him for the use
of it. Roy
He said: "Maybe you can play a solo on it for me the next time."