Gary Chester

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Gary Chester
Birth name Cesario Gurciullo
Born (1924-10-27)October 27, 1924
Died August 17, 1987(1987-08-17)
Genres Pop, rock, rhythm and blues
Occupation(s) Drummer, session musician, drum instructor
Instruments Drums, percussion

Gary Chester (born Cesario Gurciullo; October 27, 1924 – August 17, 1987) was a studio drummer, author, and teacher. According to The Complete Idiot's Guide To Playing Drums, "When talking about the great studio drummers, Gary Chester deserves a place near the top of the list."[1] His work appears on thousands of tracks, including hundreds of hit records from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He logged over 15,000 studio sessions over three decades.[2]

Chester occupied the same position of studio prominence on the East Coast recording scene that Hal Blaine did on the West Coast,[3][4] and had the musical abilities and creative spirit to roll with all the changes in popular music flow that happened during his lifetime. Beginning with doo-wop and rhythm and blues recordings, Chester also showed a great knack for rock, folk rock, rockabilly, and pop. In 1970–1971, Chester was the musical contractor for the Broadway musical production of Purlie.[5] In 1964, Chester formed the group Gary Chester and the Beatle Beat, which released its only album entitled Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! consisting of a dozen Beatles' cover songs.


Born in Siracusa, Italy, Chester's first successful recording session was to replace a studio drummer. He repeated his success with artists on songs that are considered to be hits, to the extent that Eugene Chadbourne has advocated the renaming of the "oldies" radio station format to "Gary Chester radio."[2]

As a result of Chester's work and instruction, a pro studio drummer can play well in any requested musical genres. In the studio, a drummer will often be given a sheet of music to read with one or two words describing the style. From this basic information, an accomplished drummer will understand the groove and feel of the song. Some of today's most famous studio drummers are renowned for their ability to adapt to any style of music.[citation needed]

As his reputation grew, Chester became a respected teacher, with drummers searching out his expertise and demanding techniques. His drumming systems have been used and endorsed by drummers such as Kenny Aronoff, Gary Gibbons, Danny Gottlieb,[6] Max Weinberg, Chris Adams, Tico Torres, Lindy Morrison, and Dave Weckl, each having studied under Chester.[citation needed]

His daughter Katrina Chester, is a rock and roll singer.

Instruction technique[edit]


Chester devised a system involving internalized patterns employing a drum 'melody' in an attempt to expand drummers' coordination and groove ability. His use of the ostinato[7][8] figure employed more than repetition; he created drum melodies for a song with variation and development of the drum phrase or motif using the entire drum kit. He advocated alternating an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys to enhance the song. Chester's system also taught how to set up an ostinato with one limb or more and playing freely with the remaining limbs, allowing one drummer to sound like a small percussion section.[9]

Ambidexterity and rhythmic vocalization[edit]

Chester focused on teaching skills like creativity, improvisation, four-limb independence and ambidexterity, cross-dominance, playing solid time, alignment of limbs, and making an independent contribution to the song while playing to match the song rather than playing to show off. For example, his instructional techniques included learning to overcome their natural handedness (or laterality) by playing both right-handed and left-handed. This offered the studio pro greater flexibility, smoother groove transition, and a more complex, unbroken riff or fill. This ambidexterity also permitted the drummer to switch the ostinato from right-to-left or vice versa, thereby letting the free hand (or foot) develop a richer drum melody. One additional benefit was more open handed drumming which increases hand mobility around the set as the drummer does not need to cross and uncross his or her arms as often.[citation needed]

The core concept of Chester's New Breed instruction style was five-way independence. The student was given a system (three parts of a rhythm) and was required to play a written melody with the fourth limb. Chester also taught his students to "sing" each part that each limb played (rhythmic vocalization) while drumming to "train your ears to accept and understand what you’re doing." While coordinating and reading, the student would also be required to sing the quarter note, back beat, up beat and the melody for each system. Once the student performed each two page written melody and sang four different parts, he/she was required to play the same exercise with a left hand lead. Here, countless new rhythms were played, read, coordinated in time to a metronome, while singing.[10] As a result of Chester's instructional techniques, the student would: (a) Develop independent four-way coordination; (b) Master sight reading ability and note recognition (c) Left hand would now be able to play ride patterns (d) Control time keeping through metronome and singing (by singing the quarter note, one could always play in time) (e) By gaining the ability to play and sing the melodies written, the student enhanced creativity and musicianship. If one could play what he/she sang, all playing situations became a breeze.[10]

