Ramblin’ Men: Southern Rock Drumming

“La Grange”

Band: ZZ Top
Drummer: Frank Beard
ZZ Top was one of the few southern rock bands to survive the ’80s and even receive heavy radio and MTV rotation, due in part to their catchy songs and memorable videos. In “La Grange” we see the cool groove drummer Frank Beard plays on the rim of one of his drums, (notated here on the high tom rim). The pattern is a right hand drag (llR) followed by a tap flam (L lR) over and over in 12/8. The first fill out of this groove at 0:32 is most easily played with the right hand on the snare and left hand on the hi-hat, beginning on the ah of 4, with a sticking of R lrR lrR lrR LRL. At 1:08 we find the linear triplet fill that’s perplexed drummers and even some transcribers for decades. Played RLF over and over this clever fill suggests a polyrhythmic quarter-note feel superimposed over the 12/8 meter.

ZZ Top

“Funk 49”

Band: The James Gang
Drummer: Jim Fox
The James Gang helped make Joe Walsh a guitar icon, and his ace guitar work made “Funk 49” a favorite of southern rock cover bands. Drummer Jim Fox plays a busy groove with drum fills in every other measure, proving that sometimes more is more, and uses soft ghost notes and double strokes throughout the song to add texture to his grooves. His drum sound is quite good as well, with toms that sound like the bottom heads were removed and mikes placed inside them giving a fat, dead thud.

The James Gang


Band: Gov’t Mule
Drummer: Matt Abts

Gov’t Mule is a power trio in the tradition of James Gang and Cream, and was originally an Allman Brothers side project featuring Allman guitarist Warren Haynes and the late Allen Woody. With the addition of drummer Matt Abts, Gov’t Mule released its self-titled debut in 1995, which featured the track “Mule.” The tune begins with Abts laying down a heavy Bonham-esque groove — think “Immigrant Song,” with a bass drum note in place of Bonham’s ghosted snare on the ah of 4. The phrases in the intro are three measures long, and once the guitar enters in measure four, there’s a 2/4 bar at the end of each phrase in which Abts fills. To make things even trickier, the section ends with a measure of 5/4 kicks that Abts plays in perfect sync with Haynes and Woody.

Govt Mule
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