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Dennis Chambers: Heartbeats and Backbeats

Dennis Chambers: Heartbeats and Backbeats

Courtesy J.R. Stizek

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So many people visited me, it was like the promoter was selling tickets to the hospital. One day I have Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke standing over me. Chick, shaking his head, says 'it don't look good, man, it don't look good.'
—Dennis Chambers
We all know that Dennis Chambers is among the world's greatest drummers. In a spontaneous conversation, the gentleman proved to be as kind and generous as he is with his backbeats and grooves. He spoke candidly about the life threatening battles he has faced. Spanning from intense to humorous, Chambers opened up on his medical ordeals, the road back to health, and getting back behind his kit.

And oh yes, we talked about music. Led Zeppelin might seem like an unlikely topic, but, yes, we got there. The Baltimore native related his remarkable James Brown story. We spoke about his time playing with Santana, Parliament Funkadelic , John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and the many other top flight fusion guitarists he has accompanied. As far back as four years old, and all the way to present tours, let's roll on a full set with Dennis Chambers.

All About Jazz: At the outset, I was so pleased to be told by a little Lenibird (Leni Stern) that you are doing so well.

Dennis Chambers: Ah, yes. I am doing a lot better.

AAJ: Well, actually it was quite the evening of celebration, good news, and great music. This past December my wife and I, and some friends, went to the Baked Potato in Los Angeles to celebrate my birthday. We have been going out to L.A. every December to see Mike Stern since like 1947. Slight exaggeration.

DC: (with a laugh) Just a bit.

AAJ: Its been a sincere pleasure getting to know Mike & Leni Stern and bassist Jimmy Haslip over the years.. The latter started the good news train by walking in the door and saying, "I've got something I think you're going to like, Jim. It was just confirmed this afternoon that Oz Noy, Dennis Chambers, and I will be playing here at the BP a couple of nights at the end of March." The first thing that ran through my mind was that you must doing pretty well, Dennis. Knowing that you and the Sterns are tight, and that she would give it to me straight, I asked her how you were doing. Her face lit up, her eyes sparkling with happiness, and she gleefully said, "Oh, Dennis is doing wonderfully, Jim." She continued, "he looks great and is feeling better than he has in years." Moments later, Mike's ever present smile widened as he echoed the same vibe.

DC: That's good people you are talking about right there. They have always been there for me.

AAJ: That I'm sure includes throughout your significant medical problems. There are likely varying levels of knowledge people have regarding the difficulties you have faced. Six or seven years ago, and then again more recently, you dealt with life threatening issues. In the past there were even erroneous reports that you had passed away. Without prying too much into your personal life, I was hopeful that you could talk about those experiences and set the record straight.

DC: Well, it all started because I had a very bad diet. A lot of years on the road, eating greasy food at truck stops. Stuff with grease on top of grease, you know. I loved that kind of food because that's what I grew up on. Eating vegetables out of the can and all that kind of stuff. I developed a case of acid reflux that I suffered from for decades. The older I got the worse it got. So I was walking around like a walking time bomb and didn't even know it. All that acid in my stomach would always hit me at night when I was trying to relax and go to sleep. I'd be laying on my back and the stuff comes up and goes down your windpipe. Man, you can't breathe. Many times I thought I was going to die. So I went to the doctor and they cured me from acid reflux. I took these pills for like a year and it cured me. But what happened though was that the damage was done. I had holes in my esophagus line. I was bleeding out, for years, and didn't even know it. So in a few years the holes are getting bigger and I noticed that I was retaining a lot of fluid in my stomach. I wasn't eating hardly anything, yet I was gaining all this weight. I was drinking, which made matters worse. I was on tour with Mike (Stern) and Bill Evans in Europe a few years back, and one day Mike found me on the floor of my hotel room laying in my own blood. I was in a coma.

AAJ: Oh my gosh. What a horrific event. Where were you when this took place?

DC: We were in Stockholm, I think. You'd have to ask Mike about that to be sure. Somehow they got me on an airplane and flew me to Spain. I was in a hospital there. I can't remember what city it was. When I came out of that coma, I learned that it had been reported that I had died. So when Renee (Dennis's wife) got on a plane to come to Spain, she didn't know what to expect. She didn't know if she was picking up a corpse or just what.

AAJ: That had to be the longest plane trip ever.

