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Rossington Collins Band Drummer Derek Hess: The GRITZ Interview

by Michael Buffalo Smith

February, 2009

Derek Hess is one of the true “unsung heroes” of Southern Rock. He was smack-dab in the middle of the whole Jacksonville scene during the glory days of the seventies, and after the Lynyrd Skynyrd airplane crash, when Gary Rossington and Allen Collins decided to form a new group called The Rossington Collins Band and Artimus Pyle was unable to play because of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, the job went to RCB guitarist Barry Lee Harwood’s old friend, Derek Hess. The rest is history.

We spoke with Derek about the short but brilliant career of Rossington Collins, his subsequent work with The Allen Collins Band and his recent instrumental CD called Mainstream South, recorded with Barry Lee and Steve Perez.

Tell me a little about growing up. Where were you born and raised,
and when did you first take an interest in music? What music influenced you the most? What was your first band? 
I was born and raised here in Jacksonville. In my very early years my family lived in a small beach community called Atlantic Beach, where I attended elementary school until sixth grade. My father was somewhat a musician. He played a little sax when he was in the service, and later bought a little guitar/amp rig, I believe it was a Gibson melody maker. My mother got myself & my sister going on piano lessons when I was six. I really moved along very well, playing in competitions and performing one on one with judges in an attempt I suppose to just ramp up my level of skill.

And just a couple of years into that, I would say, ’57-’58, my oldest brother,Paul, snapped up my dads guitar rig, and the next thing I knew, his little rock n roll band, complete with Baldwin organ and sax, were rehearsing in my tiny bedroom where our piano was, so they didn’t need to lug that organ around, except for their few gigs around the beaches. Now bear in mind, this was the early goings of rock n’ roll. Oh my God, I was hooked and on my way, much to my mothers exasperation. However, when I started whackin' on the drums that would be left set up in my room, I was in heaven, I would throw on some 45 rpm’s and rip. When my mother and my brother’s band guys heard me, they wanted to run off their drummer, and mother was quite proud. On a significant note, my brother and some of his buddies got to see Buddy Holly in a downtown armory just shortly before his death. Outrageous!

I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but I’m sure a lot of the music I was learning to read and absorbing, lots of classical, really surfaced in several ways throughout my journey in music. Of course we were all inspired by R&B and soul music and some of the pop tunes, I mean the really good ones, believe it or not, Connie Francis, Sam Cooke, Marty Robbins, on and on. And not just the vocal brilliance, but the whole production, instrumental parts as well as some of the marvelous background vocal arrangements.  I mean I liked Dion, Billy Joe Royal, Roy Orbison - then came The Beatles, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Byrds. I’m not a huge fan but “Honky Tonk Women” is without a doubt one of the most romping and soulful tracks ever recorded. Charlie Watts just lays way back and solid on that one - whew. I still play that one real loud. Then Jimi Hendrix and  Mitch Mitchell came along, some of the most incredible guitar and drum work ever captured.

I would say that my style of playing kind of settled into a hybrid of Mitch’s playing and some of the ‘60’s soul music I cut my teeth on. I know that’s out there, but people would hear me play and scratch their heads on all the funk that erupted when I’d play. I’m also a HUGE Stevie Wonder fan, of the early seventies masterpieces, ‘Music of My Mind’, ‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ and several others that followed. That guy is the bomb! I was a very devoted fan of The Band as well, you know Levon Helm. Once, while in Cape Cod at Martha’s Vineyard, I was fortunate enough to charm my way up on stage and sit in with what was left of the group. It was a religious experience for sure.

For a time, I bounced around in the early fusion/rock frontier, especially the Chick Corea  and Herbie Hancock worlds. Man I still eat up that early “Headhunters” stuff, it’s killer. Lots of earthy and rhythmic grooves and mind blowing percussion. I also have a very nice Bluegrass collection. My influences just seem to come from everywhere.

The first band I was in was the seventh grade. My folks divorced, and I moved with my mother further into town, an area called Ft. Caroline, in Arlington. My sister and I stayed very much in touch with our dad. I attended a junior high school, and our little combo called ’The Rockers’ entered a talent contest where we performed two original tunes that were really quite decent. We had this guy who was from England who sure looked the Beatles part, faked playin the bass, but could sing okay, and the chicks went wild!  And as the story goes, Barry Lee Harwood was in the crowd and later proclaimed “that’s the band I wanna be in.”  I didn’t know him at the time, but we later had an interesting first meeting.

