Tribute to Charles Perry

Endorsed by HINGESTIX by Sam Ruttenberg

Tribute to Drummer Charles Perry

I had the pleasure and the privilege to have studied with Charles Perry in the early to mid 1970’s. This post is a tribute to him.

For those of you in the drum community who don’t know Charles Perry, he is best known as the author of some of the most seminal instructional drum books, such as:

  1. Rockin’  Bass Drum – Book 1 & 2
  2. Drum Solos in Triplets
  3. Introduction to the Drum Set – Vol 1 & 2
  4. 8 Men in Search of a Drummer –  Music Minus One Book and CD

During World War II, Charles (Charlie) Perry was the official United States Coast Guard Band. He played in the Concert Band and was the First Drummer in the Swing Band, radio and Show Band.

More importantly, Charlie Perry played with Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Buddy Morrow, Skitch Henderson, Alvino Rey, Stan Getz, Al Haig, and Woody Herman.

He has played in some well known small modern jazz groups with the likes of Stan Getz, Kai Winding, Al Haig, and Bud Powell. While in Bud Powell’s the later groups, Charles played with Gene Ramey on Bass, Wardell Gray, and Sonny Stitt on tenors. Bud played piano.

Charlie Perry has also recorded for Capitol, Mercury, RCA Victor, and Columbia Records and played for artists on these records including Patti Page, Kitty Kalen, Teddi King, and many others. He has also made many jazz records with Stan Getz, Al Haig, Wardell Gray, Johnny LaPorta and other jazz stars of the day.

Charlie has studied with many teachers including Alfred Friese at the Manhattan School of Music, Billy Gladstone of Radio City Music Hall, and Henry Adler.

Sadly, Charles Perry died in 1998.

I was first introduced to Charles Perry by a fellow drummer and close high school friend of mine.  He had studied with Charlie and mentioned that he would be good for me. I remember calling his home studio. He picked up the phone, we chatted a bit, and scheduled our first lesson together.

Charles Perry was my second private drum instructor.  I began my first private lessons in 1966 when I was 11, after one year prior of drum lessons in public elementary school, where I was in the Orchestra.

When I started taking lessons from Charlie, I was older, more mature, and more focused as a drummer, and I certainly got a lot more out my time with him than my previous instructor.

I enjoyed many private lessons with Charles that were conducted in his home in Rockville Center, New York, located just off the Southern State Parkway on Long Island. His home was a typical Long Island house – a split level not unlike the one I grew up in a few miles away in East Meadow.

His drum studio was in the lower level of his home and consisted of his desk and his drum kit. It was pretty austere and bare bones by today’s standards. He had a stereo, sound system, and a couple of tape decks which included a 1/4″ reel-to-reel tape recorder. There was nothing extraordinary about the space. But it was Charlie Perry and that’s all that mattered to me.

He was always well-dressed and wore a sports jacket most of the time.  His style of teaching was very structured and our lessons were very regimented. I think that was good for me since my previous instructor was so loosey-goosey.  Charlie would introduce new concepts and figures to me and then I’d practice them in front of him. That was nerve wracking since I would get the occasional comment from him that my wrists were too tight or that I needed to slow down. He would annotate the books and he would write out special figures and concepts in my notebook that I still refer to today.

I invite anyone who has worked or studied with Charlie Perry to contribute this post by adding your comments below.

Endorsed by HINGESTIX by Sam Ruttenberg
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31 Responses to Tribute to Charles Perry

  1. Christine Weingart says:

    Hi Peter, I am Christine Weingart, Charlie’s daughter. I just want to thank you for this lovely tribute to my dad. I just found it. I’m so glad you learned so much from him. He was the greatest dad and grandfather in the world. My sister and I had a wonderful and interesting life with my parents, lots of musicians always over and lots of music. All the amazing stories they told us with all the bands he was with. I miss him every day. Thank you so much. Christine

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Hi Christine. It’s so nice to hear from you. I really loved learning from your dad. He was truly inspirational, a great instructor, and mentor.
      I still have his most popular instructional books that he gave me on day one of our first lesson together.

