Transcript: Transcript Johny Barbata: Drummer Turtles, CSNY, Jefferson Airplane/Starfish

Welcome to A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kaye. Hello and welcome to you. I hope you’ve been enjoying a terrific week filled with great music and lots of fun.

As you’d be well aware, some of the biggest names from the 60s, 70s and 80s are passing away too soon. A factor, I guess, of living the rock and roll lifestyle, but sad nonetheless. That’s why I’ve made it my thing to capture as many of them as I can before it’s too late, to provide an opportunity for them to tell their own stories in their own voices.

The Turtles drummer, Johnny Barbata, who played on more than 100 albums and on 20 hit singles, is one of these guys. John passed away recently, having made music throughout his life with bands like The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. I thought I’d bring you the interview I recorded with him recently to honour his music and his memory.

Johnny Barbata, great to have you on A Breath of Fresh Air. You’ve had an amazing career. It started way back in the 60s, didn’t it? That’s right, yeah.

So can you tell us a little bit, because your first form of notoriety was actually nothing to do with music. Well, that’s not exactly true. I would play with The Sentinels in high school.

I was in sophomore. We had a number one hit in California when I was a sophomore in high school, instrumental hit called Latina. Right about the time of The Champs and Adventures, it kind of started way back then.

We were classified as a surf band. We really weren’t. We were really an R&B, blues, rock band, and the Latina really is like a Latin song.

It was an instrumental and they put us in that surf category, which was cool with us. We did all the surf shows. Yes, of course, The Sentinels.

Those four high school boys saw some pretty big success opening for acts like The Coasters and The Righteous Brothers. But I wasn’t referring to that notoriety as being Johnny’s first. Oh, right.

Well, yeah, it’s true. Yeah, right. I met Albert Einstein, right.

Tell me about that. Well, we had a boat in upstate New York and my mum, I’m half Italian, my mum was Swiss and Austrian so she could speak fluent German. So she starts talking to this guy in German and it turns out to be Albert Einstein.

He runs out of gas on a lake. So we ended up towing him back and I’m sitting on his lap. And I put in my booklet, my first book was saying, I’m meeting Albert Einstein, how many people get to sit on his lap and meet Albert Einstein.

You know, I was three years old when my mother told me this story. So did she keep up contact at all or it was a one-off? It was kind of a one-off thing. Yeah, people always like to hear that story.

It’s a goodie. So your mum was an Austrian immigrant. Dad was a firefighter.

You lived in California and as you said, you started playing in a school band. What happened after that? Well, I went to the Turtles, which was eight hit singles, three years of that. Let’s talk about the Turtles because they were one of my first favourite bands ever.

How did you get to play with them in the first place? Well, Gene Clark of the Brewers had recommended me to him. And I auditioned for him and Bo and Sal produced Mamas and Papas and other groups. When he heard me play, he said, get that drummer and the rest was history.

And you were with them for some of their biggest singles. My very favourite one of the Turtles, and I wonder how you feel about it, was Happy Together. That was March in 1967.

I should call you up, invest a dime And you say you belong to me And ease my mind Imagine how the world could be So very fine, so happy together I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life When you’re with me, baby, the skies will be blue For all my life You and me, no matter how they toss the dice It had to be the only one for me Is you and you for me, so happy together I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life When you’re with me, baby, the skies will be blue For all my life Tell me about that song. Well, it was a huge song. It was so big when I met Paul McCartney.

You know, Penny Lane had a number one spot. It was there for like eight weeks, that number one spot. And it stylised me as a drummer, what I played on that song.

And of course, the Turtles had a string of seven hits after that. So it was all good. Yeah.

You met Paul McCartney because of that song? Well, he wanted to meet the Jefferson Starship at Winterland. We went backstage to meet him. When I heard it, he remembered me.

So yeah, you were in the Turtles. And he remembered that about Happy Together, you know, knocking Penny Lane out of number one spot. He had a great memory.

I’m just incredible. McCartney. Amazing.

