E = mc2 = JB?
DvS: Johny, when you were young you met Albert
Einstein when he ran out of gas on a lake and you even sat on his
lap when your parents towed him back to shore. Is being at the right
place, right moment the story of your life? (Tommy Smothers, Crosby
& Nash, Buddy Rich, etc., etc.)
JB: Dolf, it really has been the story of my life; a
prime example, Neil and David came walking into Leo Makota house,
the CSN& Y road manager, and Neil and David where looking for a
drummer, I mentioned some other drummer possibilities and then I
ended up getting the gig, being at the right place at the right
DvS: You call your father (who was from Sicily,
Italy) a “Jack-of-all-trades. ” Have you inherited that trait in you
musical life - do you play other instruments and do you write and
sing as well?
JB: Yes I co-wrote “Elenore” and collaborated on 60 others as
well. Right now my wife Angie and I have a new CD we are getting
ready to release, it’s called California and it features both Angie
and myself singing lead and harmonies and a we wrote, produced and
engineered the whole project Angie is an engineer and I produce. We
had the great Wayne Perkins on rhythm and slide guitars, Wayne was
one of the Muscle Shoals Swampers and Mona Ganader played bass, Mona
plays with Sammy Hager right now and has been for years, she’s a
great player, we also had Sneaky Pete Klanow the legendary steel
player and Pete Sears of the Starship played keyboard. Anyway you
can get the album on our Website,
DvS: In the spring of 1966
Gene Clark (The Byrds) suggested you as a drummer to The Turtles.
Were you surprised by the recommendation?
JB: Yes I was Surprised.
DvS: So, you replaced Don Murray in
1966 (although other sources claim it was 1967). He has since passed
away, but are you still in touch with the other original members?
JB: Yes we remain good friends and speak often.
DvS: In your book you write that your
drum style on “Happy Together” stylized you as a signature drummer.
How would you describe your style?
JB: Very unorthodox and very funk rudimental.
"I can could drum circles around Dallas".
DvS: You acknowledge the influence of
Gene Krupa in your decision, at the age of eight, to become a
drummer. This is interesting, because in a recent interview for
4waysite.com Dallas Taylor (who told me you are a good drummer) also
mentions Gene Krupa as a key influence. Do you think that this
manifests itself in any similarity between your and Dallas’ styles?
JB: Hell no! I can could drum circles around Dallas, I am a
technician, I can do drum solos and clinics.
DvS: Did Dallas Taylor show you his
drum parts when he and Greg Reeves were fired at the beginning of
the CSNY 1970 tour?
JB: Absolutely not, that is untrue, besides he was no where
around he was fired. I didn’t need any more then to copy off the
record, I am a professional that is why they called me.
DvS: Were you able to add your
flourishes as a drummer on the subsequent tour or did you have to
JB: I did my own thing, as you can well tell on 4 Way
DvS: BTW: do you know what ever
happened to Greg Reeves who simultaneously got fired?
JB: I have no idea.
DvS: I already mentioned the name
Gene Krupa, but you took lessons at the Wisky A-Go-Go from none
other than Buddy Rich and I know you feel privileged to have done
so. What did he teach you and have you taken more lessons from other
JB: He taught me so much I cannot explain it in words. But if
I had to try I’d have to say how he ended his songs, he had such a
fast left hand and he taught me an exercise to help my left hand
speed, which I demonstrate on my drum instructional video I am
working on and will have available soon. As for taking lessons no,
but I stole everything I could from the very best.
DvS: Back to the 60s. Buffalo
Springfield occasionally opened for The Turtles. Did that contribute
to your future CSNY career?
JB: Of course it did, as well as the eight albums and many
tours I did with them.
DvS: The Doors opened for The Turtles
as well and - in contrast to David Crosby - you liked Jim Morrison,
JB: Yeah I liked Jim, he was a great guy. But I was more
friends with David. David got me into CSN&Y as well as Jefferson
Airplane which became Jefferson Starship. Which I will always will
be grateful to him for.
DvS: Your book published in 2005, is
called “The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer.” Given the title,
what can the reader expect to find between the covers?
JB: Rock and roll history, stories including the Turtles,
Beatles, Elvis, Clapton, CSN&Y, Dave Mason, The Everly Bros., Linda
Rondstadt , Airplane Starship the list goes on and on, it’s the
story of my life and intimate stories about my relationship with
DvS: Apparently you don’t have a lot of
respect for Russ Kunkel. You wrote: “... because he [Russ Kunkel]
was hanging around the CSNY gigs and trying to get in with them.
Sure he was a good studio drummer and kissed everybody’s ass, but he
was not a drummer’s drummer, like Jim Keltner, my friend was”. Your
JB: Jim was a drummers drummer. He could drum circles around
Kunkel because he came from a Jazz background and he is a great
DvS: There are more drummers who played
during different periods with CSN/Y. Do you know any of them
personally? Joe Vitale for example? And what about CPR’s Steve
DiStanislao who recently toured with none other than David Gilmour?
JB: Sorry, but I’ve never ran across these guys.
DvS: And what do you think of Crazy
Horses drummer Ralph Molina who is currently touring [March 2008] with Neil Young
JB: He has good time, but limited in his fills, but I think
Neil likes it that way. Ralph and I have played basketball and
football together, we’re friends and we’re both Italian…haha.
DvS: Is it true you played uncredited
on The Byrds 1973 Asylum Records reunion album?
JB: Yes, if "Cowgirl in The Sand" was the cover song on the
album, I played on it along with Wilton Felder on bass, he also
played sax with The Jazz Crusaders, we never got credit.
"The Starship version was a little harder rock,
CSN&Y was more polished".
DvS: How did you come to join
Jefferson Starship for the Dragon Fly album in 1973?
JB: As I said before David Crosby got me into both CSN&Y and
The Airplane which became Jefferson Starship. I played on three Jefferson Airplane albums, as well as Grace and Paul’s solo albums
before we became Jefferson Starship, I was the only drummer to be in
the Airplane and Jefferson Starship.
DvS: Had you previously played with
Grace Slick and Paul Kantner?
JB: We did five albums together.
DvS: What do you remember about playing
"Wooden Ships" with the Starship and how did that band's version
compare with the CSNY version?
JB: The Starship version was a little harder rock, CSN&Y was