If a drummer is known by the artists who choose to play with him, then none has ever been better than John Guerin. Self-taught on drums, keyboard and other instruments, Guerin was an incredibly versatile musician, producer and composer for forty years. By the time he passed away of pneumonia, on January 5, 2004, he was one of the most recorded drummers who ever lived.
Born in 1939 in Hawaii, but raised in San Diego, Guerin began his mainstream professional career playing with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco in 1960. During the ’60s and ’70s he was the drummer of choice for hundreds of albums, movie and TV dates. His special talent was supporting the song, adding mystery and clarity that turned ordinary recordings into pop masterpieces. Easily spanning the worlds of traditional jazz, hard bop, rock, folk, r & b and pop he recorded with Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Thelonious Monk, Lou Rawls, Frank Zappa, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Sheena Easton, among hundreds. He produced amazing soundtracks such as Clint Eastwood’s “Bird” and was heard on television themes like Hawaii Five-O.
In 1973 he formed LA Express with saxophonist Tom Scott and guitarist Robben Ford. Joni Mitchell invited them to record her Court and Spark, which like so many things Guerin touched, turned gold. He and the group stayed with her for five albums. Guerin lived to play and was performing up until a week before he died. He was a man who found peace by giving his all to the music he loved, and once said of being a studio musician “I couldn’t think of a better way of making a living.”