I remember the first time I heard pure drumming power. It was served up at the hands and feet of Don Brewer, and in his playing, I found a voice during my teenage years that forged a strength I still compare to John Bonham. It was Grand Funk Railroad’s 1970 Live Album that turned my ears inside out and lit my body up like a firecracker.

Don Brewer was a 22-year-old drummer from Flint, Michigan who hit the drums like a man possessed. His red sparkle Ludwig Super Classic kit took a beating that reminded me in later years of the ferocity and passion with which Gene Krupa played, although not quite so loud…

I never got to see Grand Funk Railroad live as a kid, and it wasn’t until recently that I found some videos of Brewer’s playing. I was truly amazed at his physical stamina. I’d emulated it for years just by ear, but watching him slam was something else. His solo on TNUC contained clean and thundering power triplets between his hands and feet that I worked on for many hours as a kid. Each impact was more than just a solid THUD; it was a mule-kick to the head.

The YouTube clips revealed how hard he hit the cymbals as well, and he really did slam them. Zildjian should thank Brewer for consistently demonstrating how incredibly durable their product was and remains. And of course, there’s no mistaking the sound of a Supra-phonic Ludwig snare drum, anywhere or anytime. You’ve been punched by Bruce Lee when it is hit just right.

I found a YouTube clip that is typical of Brewer’s power, and the best part of it is at about 2:42 into it. Brewer just finishes unleashing his trademark power hand-foot triplet barrage, takes a few seconds to breathe, and then… he slams his snare drum with his HEAD.

Okay… a little beyond Bonham’s “Moby Dick,” and I wouldn’t suggest trying this at home or anywhere else… but you have to love the passion.

Rock and Roll should never need an apology. It is what it is. I learned a lot from Don Brewer about how to hit like your meant it, and when “Foot Stompin’ Music” came out, my right foot got one hell of a workout trying to keep a full-blast rock shuffle hitting on all eight cylinders. I moved more into jazz a few years later, refining my touch and learning how to generate intensity without a lot of volume, but to this day, Don Brewer remains one of my favorite drummers because of how he approached the kit. He was a kid from the land of muscle cars, and by God did he ever how to stomp a pedal and smoke the tires.

Looking at him today, you might not recognize him right away… but take a close look at his current kit (from another company) and notice what kind of snare he’s playing. Some classics just never change 🙂

 

Enjoy the clip, and wear a helmet if you decide to give that snare a hello from your forehead…