(Left) Danny and Joe, taken in recent years
As I write these few words about my memories and feelings for Joe Morello, I am having a hard time just accepting the fact that he has really passed away. He was a part of my life for so long, and he was really a second father to me. I am now 57, and I first started studying with Joe when I was 16. It has been 41 years of mentoring, friendship, love, and unconditional support.
What immediately comes to mind are three areas of Joe’s life. The first is that, sadly, a connection to a special part of drum history has passed. Joe, as most may know, was a prolific student of George Lawrence Stone, author of Stick Control. While we are lucky that there still are a few people with us who studied with Mr. Stone, (most notably Vic Firth), no one in the world had more knowledge, or could better illustrate the principles and possibilities of Mr. Stone’s teachings of natural body movement than Joe.
Long before I met Joe, he had taken Mr. Stone’s ideas, mastered them, and improvised and developed a whole new set of inspiring technical possibilities. If you look at the inside flap of Mr. Stone’s Accents And Rebounds, Joe’s picture is illustrated, and Mr. Stone’s dedication is there. Many of the exercises in that book were the product of Joe’s experimentation.
When I started studying with Joe in 1968, he already had seen so many different students with so many different issues, he could tell in just a few moments what the main problems might be, at least from a technical standpoint. At my first lesson, when he would play a paradiddle much faster with one hand than I could with two, it got my attention that this was a serious approach to be considered. As I was only in my second year of playing the drums, I really didn’t have a specific approach, but was so impressed that I jumped in and practiced what he gave me! I didn’t realize until years later just how lucky I was to stumble on to Joe’s teachings.
As with anyone who has studied with Joe, or one of his students, this method really affects your touch and control, and it has certainly effected everything I have played. It is also a cumulative system, where the more you use it, the more it develops. I also felt through the years that there were no technical drum questions that he could not answer, and any time I had a problem or issue, or something I could not figure out, or had a student with an issue, I could call Joe for some type of insightful explanation, based on his studies with Mr. Stone, Joe Sefcick, and Billy Gladstone. All of his longtime students felt this way. And that master source is now gone. It’s left up to us to carry on his teachings, and while most of us who studied with Joe have insight and the basic principles, there was only one Joe. We’ll do the best we can.
I also think about his drum set musicality. What a legacy! His soloing, touch, and musicality changed drumming forever. Luckily we have recordings and live videos to study and enjoy. I listened to some tracks today. His touch was so beautiful, and each solo an adventure. When I would see him solo live, I would hang on every note.
The third area of Joe’s life that I think of and miss so deeply is his friendship. He was so supportive and such a giving person. I know that he helped not only me, but so many people both musically and personally. I could go on forever about the things he did for me personally that changed and affected my life.
Thanks all, for reading this, and we will celebrate the legacy of Joe together. Joe … you were the greatest.