And you said that playing drums on Happy Together was really the song that stylised you as a drummer. What do you mean by that? Well, the things I played in the song with my snare drum and bass drum, the things I did set up the verses and chorus, and it stylised me as a drummer. What I played in there was unusual, what I did in there.

It became one of your trademarks to incorporate that stick twirling into your performance, didn’t it? Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I was one of the stick twirling drummers in the 60s, myself and Dino Dinelli, the Rascals. We were the two stick twirling drummers way back then.

Interesting, when I spoke to Carmine Apice not so long ago, he said that he’d invented that. No, that’s not true. Not at all.

So where did you come up with that? High school bands, I do a thing, stick twirling under my arms and stuff, and nobody else has created it. And to this day, it’s pretty famous. Some guy was on YouTube showing you exactly how to do it.

He gave me credit for doing it. It was pretty cool. So is that what you mean when you talk about that stylised drumming, or is that something separate? No, what I played, I’m happy, and She’d Rather Be With Me, too, got in the number seven best played song of the 60s.

I’m a modern drummer on She’d Rather Be With Me. I totally turned the beat around, did a double stroke roll, came out of it. I really have fast roll, and most drummers don’t play like that.

That stylised me as well. So that’s obviously what impressed the members of The Turtles, Howard Kalin, Mark Vollman, and Al Nichol. And on that basis, you passed the audition and joined the band and were with them for how long? Four years and seven hits.

What was it like in those days? They must have been amazing when you had girls running down the streets after you, and teenyboppers everywhere. Tell me a little bit about how that felt for you. Well, that’s exactly right.

That’s exactly what it was called, rock and roll heaven. It was pretty cool. I mean, you know, when we did Ed Sullivan, I had people, relatives calling me that they never knew about.

What’s the song Ed Sullivan, you know? Were you nervous? No, not at all. I was totally comfortable. If you’d like to know, where was I last night? Well, I saw a girl with a bone in her eye And she’s so out of sight She’s my girl And that’s where I was last night Off in a dream She’s my girl I took her away last night I went for a ride Up in the sky That’s where I was last night In the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show served as a platform for one of the most important music revolutions of the 20th century, the British Invasion.

This fully took off when the Beatles made their TV debut performance in 1964. The British led this new way of music, but it became a so-called rock and roll revolution when dozens of American artists successfully broke into the music scene and challenged the British bands on the charts. One of these bands was the Turtles.

They’d changed direction from being a folky rock band to a more psychedelic sound that resulted in their first number one hit, Happy Together, in 67, followed by a series of hits for the next three years. Drummer Johnny Barbato had been writing consistently with Howard Caleb and Mark Vollman. Eleanor was a song we co-wrote together and that was a huge song and I co-wrote that song with Howard and that became a big hit as well.

That really stylised me as a drummer as well. It’s not often that drummers in bands get an opportunity to write songs for the band too, but they obviously were very democratic and generous about who could do what. Yeah, at one point we started writing all our own stuff and yeah, that’s very true.

Did you get on well with the other guys? Yeah, I did. I think they might have been a little jealous of me though because I seemed to be the most popular. You know, Mark and Howard were heavyset.

That’s what they called the Turtles. They were like 225 pounds. They were pretty big.

Back in the rock and roll days, everybody else was like 150 pounds, you know. It’s totally a different deal. That’s why they called themselves the Turtles? Apparently, yeah.

Oh, I didn’t know that. So, Elenore, you co-wrote that. What were you writing about? Who was she? She was nobody.

It was just something we made up. Okay, just another love song? Yeah, basically. Basically, that’s what it was.

They were very poppy hits. What were your parameters around writing? Well, as far as the writing, everybody wrote songs, but that was the only one that was really a hit that we wrote. We had to write a lot of other songs in the band, like 20 of them or 30 of them.

They were on all the albums and stuff. They were good songs. They weren’t hits like how big it was, like Elenore’s, I should say.

Were you restricted to writing three-minute songs at that time? Pretty much. I mean, that’s what it was. They called it three-hit wonders.

You know, everybody kind of wrote… All the hits back then were like three, three and a half minutes long. That’s all they were. What sort of reaction were you getting from audiences when you went out to play? Oh, they loved us.

