John Blackwell

I remember being handed the phone one morning in the early 1990’s: “Bill, can you talk to this Berklee student? He’s a great drummer, but I am busy…” An hour-and-a-half later, I knew why the other guy couldn’t talk to John Blackwell hand get work done. But I also knew that I was talking to someone with a boundless curiosity and sense of wonder, who was soaking up all the learning he could get, question after question. Oh, and one other thing…

John translated that curiosity and talent into high-profile gigs that call for a drummers’ drummer: Cameo (notorious for flawless drumming) , Patti Labelle (John played on the live album that won a Grammy), P.Diddy, Justin Timberlake, and the gig he is best known for: Prince. Oh, and one more thing: Prince plays some pretty good drums himself and is choosy about who works with him, but John has been the drummer of choice for sixteen years. Wait, wait, there’s something else…

That curiosity never backed off. There was always one more drummer to ask about, one more question to sort out, and one more new sound to ask about and try out. The great thing was, over my years of talking with him, John never repeated himself:  the insatiable learning went on, but John kept it all and has grown exponentially as a musician. One more thing:

Besides having a popular series of instructional videos, John returned to the Berklee School of music last year, as a teacher. He is in demand as a clinician anyway, for his incredible ambidextrous approach, and his ability to twirl and juggle his sticks while he plays— that likely won’t get much time here on the radio. But wait-wait-wait, just one other thing:

John has a band of his own, The John Blackwell project, with a group of studio heavies and his own material. Their second album should be out soon. And one more thing, just a second—

I learned years later that John was jabbing the great Billy Cobham with question after question on the phone those same years that he was talking with me, and I’m willing to bet that he was soaking up wisdom from dozens of other drummers as well at the same time. From great curiosity comes great knowledge. And a great set of tunes to play here on Drummeradio. Wait- one more thing.

Listen to the John Blackwell Podcast

John Blackwell Playlist

Appaloosa — Gino Vanelli

Album: Brother to Brother, 1978
Drums: Mark Craney

Red Baron — Billy Cobham

Album: Spectrum, 1973
Drums: Billy Cobham

She’s Strange — Cameo

Album: She’s Strange, 1984
Drums: Barry Blackman

Amazing — John Blackwell Project

Album: 4ever Jia, 2010
Drums: John Blackwell

I Want to Be Free — Ohio Players

Album: Fire, 1974
Drums: James Diamond Williams

Chamelion — Herbie Hancock

Album: Headhunters, 1973
Drums: Harvey Mason

Stratus — Billy Cobham

Album: Spectrum, 1973
Drums & Electronic Percussion: Billy Cobham

Do That Stuff — Parliament

Album: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, 1976
Drums: Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey

Jeremiah’s Sleepy Night — John Blackwell Project

Album: 4ever Jia, 2010
Drums: John Blackwell

John Blackwell Project