Obituary: Larrie Londin
Monday 07 September 1992
AS NASHVILLE's top session drummer of the past two decades Larrie Londin brought about a minor revolution. He put muscle into previously timid Country drumming, bringing it more into line with the rock-oriented mainstream of American pop. Today it is fashionable to admit to liking Country stars - no one jokes any more - and Londin's sturdy playing was a stepping-stone towards this acceptance.
Londin began playing the drums at the age of 15, but his early professional career was as lead singer with the Headliners - the first white act signed by Tamla Motown in Detroit. The idea was to become a white answer to the Temptations. However at Motown Londin's appreciation of how best to accompany singers led to his playing drums for the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations. The famous drum figures on Junior Walker's 'Shotgun' are also Londin's.
While in the Headliners he struck up a friendship with the guitarist Chet Atkins, and in 1969 moved to Nashville, where with the encouragement of Atkins and the brilliant guitar-picker Gerry Reed, his Motown-influenced up- front beat was eventually accepted. Londin claimed this was unplanned and yet he was the total professional. And although largely self-taught he was a terrific player, practising eight to 12 hours a day. He was also one of the first American drummers to record extensively with electronic drums; all the more daring in the relatively conservative atmosphere of country music.
His great love of the instrument made him very popular on the 'clinic' (master-class) circuit, and he could hold his own in the company of the world's top jazz and rock drummers. Indeed although Londin in his loud Hawaiian shirts evoked the good-old-boy image, he was much more than 'just' a Country drummer. He recorded with countless stars of rock, pop and Country, including Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Reva McEntire, Emy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Perry, Journey, Glenn Frey, Joe Cocker, Joe Tex, Albert Lee, Neil Young, BB King, Tom Jones and Johnny Mathis. And he proved his all-round ability playing with ex- King Crimson jazz-fusion guitarist Adrian Belew. He also recorded 'Guitar Man' with Elvis Presley, and while deputising for Elvis's long-time drummer Ronnie Tutt played Presley's last two concerts at Cincinnati and Indianapolis in 1977. In recent years he also recorded and toured with the Everley Brothers.
Larrie Londin won many Country music awards, numerous platinum discs, and was one of only a dozen or so drummers voted to the exclusive 'Honor Roll' in America's Modern Drummer magazine.
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