I mean, you know, the Totals were a smash. I mean, they’re a huge group. You know, they’re really big.

We toured everywhere. We played every kind of venue you can imagine. We even played a place one time, we went in four corners out in the field somewhere.

So we’re playing here and they pull up a truck and they put the stage in the back of a big trailer. And by the time eight o’clock rolled around, place was packed with like 10,000 people. Came out of nowhere.

It was just the weirdest gig I ever played. I just can’t live without you I just can’t live without you I really want you, Elenore, near me Your looks intoxicate me Even though your folks hate me There’s no one like you, Elenore, really I really want you, Eleanor, near me I think you’re swell And you really do me well You’re my pride and joy, et cetera Elenore, can I take my time To ask you to speak your mind Tell me that you love me better I really think you’re grooving Let’s go out to a movie What do you say now, Elenore, can we They’ll turn the lights way down low Maybe we won’t watch the show I think I love you, Elenore, love me Elenore, gee, I think you’re swell And you really do me well You’re my pride and joy, et cetera Eleanor, can I take my time To ask you to speak your mind Tell me that you love me better Elenore, gee, I think you’re swell Gee, I think you’re swell The late 60s proved to be the Turtles’ most successful on the charts. Johnny thinks those years really were the heyday of music, when bands were free to express themselves in any shape or form, and many experimented wildly.

There really wasn’t anything like it. It changed, everything changed. Everything went psychedelic in the 70s.

The music totally changed. Yeah, the 60s were great. Holiday was like a party.

Every night was Saturday night. It was just the way it was. Everybody was friendly.

It was really safe. Now it’s not so safe, obviously, because it’s a lot of crime now. Back then it was a lot of fun.

Did all that fame and fortune in those early days change you as a person, or did you manage to keep your feet on the ground? I always kept my feet on the ground. I think when I got older I realized really what a big, you know, being all the groups I was in, I realized what a big pop star I really was, you know, in the eyes of the public. You didn’t feel it yourself? I mean, did you still go about doing your… When I turned the radio on in L.A., I turned the radio on, I had to get it playing on three different stations at the same time to turn the dial and keep hearing it.

I go, wow, I guess we have arrived. Before that, you know, we weren’t that big, but when we happened to get a thing out, that really put us over the top. It was a great feeling, and like I said, you know, it opened up the doors to a lot of venues, like the Turtles did over 20 TV shows.

We did a lot of TV coverage. And you had your choice of girls, I’d imagine, too? Yeah, they were there. You can imagine from models to actresses to, you know, satellite bunnies, the whole thing.

Sounds like quite the life, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, as the times changed, the Turtles’ commercial success began to wane. That, combined with management issues, lawsuits and conflicts with their label, led to their breakup in 1970.

This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. When the Turtles called it a day, founders Mark Vollmann and Howard Kalin put their own act together and became famously known as Flo and Eddie.

Both then joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. How long, how long Till that mystery roach be riding through Yahoo, Yahoo Yahoo, Yahoo That mystery roach be broaching That mystery roach be broaching Former Johnny Barbato didn’t sit still too long either as he was also on his way to bigger and better things. Living in L.A. was an experience.

There was no place like it on the planet. All the music was made there. It was a central place.

That was the end of the 60s and as 1970 approaches, you’re invited to join Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Tell us about that. Well, Neil Young fired Dallas Taylor.

He said either he goes or I go. So he left. He didn’t like Dallas.

I guess he was doing junk. You know, he was a heroin addict. Dallas Taylor had achieved some success with psychedelic rock band Clear Light in the late 60s.

But he’s best remembered as the drummer on Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album and their follow-up with Neil Young, Deja Vu in 1970. Dallas also played on Nash’s 71 debut Songs for Beginners on Stephen Stills’ first solo album in 1970 as well as on his 71 follow-up. He drummed for Stills’ group Manassas in 72 and 73 and played on Stills’ 75 solo album.