So how did you meet Barry Lee?

Barry and I had a rather peculiar meeting sometime  in seventh grade. As I recall, my school bus passed a really cool looking red Corvair convertible that had been pulled over by the police, and upon further glaring at the situation, I saw it was Barry and his very attractive mom being ticketed. So, by the time he got to school just before homeroom, I was blabbing all about it to all who would listen, and the next thing I know, little ol’ Barry Harwood, and I was pretty short then myself, was all over me, not physically, but he was all bowed up and he let me and everybody know I needed to shut my big mouth or else. Man, he was hot! Well some time went by and I guess I heard he played bass pretty well, his dad and mom were in a country band  that was a regular on a locally broadcast family entertainment/talent  TV   show. His dad, Clarence played bass. So we were seriously in need of a real player in The Rockers, so we ask him to come over and rehearse with us, and oh my God, that was the first time I realized what a band should sound like. I mean it was like some new invention. I was gassed, so we begged him to join, and he did.

Sometime later, he wanted to switch to guitar, and I was really bummed because I knew there was no one else who knew the proper way to play bass. Believe it or not, as young as we were, there were no bass players to be found - anywhere. Well eventually he made the switch, and we did find a good bass man, and then another - we changed band members a few times, and off we went. Through most of high school and beyond we played dances, senior breakfast’s, naval bases, really seedy and horrid old bars downtown, tried our hand at going in the studio, and some close to home road gigs which were a blast. And looking back I feel so very fortunate and lucky for all of it. It was approximately at this time we meet The One Percent, which soon changed their name to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I just loved the name. It instantly sounded ‘big time.’

Did you play with any of the Skynyrd “family” prior to The Rossington Collins Band?
I believe if my memory serves me well, just before Leon joined Skynyrd, there were some players hangin’ around at the old Comic Book Club downtown, and that place was rough. Myself and probably Barry, leon and some others were jammin’ around one late Sunday afternoon just having some fun, I seem to remember that Ronnie walked in and sat around and listened.  The juke box had one of their very early recordings on a 45 on the box. I remember it kept getting played a lot. The song was “Need All My Friends,” and I liked it and was surprised it didn’t end up on their first album. I thought it was as strong or even better than the other tracks.

I’m sure you knew Ronnie. Can you offer any insight into what this legendary man was really like?
I knew Ronnie just enough to know that he was a man of quiet dignity and honor. Unpretentious and unassuming and just knew his place. A self confident man, he seemed to walk out of another time almost. A time of chivalry, and just a plain old gentleman. I truly liked being around him. Now of course I never had to endure any of his disciplinary actions as we all knew he was known for. Glad I never had to quit his band. It was usually your ass if you did. Fortunately , I think he respected. me, and the level of playing our band was at. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone longer than he was alive. A true classic and stylist.

One day around Christmas in the early 70’s, and Pronounced had been out maybe a year or so, Ronnie and Gary Rossington walked into a music store I was working at, we were casual friends at the time, told me he was looking to buy a starter drum set for his younger brother Johnny for Christmas. And all through the conversation and transaction, the both of them would drop these little remarks, maybe hints along the way as to when was I going to start doing what I really loved and was good at. I didn’t catch on right away, but as soon as we got outside to load the drums, he just matter of fact blurted out, “would you like to play drums for Skynyrd?” Well of course I was a little stunned to say the least. Then he stated they were thinking about letting Bob Burns go and looking to replace him. What was my reply? There wasn’t much of one I think because Ronnie could see I was a little perplexed at the ambush, and he knew Barry and I were going at it pretty hard to get where they were. And I will tell you, that band busted their brains out to make it happen, such a shame to see it go down in such a way and at a time when they were heading for superstardom, America’s Rolling Stones, you know?
 
Soon afterward, I heard “Sweet Home Alabama” and was blown away. I was like, where did that come from? So well put together and well played, and yes, I was listening to Bob Burns. I thought he must still have the gig. Later, it was suggested to me by several friends that maybe my missing that opportunity kept me on this earth for a while longer. It makes me shudder. That had to be fright beyond words.

