Drummer Stories

“A very well-known drummer once had cue trouble when he was playing in the put band for an American musical. He, too, was feeling particularly tired on this occasion and during a break he dozed off into a sound sleep. Unfortunately the next musical contribution to the show, according to the score, was a heavy thump by the drummer on a huge Chinese gong. When this point in the show was drawing near, however, the drummer was snoring away peacefully.

The conductor looked anxiously towards the percussion. The bass player suddenly fell in, and, leaning across, briskly shook his sleeping colleague. The drummer awoke with a start, seized a mallet and lashed at the gong for all he was worth.

He was about fifteen seconds too early. The actors stumbled over their lines, gazed in bewilderment into the pit and dried up completely. In the sepulchral hush that followed, broken only by the throbbing reverberations of the gong, the drummer got gracefully to his feet, flipped the white handkerchief from the top pocket of his dress suit, laid it across his left arm and in deep, measured butlerian tones boomed to the astonished audience, “My lady; dinner is served!”

I’m glad to say he kept his job.

For some peculiar reason drummers seem to figure prominently in stories about musicians. One of the classic Archer Street tales concerns a trio of musicians who were playing for a New Year’s Eve dance at a very select ladies’ college deep in the country. By half past nine the three musicians were developing a raging thirst. Something had to be done. So it was decided that the bass player would lay down his bass, quit the stand unobtrusively as possible, and go out into the great, rural unknown in search of a pub. Having found a pub, he would have one pint and then return to the college with as many bottles as he could carry. The bass player duly departed leaving the pianist and drummer holding the fort.

By 11.45 pm, the bass player had still not returned.

“Look,” said the pianist, “as soon as we finish this number, I’ll pop out and find him. Even if I can’t find him, at least I’ll bring you back a taste.”

Feeling a complete Charlie, the drummer continued playing on his own. By 1.30 am the pianist had not returned and the drummer was practically choking with thirst and fury. He struck up a quickstep tempo and began beating hell out of his drums to try to work off some of his rage.

At this point a very demure young lady approached the stand and in a perfectly modulated, beautifully refined voice said, “I say, could you possibly play ‘Just One Of Those Things’?”

The red-faced drummer glared furiously at the girl, freezing the smile on her face, and said with withering scorn : “What the bloody hell do you think I’m playing?”

Extract from ‘Tin Pan Alley” by Eddie Rogers (as told to Mike Hennessey)

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