I was chatting with the wonderful drummer Josh Duffee at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival while we were in the pub.  Because he was waiting for his dessert, the talk turned to dinner, to cuisine, to matters dear to both of us. 

Then Josh gave me the great gift of an anecdote I’d never heard before.

“Louie Bellson told me that Big Sid always carried a bottle of catsup in his back pocket.  Put it on everything, Louie said.”

(The image comes from

I have continued to speculate about this revelation.  The simplest conclusion I can draw is that Sidney liked the taste of catsup.  But perhaps it was because the food he often encountered on the road was of such variable quality that it often needed something to enhance its taste or perhaps to mask it altogether.  I will be delighted to consider other possibilities as well.

And perhaps we now have to amend Sidney’s famous declaration to read, “I can swing seventeen men with one wire brush, a telephone book, and a bottle of catsup.”

2 responses to “SIDNEY’S SECRET

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention SIDNEY’S SECRET « JAZZ LIVES --

  2. Dear Michael,

    Thank you for displaying this marvelous photo of Big Sid, a portrait unknown to me. What to say about this unique man, so regal he could pass for a chieftain, he really was one wasn’t he? A chieftain of all artful drummers!

    The Tom-tom, sometimes a 12 or 13”, again has wooden hoops (I’m pretty sure they’re wood being so high/wide). I am also wondering if the Tom-tom might be a 14” diam-head. For sure it is an extra deep Tom when you check the distance between the hardware. It’s almost “parade drum” size/deep. The set is Slingerland with that beautiful deco-like 30’s into 40’s fluted design hardware (with a beaver tail). Anyone looking for this- I have and will sell.

    The cymbals are what caught my eye… the Chinese with so many rivets(!)- yummy!- it may be as small as a 14”- I don’t think more than a 16”- and it’s set off to his left. I’ve seen it off to his right in photographs but never to the left. (?) When you scrutinize the cymbal directly in front of his kit, bleeding off the edge of the photo… do YOU see a chunk out of the cymbal? It looks like that to me, or something he might have done to the cymbal like cutting into it and then bending it down.

    There’s so much to Big Sid! On a NYE gig I had discussion with Gene Ramey just about him… and how Sidney tuned to what bass strings etc., etc.

    Knowledgeable feedback always appreciated. mb

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