Eight years in the making, this "prequel" to The Commandments of R&B Drumming delves into the rhythm and blues of the 1940s and '50s, an incredible musical era when shuffles ruled the airwaves and modern groove playing was in its infancy. Loaded with in-depth historical information, photos, graphics, exercises, and transcriptions, it also includes the most comprehensive, step-by-step guide to shuffle playing ever written.

The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming was written by Zoro, voted "No. 1 R&B Drummer" in Modern Drummer's Annual Reader's Poll, and Daniel Glass, drummer for the Royal Crown Revue and one of the foremost authorities on classic rhythm and blues drumming. In addition to the comprehensive book, you'll also enjoy a demonstration CD with more than 100 authentic groove and fill examples, as well as 11 play-along tracks. Featuring styles including swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, Chicago blues, New Orleans R&B, Texas blues, "faux" Latin, gospel, and early rock & roll, this long-awaited prequel is the most comprehensive and influential book on R&B drumming ever written.

EXCERPT 3 Article 1:
Prelude to a Groove:
The Half Swung/Half Straight Feel - "Smack Dab in the Middle"

As the shuffle feel of ‘50s R&B gave way to the harder-edged sounds of rock and soul, straight eight notes began to replace swung eighths as the primary rhythmic pulse of pop music. During these years of transition, however, it was not uncommon to hear elements of both feels within a single recording.

Early examples of this “half swung/half straight” approach can be heard in New Orleans R&B, and also in the first hits of Chuck Berry, where drummer Fred Below played a shuffle beat against Berry’s straight eighth guitar pattern (give a listen to “Johnny B. Goode” and you’ll see what I mean). Bo Diddley’s signature beat falls somewhere between swingin’ and straight, as do the grooves on other early rock ‘n’ roll classics like Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” and Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.”

The half swung/half straight feel continued to be heard well into the ‘60s. Early Beatles’ hits like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are technically straight eighth grooves, yet they also contain a certain “bounce” that ties them to the shuffle rhythms of the past.

Mastering this tricky groove will not only deepen your understanding of early R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, but will also give you another weapon in your arsenal of time feels. Each of the following examples looks at the half swung/half straight feel from a slightly different perspective. The first is an Earl Palmer second-line style groove from the New Orleans R&B classic “King Kong.” The in between feel of this groove shows just how much New Orleans R&B combined elements of both triplet (swing), and eighth note (Latin) feels.


EXCERPT 3 Article 2:
The Second Line Feel:
(Excerpted From The Commandments of Early Rhythm & Blues Drumming)

You can’t talk about New Orleans drumming without mentioning the second line. This funky feel evolved from African-American brass bands, which began providing musical accompaniment at dances, funeral marches, and Mardi Gras parades in the early 20th century and still do so today. The drum section in a second line band is traditionally made up of a snare drummer and a bass drummer (the latter also plays a cymbal attached to the bass drum). Together, these two players work as a unit, creating some ridiculously syncopated rhythms that are guaranteed to get you moving. If you ever get the chance to go to New Orleans, don’t miss the opportunity to check out some of the incredible brass bands that are taking this old-school tradition right into the 21st century. The Dirty Dozen and Rebirth brass bands are just two great examples, and both can be heard on New Orleans Brass Bands: Down Yonder (1992, Rounder Records).

New Orleans drumset players of every era – from the earliest jazz to the most modern funk and R&B – have included elements of the second-line and parade drumming in their work. These touches usually show up as rudimental embellishments like flams, rolls, or drags, and include elements of the rhumba bass line and the clave pattern, especially in the funky feel of the bass drum.

A great example of how second-line was used in a classic R&B setting is “I’m Walkin’,” a big hit for Fats Domino in the mid-‘50s. The song opens with a march style two-beat intro from drummer Earl Palmer, then kicks into a double time shuffle set against a syncopated bass line. Earl used this type of snare-oriented groove to great success on many hit records, including “Slippin and Slidin’” and “Lucille” (both by Little Richard). This groove is a perfect example of how New Orleans R&B musicians blended European (snare drum march) and African (rhumba bassline) influences to form a brand-new style.

Panama Francis, Interview with the Author:

"Back then, we had to play everything. [R&B] wasn't no specialty. When the white musicians came in, they made it a specialty. I became a specialist in rhythm and blues and then they didn't call me anymore to do no jazz or swing dates, which I resented, because I wasn't just an R&B drummer. I got my reputation as a swing and a big band drummer."