I know you and Randall Hall spent some time touring with Melanie. What was she like to work with, and did you get tired of hearing “Brand New key?”
Let me back up a little to a time around 1976 or so, and Barry Lee was picked up by Melanie, probably an off shoot of his time doing session work in Atlanta, and possibly New York. He called me one day when I was at work at the music store, and knowing what a huge fan of Stevie Wonder I was, just wanted to share with me that Stevie had just walked by him in the hallway at The Record Plant I believe. Of course I just got stupid. I’m sure I was foaming at the mouth, just without words. I was terribly envious. So later that year, I almost got a percussion only gig with her, and with Barry, just the three of us. I was going to get to play piano on a cool cover of “Tennessee Waltz” during the show too. They were going to Australia and New Zealand. I was so stoked. However, at the last minute, again the plug was pulled on me. They cited financial reasons.

A couple of years later, sometime in 1979 I think, our band Running Easy was playing at a Gainsville hot spot, and on one of our breaks we got a message that Rickey Medlocke of Blackfoot had called and left a message for Randall to call him, somewhere up north I believe. The message was that Melanie Safka was looking for a new band, she wanted to go electric. We didn’t know what to think. The kicker was that she had a bass player she really liked and wanted to keep. So some how, it got worked out with Gary, our bass player, and about a month later we were rehearsing with her at her summer cottage on Ft. Meyers beach in Southwest Florida. We played a few theatres in New York and New Jersey, then played a killer electric folk festival in Switzerland. Man that was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever gotten to do. It was like Woodstock on Lake Geneva, Wow! We also took a train to the Montreaux Jazz Festival. That was a gas. As far as “Brand New Key,” we didn’t stay together all that long, so I played it just a couple of times. I think she just did it solo, short version. She was probably sick of it for sure. She only did a few of her older classics like “Candles in the Rain” and “Laydown Laydown,” which were great live tunes. That relationship was over pretty quick. She loved the band but her manager husband said they could no longer afford us. Oh, well.

Can you tell me where you were when you heard about the Skynyrd plane crash, and what your thoughts were at the time?

Our band Running Easy was playing at a bar, and I got a message to call home, my wife had called. So when I got the news from her, we  really didn’t have much information, didn’t know if it was a commercial flight or whatever, and I felt some worry, but honestly thought that maybe there were no major casualties and certainly not what was to come. So we all went home, not knowing anything else, and on my ride home I tuned in to our local FM rock station, where they were pretty hard on the coverage. By then it was revealed that in fact it was a charter, that the whole band and crew were on board, and there were fatalities. Of course I was sick at my stomach at the sound of that. They had no names as of yet, this was about 2 a.m. in the morning. So when I got home, I sat up and just listened, and took it all in. As I recall, there was huge anticipation and word they would report the list of fatalities soon, and when the time came, I just shuddered. It was so unbelievable. It was terribly sad to hear the names, but I really couldn’t believe Ronnie’s was one of them.

You just thought he was  invincible. We attended the funeral and I remember seeing Billy Powell with the damage to his nose, but he seemed quite receptive and friendly. I was able to approach him and tell him how sorry we all were. Maybe a year or so later, I was in a backstage area at a Blackfoot concert I think, and who would walk up to me, and I really didn’t see him until he was right up on me, but Billy. He seemed genuinely happy to see me, and equally candid. Just very warm and friendly, just wanted to say hello. I asked him how were things, and he said just doing it day by day, and looking forward to getting back to playing on the big stage. I knew then what a great man he was, and he was so very engaging and wanted you to know you were his friend.

It seems Artimus would be the first choice as drummer for RCB. How did you land the gig?
I had heard of the formation of a new band and knew that Barry Lee was going to be a part of it. Again, I was very envious, but also happy for him. I think they had been getting it together up in North Carolina, at a place called Bat Cave N.C., where Arti was recovering from a motorcycle accident. I’m not sure if I knew it was his kick drum leg then or not. It would’ve been irrelevant to me at the time anyway I think I knew they were trying a chick singer, the 38 Special backup singer, Dale Krantz. I didn’t know anything about her. Seems that Arti wanted the band to listen to and consider a friend of his who was lead singer in his band, Studebaker Hawke. I don’t know if that ever transpired, but I believe they were pretty impressed with Dale and her lyric writing ideas and ability. I think when she opened it up, they were sold. And very intuitive on their part, no one could stand in Ronnie’s place. Good move. It’s a bit gray here, but from all of the hearsay and opinions flying all about, it was said that Arti wasn’t too happy with his bud being out, and wasn’t sure about the chick singer thing, whoever it was, one could understand that. Nothing personal I’m sure. I don’t think there was any question about it as things came along. And the leg was certainly an impairment. Very frustrating for him. Out of the blue, very early in the morning, middle of the week, I was jolted awake by the phone that was ringing. No answering machine or voice mail back then. So I finally answered it, and was floored to hear Billy Powell’s voice on the other end. You can’t imagine the surprise. I had to stop and reassure myself I wasn’t dreaming, really. He proceeded to tell me that it was looking like Arti was not doing it with them this time, or at least not now, and everybody was back in Jacksonville and they would sure like me to come out that next afternoon to Allen’s rehearsal studio, bring my drums and see if things could work. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was up the rest of the night. At the time I was working for a ship chandler, which is the business of supplying commercial ocean going vessels with food supplies and just about everything you or I would need to survive. That job surely sucked. I would do deliveries in the freezing rain and cold in these derelict trucks. It was so depressing. So with an aura of “this can’t be happening,” I made my way out there.



