Sex, Drums, Rock 'n' Roll!: The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business
It is safe to say that of the many paths to becoming a professional musician, none is easy. (At least, before DJs and machine-operators started being called "musicians.") It is said that mastering any worthwhile skill, from athletics to drawing to playing a musical instrument, requires 10,000 hours of dedication.
Just think about that-hundreds of days of one's youth must be sacrificed to practice and study, practice and study. That takes a rare dedication, amounting to obsession, and a tremendous outpouring of energy - a gathering of words that starts to lead us toward a description of Kenny Aronoff. Energetic, dedicated, obsessed. Add in talented and well-schooled, musical and hard-rocking, and we are getting closer.
When Cathy Rich and I were planning a tribute record to her father, Burning for Buddy, in the 1990s, Kenny was on our list right away. He came in and knocked off his two tracks in short order, working from his homemade notation. You'll read more about that later, but to anyone else the pages looked like a bookie's tally-sheet of scribbles and hieroglyphics. For Kenny it got the job done, and we even had time to record a third track he wanted to try.
Later that year, Kenny was working with another artist at Le Studio in Quebec, near where I have kept a home for over thirty years. He was able to visit my lakeside retreat on a gorgeous summer day, then ride back in my Porsche Speedster-top down, music loud. (Probably Francis A. and Edward K., meaning Sinatra and Ellington, with Sam Woodyard's elegant drumming, a particular favorite around that time.)
During that visit, Kenny and I spent a little time in the studio collaborating on a percussion duet over Steve Ferrone's drumming at the end of "Pick Up the Pieces." I sported a shaved head as well that summer, so we called ourselves the Bald Bongo Brothers. (Kenny said to me, "If you ever see me wearing a toupee, please shoot me!" I solemnly swore that vow...)
Later, in New York City, Kenny and I performed a longer version of that part at a Buddy Rich tribute concert, with Omar Hakim driving the band.
I believe it was when Kenny was touring with Joe Cocker in the early 2000s that he rode with my longtime bus driver (from 1996 to 2015) Dave Burnette. It was Dave who told me that because Kenny was always flying somewhere on days off to do sessions with other artists, the crew called him "Can-He Earn-Enough?"
But you know he was doing it for love-because he could, because he had the energy.
There is a condition called "hyperthymia," humorously defined as "having so much energy, doing so many things, and getting so much done - that it annoys other people."
Hold on to that thought for when you get to John Mellencamp's acid comment about Kenny and his "ambition."
As if there is something wrong about wanting to play with everybody in the world-and then going out and doing it.
As Dizzy Dean said, "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up."
Kenny Aronoff can back it up.