DC: Yeah, I had been in a coma for four or five days. They had me strapped down. I thought if you were in a coma that you would be still. But they said I was kind of fighting and making some strange movements. The doctor told Mike and Bill that they had done all they could for me, and that it was up to me whether I wanted to live or die. Mind you, I'm in a coma so I didn't know any of this or what was going on. Eventually I wake up and Renee is there. It was crazy. It seemed like everyone was moving in slow motion. I was looking at people's faces and all their eyeballs lit up like light bulbs. Their pupils were like black as coal.

AAJ: Man, so you woke up tripping.

DC: Yeah, I was trippin' for sure. I thought maybe I was dreaming or some shit like that. They're asking me all these questions and I'm trying to figure out where I am and how I got there. Finally they released the straps. But nobody spoke English.

AAJ: That's hard to even imagine. You must have felt like you woke up in a different world or alternate universe or something.

DC: It was absolutely another world, Jim, to wake up to that. The doctors spoke broken English. Bad broken English. I finally found out that there were two nurses that spoke English and I had them translate everything. That's when I found out that they had repaired my esophaguses line the best they could and told me to follow up with my doctor when I got back home. But then it took two more weeks before they finally released me to go home. They even tried to get me to stay for another week in a hotel. But I just refused.

AAJ: You wanted to go home!

DC: Exactly, I wanted to go home. I just didn't see myself staying there longer when I had already been there for three or four weeks.

AAJ: Sometimes being home is the best medicine for healing up and recovering.

DC: Yeah, feeling the comforts of my own home. It's a real drag being in a hospital that long. But hospitals over there are totally different than hospitals over here. They wake you up in the morning kind of politely and then after four thirty you don't even see them again, unless you call for them. Over here, it's torture.

AAJ: Oh yeah, they are waking you up every five minutes to take a sleeping pill when you are already sleeping. Or waking you up to check this or that or run a test.

DC: Oh man, you got that right. Three thirty in the morning, five thirty in the morning, they don't care. But then when you need them they don't come! They were much more polite in Spain and actually let you rest.

AAJ: What a concept.

DC: (laughing) Yeah, but I must say there were two old gals working at the hospital in Spain that would be pushing and shoving and struggling with me to get me up or get me into another room or whatever. I remember telling them that they better hurry up or they would miss the ten o'clock broom. They were witches!

AAJ: (laughing hard) That's hysterical, Dennis. So glad you can laugh about it now.

DC: They were witches who didn't speak any English other than to say "move, move." I didn't have enough strength to move as fast as they wanted me to.

AAJ: Nothing worse than witches that don't speak English.

DC: (laughing) With all the words I was shouting at them it might have been best that they didn't understand (laughing).

DC: (laughing) There was a major jazz festival going on and all these different people were coming by to see me. It was like the promoter was selling tickets to the hospital (with a laugh). One day I have Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke standing over me. Chick shaking his head saying, "this don't look good, man, this don't look good."(Chambers now able to laugh about it) Victor Bailey telling me to "get up out of that bed. You got a lot more music in you." A couple of days later Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks come walking in. I had a good hang with them. The next day Hiromi stops by, with Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips.

AAJ: That had to make you feel a little better that all those cats took the time to come over and see you.

DC: Yes, for sure. It was very cool and much appreciated. Simon was like an angel in everything he did to help me get home. He has a friend that has his own private airline. He had a person pick Renee and I up and drive us to the airport. He made sure I had a wheelchair, got me up to the ticket counter, made sure we had everything we needed. He even made sure I had a wheelchair all the way back to Dulles Airport in Washington. Simon made sure we had someone with us through all the plane changes. He was really on top of it.

AAJ: That's outstanding.. That's really nice to hear. Thanks for sharing that.

DC: Yeah, it was very cool. Simon was a blessing. He was definitely a blessing. Even after that he kept up with me. He would call from time to time just to make sure I was doing okay or if I needed anything.

AAJ: So you are home recovering, trying to get your strength back, and you didn't play at all for over a year. Is that correct?

DC: Yeah, I didn't have the strength or the desire. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if I was going to play anymore. Pearl sent me a big fiberglass kit. A yellow fiberglass kit. They set it up for me to be able to play. But I had no energy and no enthusiasm. No desire to play. It was set up in my living room and I just walked past it every day and didn't pay any attention to it. I had a friend come over and play on it just so I could hear what it sounded like. I had a couple of other guys come over to do that too, just to see if I could get inspired. But I had no inspiration to play at all. A little over a year past and, again, it was Mike, another angel, who put together a gig and asked me to play.