Taylor passed away in 2015. He was 66. Forget what your good book says Southern change’s gonna come at last Now your crosses are burning fast Southern man Eyes are cotton and eyes are black Tall white mansions and little shops Southern man, when will you pay them back? So I got with those guys, did 4-Way Street, did two Grand Nash albums.

4-Way Street was a huge album. It sold 5 million albums. They were the biggest group in the world at the time.

On 4-Way Street, of course, one of the biggest songs on that album was the protest song Ohio about the Kent State shootings. The music had certainly changed a lot from the music that you were playing with the Turtles just a few years earlier, hadn’t it? Absolutely. Totally different band.

They were really a super group. Four different, you know, the Hollies, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds. They were the first band to get together with three different members of different bands, which they added later.

But yeah, a huge group, a super group. Crosby, Stills and Nash was indeed a folk rock super group made up of singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills and the English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. When joined by the Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young, they became Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Best known for their intricate vocal harmonies, their political activism and their tumultuous relationships, CSNY had formed in 68 after Crosby had been asked to leave the Byrds. Stills’ band, Buffalo Springfield, had broken up and Nash left his band, the Hollies. The group, as we all know, went on to release eight studio and four live albums with Johnny Barbata as a permanent touring member.

Tin soldiers and vixens coming We’re finally on our own This summer I hear the drumming For dead in Ohio Gotta get down to it Soldiers are cutting us down Should have been done long ago What if you blew her and landed dead on the ground How can you run when you know? Whilst in CSNY, the offers kept coming for Johnny Barbata. David Geffen called me and said, hey there’s this new band, they want you to be the drummer. I said, who are they? He said, they’re called The Eagles.

The Eagles, I’d never heard of them. He leaned in and he said, they’re going to really be big and they want you. I said, well, I’m with the biggest group in the world and they’re going to do a Neil Young solo album.

How much are we going to get? Anyway, that’s the true story. Amazing. And finally got the gig.

Are you sorry that you didn’t take that opportunity and join The Eagles? No, because I love being in a political group, playing on Ohio was a smash hit song. It got to number seven without like 80% of the airplay because Bill Drake, because of the protests, he wouldn’t play it. So really it was a number one hit single.

It got that much airplay. And today it’s like, The Eagles were all popular, didn’t do anything politically. And CSNY were very political, so was the airplay.

Right. The Volunteers of America, all those kind of songs. So did you feel that you were doing more than simply playing music when you were with CSNY because you were actually making statements and had power to influence outcomes? Yeah, that’s exactly right.

I mean, I didn’t get it until I basically was the drummer, but yeah, I was all part of that whole thing, for sure. It must have been an incredible experience. How did they all get on together, Crosby, Stills, Nash and later Neil Young? Well, they went through a lot of changes.

I mean, they had some problems along the way, but for the most part they got along. You know, nothing’s going to last forever, but Neil Young broke out, did his solo thing and Steve did his solo thing and Graham did his thing and same with David. Today, I don’t think that they’re speaking that much together.

Dan and David, he got me. I can’t complain. I mean, he got me on a four-way street meet and it’s a live album.

He’s like, and the guy on drums, you don’t know him, he plays the same as John Irving and he plays his ass off. That’s not a live album. Every time you hear that, I get a plug.

So that was, he did me good. And he also got me into airplay, which led to the Starship. So you were with CSNY for two years, from 1970 through to 72, and in 72, while CSNY were on an extended break, David Crosby introduced you to the band Jefferson Airplane.

Why did he do that? Because they were kind of in a lull and the Airplane, they were like a cult band. They were really big in San Francisco. They were huge.

It was done with the Grateful Dead and the Grateful Dead didn’t have any gold records. We had a bunch of them and they were always jealous of that. Really? No, I couldn’t wait because I kind of felt like I was better than most of the Bay Area drummers and I couldn’t wait to probably get a drum solo and be featured in that band and I couldn’t wait to do that.

I got my chance and it was great. Make that clear Cause the same thing is right here Still around here with me And I’ve been king for years Talking about this life I think he’s on the high side Steps on bones That’s what he’s need Dogs are rolling back That is free He’s on electric concrete Needs no one here Takes your time Without your help Rest in peace You need no one here He’s the best we’ve gone through Jefferson Airplane was one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock. Formed in 65, they headlined the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and the first Isle of Wight Festival.

