New Orleans Drumming
Drum Kit
About the book
Copyright 2002-2003
1900-1945 1945-1970 1970-2000 Drum Techniques > From R&B to Soul and Funk
Earl Palmer

The backbeats of Earl Palmer have authority. Relaxed yet on top of the beat, they hold the band by the reins and turn it loose when the solo is bound to break away.

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Palmer's setups are colorful miniatures. His snare licks are rich in contrast of timing: using 16th notes in a shuffle beat or triplets in a straight groove.

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Tap dance
When a tap dancer performs a shuffle step (same rhythm as shufflebeat), he brings his full body weight into the movement, giving the groove its emphasis and timing. A good swing drummer does the same when emphasizing and timing a shufflebeat: bringing on his body weight. It is no coincidence that several great big band drummers of the '30's and '40's, like Cozy Cole, Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Gene Krupa and Ray Bauduc were trained tap dancers. Also Earl Palmer was a reputed and professional touring tap dancer in his younger days.

Mixed timing
Alternating freely from straight-eighths to triplets within one song is an old habit with Second Line drummers but on R&B records from the '50's you often hear both styles of timing simultaneously. The straight timing, of the now popular, Latin percussion is deliberately rubbed against the shuffle feel of R&B to create a certain itchy tension.

Double clutch
N.O. shuffles often used two-beat patterns, with accents in the bass drum. The punctuation of the downbeat, with its pick-up notes, on '1', '3' and each '2nd-4', became a major difference between Second Line drumming and Northern drum styles. From the parade bass drum, the beats were converted to the foot-pedaled drum set basses. Hungry Williams' execution of the double downbeats was known as his way of double-clutching the rhythm.

John Boudreaux
Professor Longhair recorded some great songs in 1959 that had John Boudreaux on drums. In "Cuttin' Out" Longhair and Boudreaux experiment with 16ths on snare and double-time hi-hat, like Fess had done before in '53 on "Who's been fooling you", with Earl Palmer on drums. Also the classic "Go to the Mardi Gras" came from this same session.

Smokey Johnson
Smokey Johnson's instrumental solo record "It ain't my Fault" is built on a four-bar drum line.

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Zigaboo Modeliste
Joe Zigaboo Modeliste took Latin type weaving and Smokey Johnson's inventiveness as a start-off point. Daring is his way to add tension by leaving out notes.

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From R&B to Soul and Funk
From R&B to Soul and Funk