Tony Coleman

Tony Coleman. Photo by Will Hawkins.

Musicians are always happy to say a lot with a very few notes. Here’s my big chance: Tony Coleman was B.B. King’s drummer for 25 years.

Still, it’s great to list some of the details: TC played over 300 shows a year for 25 years, all of these at the very center of the blues world, behind its most well-known and legendary artist. BB King is also the blues artist with the most reach beyond the blues genre, with album sales, grammy awards, and collaborations that read more like those of a mega-pop star than the authentic blues artist that he is.

Tony Coleman’s blues experience runs much wider than his long run with BB King, though: He has also performed with just about every other legendary blues artist on earth, names like Bobby Blue Bland, Otis Taylor, Albert King, Albert Collins, Etta James, James Cotton, and Buddy Guy.

His experience runs deeper, too: His father, King Coleman, was an R&B singer with twenty singles released, including a big hit in 1959 with James Brown’s band.

With all of this authentic blues music swirling around him, it is no surprise that he has been called on to produce and write songs for others, and it’s no surprise that he released a CD of his own, Out in the Open, in 1996.

Still playing relentlessly, still in the center of the blues world, and talking with us tonight from the B.B. King Blues Club in Nashville….BB King drummer, blues master, blues legend: Tony Coleman.

Listen to the Tony Coleman Podcast

Tony Coleman’s Playlist

Baby, You’ve Got What it Takes — Brook Benton & Dinah Washington

Album: The Two of Us, 1960

Wipe Out — The Surfaris

Album: Wipe Out, 1963
Drums: Ron Wilson

Tighten Up — Archie Bell and the Drells

Album: Tighten Up, 1968
Drums: Dwight Burns (as a member of the TSU Tornados)

Cold Sweat — James Brown

Album: Cold Sweat, 1967
Drums: Clyde Stubblefield

The Horse — Cliff Nobles and Company

Single: 1968
Drums: Tommy Soul

Cissy Strut — The Meters

Album: The Meters, 1969
Drums: Zigaboo Modeliste

Manic Depression — Jimi Hendrix Experience

Album: Are You Experienced?, 1967
Drums: Mitch Mitchell

Good Times, Bad Times — Led Zeppelin

Album: Led Zeppelin, 1969
Drums: John Bonham

Stratus — Billy Cobham

Album: Spectrum, 1973
Drums, Electronic percussion: Billy Cobham

Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine — James Brown

Single: 1970; Album: Sex Machine Today, 1975
Drums: John “Jabo” Starks