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Thread: Jeff Porcaro

  1. #1

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    Jeff Porcaro


    Drummer: Jeffrey Porcaro (1954-1992)
    Styles: Rock, Pop and Studio Sessions
    Main Band: Toto
    Brief Summary: Jeff, long before he founded Toto, was already a session drumming prodigy, having toured with Sonny and Cher at 17, later with Boz Scaggs and recorded with Steely Dan at the age of 19. He had that ability to not only groove (Porcaro was a master of all manner of shuffles, even coming up with a legendary one of his own, the "Rosanna" shuffle), but he would inject his own character into the artist's song without ever getting in the way, which is why he worked so much outside of Toto. His two trademarks were his silky smooth hi-hat work and his infectious personality, coupled by his sunny grin and baritone speaking voice. Many people just loved being with him, whether in the studio, live or just hanging with him.

    Other Facts: His father Joe, a drummer and percussionist, taught him as a youngster. His two surviving brothers, Steve and Mike, play keyboards and bass respectively and are or have been members of Toto. Though not a family member, Steve Lukather, Toto's guitarist, often refers to him as the brother he misses and that he owes his career to Jeff recommending him to Boz Scaggs, Toto, and many other session dates.
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  2. #2

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    Here's the legendary Rosanna shuffle:

    - Tom

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  3. #3

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    Can any of you actually play that? I mean, the exact way he does it?
    And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw. . .

  4. #4

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    I do a brilliantly embarrassing job of butchering it. Even after I heard his explanation. :\

  5. #5

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    I feel like I can do a pretty good shuffle in general, but am I doing exactly what Jeff is in that vid? Prob not. Am I doing exactly what Bonham or Purdie are doing? Also prob not. Do I care? Not as long as my band-mates tell me it's a nice shuffle to play along with. Jeff's feel was sublime, subtle, powerful, and tasty. He will forever be one of those drummers in the history of music that we all aspire to emulate on some level. RIP Jeff.
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  6. #6

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    ....I've never covered that song....jammed to it at home. I didn't realize it was that involved......that would be hard to maintain for awhile.

  7. #7

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    I have a horrible tendency to speed up when playing all of those purdie shuffle derivatives. It's not hard to play by any stretch, but something is horribly wrong with my timing when I do play them. I just need to sit down with the metronome.

    Jeff is such a good drummer, he had awesome groove. And was just so accurate in his playing.

    The only two constants I have are DW and Zildjian.

  8. #8

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    coming up jeff was a hero of mine, his death had really shook me up at the time. i certainly feel the lack of his presence within the world of drumming still...
    don't put off till tomorrow what you can put off today

  9. #9

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    I specifically wrote a song for our band so I could do the Purdie shuffle in it, but I bring my right hand off the hat to hit the snare on the 2 & 4, so it's kinda cheating, though it sounds good. Getting the kick pattern of Rosanna in there? No, not yet. . .
    And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw. . .

  10. #10

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    I became aware of Jeff when I got the "Katy Lied" Album. also got to see him live with "Toto" once. in 79 or 80. Always liked his playing. Listen to "Chain Lightening" how good that shuffle feels.
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  11. #11

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  12. #12

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    jeff's passing was an incalculable loss to the industry , no question . he was such a talent .

    as for rosanna , the secret , as always , is in accents : the high and low between the skip note and the quarter note of the high hat part ; the high and low between the fill-in note of the triplet and the backbeat on the s.d . the aforementioned plus the all important quality of being relaxed

    i introduced this part to a couple of students of mine a little while back . needless to say , both had trouble with it , particularly the bass drum part in the chorus ( if that is what you want to call it ) section

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olimpass View Post
    YESSSSS!!!! One of the most kick-a$$ing-est (my invented word) songs in bunch of kick-a$$ songs that was their debut album. "Hold The Line", "Georgy Porgy", "Child's Anthem", "Manuela Run", "You Are The Flower", "I'll Supply The Love"........man, so many of Jeff's great grooves and fills on this. An essential Toto album alright!
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  14. #14

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    Jeff Porcaro was a beast of a drummer. Even the legendary session bassist Carol Kaye mentioned Jeff as one of her favorite drummers to work with. Considering she did hundreds of sessions with Hal Blaine as well, that carries some serious weight.