What was that first get together or rehearsal like?

I was warmly welcomed and we proceeded to drop the hammer. It was awesome and powerful. Those guys rehearsed at almost stage level. I’m thinking, we plowed through what was later to become “Prime Time,” and the fellas were just grinning ear to ear. I was trying to remain conscious don’t you know. Allen blurted out, “now that’s what I’m f’n talking about.” They were signing me up in less than an hour.

What was your initial reaction to Dale’s singing?

I could hear the woman had chops, but didn’t realize how incredible her delivery was until we were cutting the first album. She would sing along for scratch vocals as we laid basic tracks, and when we played it back we were all just juiced to hear how much energy was there. I think she only re-sang parts of two or three  tracks. Amazing. Allen always called her, “you wailin bitch!!” With affection, of course.

What were some of the high points of the RCB days?
There were many but for me one of first things I recall was when we were nearly finished with cutting tracks on the first album, and some overdubbing had begun, some of the brass from MCA Records came out to hear their new artists, and how the album was coming along. The president of the company along with some of the A&R folks came along. We all gathered in the control room, and Allen says to  the engineer, don’t be shy - meaning the volume he played it back at. So about 30 seconds into the track, Allen charges up to the console, switches on the big playback speakers, and jacks the throttle up, meanwhile the co-owner is standing there with us, and very much concerned. Then Allen reassures him that MCA will cover the damages, with an intimidating chuckle Well we just howled, and those tracks just rocked the house. It was awesome. They all looked at each other when it was over, just flabbergasted. You could tell they were just stunned and blown away at how great it was.

Another memorable highlight would’ve been some of the large shows we did. The New Years eve, 1980-’81 transition. All of our families came up to Atlanta at the Omni, which was probably the largest indoor facility of the time. My dad was there with my oldest brother, my family, my two kids were 11 and 5 at the time. At the stroke of 12 o’clock, the kids all came out on stage with us, my daughter was up on my shoulders, fireworks were going off, the front of the stage had this great firework effect that sizzled like a curtain of sparklers. When the thing heated up, it sort of raised up from the heat, like a curtain would do. Some of us were standing at the very front cheering with our fans, and I almost lost my balance while leaning back to get me and my daughter away from the monster. It was all good though, and we cleared the stage and went into the renowned instrumental “Free Bird.” And you know how that goes over. The entire spectacle. Pre-show and everything, the simul-cast DJ’s could think up was broadcast nationwide. It was fabulous. I actually have a board mix from that show. And it is strong. Don’t tell anyone though. (Laughs) Three days later, we came home to a front page write up with huge color live photo, and a sold out coliseum. I can’t say enough about that feeling. There are many wonderful highlights of our very short existence, but one more I must share is when I received my first gold album. I was thrilled, and almost as thrilled when I gave the adult family members their very own gold records. I think a few of the cried. I had arrived!

How did the band break up, and what happened next? Didn’t you join the Allen Collins Band? Tell us about that group.
That is a rather delicate subject. After an incredible first year, an album that was holding it’s own in the charts, I believe it got to #9 in some very worthy company, we were having so much fun. It kind of had a euphoric sensation swirling around the whole miraculous happening. After tragedy struck again with the passing of Allen’s wife, and just getting caught up in all of the trappings of the big time rock and roll lifestyle, something just went out of the bubble. We were convinced by the record company to get in the studio in a rather hurried fashion, we would pick up a nice bonus if we got our second record out by a certain deadline. So we bit on it, were really unprepared. Allen had a pretty serious car accident a week before we were to go, and he was really struggling with the loss of his wife. He absolutely adored her, and had two young daughters. He just seemed lost. It was very hard to see this happening to him. About this time, it became evident that Gary and Dale were in a pretty serious relationship, and that seemed to drive a wedge between Allen and Gary, and the normally free flowing productive juices just bogged down. There was a lot of bad behavior to get into out in El Paso, and that just further worsened the entire situation. It was a catastrophic crash and burn outcome, and it just got worse when we got down to Criteria studios in Miami for mixing and mastering. Every imaginable poison that could be thrown our way was, and we barely got the album finished. After lots of anguish and discontentment everywhere, multiple canceled shows two and three times, RCB performed a benefit concert here at home. Little did we know, it would be our last. Man that was hard to swallow.

