The following was published in the 9/96 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine, as the first of three letters, under their title:
"Keep the drummer!"
I read Riley Wilson's Fire the Drummer (8/96) – about the advantages of using a drum machine in performance – with great interest, and I'm sure his band's music is most enjoyable to all the other machines.
No, all kidding aside, I think he has a good point. Most drummers sound enough like machines that it probably is a very good idea to replace them.
But I want to remind everyone that there does exist – albeit rarely – another kind of drummer, who doesn't just keep the rhythm and provide fills, but is actually a musician – using the drums to express the emotions of the music, playing with passion and creativity, and in the process enormously enhancing the excitement of the total sound. This type of drummer would be as indispensable to a band as the lead singer, songwriter or lead guitarist and of course could never be emulated by a machine. Examples of such drummers include Simon Phillips, Neil Peart, and San Francisco's Glen Cronkhite.
But to hear the Master of this genre, one must go back a few years, to the late great B.J. Wilson who played gloriously with Procol Harum from 1967 to 1977.
I would advise any band with a drummer like B.J. Wilson not to fire him, but I think those so blessed already know that.
I was so glad to get BJ's name in print, my entire reason for writing, as I hadn't seen BJ mentioned in the American Music Press since Stephen Braitman's wonderful letter to Goldmine in 1991.
Vintage Guitar is a "collectors'" mag similar to Goldmine. The Editor said they received a "barrage" of letters disagreeing with Riley Wilson – but didn't say how many constitute a "barrage" (of views). Four were published over two issues of the magazine and Riley wrote a response. There were no letters in support of Drum Machines – thank goodness!
One letter writer suggested that Riley Wilson's Wife should replace HIM with a Vibrator!