Clancy Newell

  • Drum Sets: I have 17 sets of drums by various manufacturers:
    DW, Gretsch, Slingerland, Ludwig, Ddrum, Sonor, Crush, Yamaha, Mapex
  • Snare: My snare drum collection is up to around 50 or so.
  • Cymbals: I have too many cymbals to even try to number.
    Zildjian, Sabian, Bosphorus, Istanbul, Dream, and Wuhan
  • Latin Percussion Instruments: LP, and electronics by Yamaha
  • Drum Heads: I use Attack drum heads (the Terry Bozzio line),
    but sometimes use Aquarian or Evans heads.
  • Sticks & Brushes: Mostly by Vic Firth.
I've been playing professionally since I was 14. My first formal gig was with a 16 piece dance band back in the early 60s. We played a lot of high school dances, country clubs, and the like. Can you believe that high schools used to have live music? And a 16 piece dance band at that! Back then, that's what high schools did for their "nice" dances - rock bands were hired for after sporting events and similar, more casual things. I played in the school concert band in addition to the 16-piece band the latter was comprised of students from several St Louis area high schools. We usually made a whopping $10 apiece back then-pretty good money for a band that size! During this time, I listened to many different kinds of music-jazz, classical, rock, gospel, country. I soaked it all up, and incorporated various elements from all these styles in my playing, but I was mostly interested in jazz. While I was in high school I had the opportunity to play with David Sanborn who, like me, was a student at Kirkwood High. I also got to play some gigs in the old Gaslight Square. What great experience!

My first rock band experience was in my senior year in HS. The dance band had broken up after several members went off to college (I was one of the youngest members) and some guys asked me to play in their band. I'm not sure how to describe that band. We played top 40 hits, surf music (Ventures et al), and even an occasional country song. Again, great experience. I went to college locally (UMSL) and during that time played in several jazz groups and rock bands. This pretty well paid my way through school as my single mom didn't have a lot of disposable income to put me through school. (I should mention here that my mother was a big influence on my musical development. She listened to and exposed me to many kinds of music and was always supportive of my musical pursuits.) Probably the best groups I played with during that time were the Rich McDonnell (MaxJazz founder) Quartet, the Soulful Illusion (5 singers and a horn band), and Odyssey, a prog-rock group that played some great and complex music. The first two worked a lot, locally and regionally. But Odyssey, probably because the kind of the material we did, was not a commercial success, although we did play a few gigs in town. Too bad. There were several other groups I worked with back then, but I just can't recall any names.

I have never been away from playing in all these years. After college I continued with a couple of rock bands, a blues band or two, and a couple of jazz bands. One of the blues bands, Hash Brown, did some touring with a Rockford Illinois based group called Fuse, a prog rock band. Some of the members of Fuse later became Cheap Trick, which I thought was a real comedown for them after Fuse. They did make a lot more money as Cheap Trick, though.

Around 1980 I decided that I'd had it with "being in a band" and the attendant BS that can go with that. I decided to enter the free-lance player market. I was pretty well schooled in a lot of different styles by then and it really paid off. I was busier than ever until the market for "hired guns" started to dry up. I did a lot of recording then. A lot of it involving either putting down tracks for a band or fixing recordings that had drummer problems. I went back to playing more jazz during that time and got to work with some of the top local players (Carol Beth True, Kim Portnoy, Steve Schenkle, Dave Black, Bob Row, and others). Working with these folks gave me the opportunity to play with local bands that backed up heavy hitters like David "Fathead" Newman, Bill Watrous, Kim Park, Nick Brignola, Mike Vax, and others when they came to town. Jazz players will know those names. With Kim's group, I also got to play several concerts with a jazz trio/string quartet. The string players were members of the St Louis Symphony and led by David Halen, the symphony's concertmaster. Kim did all the arrangements for this group. Kim's group also backed the Webster U. Vocal Jazz Ensemble on two recordings and traveled to New Orleans with them to perform at the International Association of Jazz Educators convention. The recordings were made at Webster's studio and were engineered by Bill Porter, who engineered many of Elvis's recordings back in the day. It was great working with him.

In 2000 and 2001 I had the opportunity to play jazz festivals in Europe with the Jim Widner Big Band and the Big Easy Jazz Ambassadors (from New Orleans). I got the Big Easy gig at the last minute because their drummer bailed on them. The free-lance experience was really helpful here as these gigs were done with a minimum of rehearsal time. Also helpful in this was playing with the Route 66 Jazz Orchestra, a 22-piece big jazz band. Great reading experience! In 2001, Big Easy invited me to tour Italy with them and it was a real experience, to say the least. Folks from New Orleans really like to party....say no more!

In 2005 I was offered the chance to play the musical production "Pippin". I had never played live musical theater before but decided to try it. Since then I've been pretty active on the local live theater circuit, doing shows for New Line, Stray Dog, Echo, and Overdue Theatre Companies, as well as the Dauphine Players of SLUH. I'm currently a member of the New Line band, and the primary drum set player for the Dauphine Players. I love doing live theater-there's nothing like it. To date, I would estimate that I've done somewhere between 50 and 60 live musical theater productions.

I started doing drum set clinics in area high schools and colleges around 2004. I've backed off of that a bit, though, as it's both time-consuming and exhausting. Currently, I'm working with OPEN>Sunday, various live theater gigs, Route 66, and an occasional recording gig. People frequently ask me who I studied with. At first, I just learned through playing with school bands, which also offered some private lesson time with the band director. I pretty much taught myself to play drum set, but later studied with a couple of local teachers. Much later I took a series of master lessons with Joe Morello, Carl Allen, Ed Soph at North Texas, Gary Chaffee at New England Conservatory, and Steve Houghton at Indiana University.

OK, so, believe it or not, that is the "short" bio!