Their 67 breakout album was held up as one of the most significant recordings of the Summer of Love. Airplane’s early line-up consisted of Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy and Spencer Dryden on drums. You may remember this song, which is still hailed as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.

When the truth is found To be a lie And all the joy Within you Dies Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody to love? Don’t you love somebody to love? You’d better find somebody to love Love When the gardens rose They all Are dead, yes And your mind, your mind Is so full of hate Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody to love? Don’t you love somebody to love? You’d better find somebody to love In 1972, Jefferson Airplane effectively split into two groups. Kaukonen and Cassidy moved on to their own band, Hot Tuna, while Slick, Kattner and the remaining members regrouped as Jefferson Starfish. We were the headliner, but Kaukonen said, you know, let the Great Red Dead start, because the fog’s going to roll in and we don’t want to be in the fog.

So when we got through, the fog rolled in. But I did a drum solo in front of 150,000 people and that was really cool and that was really fun. It must be difficult as a drummer because you’re there to keep the time for everybody, but you don’t often get to do drum solos, do you? And I guess that’s the whole treat for a drummer, to be allowed to do that solo.

I always did drum solos. I did them in the Turtles, I did them in the Boy with Luv, and I could do a drum solo because they were not into that kind of stuff. But being a full member of the Airplane, I got a chance to do a drum solo.

And one time I was playing with Booker T, and we opened up for Carlos Santana. Carlos wanted Booker T to open up for him. Another gig, we were 150,000.

Oh, here’s a better one anyway. We were playing at what was called the Snack Concert in San Francisco. And every band was there.

Carlos Santana, Tower of Power, Camilo Young, the band was there, Rapal Dead, Doogie Brothers. I mean, it was a huge thing. Once again, I got to do another drum solo.

But Marlon Brando was on stage. He was being donated to all the Bay Area groups. Marlon Brando was on stage and Craig said, Why did you go up and say you wanted to smoke a joint? I was kind of a little nervous.

Nobody was even there to go near Marlon Brando. He was sitting behind an amp. I walked up to him and said, Hey, Marlon, can I get a couple of these? Yeah, sure.

Because he had pipes all over his house. Anyway, we smoked. And the first thing he said to me was, I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.

You know, being in front of 150,000 people. Factories don’t get in front of that many people. So he really liked it.

He enjoyed the whole thing. I’ll never forget that one. Love is life without clocks Love’s a race you don’t stop Love and care, sun and water Do make a flower grow I ain’t seen nothing but fever Since you came Since you came Love’s a flower that grows from a lonely rock Now your soul’s on a hot stack Love is life without clocks Without clocks Without clocks Johnny Barbato, is it the ultimate for a drummer to be given an opportunity to play a drum solo? Yeah.

Oh, here’s a really good one. I’m playing for Johnny Rivers. It’s the 4th of July.

It’s the Atlanta Pop Festival. There’s 150,000 people there. And he opens up.

We just followed Alex Cooper at the pop festival. It turned into night by the time we started playing. And it’s like 104 degrees outside.

It’s the 4th of July. Anyway, the power goes out. Johnny Rivers is playing.

He’s the number one hit in Memphis. Long distance information Give me Memphis, Tennessee Help me find a party And try to get in touch with me She could not leave a number But I know a place to call Cause Monk took the message And he wrote it on the wall Help me information Get in touch with my Marie She’s the only one who’d call me If I’m Memphis, Tennessee Always on the south side High up on the ridge Just a half a mile from the Mississippi bridge One, two, three, go! One, two, three, go! In the middle of the song, the power goes out. I keep playing.

People started flipping their big lighters on. So as you came over to the stadium, it was the 4th of July. I ended up playing a 45-minute drum solo.

It’s something I’ve never done in my life. The power out, it got out. I was like a freak.

But they picked up on the fact it was the 4th. So I kept doing these drum rolls. They were gonna sound like it was the 4th of July.

