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Drummer biography books

311Club

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OZjazzer

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I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Chris Smith’s book, The View from the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis.
Absolutely agree. It’s a great book. Mel was incredibly knowledgeable, talented, and more importantly, very, very opinionated. It’s a great book but it’s about a style of music the rockers aren’t interested in. I’m not surprised it hasn’t been mentioned, just disappointed.

LATER. Good to see more mentions of the book.
 
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IVER

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Years ago, I read Riders on the Storm by John Densmore, and it gave a nice look into his style of playing and his time with The Doors, and it was also the basis for a lot of Oliver Stone’s movie.

I’m curious what other biographies have been written by or about drummers.
Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend, by Mark Miller, is a great read. Most listeners won't be familiar with Ranger, but he was a phenomenal talent who, plagued by mental health issues, just walked out the door and disappeared without a trace more than two decades ago.
 
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Tubwompus

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Stan Levy Jazz Heavyweight by Frank R. Wade Foreward by Charlie Watts
Mel Lewis bio The View From the Back of the Bus
and Notes and Tones, a collection of interviews with jazz greats by drummer Art Taylor.
Wow, I read Notes And Tones so long ago that I forgot it on my posted list. Taylor sounded like he resented the Beatles in his interviews, I remember.
 

DrumPhil

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Have to mention another outstanding book: Hard Bop Academy, by Alan Goldsher. It shows the life and impact of the great Art Blakey through interviews with at least two dozen of the scores of musicians who played in his band over the decades. Many of them shared how he prepared them to be leaders on their own after they left the Messengers.
 

Tedd

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"Through the Eyes of Magic" by John French. Fascinating, disturbing, comprehensive, but ultimately somehow uplifting in a bittersweet fashion. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
You described the book perfectly. I also recommend it.
 

mistersiz

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« Road Trip » by French drummer Manu Katche.
But that’s in French..
 

StatesboroBlue

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Thanks, @bigbonzo, that thread's pretty enlightening! Yet, as VB pointed out:



Aside from a couple contextless quotes (cringey ones indeed), I still haven't gotten any forum members' opinions about the book as a whole.

As the saying goes, never learn about your heroes. That's the only thing that's keeping me from reading it to develop my own opinions — I do that with plenty of books! I just don't want to hear his drumming and be like, "ugh, so good, but that supposedly true thing that I read about him..."

Maybe this is one of those very rare instances that I'll embrace the idea that ignorance is bliss...
I have read it, and I was holding out on replying until the end of thread to see if someone else responded. Impression? I can't say it made any at all. Mostly, just more of the same old anecdotes that have circulated for years. I have since sworn off reading musician and band monographs.
 

Tom Holder

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Great topic! In addition to "Traps", "Drummin' Men" and "This Wheel's On Fire", I really enjoyed "That Would Be Me", the autobiography of drummer/actor Micky Jones. Sorry for the tired cliche, but I couldn't put it down!
 

bbunks

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Hard to Handle by Steve Gorman is a favorite of mine. I'm sure that the Robinson brothers have different takes on the events, but Gorman's book is well written and funny, if frustrating. I also enjoyed So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star by Jacob Slichter, who drummed for Semisonic during their 15 minutes of fame. It's a very clear and entertaining snapshot of the waning days of alt-rock and the state of the music business during the CD era. There's not too much about drumming for drummers in these, but they're good examples of the genre of the general interest rock autobiography.

Bill Bruford's autobiography, of course. It's idiosyncratically organized and non-gossipy, but it's a great glimpse into major talent and an era.
I really loved Jacob Slichter’s book. Thanks for the Steve Gorman recommendation
 

contract73

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Houndog

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1. Life in Double Time by Mike Lankford is the most honest and readable book I've ever read about/by any drummer. Lankford is like a lot of us who aspire to become professional drummers, and this autobiographical book charts his drumming life from his beginning infatuation with drums through his drumming career all the way to the end when he gives it up to opt for a "normal" life (wherein he becomes a teacher) and his subsequent return to playing. As far as I'm concerned this is a minor masterpiece of American literature filled with insight and humor. I believe it's out of print but can still be found if you search around.


2. The two volumes of Drummin' Men by Kurt Korall are full of short bios/histories of significant jazz drummers of the swing and bebop eras and are must-haves. Korall was a drummer in his younger years and gave it up for a writing career but kept alive his fire for drumming in his writing.

3. You'd be well served to read anything by Whitney Balliett (American Musicians I and II, The Sound of Surprise, Such Sweet Thunder, Goodbyes and Other Messages, etc.) who, IMO, is the greatest writer on the subject of jazz that I've ever read. These books are not exclusively about jazz drummers but consist of pieces on a wide variety of jazz musicians and/or events, but they are all well worth reading.
Balliett's superb writing, insight and love of jazz and sharp focus on drummers is unequaled. He wrote for the New Yorker for years and was considered by many at the magazine as their most talented writer, although most of them thought that writing about jazz was a waste of his exceptional talent (even his mother thought so). He was a hobby drummer in his youth and so when he writes about jazz drummers, he knows whereof he speaks. Many of his books (used editions) are also available inexpensively on places like Amazon.

4. Other books not exclusively on drummers contain a lot of interesting information about drummers in bands, groups or musical eras that those books cover: In a Silent Way, Elegant People, No Beethovan, Bathed in Lightning, Playing the Band, Jack Bruce Composing Himself, Blowing the Blues, In the Court of King Crimson, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum.

Lots of stuff out there - go get it!
Just ordered Life in Double Time
 

Luddite

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Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac. Quick, entertaining read. Refreshingly honest about his mistakes and personal shortcomings. He lived a soap opera, how can it not be entertaining?!?
Moon by Tony Fletcher. Warts and all, deeply researched, still gives Keith credit for his musical abilities while dealing with his personal demons in an evenhanded manner. It’s a little daunting lengthwise, but it’s worth the commitment.
Not Dead Yet, Phil Collins. Plenty of humor, although mostly sarcastic and ironic. I get the impression that he doesn’t take himself all that seriously, and he (mostly) ‘fesses up about his own foibles and bad decisions. Either way, it’s tragic that he’s too unhealthy now to play drums, he was a force behind the kit, whether it was Genesis, solo music, Brand X, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton…
 

IVER

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Thanks to all who recommended Alan Goldsher's Hard Bop Academy. I just finished it and loved it. The library has several other of the titles mentioned here, so I will binge on drummer books.
 

hawker

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Just ordered Life in Double Time
Loved this book as well. The author and I are about the same age, played the same kind of joints many of the same tunes. Oh no, here it comes......"couldn't put it down". So much so that I sent him a note telling him so.
 

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GretschMan61

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My personal favourites are :
View from the back of the band - The Lofe and Music of Mel Lewis by Chris Smith

You should be Dancing -my life with the Bee Gees- by Dennis Bryon

Let the Drums Speak - Bernard Purdie
 

GretschMan61

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Just got this from Amazon today - really looking forward to reading this .
D70CDBB9-CBC2-483E-8064-AF9962250C82.jpeg
 

TCurtis

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Prisoner of Woodstock by Dallas Taylor. About half the book is about his formative years as a drummer and his time with CSN and CSN&Y and Stephen Stills/Manassas and about half was about the heroin addiction that led to his liver transplant. Overall a good read.
Does he mention his audition for Little Feat, where he suffered appendicitis and had to be rushed to hospital for an appendectomy?
 


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