Tribute to Drummer Charles Perry

Endorsed by HingeStix
Endorsed by HingeStix

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
Endorsed by HingeStix
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14 Responses to Tribute to Drummer Charles Perry

  1. Charles Riedeburg says:

    I met him back stage at intermission in the mid sixties at a concert in White Plains, NY. I remember him being a kind and generous man. I told him I had a student so he sent me a complimentary copy of his drum lesson book. We talked about Henry Adler, who I was studying with at the time, and his teaching methods. He had the same, unassuming and generous personality of Louie Belson.

    • admin says:

      Hi Charles,
      Nice to have your contribution to this post. I appreciate it.
      I’m in Westchester, about 25 minutes north of White Plains.
      Are you still in the area?


      • Chip Riedeburg says:

        Hi Peter. No, I left White Plains in 1976 and currently live in Raleigh, NC area. Still playing in a 19 piece swing band here, but demand for a large band is dwindling. Only half a dozen gigs a year or so. All the best to you,

  2. Russ Maida says:

    And I loved his Sonor Drums, I also took lessons from Charles in the early 70’s. I grew up on Long Island in Garden City not far from Rockville Center. He was instrumental in helping me move to another level of drumming, I became an excellent reader and technician and today I still give lessons to beginners and play in a worship band. He was an awesome teacher.

  3. Bruce Dunlop says:

    I studied with Charles Perry from 1961 to 1964. I learned a lot but unfortunately I never practiced enough to reach my true potential. I was more interested in playing rock music and working in bands during the mid-sixties LI bar scene. It worked out for me and I had some minor success. I assume you grew up in East Meadow as you mentioned that you lived there. I too grew up in EM. Thanks for the opportunity to add to your page. I still have my white pearl Rogers drum set, just like Charlie’s.

    • admin says:

      Hi Bruce – Thanks for contributing and for keeping Charlie’s legacy alive. I started playing/learning in 1964-65 at the tender age of 10, but I never practiced enough at that age. I lived across the street from Barnum Woods. Field 2 was out my bedroom window. I still play my 1966 silver sparkle Slingerland 4 piece that my dad bought at Cornet Music on Hempstead Turnpike.

  4. Steve Matullo says:

    I took lessons form Charlie around 1966, really a nice guy and a great teacher and one of the best drummers I have ever heard.

  5. Steven Starita says:

    Hi Peter, my mom Albina Starita (nee’ Cozzo) is Charlie Perricone’s second cousin. God bless my grandfather Philip R. Cozzo Jr.’s soul. He and Charlie were first cousins. I’ve been playing guitar and electric bass for 31 years. I began transposing as many albums as I can find that Charlie recorded on. So far John LaPorta Quartet “The Most Minor” has been a big challenge, but it’s a genuine labor of love. I’ve transcribed Wardell Gray “Five Star” for guitar. I must say, these songs translate very well on guitar and bass! Here’s a brief history lesson, my great grandfather Philip Cozzo Sr. had his own orchestra around 1920 called the Lehigh Arcadians. I’m humbled knowing that my family and I, have a long history of music. Thank you very much for sharing such a wonderful appreciation for Charlie. I sadly never had a chance to meet him, but I feel a strong kinship to him via the music project I’m currently working on. Please feel free to reach out to me Peter. Be very well and blessed!

    • admin says:

      Wow! You and your family have such a great musical history. I’m sure my readers will be as honored as I am to have read your story. I play in a 3 bands and I run a local jam session here in Westchester County, NY and would be honored for you to sit in as bassist or guitarist. Let me know if you are local to Westchester County, NY.

  6. Howard Collins says:

    I was absolutely thrilled to find this blog on Charles Perry. When I was 16 years old in 1968, I took was fortunate enough to be able to study under Charlie. My dad would drive me there from our home in Stewart Manor.

    It was at that time in my life that I had dreams and aspirations of spending my life as a professional drummer. That never panned out. I became an architect instead.

    Charlie was also my second drum instructor, the first one being a man named Bob Weaver, who gave lessons at Quigley’s Music in New Hyde Park. Charlie taught at an incredibly higher level than my previous instructor, a different stratosphere actually.

    To this day nearly 55 years later, every time I see a set of Sonor drums or hear April in Paris by Count Basie or Funky Broadway by Wilson Pickett it takes me right back to that basement drum studio with the largest set of speakers that I have ever seen.

    Thank you so much for allowing us to keep all of our fond memories of Charles Perry alive.

    R.I.P. Charles Perry.

    • admin says:

      Howard – Thanks for sharing your memories of Charlie. I have similar memories of his Sonor kit in the basement studio and the level at which he taught. He was my 3rd instructor and he was definitely teaching on another level. Be well.

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