NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)- Drummer and music educator Johnny Vidacovich’s name is in every conversation concerning the best of New Orleans drummers.
And if you’ve heard him play, you know he was born to tap those skins.
Vidacovich recalls, “I started beating on stuff at a very early age, cuz I lived with my grandmother while my mother worked, cuz I lived with my grandparents and my mother, and she would sit me down on the floor, and give me some spoons and stuff, and I could beat on the pots and the lids, and the AM radio.”
Vidacovich eventually took lessons and credits his early growth on drums to New Orleans musician Warren Duncan, who taught neighborhood kids standard tunes, and his bands played around town at various gigs.
He also credits the elders of New Orleans music that helped to expand his musical horizons.
“I didn’t understand it, and it was overwhelming at first, but I knew that these older guys that I was hanging out with said Johnny, don’t worry about it, just listen,” according to Vidocovich.
Vidocovich has favorites, “Ernie Elly is my favorite drummer right now. Has been for a long time. The touch…just a beautiful touch…makes the drum sing. He plays the music, he don’t beat the drums just plays the music.”
As a member of our longest running contemporary outfit, Astral Project, Vidacovich says it’s no question what they’re influences are, “Its a contemporary sound but a lot of the elements that we’re playing are very… you know rooted in tradition here.”
As a music educator, Vidacovich has taught some of the best drummers in the business, we had to ask, what makes a New Orleans drummer?
Says Vidacovich, “(It’s)A guy who makes you, you can be sitting in your seat, and he gon make you dance, it’s gonna make you smile, without a doubt. I think it’s a linear thing, I think it’s a very lyrical thing. Even thought they’re beating, there’s something lyrical about it.”