    I just read an interview that was done with him when he was only 24. He talks like somone much older and much more seasoned, although by that point he had already kinda "been there, done that, got the T-shirt." Very opinionated on what he did and didn't like, but the proof is right there for anyone to hear from the recordings he did.

    Here is the link to that article/interview - it's not from a commercial site so I hope I'm not in violation of the rules regarding links.

    http://www.effingham.net/bishop/Jeff...oInterview.htm

    He was gone way too soon.
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  15. #15

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    One of my most treasured Modern Drummer magazines....the Dec '92 tribute issue interviewing various people who had known Jeff over the years.

    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  16. #16

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    I think one of the neatest things about Jeff that I picked up on from the interviews I've read is how humble he was. He honestly didn't think he was a great drummer, so he downplayed his own playing but was quick to talk up the playing of others. He talked about having bad technique. Riiiight. I wish my technique was that bad!

    I wonder if his thoughts on the matter were due to his lack of formal education where music was concerned because based on his interviews, there really was never a time when he wasn't actively working - from the time he was 17 and dropped out of school to tour with Sonny and Cher, he was constantly working so he never had the chance to approach the drums from an academic standpoint.

    As a side note, I have often felt the same way about my musical efforts. I graduated HS, went right into the Army Band program, and have been actively gigging ever since - what I have learned about music I have learned on the fly on the gig or in a rehearsal, and I've always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder where that is concerned. I feel like there is a big gap in my knowledge - whether it's true or not is beside the point, it's perceived - because I didn't go to college to study music. No matter - I have always managed to be able to find and keep a gig.

    In any case, where Jeff Porcaro is concerned, to me he's always going to be a groove master, and among the best of the best.
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  17. #17

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    You have to remember, Jeff not only started playing around with drums when he was young, but that his dad, Joe Porcaro, was also an established session drummer and percussionist when Jeff was mucking around with his dad's drums....Joe Porcaro sometimes will tell the story of a little Jeff's feet barely reaching the pedals on his set when Jeff was like four or five, trying to copy what his dad was doing. Joe taught him some of the basics, especially reading, which had served him well for doing the famed recording sessions that he was well known for later in his life. (In fact I heard that Mike and Steve, Jeff's brothers, are also a bit 'at home' behind the drumkit as well....well how could you not when Jeff was your elder brother?)

    Jeff also had further proper drum instruction with Bobby Zimitti, a well respected drummer and percussionist friend of Joe's (who happened to have worked not only as a session player during the 70's disco era, but also did percussion on Frank Zappa's "Grand Wazoo" album), and Richie Lepore, another one of Joe Porcaro's contemporaries who worked on TV and film sessions as well as with recording with artists such as Bette Midler, Zappa, Earth Wind & Fire, and jazz guys such as Lionel Hampton and Dexter Gordon. There was therefore no way that Jeff lacked any formal education, everyone who taught him were not only great players but great readers as well, that's why they were session players.

    Once the session work started rolling in for Jeff in the early days of his career, all that instruction was reinforced by simply doing it day in day out as a studio player. Jeff was just humble to a fault (his quote "my time just sucks!" summed up how he always strived to be a better player desite being lauded as one of the best studio drummers around), but even players like Vinnie Colauita, whom Jeff often called as his drum brother and gave Vinnie a leg-up into the studio session scene, would often say that Jeff just oozed technique, from groove playing, to using rudiments in fills and rhythms, and was a more than capable sight reader.
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 05-23-2012 at 12:02 PM.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbledore View Post
    ...Jeff also had further proper drum instruction with Bobby Zimitti, a well respected drummer and percussionist friend of Joe's (who happened to have worked not only as a session player during the 70's disco era, but also did percussion on Frank Zappa's "Grand Wazoo" album), and Richie Lepore, another one of Joe Porcaro's contemporaries who worked on TV and film sessions as well as with recording with artists such as Bette Midler, Zappa, Earth Wind & Fire, and jazz guys such as Lionel Hampton and Dexter Gordon. There was therefore no way that Jeff lacked any formal education, everyone who taught him were not only great players but great readers as well, that's why they were session players.
    While I will contend that Jeff received exceptional tips and instruction being around great players, he did not have "formal" instruction - structured collegegiate level instruction with private lessons from professors in a structured academic music environment, nor did he earn a "degree" from a music school. That's the point I was making when I said he didn't have formal instruction.