AAJ: I'm sure taking the situation and your needs into proper consideration to make it as comfortable for you as possible.

DC: That's exactly right, Jim. Mike is a good cat. He has always been there for me. The show was at Blues Alley in Washington, DC. I had my strength back so I wanted to just see what I could do after not having played for over a year. We didn't rehearse. We just went out and played. Mike and the others said I sounded great, just picking up where I left off. There were a bunch of people that came out to see me that night. Some for support and others to see me fail.

AAJ: Wow, to see you fail? That's harsh, man.

DC: It is, but it's life. You are always going to have the haters.

AAJ: I suppose so. Envious perhaps.

DC: I had played there many times before. There were many people there that night that had never come to see me before. You know, people that I know who they are. But they only come out when I am at my most vulnerable. They wanted to laugh if I failed. But I fooled them.

AAJ: Yeah, envy with a dash of insecurity. Fortunately you triumphed. Anyways, it doesn't surprise me that it was Mike Stern helping you get back on your feet again. Well, actually into your seat...

DC: Mike is always like "anything you need, just let me know." People say stuff like that sometimes but they don't always mean it or follow though. Mike always means it and always comes through. So after that I got back into touring, back into my life. Then after a few years I started losing weight on most of my body. My neck, my arms, my face were skinny like skin on bone. Yet my stomach looked like Santa Claus. I could feel all this liquid building up in my stomach. So I went to the doctor. Well, they had cured my acid reflux years before and they repaired the wholes in my esophaguses in Spain. So now the doctors are trying to figure out where all this liquid is coming from. What they discovered was all the damage that had already been done all those years I had struggled. Liquid from the esophaguses had leaked into and on top of my liver. I had to have a liver transplant. They told me that I was going on the backend of the donor list because it wasn't a dire emergency. Well, I knew people who had been on that list for fifteen to twenty years. Some of them didn't make it that far. I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to die. I just didn't know when.

AAJ: So a few years earlier you were reported as having passed away and now you are pretty much convinced that it is actually going to happen.

DC: Yes, but you know I was relatively cheerful. I felt like I had lived a pretty good life and made peace with it. After everything I had been through I suppose I was just accepting the inevitable. Somewhere, six months to a year later, I had woken up on the couch one night at about three thirty in the morning, and got up to go to bed. The next thing I knew I was waking up in the hospital, I had no idea why or how I got there. What happened was that the chemicals surging through my body wiped out my memory. They were asking me a lot of questions. Having a wife and being a musician seemed somehow familiar, but I wasn't sure. All of that sort of thing. As time went on I started to regain my memory. I was at the hospital for about two weeks, moving from one area to another and another, so that they could run all these different tests on me. They were getting ready to release me to go home. To go home to continue to wait and pray for a liver to become available. I had signed out and was just waiting for Renee to come pick me up. Then I was blessed with another miracle. Three doctors came over and asked if I could delay my departure for a couple of hours. I said "sure, but why? What's going on?" They responded that they didn't want to get my hopes up and then be disappointed, but that they believed that they had found a liver for me.

AAJ: Wow, that's amazing. What are the odds of that happening?

DC: They came to my room at four o'clock the next morning to do the transplant. I laid on the table for twelve hours before they could even begin to implant the new liver. That whole area in my body was thrashed from the constant fluid overload over all those years. They had a mess on their hands.

AAJ: Slow recovery? How did it feel waking up with a new liver?

DC: I woke up cracking jokes (laughing). The nurses couldn't believe it. They thought I had lost my head.

AAJ: (laughing) Yeah, it would seem that your anesthesiologist fixed you up with some good drugs.

DC: Yeah, the anesthesia wears off after awhile but they kept me comfortable. The doctors were surprised, though, at how quickly I healed up. I was feeling some energy and wanted to get out of there. It's a good thing that they released me when they did. Man, I was about ready to grab one of those scalpels and cut somebody up if they didn't (laughing).

AAJ: (laughing) Cool that you were feeling so much better, even if you were starting to feel like a caged tiger.

DC: Yeah, exactly. And a nurse would say, "I hear they are going to release you tomorrow." But I would tell them that they said that yesterday and the day before that. I got to the point where I wasn't joking and laughing anymore. I was looking at them more like an attack dog. "Get me out of here," I growled. They finally did and it felt great to go home. Mostly that I was feeling so much better. They gave me a walker to use for the first five weeks of recovery. I ditched that after three days. I wasn't moving fast, but I was walking. On the fourth day they sent over a physical therapist. He nearly fell over when he saw me walk into our sunken living room without the walker. He had me sit down and stand up. Asked me a couple of basic questions, like "What's your name?" Then he said "you don't need me. I am supposed to help you get to a certain point. You are already there." That was that for physical therapy. I have walked on since then.