They picked up on it for 45 minutes and when we got done, right as I do my drum solo, my finale thing on my drum solo, the lights came back on. I do this fast train thing and end my drum solo. Sure enough, the lights came back on.

And Johnnie Rutherford said, I got a five minute drum applause. You know how long that is? When you’re waiting on stage, it’s a long applause. He kept talking to me, he said, my hands are like rubber.

He said, you ready to play? Yeah, I think I can do it. We ended up playing. That was a night, that literally was a night and the lights went out in Georgia.

What a great story. That’s amazing. And you said your hands are like rubber.

It’s pretty taxing to drum like that for extended lengths of time, isn’t it? Well, because you’re using all fours when you sing too, which I sang a lot of this stuff too. You’re using all fours when you’re singing. It’s like an air high.

You know, you’re hyperventilating. It’s like a, it’s a workout. You know, especially in the, if I was in an airplane, they’d pay $240 on a set, same thing.

We’re on sets. So it’s grueling. I’d probably rush to a few pounds every time I went on stage.

So who needs a gym when you can be a drummer? Not sure I’ve ever really appreciated what they’re putting into it before. Back in a sec with more.

This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kay. It’s a beautiful day. When Jefferson Airplane members, Jorma Kaukinen and Jack Cassidy, left to pursue their band, Hot Tuna, the original members reformed, added a few new players and became known as Jefferson Starship.

Their debut album together was Dragonfly in 1974. I wanna ride, ride the tiger I wanna ride, ride the tiger It’s gonna be dragonfly in the dead of night Eyes flashing in the clear moonlight I wanna ride, ride the tiger I went out to get with the Airplane and the Starship, and I was the only drummer to be in both groups. Red Octopus was the biggest album they’ve ever had, of all the albums they put out.

I was with those guys for like five years, and five albums and a bunch of tours, and a lot of hits, a lot of hit singles. I’ve played on over 100 albums with people like Dr. John, Booker T, Ry Cooder, Lee Michaels, Johnny Rivers, the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstad, John Sebastian. and it’s a pretty privileged thing to play with all these different musicians.

