I started learning to play the drums in 1970 when I was 7. Later that year my parents took me to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho to see Buddy Rich. At the time, Buddy was the most famous drummer in the World.

At the interval, Ronnie Scott himself took my hand and walked me backstage to meet the great man. Buddy made me play a paradiddlediddle on his knee and then let me keep the sticks. I still have them.

12 years later and – largely because of that night in Soho – I won a place to study drums and percussion at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama at the Barbican Centre in the City of London. (I produced the GSM&D website by the way)

Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd

At college I discovered the music of drummer Steve Gadd and along with my fellow students spent many happy hours trying to play like him. Not easy. Steve Gadd is one of the greatest drummers the musical world has ever known. I saw him play on a number of occasions at big stadium gigs.

So … imagine my delight when the phone rang on Monday morning and a dear college friend told me he had two tickets for Steve Gadd and Friends at – wait for it – Ronnie Scott’s, that night. The tickets weren’t cheap he said and we only had seats for the first set between 7.30pm and 8.30pm. The second set was sold out and tickets were changing hands for a lot.

“All markets are more susceptible to things other than price”, ask Apple, Ferrari and Rolex. For me, the price of that ticket was utterly irrelevant. I could not put a price on an hour listening and watching a living musical hero in an intimate setting. My “brand devotion” was bigger than any concern about price.

So we got there and I had a quiet word with the receptionist and explained that both Jonathan and I were huge fans and could she see her way to seating us as close as possible to the stage. A winning smile produced a suggestion that we might like the table closest to the stage! Jonathan and I sat, ate and drank within a drum stick’s flick of the great man’s drum kit. Yamaha, of course … like our own. (A classic Super Peer)

Then The Man arrived, sat down with his quartet, started playing and we were transported. There were some quiet happy tears as the years fell away and we tried to take in the fact that we were little more than 6 feet away from the world’s greatest living drummer. We just sat there with Kevin and Perry daft smiles on our faces as we listened to 4 of the finest musicians in the world entertain us.

The hour shot by, as did two bottles of Chablis. I noticed that Steve had not come on to the stage from the back room and would most likely walk through the club to the dressing rooms downstairs, where I’d first met Buddy Rich 39 years ago.

As Steve and his band were taking their bows, I nipped out into the corridor and sure enough, a minute later he was walking towards me. I held out my hand and he took it. I followed him and the band down the stairs and walked – bold as brass – into the dressing room. I introduced myself and told him the Buddy story. He was gracious and unhurried and everything you’d hope a hero to be when you meet them.

Outside in the street, a queue had formed. It was the jazz fans who had tickets for the second set at 9.30pm. In the queue were even more of London’s drummers. Another college friend was there. A great drummer in his own right who has played with Robbie Williams, Madonna and Van Morrison. Ralph Salmins was at the gig with his wife and three sons and there was a big and joyful pavement reunion with them all.

Jonathan and I started to wish we had tickets for the second set. I told him to trust me and remain in the queue which we did, without tickets (it was a sell out) and worried about the cost of the tickets if we were lucky enough to get returns. There weren’t any.

We stayed close to Ralph and his family and when we got back to the receptionist, she recognized me and smiled. Ralph looked back and winked. I didn’t realize how influential he had become. He asked the receptionist if his ‘two good friends here” could stand at the back by the bar. She looked at us … we both smiled like Kevin and Perry again … and she said yes. We were in.

After a few minutes and shortly before the second set I noticed that a table for two had not been taken. So we sat down and ordered more wine. Bold as brass.

The second set was even better, not only because it was free and we were by then, the wrong side of 3 bottles of Chablis. We would both cheerfully have paid many hundreds of pounds for the experience.

We both owe a big drink to Ralph for helping us back in.

Never under-estimate the power of brand devotion or social influence. Being unashamedly bold as brass can also work wonders if accompanied by a confident smile.

I now have another great drum hero story to tell. Very good news for the following “brands”:

Steve Gadd, (thanks for all the music and inspiration, especially the opening to 50 Ways to Leave your Lover and for playing with two sticks in each hand in Late in the Evening)

Buddy Rich (RIP, thanks for the sticks and for “Love for Sale” live)

Ronnie Scott’s

Yamaha Drums

Here is the Spotify link to my Steve Gadd Playlist (Web) (Spotify)

Can now die happy.


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