      Thanks for reaching out and be well.

  2. Ronald J. Vos says:

    Hi Peter – My name is Ronald J. Vos and studied with Charlie for a couple of years starting from age 11. Someone in the drum department at Sam Ash in Hempstead recommended him to my Mom. I was with her and was very excited at the prospect of working with him – as I knew his name from one of his drum books! He took me to another level via an acedemic approach. Great memories of walking up to the basement studio – through the waiting area where my parents sat and listened – to the clear Pearl set on the adjacent wall in front of a big stereo. I remember a big old boom microphone in the back corner and the albums on the wall near the desk in the corner. On my first day he asked my mom about me – how I did in school etc. Then he asked me to play and mentioned to my Mom how smart he thought I was by the way I played. He introduced me to match grip as he encouraged me to play lefty. I still have his notes and loose leaf book. I played in several bands and took playing to a pretty high level. My professional career was in the music business and owned a music marketing firm that was very successful – Hi Frequency Marketing and Fan2Band. Great experience learning from Charlie!!! Now I’m 53!!

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Hi Ron – Great story! Your description of his studio is sparking memories of my own. I’ve recently misplaced the notebook I used with Charlie and I’m heartbroken by it. I hope it will turn up someday. Sam Ash in Hempstead…wow! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there when I was growing up. I also frequented Cornet Music in East Meadow, where I grew up. My dad purchased my first set from Cornet – a 1966 Slingerland Silver Sparkle 4-piece with 2 Zildjian cymbals (crash and ride) and Hi Hat. I still have this set and still use it all the time. Good luck and keep drumming. And most of all COUNT!

  3. I studied with Charlie from 1953 into 1954 when I went in the road. He was a wonderful teacher and friend. He didn’t teach you anything you couldn’t use. I got a chance to play with several of the same people he did. Buddy Morrow (1956) and Woody Herman (1960) We lost touch, but I never stopped thinking about. The last two times I saw him were both in the 70’s. He and Marion McPartland came in the Carlyle to see Bobby Short and I was working there with him and once when I was on the Island I stopped by his home for a visit. I was always sorry we lost touch, but that’s the way it goes. He and Eve only had one daughter when I studied with him. I guess I’ll stop now, I could ramble on forever. Miss you Charlie. Love, Dick

  4. I studied with Charlie from 1953 into 1954 when I went in the road. He was a wonderful teacher and friend. He didn’t teach you anything you couldn’t use. I got a chance to play with several of the same people he did. Buddy Morrow (1956) and Woody Herman (1960) We lost touch, but I never stopped thinking about him. The last two times I saw him were both in the 70’s. He and Marion McPartland came in the Carlyle to see Bobby Short and I was working there with him and once when I was on the Island I stopped by his home for a visit. I was always sorry we lost touch, but that’s the way it goes. He and Eve only had one daughter when I studied with him. I guess I’ll stop now, I could ramble on forever. Miss you Charlie. Love, Dick

  5. Thank you
    I studied with Carlie Perry for 2 years in the sixties
    Amazing man amazing teacher
    I feel just by his association I am a piece of Jazz history
    Thankful and blessed

  6. Dean Greenberg says:

    Hi Peter
    Thank you for the memories
    I vividly remember the studio in The basement

    Blessed we had the chance to study with a master
    Still recall all the intense study and wonderful meories
    Thanks again brother??

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Hi Dean – yes Charlie did make us work hard. That’s what it takes to be a great drummer. I am still working very hard at mastering this instrument and it has proved to be a life-long commitment. Be well brother.

