WHAT, NO CAKE? (April 22, 2010)

There are Underrated Musicians, Musicians Deserving Wider Recognition, Neglected Musicians, and Ignored Musicians.

Here’s a picture of a very fine jazz individualist, born one hundred years ago today.  How many people will recognize him?

“That’s BUZZY DROOTIN!” I hear some of my readers saying.  Right you are. 

Buzzy played most often with Eddie Condon’s bands — in the club and on records — but you can also hear him with Ruby Braff, George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, Max Kaminsky, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden, Vic Dickenson, Jimmy McPartland, Ralph Sutton, Wild Bill Davison, Herman Autrey, Herb Hall, Claude Hopkins, Benny Morton, Pee Wee Russell, and family members Al and Sonny Drootin. 

I was lucky enough to see him at close — sometimes deafening range — in 1972, at the Sunday afternoon jam sessions run by Red Balaban at Your Father’s Mustache.  We sat right up in front of the bandstand, so Buzzy and his drums were about ten feet away, and his characteristic snare and ride-cymbal work drove the band.  His playing wasn’t fussy; he didn’t make aural jokes as did Jo Jones — but his tempos never faltered, and he had immense energy.  His sound was entirely his own, and I can still hear and see in my mind’s eye the simultaneous open-mouthed sounds (somewhere between a roar and a growl) that he made in the last sixteen bars of his solo. 

His intensity was remarkable: I never saw George Wettling or Dave Tough in the flesh, but Buzzy had some of that same “I don’t care!” energy and ferocity.  Yet who remembers him today? 

Kevin Dorn met Buzzy and celebrates him in his own playing, of course. 

I would like to take credit for remembering his birthday, his centenary, but I have to give credit to Confetta Ras and her magnificent ON THIS DAY IN JAZZ AGE MUSIC website (one of the most generous cornucopias I’ve ever seen) for reminding us all of what April 22 is all about (http://jazzagemusic.blogspot.com/). 

P.S.  I know I have among my readers not only people who’ve heard Buzzy but also those rare folks who have played alongside him.  Comments and celebrations, anyone?

15 responses to “WHAT, NO CAKE? (April 22, 2010)

  1. Pingback: WHAT, NO CAKE? (April 22, 2010)

  2. John P. Cooper

    Is he not on one of Tommy Dorsey’s last Victor recording sessions dating from 1950? A ClamBake Seven side of WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS? I remember it from the liner notes of one of the first LPs I was to purchase.

  3. Good catch, John! That’s a Condon-inflected Clambake Seven (I am doing this from memory) with Hackett in the lead.

  4. John P. Cooper

    It’s a brisk, clean sounding group, but I don’t think Hackett is on there…this also from memory. It’s on one of the TD Camden LPs. Excellent album.

    All hail Ethel Gabriel!

  5. April 10, 1950, says Lord — two sides (WAY DOWN YONDER and ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP) issued on Camden; TIGER RAG issued on Victor 78. Hackett, TD, Hucko, Arthur Rollini, Gene Schroeder, Jack Lesberg, and Buzzy Drootin.

  6. John P. Cooper

    If the Lord says it, it must be so!

  7. Well . . . a good joke — but (as you know) Lord’s discography sometimes copies the errors of other people, perhaps unavoidable given the number of records there are. Dorsey has been well-documented, so I feel reasonably certain about this one.

  8. I didn’t realize Buzzy was born in 1910. One Internet source gives a date of 4/22/20. This post sent me to Feather’s EOJ and there is no DOB as Buzzy (Benjamin) “does not know the exact date” – but came to the US at age 5. I saw him play on occasion at Eddie Condon’s #1 downtown while I was in art school- Farmingdale. George Wettling was there at first then Cliff Leeman became the steady. Buzzy would sub. I got to know him during the period where he came to NYC and was doing sales at Manny’s on 48th Street. He hated it… waiting on the Rock musicians. On one occasion he needed a ride to a NJ gig and called me to ask if I’d get him there, which I gladly did. Bobby Gordon rode with us so he may have been a player on the job as well- but as I’m thinking it was Kenny’s job and Bobby and I were both Buzzy’s entourage. I’m pretty sure this was before my 1976 chest bomb. Buzzy was a very funny guy and told some very funny jokes- one where a man who has a urinary drip problem- has his doctor implant a nose hair onto the end of his penis- and, of course, from then on ends up sneezing down there. That’s Buzzy! In my communications with Bobby I found out he died in a nursing home over in Englewood. Fine- unique drummer! An original!

  9. For what it’s worth: Jake Hanna told me that Buzzy Drootin was Lester Young’s favorite drummer…

  10. I remember Buzzy Drootin. We were most fortunate to have Buzzy Drootin, Ralph Sutton, and I believe Jerry Fuller at the Sticky Wicket (back in the good ol’ days) . Drootin still had that growl!

  11. As we all know, there is much mis-information on the internet. Buzzy was born in 1920. There are some sources that say 1910 – that is incorrect. We can’t celebrate his centenary until another ten years. However, in his 80 years, he lived more than any 100 year old! 🙂

  12. Ok — I stand corrected. However, I am guilty of premature celebration, not such a terrible thing. As you say, he played a century’s worth of hot music in his lifetime! Michael

  13. Back in 1968, my uncle took my cousins and me, then a kid of nine, to see Wild Bill Davison and the Jazz Giants at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto. This was my first taste of live jazz and I still remember Buzzy Drootin joining us at our table, as did Arvell Shaw.

    The Jazz Giants album had just been recorded at the time and, when it came to re-release on CD, the tapes were long-gone and my uncle’s pristine copy served as the source.

    I’ve seen a LOT of great drummers since then but I still cherish this memory the most.

  14. That happens to be my dad! It’s great to see that even to this day there is a buzz about him. I have to admit his birthday has always been a topic of debate lol. I have the paperwork somewhere from when he came into the US from Russia during the Russian revolution, but my cousin Sonny is correct in that he was born nearer to 1920. He was 80 years old when he passed back in 2000. I only wish he was there to see the Red Sox win lol…he was a huge fan though disgruntled as all their fans were at the time. Little known fact…the Drootin’s were brought in by the Nimoys…that’s Leonard Nimoy’s family. My father, and am sure my Uncles, used to babysit for Leonard who was their cousin. A few years back I met Leonard who said “you know you’re dad was a wildman”. He was that. But my dad was also a very talented man. He definitely had his own style of playing. The best part of my father was his sense of humor. He loved jazz, his family, and making people laugh. I was there when he passed away and right up till the last moment he was wondering when he’d be able to play again. Thank you all for your kind words and recognition of my father.

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