    He didn't have a formal pedigree such as Berklee alum like Cindy Blackman, or Steve Smith, just to name a couple, but there is no doubt that he was brought along by some of the best. At the end of the day, he was still a fantastic drummer.
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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg View Post
    While I will contend that Jeff received exceptional tips and instruction being around great players, he did not have "formal" instruction - structured collegegiate level instruction with private lessons from professors in a structured academic music environment, nor did he earn a "degree" from a music school. That's the point I was making when I said he didn't have formal instruction.

    He didn't have a formal pedigree such as Berklee alum like Cindy Blackman, or Steve Smith, just to name a couple, but there is no doubt that he was brought along by some of the best. At the end of the day, he was still a fantastic drummer.
    I agree with you that he didn't have a "degree" as such and of course we both state that he was of course taught by some of the best. But surely if you are taught to read properly and understand your instrument, wouldn't you have been "formally" taught? As opposed to being self-taught?

    I know what you mean about collegiate level instruction....I went for my Diploma Of Music quite a while back and over the past year or so have been contemplating going for a Bachelor Of Music (if and when I can do that has yet to be considered, of course), but to give you an example, there are quite a number of drummers here who have earned a Diploma in Drumming via the Billy Hyde's Drumcraft chain of stores that we have here, which is a long way from it's day when it's music academy was only run in it's main store in Surry Hills. At that time in the early 1990's or so, they weren't awarding any sort of diploma as such, but their faculty, particularly in it's early days, had quite a number of high level players such as Andrew Gander, Mick O'Shea, Angus Diggs, Fabian Hevia, Hamish Stewart, percussionists Phillipe Lincy and Ghassan Barakat, plus they would have all sorts of special guest instructors whenever they could.

    The whole show then and still now is run by Milan Troha, a very well respected educator known throughout the Sydney drum fraternity, and whether you were personally taught by him or any of the other instructors, the standard way that you were taught then is still the same now....you have to get your head around reading, you were taught a lot of different styles, and they got you through a lot of different drum techniques and instruction books, from "Stick Control" and "Ted Reed's Syncopation" through to Gary Chester's "New Breed" and what was then becoming a new 'standard' book via the guys at Drumtek in Melbourne - Frank Corniola's "Rhythm Section Drumming". Until Milan and the teaching staff there finally formalised a diploma that was awarded at the end of your study, in the real early days there wasn't a piece of paper, yet the standard of teaching was then (and still is) good enough that you could walk into most situations and be known as a good player, which was why Milan established the Billy Hyde's Academy in the first place not long after Billy Hydes had brought him in to work there.

    Not all, but quite a number of the older established session and touring players that I see and catch around town (now and then) were guys and girls who went to study at Billy Hyde's, particularly in those earlier times. And that was at a time where The Sydney Conservatorium had a very small segment of jazz studies (incredibly, they had no one teaching drums in their jazz department....it's a very different story now....and the Australian Institute Of Music (AIM) was just getting off the ground as far as it's drum department was concerned. So really it was Billy Hyde's that was amongst the first (not the only) music organisations that were putting together a detailed 'drum curriculum' and formal drum and percussion study program at a time where most Australian high schools and music institutions pretty much ignored the formal education of drummers......you have to remember that our music education colleges were not quite run on the same lines as what was in the U.S. and elsewhere at that time in the late 80's to 90's, and it's only been the past two or so decades that drummers in general have been really been taught at an 'institutional level' with awarding diplomas and degrees as such.

    If drums were taught as part of the formal music course when I did my Higher School Certificate at the end of the 80's, heck, I would have done that instead of doing it as an extra-curricular activity after school! But I had no choice, like many others who grew up with me, we had to be educated with private tuition, and until Billy Hyde's in Sydney and Drumtek in Melbourne (headed by Frank and John Corniola) had seen how drums were being taught in institutions overseas, particularly in the U.S. where a few of our top session drummers had gone over to get some education (Jim Piesse is an example....he went to The States for a number of years to study with Joe Morello). Once these guys saw what was happening elsewhere, it was only natural that they wanted to share that same method of education over here in Australia, but it all started in a small way. The bottom line was that there was a formal and structured way of instruction being taught at an institutional level, and that at least there was a couple of music organisations awarding some sort of 'ad hoc' qualification, even if it wasn't as formal as a music degree, at least drummers were now being awarded something for their hard study. And that's how now a drum instructor who is awarded a "Billy Hyde's Diploma" quite often is given a certain degree of recognition in the tuition field, even though the Billy Hyde's Academy is not a music institute run on the same lines as The Sydney Conservatorium. But at least courtesy of it's instructors and curriculum, it is seen as a formal music course, which has now branched into teaching all instruments, not just drums and percussion.

