When I look back, it is the mid 80’s and this lanky guy walks into Drummers World on West 45th Street. It is winter and he has a grey overcoat on, but what really stands out is his over-sized shades. They are especially dark and give the impression of misterioso, you have no idea what those eyes look like. No conversation other than I inquire if he needs any help or has any questions. No response other than a 360 degree glance around the store. On display is a variety of kit sizes, but primarily smaller, more functional ones for New York players. He gravitates toward the bebop sizes, scratches his chin, and nods approvingly at certain colors and manufacturers. After about 5 minutes he turns to me and begins a discourse on the various drums and manufacturers. “Yeah these guys made great drums, but could never get their snare together” or “that company’s hardware always broke down.” Meanwhile, I’m still wondering who the hell is this guy. I know he’s a jazz player but can’t recognize him. Eventually, the discourse winds down and he pops the question? “Do you have my book?” I then know! “Is that you Philly?” Going through my mind was the excitement of meeting the ‘myth’ I had heard so much about. Those records with Miles, the Blue Note, Prestige albums, etc.
He lifts his shades above his forehead and gives a big grin. I go back to the stockroom, grab a couple of his brush books and place them on the counter. “What’s the damage?” My immediate response is: “how can I charge you? You wrote the book!”
He then gives me a giant bear hug. We continue our discussion and he purchases some 5A sticks. I didn’t see him again, but I would get a call now and then from him to say hello and ask how things were going.
Thanks Barry for sharing your anecdote about Philly Joe Jones. He was a true American music innovator.