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 5 Article 1:
Spotlight On: "Good Rockin' Tonight"
Bringin' on the Backbeat

Whereas other spotlights in this book focus on people or events from the early rhythm and blues era, this one highlights a single song: “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” More than just about any other song, this late-‘40s classic defines the way in which R&B served as a link between swing-era jazz and rock ‘n’ roll.

Originally written and recorded in July on 1947 by New Orleans blues singer Roy Brown, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was based on an old gospel number, “Yes, Indeed.” Its opening line “Well I’ve heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight!” mimics the call of a preacher to his congregation. Brown’s recording of “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” available on Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Best of Roy Brown (1994, Rhino Records), swings nicely, but it didn’t break a lot of new ground; rather, it reflected the styles of music that came before it: swing and jump blues. Brown’s vocal is reminiscent of crooners like Billy Eckstine, and the groove, smoothly laid down by New Orleans drummer Bob Ogden, is the kind of boogie-woogie shuffle that you’d hear on a jump record.

Just six months after Roy Brown’s original was released, however, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” got a five star facelift at the hands of blues “shouter” Wynonie Harris. The Harris version upped the ante in every possible way. Brown’s polite horn lines have been replaced with a full-bodied honkin’ sax, and Harris hollers the melody with such intensity that he practically distorts the microphone. He’s no longer asking if we’ve heard the news, he’s telling us he is the news! Don’t take my word for it; hear the difference for yourself on Bloodshot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris (1993, Rhino).

If you’re a drummer, the Wynonie Harris version of “Good Rockin’ Tonight” is important for one simple reason: it was one of the first recordings to feature a strong backbeat from start to finish. Compared to the polite shuffle of the original track, this groove is something else altogether. Behind Harris’s sandpaper vocals, drummer Clarence “Bobby” Donaldson throws down an absolutely stanky groove, and his backbeats are doubled by handclaps, another rhythmic element borrowed from gospel music. Supersonic backbeat handclaps would become a trademark element of R&B, showing up on records by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Parliament and Prince.

So, why were backbeats not featured on recordings prior to 1948, you might ask? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The backbeat – defined as a forceful stroke (usually a rim shot) played on beats 2 and 4 of a drum pattern – had been part of the drummer’s vocabulary since the earliest days of jazz; however, prior to the rise of R&B, it was only acceptable to play backbeats at the most exciting or emotional parts of a song. To play backbeats all the way through would have seemed downright overbearing. The fact that pre-WW II recording equipment could not sufficiently capture such loud, explosive sounds probably had something to do with it, too.

(To finish reading this article, purchase The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming)

EXCERPT 5 Article 2:
The Future of Early R&B:
"Keep it Real"

In addition to those trying to preserve R&B in its more traditional forms, a wide variety of mainstream acts have blended R&B with elements of soul, funk, rock, and pop over the last 40 years. In addition to the bands of the British Invasion, artists as diverse as the Allmen Brothers, Aerosmith, James Brown, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Eric Clapton, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Al Kooper, Tom Waits, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, The Band, Boz Scaggs, George Thorogood, and Brian Setzer have all celebrated (in one way or another) the legacy of classic blues and R&B throughout their music.

Today, R&B grooves continue to inspire new generations of musicians as well as rappers, DJs, and programmers who sample the music for use in hip-hop, rap, electronica, and other contemporary dance styles.

That said, as we look ahead, we must start making some real efforts to protect the R&B legacy that plays such an important role in our cultural heritage. The remaining originators of this music are getting up there in years, and as they disappear, we will be losing a direct and powerful link to the blues tradition. With so much of today’s music being created by samplers, triggers, and sequencers, we face a scenario in which future generations may completely lose touch with this critical part of our collective musical soul.

As drummers, we have an obligation to do everything we can to learn about and pass on these “roots of the groove.” They are at the heart of nearly everything we play today, and they help bind us together as a drum culture. To put it another way, no matter what kind of drumming you do, you will benefit tremendously from learning more about classic styles like rhythm and blues.

To return to what Zoro wrote at the beginning of this book, if you suddenly became king or president of a nation, but didn’t know anything about its history, how would you know how to govern? This thought certainly applies to us as drummers. Of we stay in touch with our past, we will always hold the key to the future.


  "Bonified!" Style: Bo Diddley Beat (With Drums)

  "Bonified!" Style: Bo Diddley Beat (Without Drums)

Full Song Charts:

At the end of each chapter, Zoro and Glass provide readers with full charts of songs to play along to in the styles that were discussed in that chapter. Here is one of those songs:



Early R&B Hits You May Already Know: Remade in the '90s

Song Title Original Artist Popular Remake


Little Willie John


One Monkey (Don’t Stop No Show)

Big Maybelle

Bette Midler w/Royal Crown Revue

Jump, Jive ‘n Wail

Louis Prima

Brian Setzer Orchestra

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

Chuck Berry

Paul McCartney


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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