Published literature[edit]

American jazz drummer Louis Bellson said of Chester's first drumming book published by Modern Drummer Publications, New Breed: "A classic!" "An original that uses an approach found in no other book!" "He wrote the book on drumming!"[11]

  • New Breed
  • New Breed II

Selected discography[edit]

Year Song title Artist Date US charts R&B charts British charts Producer Miscellaneous
1958 "Charlie Brown" The Coasters December 11 2 2 6 Leiber/Stoller
"16 Candles" The Crests 2 4
‘’A Lover's Question’’ Clyde McPhatter 6 1
1959 "Along Came Jones" The Coasters March 26 9 14 Leiber/Stoller
"Dream Lover" Bobby Darin April 6 2 4 1 Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler
"Poison Ivy" The Coasters July 16 7 1 13 Leiber/Stoller
‘’Lavender-Blue Sammy Turner 1959 3 14 Leiber/Stoller[12]
1960 "Save The Last Dance For Me" The Drifters May 19 1 1 2 Leiber/Stoller
"Shoppin' for Clothes" The Coasters July 29 Leiber/Stoller
"Spanish Harlem" Ben E. King October 27 15 Leiber/Stoller
"Young Boy Blues" Ben E. King October 27
"Stand By Me" Ben E. King October 27 1 Leiber/Stoller
"Saved" LaVern Baker December 7 17
"Wild One" Bobby Rydell 10
Calendar Girl Neil Sedaka 4 22 8
1961 "Girls! Girls! Girls!" The Coasters February 9 Leiber/Stoller
"Little Egypt"[13] The Coasters February 9 23 16 Leiber/Stoller
"Amor" Ben E. King March 29 10 38
Pretty Little Angel Eyes Lee Curtis May/June 7 8 Phil Spector backing vocals by The Halos
"Cry To Me" Solomon Burke October 6 5 Bert Berns
"There's No Other (Like My Baby)" The Crystals September or
20 5 Phil Spector
Crying in the Rain The Everly Brothers November 14 6 6 Don Kirshner
Please Stay The Drifters 14 13
Some Kind of Wonderful The Drifters 32 6 Leiber/Stoller
‘’What Now My Love’’ Jane Morgan
‘’The Lone Twister’’ Murray the K
‘’Bless You” Tony Orlando 15 5
"Every Breath I Take" Gene Pitney Phil Spector
Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen Neil Sedaka 6 3
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" The Shirelles 2
1962 "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" Ben E. King March 3 2
"Twist and Shout" The Isley Brothers March 2 Bert Russell (a.k.a. Bert Berns)
"Up On The Roof" The Drifters June 28 5 4 Ranked #114 in
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
Don't Make Me Over Dionne Warwick August Burt Bacharach, Hal David initially released as the B side of
"I Smiled Yesterday"
Tell Him" The Exciters October 15 4 5 46 Leiber/Stoller
‘’Bossa Nova Baby Tippie and the Clovers November Leiber/Stoller
She Cried Jay and the Americans 5
‘’What Kind of Fool Am I?’’ Anthony Newley from the musical
Stop The World - I Want To Get Off
"(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" Gene Pitney
‘’I'll Never Dance Again Bobby Rydell 14
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do Neil Sedaka 1 12 7 back up vocals by
The Cookies
Johnny Get Angry Joanie Sommers 7 3
Hush Little Baby June Valli Eddie Mathews Theme from the movie
The Miracle Worker[15]
Mr. Lonely Bobby Vinton 1 Robert Morgan Became a hit in 1964
after being rereleased
Roses Are Red (My Love) Bobby Vinton 1 5 15 Robert Morgan
1963 "On Broadway" The Drifters January 22 9 7
Chains The Cookies February 11 7 17 50
"It’s My Party" Lesley Gore March 30 1 1 9 Quincy Jones
"Anyone Who Had a Heart" Dionne Warwick November 6 Burt Bacharach, Hal David “the song shuttled between 5/4 and 4/4"
with “a bar of 7/4 for good measure”
"My Boyfriend's Back" The Angels 2 Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein,
Richard Gottehrer
"He's So Fine" The Chiffons 1 1 16 Phil Margo, Mitch Margo,
Jay Siegal, Hank Medress
"Mr. Bass Man" Johnny Cymbal 16 24 Alan Lorber The bass part was sung by
