PETE YORK - SPENCER DAVIS - HARDIN & YORK - SESSIONS
AW - How did you become interested in drumming and when?
IN 1950 we had only a radio in the house for entertainment. I was attracted to jazz music although I didn't know what it was.
I used to beat time with pencils on anything I could find which made a pleasing sound, an old brass bell, cooking pots etc. By the time I was 10 I had sticks and brushes and a very cheap snare drum (no name).
AW - Can you recall the very first drum set you owned and what was it, do you also still have it?
All through my school years I slowly collected more and better "traps" until, at 18 years old, I had an Olympic set. When I left school and went work in Birmingham I traded this in for a Premier set with 20" BD, 12" & 14" toms in black and a 14 x 5 SD.
I have none of those drums anymore. I kept one stick from my early days which I marked with the date 1956. It was maybe a 7A model.
AW - You were at one time a Beverley and Rogers drums endorsee how did that come about did they approach you because of the Spencer Davis group you were in at the time?
I bought my first American Rogers set from Lionel Rubin at Ringway Music, Birmingham. It can be seen in the movie The Ghost Goes Gear around 1965. I played that set though the Spencer Davis Mark 1 years and recorded all the hits on it. I still have the Dynasonic COB snare. Incredible drum. When we had the hits they offered me a full endorsement.
AW - Which was very helpful when we were constantly on the road.
I played Rogers into my time with Hardin & York and recorded our first albums on those drums. Then things began to go wrong with Rogers distribution and manufacture
I was offered to play Beverley drums which were made at the Premier factory and were very good. They gave me good service.
AW - Do you have a particular favourite drum set or snare drum, if so why ?
The Rogers Dynasonic snare was a revelation, designed to satisfy the demands of Buddy Rich, it had to be. It had a beautiful response at all volume levels. A real instrument for a snare drum maestro like Buddy.
I have been with Pearl drums since 1979 and have some Masterworks drums, some Reference drums and several great snares. One of therm is a solid maple shell and is wonderful to hear. I also designed my Signature snare which includes some features suggested by Louie Bellson. I love them all and would never change companies now. I couldn't bear to say goodbye to my little family of Pearl drums.
AW - Did you ever take drum lessons, I remember practicing with you at your home you were amazing and a real inspiration, you kindly took me on a Hardin and York concert in Germany that was an experience, do you still perform together?
While I was at Trent College I learned the snare drum rudiments in the military band of the Army cadets. I was already jazzed-out at the age of 14.
But no teacher – I learned notation etc from the Buddy Rich Book and practiced also from the George Lawrence Stone books. Reading and syncopation from the Louie Bellson book.
Still no teacher. I just used my own judgement on whether I was playing things correctly.
I became well-known through the success of the Spencer Davis Group from the mid-Sixties and was endorsed by Rogers Drums. Around 1970 they sent their master clinician, Roy Burns, on a tour of the UK.
I volunteered to be his roadie in the hope that I could learn from him. I helped him set up every day and he would show me stick grip and hand movement. Just watching him was an invaluable lesson in
how to approach this instrument we love. Roy was as near as I ever got to having a teacher.
So I am really self-taught as many others were in my day. This does make for originality and the development of some kind of personal style.
I am surprised to see how many drummers with a very limited range of playing experience set themselves up as teachers today. If you are going to get a teacher try to find someone who knows the whole picture and who has paid his dues.
Regarding my duo with Eddie Hardin that was a most creative time, with my discovering the art of drum soloing. We both had to keep the audiences hot for two hours a night and this means you have to be really on the ball. Unfortunately Eddie died a couple of years ago and I miss playing with him. I still have the recordings and videos to remind me of great times.
AW - You did a very interesting project with Klaus Doldinger I think Jon Lord was on the record,
how did that come about as it was quite a different genre for you and at the time quite a
ground breaking recording?
The Doldinger Jubilee shows in 1973 –1975 were great fun and I got to meet and play with some world class musicians – Buddy Guy, Les McCann, Johnny Griffin, Brian Auger, Alexis Korner etc. I also enjoyed the drum duets with Curt Cress.
The concept reminded me of the old Jazz At The Philharmonic shows. Everybody playing for each other with lots of variety in the music. Jon Lord was not part of that but at the same time I was doing concerts with Jon featuring rock group and symphony orchestra. This was another discipline for me and I learned a lot. The first thing the conductor learns is that when the drummer plays in this big production, it's the drummer who takes over the timekeeping.
AW - How did the Super Drumming project come about as it brings together some of the world's finest drummers and percussionists. I hear that everything took place in an old church and a disused steel works? Drummers: Mark Brzezicki, Steve Ferrone, Trilok Gurtu, Jon Hiseman, Ian Paice, Herman Rarebell, Freddie Santiago, Ed Thigpen are on the recordings? Are there any future plans for more recordings?
Super Drumming began as a a TV series on German TV in 1987. They asked me to do a drum school for children's TV but I didn't think that would be so interesting for the TV public at 16.30 in the afternoon. So I came up with a format involving not just me but some other really big names in drumming and a small band which could play in many styles. The organization of this was very challenging and I couldn't have done it without Louie Bellson, who was the first guest I asked and the first to say yes. All the others followed. The shows stand today as a milestone in TV history and so many drummers in Europe began to play because of this inspiration on their screens.
We also played some live concerts which always sold out.
We will never see anything like this on TV again because today's programme planners are even dumber than they were 30 years ago.
But we are trying to mount another live show in Düsseldorf in October. I have a guest line-up which is spectacular but we must confirm that all these great players are free to come together at that time. It's not easy.
AW - So your living in Germany know, what made you put roots down there?
I married my lovely German girlfriend, Mecky, in England in 1977 and our daughter Stephanie was born in 1979. After living happily in our village for a few years we decided to move to Germany so that Stephanie could grow up with two languages. I think it has worked out well. Super Drumming would not have happened in England.
I am well respected here and we have a good life. In the UK the Spencer Davis Group is consigned to rock history and my very talented friends on the jazz scene struggle to survive. The live scene is getting worse over here too. Too many bands chasing too little work and the prices go down. Everybody undercuts everybody else, nobody wins. It will soon be virtually impossible to make a living playing good music. All musos will soon be semi-pros, with daytime jobs to support their hobby.
Celebrity culture has led to fame and huge recording sales being equated with musical talent and creativity. Wrong!!! But I suppose we all have our own thoughts about whose good and who's lousy. I'll keep my ideas to myself for the years I have left.
AW - So Pete what are you up to are you still enjoying playing, I hear you have been
conducting some educational seminars over in Germany, how were they received?
I still play gigs with fine players and have plans for a new R & B group with some old friends. The Super Drumming show might open up to be a touring possibility.
I am happily surprised that people enjoy my memories of 65 years trying to play drums and all the wonderful and not so wonderful people I've met and worked with.
Drumming has become very technical and a solid driving beat is often missing. But there are still some who try to be inventive and respect the traditions at the same time.
Once again many thanks for your time.
I can send a photo but I need an address.