  7. Peter
    Thank you for the article, and will have a Newsday article out soon on myself. I’m working on a book and I was a student by way of of a Hempstead High School friend also and Perry was my first professional teacher 1964-67, I remember his wife Eve, and only one daughter, Penny, whom I’d like to make contact with if possible. Introduction to the Drum Set – Vol 1 & 2, 8 Men in Search of a Drummer – Music Minus One Book and CD (I had the record) also when he was in touch with Bernard Purdy and jack DeJohnette, I remember purchasing the Sonar Drums from him. Also in the area (My father was a TV-Radio owner) were great musicians who lived in the area, Seldon Powell, Budd Johnson and James Nottinham. Thank you all of the best.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My dad studied with charlie 1948..bill orman recommended him from Manhattan school of music..fortunately my dad took lessons..and at that time he was going to be drafted into Korean war…charlie gave him advice on getting into the airforce all worked dad was stationed in Burton wood England..and got to play with Freddy Randall and Mary Lou williams..also Bob hope…thanks you Charlie for being a good informative mentor and friend *..John Quintalino

  9. Larry Rizzo says:

    Hi Pete,
    I also was a student of Charlie’s. What a great man, mentor and musician. I had the honor of studying with him for about two years between later part of ’78-June of 81. Every other Saturday Morning at 9 am. Man, that 9 am on Saturday was a tough one.

    He was a great man and believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time. I learned more from him than playing drums that was for sure. With his help he prepared me for my college auditions for Nassau Community College. I then went to Crane school of music and have been teaching instrumental band for the last 23 years.

    Because of Charlie, I am doing what I love and have had a great time doing it. Teaching and playing. I think of him often and have always wanted to say “Thank You” for not giving up on me.

    Just wondering does anybody have any sound clips/videos of him playing? Would love to see anything with him on it.

    Thanks again Pete!

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Hi Larry – Great to know that you are doing what you love to do. Like me, it sounds like you have a fulfilled musical life. I continue to learn, I play and jam, I teach, and I enjoy the drums more than you can imagine.

  10. Steve Blaustein says:

    I too studied with Charles Perry in the late sixties. I played in all of the High School groups, band, orchestra, jazz dand, marching band and of course had my own rock band. Charlie supported all of those styles, and helped me with each, but his passion was truly jazz. He made it exciting, interesting and fun. I, through Charlie, learned to love jazz. Playing alongside the records with the music available was such a great technique. He was serious, no nonsense , and clear in what he wanted me learn and practice. It was privilege to have studied with him.

  11. Al Schaeffer says:

    Thanks for the tribute! I studied with Charlie in the mid-70s when I was a teen. I still remember that basement studio just off the parkway. And the pics on his wall of Charlie working with Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. That always impressed me given Charlie’s jazz background. (He turned me on to Louie Bellson among others). It wasn’t till later once I’d grown up that I understood how great Charlie was. Ironically, after all these years, I’m drumming in a Dead tribute band, still using some of the techniques he taught me.

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Al – Yup , right off the Southern State Parkway, if my memory is correct. Thanks for sharing. His daughter visited this blog and was extremely grateful for this tribute page. I’m sure she will appreciate your story. Keep on drumming.

  12. marty carlo says:

    …..Hello Peter,,..Would you happen to know if Perry is on any You Tube videos ??Thank you

  13. marty carlo says:

    Hello Peter…Would you happen to know if Perry is on any You Tube videos ? thanks

  14. Steve Shebar says:

    Hi Peter – SO happy to have come across your blog. I feel like I know all of you because I can picture all of things recounted here. I studied with Charlie from 1968 (at age 9) to 1975. My mother, Cece Blake, sang with him in Monroe and Henderson’s bands. It was only when I matured musically, into my 20s & 30s, that I could fully appreciate CP’s completeness and brilliance as a teacher. He balanced discipline and creativity; his impeccable technique was always placed in musical context; he always communicated with precision, breaking things down so we could put them back together when we practiced at home. Memories: Clinic with Roy Haynes in about ’73, many students in his studio, only Roger Murdock had the guts to play for Roy; Checkers in RVC to watch Charlie with Bob Cunningham, Billy Mitchell, et al. (Murdock sitting in); outing to see Rufus Jones with Basie, and ask him questions after the show; lessons start at the pads, watch his hands, try to imitate, painfully slow until it was perfect, “one up one down.” Finally, to the drums. His head down writing out the next lesson, he still heard you running down the exercises. I hated being unprepared for him – seeing 4 or 5 of his circled lesson numbers, crossed out – a bad sign. He spoke the truth — I went through a stretch of slacking and he told me to come back when I was ready to work (I took a full year off); when I told him I made the NYSSMA all-state Jazz Band (w/Clem DeRosa) I excitedly showed him “compliments to CP!” on the audition report — Charlie’s reaction was that he couldn’t believe Murdock didn’t make it!! When I finished studying with CP, I began gigging right away and realized how well he set me up for musical time-keeping in any style — and the potential to play at higher and higher levels if I emulated his professionalism and work ethic. Christine – remember when you went to see the Monkees at Forest Hills?