A few weeks passed, and Gary announced that he and Dale needed to get away to clear their heads and think about the future. We got a call from them from somewhere in Wyoming, and they said they were done. I was stunned. Such an awesome new beginning for the survivors, and just a tease for the rest of us. And it was all over. It was very hard to deal with it I assure you.  A few months went by, and I guess Allen, Leon,Billy, myself and Barry wanted to carry on, so we tracked down my old band mate Randall Hall, and somebody thought about Jimmy Daughtery. We became The Allen Collins Band. Recorded one really good record, and at the time of it’s release, our record company,MCA, was now in the arms of Motown Records. I think they went, Allen Collins Band - who? Very little album support from them, they just cleaned house, so we were pretty much on our own. We toured a little, a couple of eventful shows.It just seemed that Allen wasn’t into it. I know he was just beaten down. It was over.

Would you share your thoughts on Leon Wilkeson?
God where do I start? Leon and I, once we were laying the lumber, musically, were like old long lost pals that found each other again. When we played together, it was like a freight train. It was with little effort for our parts to just lock in like a rock. It was like a mental telepathic communication. We rarely discussed or hashed out how to make our parts come together. We could lay down our basic tracks in record time. When we were done, it was  depressing. We really rolled. At sound checks most of the time it would be me, Leon and Barry with Billy some of the time. We would have some very productive moments. A gas.

On a more personal one on one relationship note, I would have to say that Leon was really my favorite. We hung out a lot, I would drag him out in the boat sometimes, and actually got him to go camping with Billy, Timmy Lindsey and myself once. He loved it. We rode around in the river most of the night and had a ball. He had  quite the moral conviction tucked away in his being, and it would be hard to realize that sometimes and I know a lot of people didn’t perhaps see that side of him, though there was no doubt with whoever was fortunate enough to spend some time with him, he was all ears, and loved to talk at length about just about anything. And he would make you feel very comfortable. We really hit it off great, lots of shenanigans from the two of us. All through the Skynyrd reunion years, he was always very mindful about calling me on my birthday, and at Christmas. He would end the call with,”love your guts.” I loved that man. How I do miss him.

Is it true you were initially asked to be on the reunion tour in ‘87?

Yes, that’s true. We, the remnants of the ACB thing, were sitting around at the band office listening to Gene Odom talking up this grand idea of putting together a quasi-Skynyrd show, with the ten year anniversary of the plane crash approaching. After we all thought about  it for a bit, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, we thought hey yeah, that might appropriate. God knows who else was thinking about it, but the next thing I know I’m on the outside looking in, and the rest is history.

Are you friends with the surviving Skynyrd/RC Band members? Are you close with Artimus or Bob Burns?
Sadly with the passing of Billy Powell, he was my last remaining good, good friend of the whole crew. I’ve known Rickey Medlocke for a long time but really don’t have the opportunity to associate with him at all. I have no contact with Gary or Dale , no choice of my own. We’ll leave it at that. Artimus and I are friends, though he’s not around much for me to see him. However, I had a nice visit with him at Billy’s funeral, got to hand him off a copy of the CD I just did. Did see Bob Burns, we know each other from way back, but unfortunately he got away before we could chat.

What did you do next? Tell us about playing with Derek Trucks
.

Derek and I are both from Jacksonville, and when he was just starting out he’d come out to these weekend deck parties at various waterfront locations in Jax. I knew his dad a little, and when he was showing some real progress, I guess at the age of about 12 or 13, they put a band together for him, and a couple of years later I jumped in and did some ramblings around Canada. He was outrageous at any age you could say. But at the tender age of16, he played like a well traveled and cultured musician. The coolest thing that happened when we were together, and we had a damn good band, we did a couple of Bob Dylan dates, and ol’ Dylan invited the young guitar whiz up on stage to play with him. Got to see that up close, and it was really great for Derek. We eventually got into the studio and did some tracks for Capitol Records. Jimmy Hall on vocals and harp, and Chuck Leavell on some keys and producing. That stuff kicked ass. Don’t know why it got shelved. It’s pretty cool to see him having such great success. I guess he’s followed every tip I’ve given him, eh? No, just funnin’. I talk to him from time to time. We always kick around our alter ego musical association of the past as ‘The Derek Brothers Band’.

