Freddie Gruber on Record

Scott K Fish

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SKF NOTE: The late drummer Freddie Gruber is known by many drummers, including me, as an exemplary teacher. Other drummers, however, say Freddie is full of hot air, a charlatan, who has somehow put a spell on Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, Jim Keltner, Steve Smith, Mel Lewis, and other drumming legends.

Skeptics point out the absence of Freddie recordings. If Freddie Gruber was such a great player, they say, how come he never made any records? Of course, that’s asking to prove a negative.

What we’ve always had is the testimony of respected drummers who did hear Freddie Gruber drumming in his prime, and the praise of first-class contemporary players such as those named above.

Then last week I received an interesting email from Neal Sausen who provides new insight into Freddie Gruber. Here, in part, is what Neal wrote:

…I’ve been a Freddie Gruber drum student for over well 50 years. I started with him when I was 18 on April 2, 1969, and stayed with him continuously until around 1990-92. Then studied off and on with him, formally or informally, until shortly before his death in 2011. I was at his house almost every night the last year or so of his life, hanging out with him, and keeping him company.

=====

Neal’s email also mentioned that there is, in fact, one album available with Freddie Gruber in the drum chair. On the Spotlite label, the album by the Gene Roland Big Band featuring Charlie Parker is called “The Band That Never Was.” The back on the album jacket features band photos, one of which clearly shows a young Freddie Gruber on the drums.

Full story - https://scottkfish.com/2021/11/09/freddie-gruber-on-record/
 
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KevinD

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I would be interested in hearing some of his recorded performances.
My first drum teacher (who passed away in 2017) knew Freddie Gruber from "the old days" in New York City. He told me that Freddie was "just another working drummer." He was not trying to be disparaging, he said that Freddie was a pro drummer for sure, but there was nothing in his technique or performances that stood out head & shoulders above any of the other guys in the union back then.

My teacher had amazing hands, he had studied with Sam Ulano and Mo Goldenberg (and a short stint with Gladstone as well) and held his teachers in very high regard. He told me "those guys really had the key to that stuff." He was somewhat amused that Freddie had become such a celebrity teacher at a later age. I guess he found the right niche.

Years ago I went to see Steve Smith and Vital Information at the Bottom Line in NYC (sadly long gone).
After the gig a few other NYC drummers and I hung out a little while. We were all kind of chuckling that at the bar (which was pretty long) Steve Smith had about 3-4 people politely chatting with him... and 20 feet away Freddie Gruber was there surrounded by about 15-20 people barraging him with questions about his technique.
 

Wolfman

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I was good friends with Sam Ulano. I met him when I was 15 and he was 70. He was a friend and mentor and most of what I learned from him was outside of formal lessons, although I did take lessons from him when I was around 24 years old. He was eccentric for sure, but I learned a lot from hanging out with him and watching him play. He was a huge influence on me. Glad to see his name mentioned!
 

drums1225

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My teacher had amazing hands, he had studied with Sam Ulano and Mo Goldenberg (and a short stint with Gladstone as well) and held his teachers in very high regard. He told me "those guys really had the key to that stuff." He was somewhat amused that Freddie had become such a celebrity teacher at a later age. I guess he found the right niche.
I studied with Sam Ulano for about 3 1/2 years, between 2002 until 2006. I always enjoyed my time with him, and he raised my reading game in a big way. I still have what seems like 300 of his homemade "books" (probably more like 30 or 40). Reading your post reminded me that when I mentioned Freddie Gruber, Sam dismissed him as nothing special, and he was puzzled as to how Freddie became some kind of "drum guru to the stars".

Years ago I went to see Steve Smith and Vital Information at the Bottom Line in NYC (sadly long gone).
After the gig a few other NYC drummers and I hung out a little while. We were all kind of chuckling that at the bar (which was pretty long) Steve Smith had about 3-4 people politely chatting with him... and 20 feet away Freddie Gruber was there surrounded by about 15-20 people barraging him with questions about his technique.
Man, do I miss the Bottom Line. I saw Tower of Power there a couple of times, and memorably, Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers on drums, and a few other great shows.
 

type85

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Some background on Freddie (funny crazy stories of a serious character):


After listening to this: I grew up in Canoga park, I started getting drum lessons at Mel Zelnick's Music stop in the summer of 1978 when I started playing the drums!
The guy I took lessons from was definitely NOT Freddy!
 
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Scott K Fish

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Some background on Freddie (funny crazy stories of a serious character):


After listening to this: I grew up in Canoga park, I started getting drum lessons at Mel Zelnick's Music stop in the summer of 1978 when I started playing the drums!
The guy I took lessons from was definitely NOT Freddy!
The "jazz rag" Bruce mentions was Metronome magazine. And the "Shape of Drums to Come" column was written in 1947 by well-respected jazz writer Barry Ulanov. https://scottkfish.com/2016/03/14/f...tween-a-belgian-percussionist-and-buddy-rich/
 


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