I only believe in, only believe in miracles So would I Might have to move heaven and earth To prove it to you baby, baby So we’re makin’ love Feelin’ power, feelin’ power There’s really nothin’ we can’t do You know we could, you know we could If we wanted to You know we could, you know we could We could exist on the stars If it’s so easy How did you keep yourself fit to play? Well, I’m always into organic food and stuff I’m a health freak, you know I grow all my hair, I might be 10% gray It’s all because of what I eat You know, I take care of myself So that’s one of the good things And you always did that? You never abused your body like so many of the other guys did? No, I stayed away from hard drugs I smoked a little pot and drank a little red wine You know, that was healthy That kept me alive That’s awesome, well done Everybody else was dead and gone One of the things I wanted to say You know, I played in over 100 albums and 20 hit singles And I was very fortunate But a drummer, a studio drummer is considered the cream of the crop And you get to be part of that You know, everybody wants to take you on the road They want to see you in the studio Like I turned down I came back from a starship tour Linda Ronstadt called me and wanted me to do a group album Linda, I’m too tired, give me a week No, I’m going to start tomorrow I looked at time, but it’s still Go get Russ Dunkel And so she did And this next day Let’s see what he calls me Jackson Brown, he wanted me to do his album I couldn’t do that So I turned down Elvis I turned down him I turned down Linda Ronstadt I turned down Dan Morrison And of course I turned Eagles down I just couldn’t do them all You know, I was just too tired I couldn’t do them all But Dan Morrison, he came into my house Found me, I was out in the woods up in Minnesota In front of my place He was walking in my house Hey, Dan I couldn’t believe it Besides Neil Young and Bob Dylan He was my third favorite guy He wanted me to go on tour with him And, you know, do his album I’d love to But I was a trashy subject I ran mash at the time So I couldn’t really go out and play with him I told him I’d do it at a later time And of course it never happened But, you know, I swore to another bridge What can you do? Would that one be your biggest regret? Well, I would have loved to have played with Dan I love his style, his music He was great But, you know, like I said I couldn’t do them all Skippin’ and a-jumpin’ In the misty morning fog With all our hearts a-thumpin’ And you, my brown-eyed girl You, my brown-eyed girl And whatever happened To Tuesday and so slow Gone down me old mind With a transistor radio Standin’ in the sunlight Laughin’ high and high At a rainbow’s wall Slippin’ and slidein’ All along the waterfall With you, my brown-eyed girl And you, my brown-eyed girl Do you remember when We used to sing Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la La-ti-da, la-ti-da You kinda have to pace yourself, huh? Yeah, you really do Especially when I came back from a starship tour I was tired when Lyndon Rousey called me And Jackson Brown I believe your career came to a screaming halt Unfortunately, in 1978 It did, I was a bad car wreck But I bounced back And the first thing I did, I did a little I did a little cruise tour In England, of all places England, Ireland, Scotland It was fun But all this comes All my whole life I’ve gotten in a book It’s called The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer It’s about Albert Einstein He was The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer Was originally written in 2005 When Johnny’s wife persuaded him That he was part of rock and roll history And really needed to get his experiences Down on paper In the book, he tells stories From his life on the road Just started writing down little Blots on a piece of paper And that would become a chapter And then we kept writing down more chapters So, I got stories about there I’m meeting the Beatles When I was in the Turtles We got off the plane There was this white Rolls Royce And we were looking And we asked for it And a guy holds up a sign Turtles We looked at each other And we ran into the Into the Rolls Royce And the guys proceeded to tell us That it’s the Beatles own this They’re renting it out to you for a week Well, that night We went and had a big party At the record company London Decca threw for us And we were drinking Each 400 bottle of French red wine So we got pretty ripped By the time the night was over We thought we were just Going to go to the hotel And crash And oh no We’re going to take it to the Speakeasy Where all the English groups Hang out Oh, that’ll be cool Alright So we go there With our entourage We walk in The place is packed And they usher us up To this back room And there’s these two tables And I look over at the bar And there’s Graham Nash Having a drink With Paul McCartney Brian Jones was there He had a blonde On each side of him And then there was Rod Stewart Was there All these French English models Were all walking around And there was Clapton And Hendrix They were just Coming up the ladder So we’re sitting down Having a good time And all these French models Were walking around English models And we’re like In rock and roll heaven I look over to the right And there’s John Lennon And Ringo Starr Like three feet away So I said to them Hey there they are Go see if we can Go meet them You know And we’re like 21 years old So I’m sitting between Lennon and Ringo Ripped I didn’t know what to say I was like really nervous And I realized That they were And I couldn’t believe it I said oh wow Okay this is a great topic For conversation So what happened is We have this A roadie Nicky Navarro Came over He tripped And spilled A whole pitcher of beer On John Lennon And I leaned over And said John I’m sorry about that Oh it’s no big deal At this time I figured He broke the ice So I said Well if it wasn’t For you guys We wouldn’t be here And he goes What do you mean Well you know Beatles, Turtles And he said Well everything we got Was stolen from Chuck Berry They’re really rockin’ In Boston In Pittsburgh, PA Deep in the heart of Texas And round the Frisco Bay All over St. Louis And down in New Orleans All the cats wanna dance with Sweet little 16 Sweet little 16 She just got to have About a half a million A famed autograph Her wallet filled with pictures She gets them one by one Becomes so excited Watch her look at her run Oh mommy, mommy Please may I go Such a sight to see Somebody steal the show Oh daddy, daddy I beg of you Whisper to mommy It’s all right with you Cause they’ll be rockin’ On the bandstand In Philadelphia, PA Deep in the heart of Texas And round the Frisco Bay All over St. Louis And down in New Orleans All the cats wanna dance with Sweet little 16 The book has just been re-released recently, this time with more pictures and a forward that states Johnny Barbata has performed, recorded and jammed with more rock stars than any other drummer in the history of rock and roll music. When you think about it, I’ve been in four different groups and played over 100 albums and even like Kyle Blaine, he wasn’t in all those groups. He did a lot of stuff but he wasn’t in all these different groups so I was fortunate enough to be in these groups and do a lot of studio drama as well which, you know, it’s all in the book.

