Friday, October 08, 2021

Chip Stern plays Papa Jo's drums

Papa Jo Jones
Photo by Rick Mattingly
Item from writer Chip Stern, best known to me for conducting a lot of great interviews in Modern Drummer magazine, including one with Papa Jo Jones. He has a lot of memories to share about his time hanging with Jo:  

OLD MAN RIVER: Papa Jo once granted me diplomatic immunity to check out his old Ludwig drum kit in the adjacent room at his crib on East 64th Street. His toms and snare pretty much paralleled the high melodic tuning I was familiar with from Max's drums, but the 14 x 20 Ludwig bass drum? WTF? Was like a gong. A thin calfskin timpani head (a notion he got directly from his idol, Chick Webb) with no muffling of any kind.

I went back into the room where Papa was chilling, scratching my head. “Man, that was nothing like I was expecting,” and Jo just laughed his ass off. “HA... that's why I don't have no problems. Nobody knows what I'm doing.”

At one point, I copped one of those KLH all in one stereos with a built in AM/FM tuner and a Dual turntable as a gift, so Jo could stage concerts for me and relate the back story as to what was actually happening on these recordings, many of which, obviously featured Jonathan David Samuel Jones. 
When sitting in his rocking chair, I observed how Jo was always pedaling with both his feet, heel to toe/toe to heel, and I began to realize that this was both his root timekeeper and how he controlled the resonance of his bass drum: toeing the beater right into the head, and holding it there, while stomping down with his heel on the back of the bass drum pedal. The vibration of the heel stomping down would translate to the bass drum, creating a soft subliminal pulse, and if every now and then, the toe came loose, and the beater popped on to the unmuted head, detonating a bomb, well, all in a day's work.

Visit Chip's site, and follow him on Facebook, where he's quite active, sharing a lot of great stuff. 


Ed Pierce said...

Cool story, thanks for sharing. It reminds me of this similar story by Joe Morello (courtesy Scott Fish's blog):

Todd Bishop said...

Apparently he also had a cymbal like that-- he kept trying to give it to people "if they could play it", but they kept returning it. That's probably another of Chip's stories.