AAJ: Good for you, man. You have been through a lot. Before we move on, just for time frame, the ordeal in Spain was seven or eight years ago, how recent was the liver transplant?

DC: The liver transplant was a year ago this past October.

AAJ: Okay, that helps get a perspective. Thank you for sharing and talking about that. Let's talk about music. Your career got off to a fast and successful start playing with Parliament Funkadelic and then Santana , both of which I would like to talk about. Since then, and for well over twenty years now, you are mostly known as a fusion drummer. Starting with John Scofield. you went on to play with most of the top fusion guitarists, such as Stern, McLaughlin , Scott Henderson, Steve Kahn, Oz Noy, and Greg Howe. Is there a substantial difference in playing with let's say McLaughlin as opposed to Scofield or Stern? Do they expect different things from you? Is there a different level of freedom?

DC: Yes, yes it's different with all of them. With McLaughlin there is of course a lot of energy. But the thing is that the compositions are complicated. You don't just walk out on the bandstand and play them. Well, in fact, I could say that about all of these guys. I should say that with McLaughlin, with many of his songs, there are all these different time signatures involved. You really need to learn those and know where they are. With Scofield It's more of groove thing. You learn the arrangements and then just go out and play. The most important thing with both McLaughlin and Scofield is that they don't give you any instructions. George Duke was like that too. They would say, "here's the music, play." If there was something they didn't like they would tell you. But mostly you never heard from them.

AAJ: Miles Davis was famous for letting his players loose to play what they felt and to develop it in their own way. Are we talking about that level of freedom?

DC: Yes, that's right. But that freedom is always there. Its just that with certain music you know it has to be played a certain way or it doesn't work. It just changes. With Scofield I can remember getting a song tighter and tighter and faster and faster, and one night he started moving his arms like he was rowing a boat. Afterwards we're going downstairs and I ask him what that was all about. He says (laughing) that "I felt like I was in a boat and I had lost my oars" (laughing)

AAJ: (laughing) When you are pushing it well beyond or outside of the arrangements.

DC: The structure of a song stays the same every night. But, yeah, the arrangements can shift. The way you play it is different every night.

AAJ: I had the pleasure of seeing you with Henderson and Jeff Berlin several years ago, billed as HBC. Henderson would seem so tightly focused on his axe that he would have to be assuming, expecting, counting on his rhythm section to be there, as opposed to telling you what to play.

DC: Scott is another free soul. I swear, man, In all the times I played with him I never heard him repeat. Scofield is the same way. They just don't repeat.

AAJ: Yeah, its special to hear and watch the truly great ones get in their limitless zones. I saw Henderson again very recently. Incredible non-stop chord changes. Mind boggling. A lot of guitarists can play fast but they can't go two minutes without leaning on a crutch.

DC: Yes, very true.

AAJ: I was in awe of Mike Stern one evening probably ten years ago. He was playing with Randy Brecker, Dave Weckl, and Tom Kennedy at Catalina's Jazz Club in L.A. He launched into a twenty-five minute epic solo and never came close to repeating. Breathtaking. And he smiled and laughed at the end of it and motioned like he could have kept going. Like I guess I have to stop at some point.

DC: That sounds right. I can believe that. It inspires you to play as well. You know like, if these guys are at that level then I got to be there too. I have to be really on my game and try to come up with something that can compare to that. Or to be that loose or that fluent.

AAJ: When it all comes together it can create some very special moments. Changing gears, I wanted to ask you about Gergo Borlai and his tribute record The Missing Song (Blue Canoe, 2020). What did you think of that record overall, and, of course, in particular the third track?

DC: Yeah, Gergo was really proud of that record. He sent me a copy. I was honored that he would do that. That he would include me with all those other great drummers. It's a really nice record. He's a great player.

AAJ: He sure is. I thought he really crushed it on "Dennis." I appreciated the way in which he recreated the drum kit each drummer was playing. Among others, "Peter" Peter Erskine and "Keith" Keith Carlock are represented with grace. He mentioned, in a conversation I had with him, that he was looking for a particular Zildjan ride cymbal that you were able to track down for him.

