Down Beat Readers’ Best Drummers 1969

Scott K Fish

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SKF NOTE: When I was a high schooler, Down Beat was about the only available music magazine, with its focus on jazz. But that was okay. Jazz drummers were still the standard by which all popular music drummers were measured.

This list is from the 34th Annual DB Readers Poll of December 25, 1969. That banner year for rock music introduced classic albums by Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Rolling Stones, The Who, King Crimson, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Beatles, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash. We start to see a few rock drummers emerging among DB readers' favorite drummers at the close of 1969.

In 1969 I'm sure I was listening to Ginger Baker, Bobby Colomby, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Tony Williams, and Max Roach. I'm not sure how familiar I was in 1969 with the other drummers on this list. I knew many of their names. It's likely, without knowing it, I heard some of them on NYC jazz radio stations. But I didn't have much money for collecting albums in 1969.

All that changed very soon. Discovering all these drummers, playing in many musical genres, has been a pleasurable part of my life.

SKF Blog - Life Beyond the Cymbals - https://scottkfish.com/2021/01/11/down-beat-readers-best-drummers-1969/
 

Deafmoon

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I'm outraged by Gene Krupka at #19. How angry was Buddy Rich over missing the top spot?
I’m fairly certain Buddy trashed Down Beat big time after this and busted Elvins chops too. He went ballistic when one year Shelly Manne won. The story is he even went down to a club where Shelly was playing and openly mocked things Shelly played on the stand to intimidate Shelly into a self conscious state of mind. What was ridiculous was Shelly didn’t undermine Buddy’s greatness that year, the poll did. I also heard he did similar intimidating stuff to Elvin. Showing up and sitting right up front to give him an earful of sarcasm. But whereas Shelly would let it get to him, Elvin was smarter about it and would just take it for what it was, sophomoric hijinx.
 

cribbon

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It might be good to know that Down Beat had two separate polls, a critics poll and a readers poll (it also featured a subset entitled Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition designed to give some exposure to talented up-and-comers relatively new on the scene). The readers poll was more influenced by who was hot that year or more in the public eye via new recordings or tours, while the critics thing was closer to an evaluation by your peers. (Ginger Baker probably placed high in this poll because 1969 was the year of Cream's farewell tour.)

Down Beat was a serious magazine with a lot of information; their record reviews were especially useful as they often went into detail track by track explaining or describing why a particular album or song was good or bad.
 

bigbonzo

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I’m fairly certain Buddy trashed Down Beat big time after this and busted Elvins chops too. He went ballistic when one year Shelly Manne won. The story is he even went down to a club where Shelly was playing and openly mocked things Shelly played on the stand to intimidate Shelly into a self conscious state of mind. What was ridiculous was Shelly didn’t undermine Buddy’s greatness that year, the poll did. I also heard he did similar intimidating stuff to Elvin. Showing up and sitting right up front to give him an earful of sarcasm. But whereas Shelly would let it get to him, Elvin was smarter about it and would just take it for what it was, sophomoric hijinx.
One of the reasons I despise Buddy. Grow up, dude.
 

old_K_ride

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Buddy took this sh*t way too seriously.And to harass fellow drummers on their gig about it? he was insecure to say the least.
and I worshipped the guy for a long time.
his daughter recently unfriended me because I had the nerve to answer a poll question where I said I'd much rather listen to Blakey now than Buddy.
boom! unfriended!
 

bigbonzo

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Buddy took this sh*t way too seriously.And to harass fellow drummers on their gig about it? he was insecure to say the least.
and I worshipped the guy for a long time.
his daughter recently unfriended me because I had the nerve to answer a poll question where I said I'd much rather listen to Blakey now than Buddy.
boom! unfriended!
I hope his grandson is more grounded and more pleasant than Buddy was. He played on Neil Peart's tribute to Buddy a bunch of years ago.
 

hsosdrum

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It might be good to know that Down Beat had two separate polls, a critics poll and a readers poll (it also featured a subset entitled Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition designed to give some exposure to talented up-and-comers relatively new on the scene). The readers poll was more influenced by who was hot that year or more in the public eye via new recordings or tours, while the critics thing was closer to an evaluation by your peers. (Ginger Baker probably placed high in this poll because 1969 was the year of Cream's farewell tour.)

Down Beat was a serious magazine with a lot of information; their record reviews were especially useful as they often went into detail track by track explaining or describing why a particular album or song was good or bad.
Cream's farewell tour was in the fall of 1968. Baker's popularity increased in 1969 due to the release of the Blind Faith album, and that band's only world tour that summer. Baker was the most visible rock drummer in the world throughout most of 1969. (The Beatles' Abbey Road wasn't released until the end of September in 1969.)

P.S. I was a Down Beat subscriber between 1966 and 1971 and I voted for Ginger Baker in the 1969 Reader's Poll.
 

What It Is

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Buddy took this sh*t way too seriously.And to harass fellow drummers on their gig about it? he was insecure to say the least.
and I worshipped the guy for a long time.
his daughter recently unfriended me because I had the nerve to answer a poll question where I said I'd much rather listen to Blakey now than Buddy.
boom! unfriended!
Sounds like the Rich DNA is alive and well in the 21st century.
 

hsosdrum

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I'm outraged by Gene Krupka at #19. How angry was Buddy Rich over missing the top spot?
Gene retired in 1967, saying that he felt he was "playing lousy" at that time. He returned to public performance in 1970. In light of this absence, his low standing in the poll is not surprising at all.
 

hsosdrum

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Biggest surprise to me was Joe Cusatis at #11! (Ahead of DeJohnette and Bellson!) Didn't Cusatis play with Peter Nero? I suspect that gigging regularly in New York City tended to raise a jazz drummer's visibility back then.
 

DonS

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Bobby Colomby was my gateway drug into jazz. I saw him a couple times Summer of ‘69 with Blood Sweat & Tears. He blew me away, crispest snare tuning I ever heard and he made those Fibes sing. His dynamics in Smiling Phases still makes me pause and smile to this day.
Don
 

cribbon

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Cream's farewell tour was in the fall of 1968. Baker's popularity increased in 1969 due to the release of the Blind Faith album, and that band's only world tour that summer. Baker was the most visible rock drummer in the world throughout most of 1969. (The Beatles' Abbey Road wasn't released until the end of September in 1969.)

P.S. I was a Down Beat subscriber between 1966 and 1971 and I voted for Ginger Baker in the 1969 Reader's Poll.
Right you are!
 

KevinD

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Am I correct in assuming that the numbers in the brackets are where the drummers came in for the previous poll?
If so then Buddy and Elvin finished that way 2 years in a row.
Nice to see Grady Tate in the top 10.

Are the numbers on the far right the votes? I would have thought readers poll would garner more than ~5000 votes for the top 20 slots
 


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