    The final thing is though, isn't being taught the proper way to play, reading etc.....no matter whether you learn it at an institution or with years of private tution with a qualified instructor....formal instruction anyway? That's what my opinion is, mind you, but I respect your view as well, and I do agree that others will view having a formal education would indeed finish having a diploma, degree or other qualification. We know that that wasn't the situation in Jeff Porcaro's case, but I would say that his music education, despite not having a piece of paper behind his name, wasn't that informal from his tutors either. As opposed to being taught by someone who didn't teach him to read or correct his technique and just merely taught him how to play songs. [Incidentally, I think his dad went on to be part of the staff at LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy) if I'm not mistaken. I'm sure he's still there, and they certainly would have taken him on because of the sheer amount of knowledge and wide experience he has with both the drumset and percussion. Not only that, but Emil Richards, Joe's longtime percussionist friend [and I think he was Jeff's godfather (not the Italian type!)] was there as a percussion instructor too.]
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 05-23-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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  20. #20

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    Drumbledore, you touched on a lot of interesting points. I think that the main difference between "formal" and informal instruction is that when you go to a conservatory or go through a music degree program, it tends to be a bit more comprehensive than for people like Jeff Porcaro, who was an amazing drummer, but may never have been exposed to things that a 4-year degreed music major went through. At the end of the day, a musician has to put the rubber on the road, and what happens in the moment is what counts - not where they went to school, or who they studied with, or any of that. That only matters if they were able to take something away from it and use it in a practical way in the moment, on the gig, in the studio, or whatever.

    In Jeff's case, he absorbed great stuff from fantastic drummers and he was absolutely able to use it, but it's funny how in the interviews he doesn't see it that way. One of the interviews he pretty much stated that he hated listening to the things he recorded because he was rarely happy with how he had played, which is crazy because while he was there being critical of himself, scads of aspiring drummers were using those recordings as inspiration to improve themselves. I suppose it's a matter of perspective, but it's one I understand - I'm rarely happy with anything I've played when I get the chance to listen to the playback of something that has been recorded. Would I still feel that way if I played like Jeff Porcaro? Possibly, but I'll probably never know because that level of ability may be beyond my ability to reach - I'll continue to try though!
    Last edited by trickg; 05-23-2012 at 02:05 PM.
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  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg View Post
    Drumbledore, you touched on a lot of interesting points. I think that the main difference between "formal" and informal instruction is that when you go to a conservatory or go through a music degree program, it tends to be a bit more comprehensive than for people like Jeff Porcaro, who was an amazing drummer, but may never have been exposed to things that a 4-year degreed music major went through. At the end of the day, a musician has to put the rubber on the road, and what happens in the moment is what counts - not where they went to school, or who they studied with, or any of that. That only matters if they were able to take something away from it and use it in a practical way in the moment, on the gig, in the studio, or whatever.

    In Jeff's case, he absorbed great stuff from fantastic drummers and he was absolutely able to use it, but it's funny how in the interviews he doesn't see it that way. One of the interviews he pretty much stated that he hated listening to the things he recorded because he was rarely happy with how he had played, which is crazy because while he was there being critical of himself, scads of aspiring drummers were using those recordings as inspiration to improve themselves. I suppose it's a matter of perspective, but it's one I understand - I'm rarely happy with anything I've played when I get the chance to listen to the playback of something that has been recorded. Would I still feel that way if I played like Jeff Porcaro? Possibly, but I'll probably never know because that level of ability may be beyond my ability to reach - I'll continue to try though!
    Lol....yeah, we're all like that in various degrees. Jeff was not not only a musical hero of mine as well as for many others, but he was a great example of an artist who played drums, not just 'merely a drummer'. I too become my own hardest critic at times, but over time (and hopefully even more maturity.....God help me if that happens though, lol!) I've also learned to relax just that tiny bit. But I have those days where I could just go aaarghhh! I'm never gonna get this right!!! We all get those days matey.