DC: Well, what happened was that Gergo heard me play at the Buddy Rich Memorial Tournament, and with Scofield, and liked the sound of my earth ride. He was getting frustrated because he couldn't find one. I was like "dude, I got a bunch of them." He asked about buying one off me. I said, "dude, I will send you one. When I get home I will look through my cymbals and I will find one for you." I had a few still in plastic bags. So it took me a couple of days to go through all my stuff, but then I sent one to him.

AAJ: Seems he was pretty excited to receive it.

DC: Yeah, he called me and was ecstatic. I don't think he believed I was really going to send him one. I mean in this day and age people say things, but they don't come up with it.

AAJ: They don't always follow through. Used to be your word meant something.

DC: Yeah, if I say I am going to do something then I will do it.

AAJ: Now, going back. You famously grew up in Baltimore, started playing the drums at four years old, gigging by six years old, and by the time you were thirteen none other than James Brown wanted you to join his band and tour with him. Would you kindly share that story with us?

DC: I was playing in a cover band that played a little bit of everything, including a couple of James Brown songs. James Brown had a couple of radio stations in Baltimore and some other business to attend to. Those were AM stations back then, there was no FM yet. I was in the bathroom during a break on a gig with this cover band. I hear someone singing a song. I come out of the stall and wash my hands. The guy is standing right next to me, playing with his afro, picking at his hair, and still singing. I looked in the mirror and I know I recognize that face. I looked back down to finish drying my hands and I realize that it's Mr. Brown. So I started thinking about how do I talk to him. I said something like, "excuse me Mr Brown my name is Dennis Chambers I am a drummer and I am playing with the cover band at this establishment this evening. It's an honor to meet you." He never looked at me. I said, "it would be an honor if you would come over and listen." He said, "You're playing here, huh?" I said, "Yes, I am." He still never looked at me, but then I hear, "okay maybe I will, maybe I won't, but have a good one." He went back to picking his hair and humming a tune. I go back and tell the band what just happened and of course they don't believe me.

AAJ: Like yeah, right.

DC: Exactly. Short time later the doors open wide for this entourage with James Brown. He sat over in a far corner at the end at a little table. We couldn't even see him from the bandstand. But we sure knew they were there. During the next break, this really big dude comes over to me and says, "Mr. Brown requests your presence at his table." I look over at the band...

AAJ Who now believe you and are slack jawed.

Yeah, man. I go over to his table and he says, "nice backbeat kid. How would you feel like putting your backbeat to my music?" So I said, "Yes, it would be a great honor to do that." I know I said more than that because I was so excited. Then just as fast reality kicks in. I know that my mother is not going to let me go on tour. Again I was only thirteen years old. So I explained all that to him and told him he would have to talk to my mom if there was any chance at all. He asked for her phone number. I gave it to him. Every day for a month I would come home from school asking my mom if Mr. Brown had called. He hadn't, so I kind of gave up. But the honor was just being asked. Meeting him, and him seeing me play was enough for me.

AAJ: Yeah, I would think so. Thirteen years old and probably the biggest star on the planet at that time is digging your skill set. That's way cool. But I know it doesn't end quite yet.

DC: He finally called, yeah. I was home from school and answered the phone. It was some lady saying that she was from James Brown's office. I nearly jumped through the ceiling when that call came in. I started yelling for my mom, "Mr. Brown is on the phone, Mr. Brown is on the phone." She pushed me out of the room so she could talk to him. Mr. Brown got on the phone and started telling my mom how proud she must be to have such a talented son and stuff like that. But to cut to the chase, he wouldn't pay for a tutor, so that was that.

AAJ: That seems odd. You would think in hiring someone that young having a tutor would be a given.

DC: It was strange, yes. Because Mr. Brown was a strong advocate of education. He's the one who said, "Don't be a fool, stay in school." So that was the end of that. I didn't see Mr. Brown again until five or six years later when I started playing with P-Funk. He kind of remembered. I asked him if he remembered a kid in Baltimore. He immediately said, "That's you?"

AAJ: It seems that it turned out for the best that you didn't play with Brown anyway.

DC: Yeah, when I was playing with P-Funk there were some guys that had played with him, including Bootsy Collins, that told some stories that, you know...

AAJ: Didn't paint such a great picture?

DC: There you go. Made me kind of glad I didn't go with him.

AAJ: Well, before we talk about your time with P-Funk, you mentioned your mom. Being drawn to music as a four year old had a lot to do with your mom, right? She was a vocalist with Motown?