  "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino

  "Keep A-Knockin'" by Little Richard

Fats Domino drummer Earl Palmer was well known for his use of the Second-Line in the song "I'm Walkin'" (BPM 224) which can be found on the album The Fats Domino Jukebox

The Flattened Out Double Shuffle:

“Another straight eighth groove that was popular in the ‘50s (and ‘60s) is the flattened-out double shuffle. One of the best recorded examples of this groove can be heard in Charles Connor’s absolutely monstrous introduction to the 1957 Little Richard Classic “Keep a Knockin’.” The lethal pummeling that Connor administered to his drums must have left a lasting impact on all future rock ‘n’ rollers, because 15 years later John Bonham practically reproduced that intro note for note in his opening to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

"Keep A-Knockin'" can be found on the album The Georgia Peach and is played at BPM 178.


Early R&B Hits You May Already Know: Remade in the '70s

Song Title Original Artist Popular Remake

Call it Stormy Monday

T-Bone Walker

The Allman Brothers Band

Rockin’ Robin

Bobby Day

Michael Jackson

My Ding-a-Ling

The Bees

Chuck Berry

I Hear You Knockin’

Smiley Lewis

Dave Edmunds

Further Up the Road

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Eric Clapton

Willie and the Hand Jive

Johnny Otis

Eric Clapton

The Train Kept a Rollin’

Tiny Bradshaw


Big Ten Inch Record

Bull Moose Johnson


I Just Wanna Make (Love to You)

Muddy Waters


Rockin’ Pneumonia

Huey “Piano” Smith

Johnny Rivers

Bony Maronie

Larry Williams

John Lennon

I Only Have Eyes For You

The Flamingos

Art Garfunkle

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Beer

John Lee Hooker

George Thorogood

Who Do You Love

Bo Diddley

George Thorogood

Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)

Little Walter

Pat Travers

Ain’t it a Shame

Fats Domino

Cheap Trick

Ice Cream Man

John Brim

Van Halen


The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming is truly a masterpiece, drawing from the past and the present to arrive at a well-rounded, insightful tale of the early R&B scene. To arrive at this incredible content, the authors spent much of their time interviewing authorities on the subject of R&B music. Some names include: Remo Belli, Art Laboe, Earl Palmer, David “Panama” Francis, Francis Clay, and many more.

The book is careful to note is that while the drummers of this period are not as well known as those disciples who followed in their footsteps, it is not because these giants lacked talent. Instead, the nature of the music put the spotlight away from the drummer’s and technical ability, and more onto the groove. From Early Rhythm and Blues: "[…] Unlike swing or bebop, early R&B was not about technical virtuosity. It was a groove-oriented style geared to get people dancing, and therefore based on simple, swinging rhythms that made you feel good. […] The number one job for an R&B drummer was to keep time, plain and simple, and most people didn’t see that as particularly special."

So while you may have never heard the names of any of the drummers featured in this book, remember that this does not mean that the drummers, or the book, hold any less value. Remember instead that this lack of coverage was a founding value of drumming, and thus worthy of being learned by any drummer. This book will teach you that.

It is not just Vic Firth Inc singing the praises of The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues. In fact, this is an award-winning educational text, having won first prize in the “Beat Instructional Book” category of the 2009 DRUM Magazine Reader’s Poll. If you want to learn about modern drumming and R&B drumming, then The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues is a book well worth buying.

Simply put, this is an essential requirement for every drummer’s library.
-Drummer Magazine
This book/CD package is well researched, clear in its goals, and enlightening and inspiring in its approach. Keep this one on your bottom shelf; you’re going to want to return to it again and again.
-Modern Drummer Magazine
I am so impressed with what Daniel and Zoro have done to secure the heritage of the modern drum set.The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming is a must—every inspired drummer needs to experience and learn from this masterpiece. The book will take you on a journey through our history—and knowing where we came from will assist us in our vision for the future! Thank you both for your hard work, so that generations ahead of us can forever enjoy this magical era!
-Dom Famularo


A native of Los Angeles, Zoro is one of the funkiest drummers on the contemporary music scene today. His stellar playing has led to an impressive range of worldwide musical adventures including performing with such artists as: Lenny Kravitz, Bobby Brown, The New Edition, Philip Bailey, Jody Watley, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Vanessa Paradis and many others. He is respected by both the R&B and Rock N’ Roll community and his musicianship has kept him one of the busiest drummers today. Zoro’s enthusiasm for music is contagious, but he is perhaps best known as the tenacious groove drummer, that one-named guy with the hat.

Daniel Glass has played drums with the pioneering "retro-swing" group Royal Crown Revue since 1994. He has also recorded and performed with many top artists, such as Bette Midler, Gene Simmons, Mike Ness, and Freddy Cole. In addition to his work as a musician, Daniel is an award-winning author, historian, clinician and producer. He has published three books, including The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming and The Ultimate History of Rock'n'Roll Drumming: 1948-2000. His writings on drum history have appeared in The Encyclopedia of Percussion, The MusicHound Swing Essential Album Guide, and countless publications such as Modern Drummer, DRUM!, Classic Drummer and Percussive Notes.


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