    Just remember....carry a bit of that Porcaro magic with you wherever you go, and never stop trying. Just be yourself and serve that song or do that drum exercise or lesson to the best of your ability at that time and date. Jeff would want us all to be that way and tell us so if he was still around today.
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  22. #22

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    It's been a long time since anyone added anything to the Jeff Porcaro thread, and I would say it's about time. While I know it may be easier to discuss current drummers, I would say that Jeff Porcaro is no less relevant than anyone playing today.

    I'll start by saying that I think I'm becoming a bit obsessed with him. While I knew, before becoming interested in the drums only a short time ago (early 2013, in fact), I knew a bit about Jeff Porcaro, probably through my interest in the bass guitar, and that I always liked the band Toto. In fact, I was never really a fan of the band, per se, in my younger days, but I did have their Fahrenheit and The Seventh One discs (the latter being a very sentimental recording, associated with a very special time in my life) back in 1988.

    Since my interest in drums has reached massive proportions, I've begun to research his talent. It's an apparent sad fact that due to his loss in 1992, before the internet became a force in most everyone's life, and before high definition video became the norm, there is accordingly little out there on such places as YouTube to showcase the talent of this incredible drummer. A few weeks back, my drum instructor and I had been talking about drummers of a certain type, and he most certainly has his opinions about many of the famous drummer that we have showcased in this part of the forums. Some of the most revered, in his opinion, were not as well rounded, and consequently, not as worthy of the respect that they are often given. This from a man who has played with several 'name' acts from the 70s and 80s. However, last week, I'd mentioned to him that we'd not talked about Jeff Porcaro. That set him off, and he began to wax eloquently (for him) about how Toto is his favorite band, and he could not say enough about Jeff, purely from a technique perspective, his capabilities couldn't be lauded enough, per my teacher. I was pleased. I wish there was more out there about Jeff Porcaro, a life unfortunately cut short in its prime.

    I remember just recently reading that the ONLY work he ever publicly acknowledged being happy about playing was the Steely Dan cut 'FM'. It's amazing to me, listening to much of his other work, that he would be so self critical. Perhaps he was recalling the sessions that created his work which made him so critical, but I honestly can't say that I can hear a difference between 'FM' and his other work. It must have had more than the pure sound for him to have said so, either that, or my drum listening skills are woefully inadequate (a given, for sure)! I found it interesting that the 'Rosanna Shuffle', mentioned earlier in this thread, as a 'legendary' piece, was, to him, one of the least interesting, or at least least original, of the parts he played, and he derided and disparaged that work as that of pure plagiarism. Nonetheless, for one who so apparently believed he could do better, he was described in some publication or other as 'the (drum) sound of the 80s'. While one could argue that one might choose decades other than the 80s to be so remembered, the fact that your name could be associated with an entire decade of music is amazing, incredible praise, indeed. I find it amazing that he seems to have chosen not to showcase his talent. I read that he rarely, if ever, did drum solos in concert, choosing, rather, to lend his prodigious capabilities to making the songs better than they otherwise would have been. He made a video made in 1989, which someone has made available on YouTube, in which he tries to show some of his techniques, and some of his grooves. Clearly, this is not a recording made for a neophyte drummer...even the simple stuff is way beyond me. But the thing I found most amazing was his demonstration of ways he could have played on the Seventh One cut 'Mushanga', but then goes on to show how he ultimately changed what he played in the final version. Wow. And he never stated in that video that anything he played was 'it', it was always '...and it went something like this...' Serious humility.

    And, as others have already mentioned, those who knew him best said things about him that were perhaps higher praise than merely to have said that he was the consummate drummer. They loved him as a person, the kind of guy who you would not only want to play drums on your recording, but someone you'd simply want to 'hang with'. When a talent like his was perhaps even overshadowed with the person he was, well, what more can be said, really.

    If anyone has any information, links, or other type of info about Jeff Porcaro, I would consider it a huge favor if you could pass it on.
    Now, just a tiny bit less than an absolute drum newbie

  23. #23

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    I can't hardly think about Jeff without tears welling up in my eyes. He was my first influence and will always be the one that opened my eyes to the best grooves ever.

    IMHO no one could play like Jeff. He is so missed...
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    Addendum:

    That is one of the main reasons why TOTO will always be my number one band. I will give credit to Simon Phillips for stepping in when Jeff passed.

    They did offer me a shot at an audition but I was busy that weekend.
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