DC: Yes, that's right. And yeah I heard pretty much all kinds of music at home when I was growing up. Motown, of course, but also jazz, contemporary, just about everything other than maybe Latin. We'd be listening to Grand Funk Railroad and stuff like that too.

AAJ: You are eighteen years old and you start playing with George Clinton and P Funk. That had to be an outrageous and larger than life experience for a young musician.

DC: Yeah, fortunately I was young, strong, and had a lot of stamina, because we were playing like three-and-a half-hour shows every night. But remember, as far as the music with every band I played in, I was always playing some music that came before me. I had heard it and played it all. I was listening to John Scofield back when he was with George Duke and Billy Cobham. Think about it. Brecker Brothers, I grew up playing in bands that were playing some of their music. I grew up listening to Tower of Power and to P-Funk and the Jacksons. I heard a lot of Steely Dan.

AAJ: And years later toured with them.

DC: Yes, and I knew all the music. I grew up listening to them.

AAJ: After seven years with P Funk, you later played a number of years with Carlos Santana. Seems I have read that you were hired and let go before you even played, and then hired again. Maybe you can piece that all together.

DC: Chester Thompson was Santana's drummer at the time. This would be like 1984. Chester was from Baltimore too, and we hit it off pretty well. He used to play at some Baltimore jazz clubs like the Sportsmen Lounge and the Bird Cage. I knew about those shows, but that was before I knew Chester. Anyway, Chester knew he needed to go play some shows with Genesis, so he recommended me for the Santana gig. I got a call from Bill Graham and was offered the job. But then I was let go in less than a week because Carlos didn't want to start working with a new drummer, and spend all that time rehearsing, with only a few shows left on the tour. Somehow he got Graham Lear to come back and finish that tour. So they had to let me go. A few years later I was playing with John McLaughlin at Montreux. Santana played the same night. Steve Gadd and all these luminaries are there that night. We really killed it that night, it was great. Later I get a phone call in my hotel room from management saying that Carlos wanted to talk to me. So I found out what room he was in and: Joey DeFrancesco and I went up. We ended up talking to the sun came up. Carlos is a very gracious guy to talk to and be around. I barely got back to my room in time to throw everything in my suitcase, splash some water on my face, and get out to catch my plane (laughing). A few days later, Carlos is calling my house and telling my wife that he would like me to come and play with him. So I got in touch and said, "sure, when do you need me?" He says, "Tonight." I told him I couldn't do that. I was already on tour with McLaughlin. He understood. So we were back to some time down the road again. Finally we got together to do some recording. He liked how that was working out and told me that it was going to be great to have me on the next tour. Only thing was that I didn't know anything about that. Nobody had said anything to me about going on the road, just the studio work.

AAJ: Oh man, he must have just been assuming that you somehow gathered that.

DC: Yeah, but it worked out. We finished the record and I started playing drums for Carlos Santana. Took awhile to get it together, but we headed off to Europe and then spent twelve years playing together. Oh, let me share this with you, Jim. My very first show with Santana was at Paul Allen's estate. [Allen the business magnate who co-founded Microsoft and owned the Seattle SuperSonics, among other entities— ed]. His house was on an island, his own island, close to Seattle. After taking a boat to get out there, you travel on these little roads in carts. He had his own full sized gymnasium out there, what appeared to be about a half-built football stadium, and an auditorium.

AAJ: That's all amazing in itself.

DC: Yeah, man, he owned his own private island and did a lot with it. We played at the auditorium, which was a big good-sized room. That first night Mike Shreive showed up. Mike was the original drummer for Santana. Well, you know that.

AAJ: Yeah, immediately brings Woodstock to mind.

DC: Yeah, yeah. I was in awe of him because of all the Woodstock stuff. I asked him if he would like to sit in. And he did, he sat in. The funny part is that when Kevin Chisholm, the road manager, came out of the production office, he looks at me and then looks over at Mike, sitting behind the kit, and says to me, "Man, you can't even last through a whole gig." (laughing hard)

AAJ: (also now laughing hard) Okay Shreive is back, we'll see you later.

DC: (laughing) Exactly. It was pretty funny, especially to have that happen on my first night with the band.

AAJ: Having seen Santana several times over the years, you always seemed to be having a blast playing with smokin' percussionists Raul Rekow and Karl Perazzo. What was that experience like?

DC: That was a blessing. I was trying to learn how to play with them and they were trying to learn how to play with me. I was able to focus on the grooves and keeping up the grooves. They were covering all the Latin sound.

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