Give me your thoughts on Mainstream South and your band mates Steve Perez and Barry Lee Harwood.
From the outset of this studio project, I don’t believe Steve or myself saw it as a viable piece of work that would travel beyond our own gratification and sharing it with some friends and family. Initially, it was partly envisioned as a way to get our old musical ideas, with our old band mates, involving everyone that we crossed paths with back in the early days, and have some fun. We knew we wanted to get Randall Hall doing his original parts on the new retooled material, along with some new ideas of Steve’s and Barry Lee with his off the chain guitar mastery, and whoever we could persuade to come and do it with us. Well, most of what we wanted to happen did transpire, and so with tireless effort on Steve’s part , we were pretty happy with the result. We understand it does get a little busy, and sometimes a bit crowded, but there is no denying the energy and good intentions the music does convey. Steve Perez has a rather crafty knack for coming up with ideas that are fun to play on. They do develop through the arrangement very nice. They do inspire. He’s a very good player, one who Billy Powell had loads of respect for. I’m very happy he came with this whole idea, and that I got to be a part of it. I would have never seen this a couple of years ago.

What are your thoughts on the state of music today, especially this thing we call Southern Rock?
I’ve always maintained an open mind to any and all music that has something to offer. It is remarkable how down through the ages, how music’s creative forces, and who is the new phenom of the day, styles and message, almost as if by magic, simply evolves and alters it’s path almost transparently. You find yourself at some crossroads several years and many new bands later wondering, just how did we get to this point? It amazingly slips by doesn’t it? Wish I could write a song or poem to capture it. I am perplexed at some of the simple and angry culture that is depicted in some of the new bands today. Now there are a few that are really good at it. Hip Hop, and the anti-social venom that’s everywhere doesn’t make me think about having a good time doing much of anything. I don’t want to come off sounding ignorant, but there are no doubt some new artists that do say it in a good and inspiring way. Funny that I never considered myself a ‘southern rocker type’, but I am very honored to have been right in the middle of one of the most renowned and legendary bands of our time. And had the privilege of being a part of a nearly impossible resurrection of sorts to come out of a terrible tragedy, and one that clearly stood on its own merit, and on its own very big stage.

Care to share your feelings on the state of the nation, the world and the new President?
Where to begin. I’ll try and keep it simple, like me. It is definitely a much different and disconcerting world today. It seems like the culture, and the well being of oneself and overall security of our country is at a tedious threshold, and slipping away. I am a registered voter, and with all of the unbelievable irresponsibility being shed on all of us, I desperately hope that our new leaders can right this crippled ship. It is astounding the blatant differences that the parties have with each other, and within their own parties. It is sickening to see the total collapse of integrity and honor of those who are put in office to serve the people who put them there. Whatever happened to ‘Of the people and By the people’. So much betrayal and greed. I hope we can get the right stuff back.

Tell us a little about your family, and what you do when not sitting behind the drum kit?
I have a great family. I have two grown adult children, or can I say people? I’m also raising a little boy who snuck up on us 11 years ago. He is a great kid. He’s taking piano also. My oldest is our daughter who has two children, and she’s beautiful. My grown son is a monster drummer, and good all around musician. He has three children. Yikes! A grandpa times five! My wife and I will be married forty years this April. How did she do it? We love the outdoors, lots of boating and going to the beach. The house that I grew up in is still in the family, so its nice to have that place to light. I still go camping whenever I get the opportunity. I’ve got a couple of river front hideaways that I love. They are beautiful, on the mighty St. Johns. Oh yeah, lots of homework - again.

Who was the greatest drummer that ever lived?

Now you know that’s one impossible spot to be put in. I’d have to say Mitch Mitchell, Ringo of course, and those early big band drummers that just kicked the band along. Huge energy that stuff. Talk about the wall of sound. I’d have to say I have always keyed in on any track that overall just cooks along. It’s hard to name a favorite, there’s just too many. Oh yeah, Stevie Wonder is one of the great groove drummers of all time, really.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring musicians out there?
Keep your nose clean. Have fun and don’t fall into the traps that are laid for you, which are many. Be considerate of your band mates, and have fun. It can be a great ride, even with all of the disappointments.

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