On the funk-soul Otis Redding tune “Mr Pitiful,” Al Jackson Jr. plays a steady-driving beat with many signature fills. He keeps it simple while also showcasing musicianship, subtle chops and compositional fills designed to help the track.

This month we take a look at a few legendary drummers: Al Jackson Jr., Mick Fleetwood, and the drummers of Motown. Al had the incredibility to see the big picture when developing a drum part for a hit record—he knew when to save the big fill and when to keep it simple and effective. Mick always plays for the song and creates fills that are integral to the tunes. The Motown drummers always added a signature fill to the tunes they played on but were unfortunately not properly credited, thus leaving us to wonder if it was Benny Benjamin, Richard “Pistol” Allen, Uriel Jones, or perhaps Larrie Londin on those grooving tracks.

‘Mr. Pitiful,’ Otis Redding (Al Jackson Jr., drums)

Jackson comes out of the gates swinging with a very slick one-bar fill to set the tone (Ex. 1).

Ex. 1

He plays another slick solo-fill at the end of the first verse (Ex. 2).

Ex. 2

Out of the bridge section, he repeats the opening fill (Ex. 3).

Ex. 3

For the outro, Jackson plays a nice series of repeated fills every two bars that match the phrasing and energy of the horns (Ex. 4).

Ex. 4