A Kind Of Eulogy

A Kind Of Eulogy

I was a greenhorn back in 1987, when I marched into my first NAMM Show as the editor of Drums & Drumming (our former magazine, published by GPI Publications). I wasn't aware at that moment I'd entered a microcosmic universe with its own culture, etiquette, and hierarchy.

Groveling at the very bottom of the pecking order, I gazed up at the patriarchs of the modern drum industry with awe. Wise old greybeards like Vic Firth, Armand Zildjian, Fred Gretsch, Lennie Demuzio, Robert Zildjian, Jim Cof n, William Ludwig III, and Remo Belli seemed to float above the NAMM rabble, carried along by enormous reputations and often equally enormous personalities. You were either in their league or out. I was clearly out.

It didn't matter, though. I was too busy hustling my new magazine to worry about my place in the grand scheme. As I trolled the NAMM floor, I met dozens of newcomers like me, who were also finding their footing in the drum industry. Some fell out of the rotation after a few years, but many stuck around for decades, often hopping from one company to another.

As years passed, and some of the old guard began to slow down, many members of my freshman class began to assume leadership roles in the industry. Our friendships were renewed semiannually at trade shows and sustained through emails and phone calls, but otherwise, I have to admit, I didn't know much else about their personal lives.

Joe Hibbs was one of those guys. He was the artist rep at Tama when we first met, then disappeared for a couple years before cropping up again at Premier. He seemed to finally find a home when he went to work for Mapex, where his reputation as a world-class artist rep and drum expert took root and bloomed.

Then the unthinkable happened. Joe died at LAX last February at the age of 63, desperately trying to fly home to Nashville after being diagnosed with pneumonia in a Los Angeles emergency room. Of course, social media immediately lit up at the news. My mood took the opposite turn. Among my first thoughts was regret that I hadn't known Joe better, though, from what I hear, he kept his private and business lives at arm's length.

Yet everybody knew him. More importantly, everybody respected him. He knew drums and the drum industry like no one else. He helped a lot of people. Look, he was also no angel, and could be sardonic and irascible when he felt wronged. In other words, he was just like the rest of us: Another human being trying his best, sometimes succeeding, other times stumbling, always pushing forward.

You might not have felt it, but a tear split apart the fabric of our tiny, fragile universe when Joe died, reminding us of the inevitability of mortality and importance of the moment. I have no profound words to share. Just never take anything for granted. We're here for only a short time.

You are missed, Joe.

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