  15. Mike Saraceno says:

    I was referred to Charlie from my first drum teacher when I was in high school. This was around 1977. He made me relearn everything from stick handling, to rudiments to my reading and playing technique. And I was all the better for it. And yes, he was no nonsense so I made sure I came to our session prepared. I had a 90 minute session every other week so I had time to learn and practice his lessons. I remember bringing in a reel tape to record MMO recordings, Count Basie as well as Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’, where he would note the intricacies of playing tastefully.

    When I thought I was getting my chops up to speed, Joe Ascione had a lesson before mine and I was blown away. Just made me understand that if you love what you do, you’ll work at it. Charlie gave me the encouragement to play out with other jazz and rock musicians. Learned odd time signatures as well as hand and foot independence. I saw him play with Billy Mitchell in Seaford a few times. I don’t think he was really recognized for his talent as a musician or his ability to mentor.

    When I began a short stint teaching percussion, I used a lot of his nomenclature in my lessons. Stick Control, Buddy Rich’s Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments, Jim Chapin’s Technique for the Modern Drummer are still in my library. Unfortunately, I believe we are a select few that wanted to learn and understood that the person teaching us was an artist. It was a privilege to have studied with him.

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Hi Mike – Thanks for posting. I know there are a lot of people out there who appreciate these posts, including Charlie’s daughter, and who like to read about Charlie. It’s drummers like you and the other Charlie Perry Alumni who help keep the memories and experiences alive. Be well my friend.

  16. Lou Binder says:

    Hi Peter —
    My daughter gave me a birthday present of “Storyworth”, where you write a chapter a week about your life and at the end, the company sends you a bound book with all your uploaded writing. Im 83 now and I’ve been a drummer since I was very young. My wife and I were successful freelance writers, but after we got married, on the weekends, I continued to play 3 or 4 band jobs at weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like. The weekend money was great for a young couple, but as our writing assignments got busier and busier I gave up the band work in my late forties. I’m working on a chapter in my life story now called…”I Took My Drum and Beat It!” After my initial teacher who started me on a little rubber drum pad and eventually a snare drum…I graduated to a red sparkle Gretch drum set (we never called it a kit back then) and then on to exceptional drum teachers. One was Howie Mann who was with Elliot Lawrence and then Charlie Perry who was with Stan Kenton. The lessons with Charlie were at the Dorn & Kirshner Music Store in Newark, NJ. I think this was during the 50’s. I was in High School from 1950 to 1954. Billy Dorn was the store owner and he was a virtuoso on the xylophone as I remember. Charlie was the first teacher who taught me jazz fills and how to really move around the set. I learned so much and used to brag to my friends that I had a big time teacher who played with Kenton, etc. I googled Charlie’s name and came up with your column. I’m glad to add my name to this memory bank. Charlie Perry’s teaching was like going to graduate school for me. I am happy to put his name in my upcoming life story.

    • Peter Ronick says:

      Great. Thanks for sharing your story and your experiences with Charlie Perry. I look forward to reading your story when published. Be sure to let us know when that occurs.
      Warm regards,

  17. Chris Dehmer says:

    Hi. Studied w Charles in 69. I was his paperboy and I did chores for him in exchange for lessons. I was 14. I never forgot him.

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