Ronnie Bright, who sang with The Cadillacs,
The Valentines and The Coasters
"Our Day Will Come" Ruby and the Romantics 1 Allen Stanton
‘’Hey Girl Freddy Scott 10 10
Blue on Blue Bobby Vinton 3 Robert Morgan
1964 "Walk On By" Dionne Warwick April 1 Bacharach, David Ranked #70 in
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
"Under the Board Walk" The Drifters May 21, 4 1 45 Bert Berns
Come a Little Bit Closer Jay and the Americans 4 Artie Ripp
"Goin' Out of My Head" Little Anthony and the Imperials 6 8
"It Hurts to Be in Love" Gene Pitney Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold
"Remember (Walking in the Sand)" The Shangri-Las 9 George "Shadow" Morton
1965 "Baby I'm Yours" Barbara Lewis January 8 5 Bert Berns, Ollie McLaughlin
What the World Needs Now Is Love Jackie DeShannon March 23 7 40
Cara Mia Jay and the Americans 4 Artie Ripp
"Do You Believe in Magic" The Lovin' Spoonful Erik Jacobsen
1966 ‘’Over the Rainbow Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles
What the World Needs Now Is Love Dionne Warwick Burt Bacharach From the album
Here Where There Is Love
1967 ‘’Brown Eyed Girl’’ Van Morrison 28 March 10 Bert Berns ranked No. 110 on the Rolling Stone
500 Greatest Songs of All Time
"I Say a Little Prayer" Dionne Warwick October 8 Bacharach, David
1968 "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" Dionne Warwick April 23 Bacharach, David
1969 "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" Dionne Warwick December 17 Bacharach, David
"Sugar, Sugar" The Archies Jeff Barry
Theme from "Midnight Cowboy" Ferrante & Teicher 10
‘’And Now We Come To Distances’’ Gloria Loring Al Gorgoni
1972 Rocky Mountain High John Denver August 9 Milt Okun
"You Don't Mess Around with Jim" Jim Croce Terry Cashman, Tommy West
"Time in a Bottle" Jim Croce 1 Cashman, West Recorded in 1972, the song was
a hit a year later following Croce's death.
‘’Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast’’ Wayne Newton 4 Wes Farrell
1973 "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" Jim Croce 1 Cashman, West


  1. ^ "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing Drums, 2nd edition". Retrieved November 19, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Chadbourne, Eugene. "Gary Chester". Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Gary Chester". Drummerworld. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ Firth, Vic. ""Idiots Guide to Drumming." p.228". Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Internet Broadway Database: Purlie Production Credits". Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Danny Gottlieb: Teaching". Danny Gottlieb website. Retrieved November 19, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Glossary & Dictionary". Drummer Cafe. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Improvisation and the Classical Musician: Groovy, Baby . . . (Ostinatos, Part I)". April 20, 2006. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  9. ^ "What is an ostinato?". Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "RhythmTech School of Drums - About". Retrieved May 27, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Books and Library Index List Details: Modern Drummer 13 February 2008". Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "The Coasters - Session Discography". Retrieved May 27, 2017. 
  14. ^ Phil Spector: Back To Mono 1958 - 1969, 4 CD box set, All Mother Bertha Music, 1991, liner note
  15. ^
  16. ^ Emerson, Ken, Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, Viking Penguin, New York, 2005 p. 176
  17. ^ "Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Songs". Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 

External links[edit]