Friday, August 20, 2010

Dave Tough

When I started taking drum lessons as a wee lad, my drum teacher, Max Mariash, turned me on to many jazz drummers. I really knew very little about jazz. I knew about pop and rock and roll, but that was it. Max talked about Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Jo Jones, Big Sid Catlett, Chick Webb, and, of course, Gene Krupa. But he also mentioned a drummer that, over the years, had slowly slipped from the scene. That drummer was Dave Tough.

Perhaps it was because Dave died in 1948. In any case, Max waxed eloquently about Dave. He was simply " a tremendous big band drummer" that could lift a band "like nobodies business." I had to check him out and I did. Max was right---Dave Tough could swing like a madman. His recordings with the Woody Herman band are marvelous. He had a way of ending tunes with a simple flourish of his bass drum. It was his signature and it is instantly recognizable.

Over the years, I went to hear Louie Bellson perform. I saw him perform live more than any other drummer. Consequently, Louie would recognize me and we would chat for long periods about drummers and drumming. Louie lived for a short period with Dave. Naturally, they talked about drums. Dave constantly complained about his press or buzz roll. He claimed he couldn't play one. Louie laughed this off. Dave didn't like drum solos, because he claimed he had no technique. Louie pointed out what a great complimentary player he was, but Dave couldn't accept that. He was his own worst critic.

In addition to Woody Herman, Dave played with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Eddie Condon. As his career progressed, he become more and more unreliable. His feelings of inadequacy and his bouts with alcohol took their toll. He died at age 40.

In the book, Drummin' Men by Burt Korall, Buddy Rich talks about Dave Tough. Quote "His energy force was so strong that you'd think there was a 400 pound guy sitting up there." Strong praise indeed. Dave Tough was one of the greats.

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