The book is full of great stories including Johnny’s favorite. Neil Young calls me up and says, will you come out and play on my tour? He says, I just fired Kenny Petry. I go, what’s wrong? He says, he wasn’t playing the bass drum a lot enough on Heart of Gold.

You know, boom, boom, bap. Well, you know, I said, wouldn’t you want me out? He says, how about tomorrow when I’m back in the studio? I go, tomorrow? Okay, Neil. So I fly in the airplane, get down there and I had a 20 minute rehearsal and I had to play an hour and 45 minute set.

That’s the pressure, you know, with Neil Young. I didn’t miss a lick. I got them all right.

All the roadies go, how’d you do that? How’d you do that? And he said, I was just paying attention, you know. I wanna live I wanna kill I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold It’s these expressions I never kill That keep me searching for a heart of gold And I’m getting old Keep me searching for a heart of gold And I’m getting old The Hollywood ocean for a heart of gold Such a fine line that keeps me searching for a heart of gold And I’m getting old Rock and Roll Heaven, those were the days. Oh, I’m so excited to read your book.

And you’re still making music today? Yeah, I mean, I’ve got a bunch of drug clinics going. I do drug clinics, you know. The point of doing it is mainly for drummers, so you get to really play for drummers who really know what you’re doing.

Uh-huh. Not too many drummers can do drug clinics. You have to be pretty good to do drug clinics.

I always wrestled I had fast hands, so I’m faster than most drummers. You have to have speed to be a good technician to get around a drumstick. And I was fortunate to wrestle with that.

I think I’m as good as I ever was, really. Still have my speed, and I was fortunate to have lessons from Buddy Rich, the number one drummer in the world. That was incredible.

He did things nobody else can do. And he saw me one day, we were opening at the Whiskey and the Go-Go, and he saw me, and he said, come on down, let me give you some lessons. Also, Johnny Carson was a drummer, and he played, Johnny loved Buddy Rich.

And Carson leans over to Buddy Rich, is there anybody in the drum world? He says, yeah, I like that drummer in Chicago with big bands, orangey legs, that kind of thing. He said, I like that drummer in the Turtles too, Johnny Barbeta. The reason he said that is we opened up for the, I was in a group called Hell I Get It, we had Joel Scott Hill, Paul Rothschild produced it, we had Dr. John, Booker T, me and Russell on keyboards on the album.

And live, when I’m playing, and Buddy Rich saw me, he saw me doing a lot of his licks on my drum solo, and the guy gave me my drum solo. He said, you had a lot of balls doing a drum solo on the same stage as Buddy Rich, but you’re hooking around. Buddy Rich saw me and talked to me and said, come on the next day, I’m gonna give you some lessons.

And I don’t think he’s ever given anybody a drum lesson, but he liked me. And I met him in the Astro Tower in Chicago, and he called me down to his room, he showed me this, Ollie Roth was Robbie Shinkar’s tabla player, best hand drummer in the world. And he was showing me this video he did with him, and he had these perfectly rolled joints that he made out of a cigarette, and he was, he called him the Jack Cigarette.

He did things other drummers couldn’t do. He was really something. Johnny Barbata, do you miss Rock and Roll Heaven, or is it a more mellow Johnny Barbata these days? Well, I’m not out of it.

I still play, I play with two or three different bands, I’ve seen the women play. It’s fun. Sounds like your whole life’s been pretty much fun.

It’s been a good ride. I can’t complain. Good for you.

Johnny Barbata, thank you so much for your time today. Great hearing your stories. You bet, my pleasure.

Don’t forget, it’s Johnny Barbata, one n in  Johnny Barbata. Thank you so much, I appreciate your time. Rest in peace, Johnny Barbeta.

He passed away on May 8, 2024. I’ll see you next week. Bye now.

You’ve been listening to A Breath of Fresh Air with Sandy Kaye.