Ross Roe had a life long love of drumming. He grew up in the big band era so that was the style of drumming he knew. Following is his account, at age 76, of his drumming career dated August 22, 1989:
"A few months ago I officially gave up my 'career' as a drummer when I gave the last of my equipment, a pair of wire brushes, to Colleen.
"I was recalling the other day that for a kid who never had a lesson and never owned a decent set of drums I managed to make quite a hobby out of it. I bought a beat up used set of drums from George R. Westbrook when I was in high school and as far as I recall that was the extent of my equipment with the addition of a couple of cymbals and a wood block.
"My first jobs were not very notable. I was asked to play one time at the tavern at the Dingman's Bridge. Somehow I got away with it. I told my Dad where I was going; he didn't like me being in a tavern and drove over and peeked in the window to see if I was alright. A second "job " was at Lake Mohawk. Tommy Smith was stuck for a drummer and insisted that I give it a try. Well we made that too somehow.
"As time went on I would try to sit in wherever I could for a couple of numbers. My biggest sit-in was one night when I went to The Four Towers across from Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove with a couple. The girl was a pretty good "sit-in" singer. At the end of the evening I got to sit-in with the big 12 piece band for a couple of numbers. I couldn't even hear myself play. It was like playing in a big machine. No fun.
"Brad Perry and I went to Frank Dailey's Meadowbrook one night to hear a big band. Young Frank Sinatra was sitting at the bar. Brad said, "There's Frank Sinatra!" and I had never heard of him at that time. He got up and sang a couple of numbers with the band. This was probably in 1933 at the beginning of his career.
"On a cruise to Havana I went with everyone else to Sloppy Joe's bar. Before we left I had asked the drummer if they would play a couple of American numbers and let me sit in. They did and I have a nice souvenir photo to show for it. I even had a white coat like them.
"My idol, if I had one, was the great drummer at that time, Gene Krupa. I finally met him one night in a Times Square eatery and wound up with a picture of him and myself as a souvenir.
"I had the privilege of being able to sit in with the musicians at Rock View in Montague many times or filling in at intermissions with the piano. I also sat in at the Red Stable Inn at Budd Lake. I was the only white in the black trio. Used to be a nice piano player by the name of Ray Peterson from Morristown.
"I guess my favorite spot was Tommy Sullivan's on the Boardwalk at Lake Mohawk. I often sat in with Rockafellows from Chester, a musical family group. At 11 p.m. on Saturday nights they had Showtime and any one that could sing, dance or play an instrument was encouraged to join in. It was pretty good fun. My only trouble over the years - with no lessons - was to be able to play requests - waltzes, tangos . . polkas. I had to fake them! I got so that I would not get discouraged . . I would say to myself , "Anything they can play, I can play." This gave me the determination to keep at it. I got pretty good over there.
"The other group I can think of was when there was a local Selected Risks party at one of the houses. Neil Pascoe would get going on the piano, Brad Fountain would bring out his trumpet and I would find a drum. Brad called us The Triumphant Trio.
"Oh yes, and then there was the time that Charlie McKeown called and said he had to find three musicians for a special party on short notice that night. He had two but needed a drummer. It turned out that we were to play for Governor Harold Hoffman at his Culver Lake house, Greystones. He had a few guests in and we supplied the music from the front porch. Never thought I would wind up playing for the Governor of New Jersey."
When he wrote this Ross thought he was finished drumming, but another 'career' was still ahead of him. In 1996 he and Ilsa moved to Atria Woodbrier, an assisted living facility in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Ilsa exhibited symptoms of dementia, such that Ross was limited in his options, yet needed something positive in life to focus on. His first love drumming was again the answer. He became essentially the Atria house drummer playing with any group that came in to entertain. For several years he and a piano playing resident, Dr. Downey, played each night after supper for the other residents. Ross organized the events, found music and words to old songs and kept everyone entertained. He continued to play until his death in 2004 and is probably still playing in that big band up in the sky.
Click on photos for full size image.
|1997 at Atria with Jerry Skelley|