|Birth name||Ralph Gallant|
October 15, 1943|
Norfolk, Virginia, USA
|Died||August 24, 1992
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
|Occupation(s)||Drummer, session musician|
|Associated acts||Elvis Presley, Journey, many others|
- If not the best known, Larrie is one of the most listened to drummers in the world. He played on more hit records during his career than any other drummer, with the exception of the legendary session drummer Hal Blaine, and his work covers the complete musical spectrum.—
- James Byron Fox, 1991
Larrie Londin began playing drums at the age of 15, and was largely self-taught. Londin initially planned to be a singer, and had an early recording contract with Atlantic Records, but decided to stay loyal to the band The Headliners and signed with Motown under the VIP label.
Londin's first professional drumming engagement was in Norfolk, Virginia, in a club where he was a cook and dishwasher. One night, the engagement drummer did not show up, and Londin substituted.
As young men, Larrie Londin and his bassist brother Lonnie aka Eugene Bunten were members of The Headliners, the first white act to be signed to a Motown record label. In 1965, two singles were released by the Headliners.
During his time at Motown, Londin commenced his career as a session drummer, following a heart attack suffered by Funk Brothers session drummer Benny Benjamin. Motown owner Berry Gordy asked Londin to play at various sessions, rather than cancel them, due to Benjamin's health challenges. Londin played drums on recordings by The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Jr. Walker & the All Stars. Though credited to Benny Benjamin, it is asserted that it was Londin who played drums on Jr. Walker's hit song "Shotgun".
- He went from being one of Nashville's only drummers to being Country Music's top studio drummer.—
- James Byron Fox, 1991
Encouraged by guitarist Chet Atkins and singer-guitarist Jerry Reed, Londin moved to Nashville in 1969, and grew to be regarded as Nashville's top session drummer. In 1991, Atkins publicly introduced him as "the greatest drummer in the world". Londin was considered to be a "master class" drummer, and made appearances on the "drum clinic" circuit.
Londin was known to practice eight to twelve hours a day. He was also one of the first American drummers to record extensively with electronic drums. Commencing as of the 1970s, Londin was a contract session drummer for Columbia Records, playing on both country and rock recordings.
With his wife, Debbie Gallant, Londin established D.O.G. Percussion (named for Debbie's initials), the area's first dedicated drum shop, which was of interest to a wide range of musicians. For example, at the suggestion of Londin, Hee Haw banjo player Bobby Thompson went to D.O.G. Percussion to add a FiberSkyn head to his banjo. Always promoting innovation in the session business, Londin mentored younger musicians and proposed the first cartage services for Nashville session players. One notable drummer whom Londin mentored was Eddie Bayers, now a top Nashville session drummer in his own right.
While not being able to formally read music, Londin developed "stick charts", which he used to remind himself of approaches to certain songs for which he was contracted as a session drummer. According to Londin, such "stick charts" were common among Nashville session drummers, but not widely known or understood otherwise. Londin acknowledged that he had obtained a rudimentary knowledge of music charts from Master Chief Musician Kenneth Malone, who had previously been head of the percussion department at the U.S. Navy School of Music at Little Creek, Virginia, and came to Nashville as a session musician.
With Elvis Presley
- I've had offers to write a book about Elvis, but you know, they really didn't want to publish the stories I had to tell. They only wanted the dirt – the scandal. I never saw him use drugs and I never saw him being mean to people. He had problems, everybody does, but he was a sweet guy – real religious, and he was patriotic, he really loved America. The publishers said nobody wants to read about that stuff. I just couldn't be a part of another book trashing him, he was a real good guy and he was always nice to me.—
- Larrie Londin, 1991; Interview by James Byron Fox
Londin worked on a handful of Elvis Presley studio and live sessions, albeit in an overdubbing capacity at the behest of Elvis' producer, Felton Jarvis. One notable Elvis recording on which Londin appears is the 1980 remix version of "Guitar Man", which was the singer's final number one single on the country charts. He substituted for Elvis' long-time drummer Ronnie Tutt in the TCB Band briefly in 1976 and 1977, resulting in Londin playing at Presley's last two concerts, prior to Presley's death, in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Londin can be heard prominently playing with Presley on A New Kind Of Rhythm! (Madison Records, 2007), a bootleg recording of a 1976 Presley concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati.
Session musician engagements
In the 1980s, Londin was a member of The Cherry Bombs, the backing band for Rodney Crowell. As a session musician, Londin played with a wide range of artists, including Emmylou Harris, Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, Lionel Richie, Carpenters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Boots Randolph, Charlie Pride, Randy Travis, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, B. B. King, Albert Lee, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Jerry Reed, Rosanne Cash, Al Green, Don Francisco, Dan Fogelberg, Reba McEntire, KT Oslin, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams, Jr., Chet Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Dan Hill, Fosterchild, Journey and Steve Perry. Londin demonstrated the diversity of his playing ability through playing jazz fusion with ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew. In the years prior to his death, Londin also recorded and toured with the Everly Brothers.
Death and posthumous honors
On April 24, 1992, Londin suffered a bout of myocardial infarction and collapsed, following a drum clinic at the University of North Texas. On August 24, 1992, after spending four months in a coma, Londin died in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 48.
In 1999, a benefit concert was held, co-sponsored by the Percussive Arts Society and Sabian, the cymbal manufacturer with which Londin had been associated, to raise money for musician scholarships. Drummers Dom Famularo, Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson, and Will Calhoun and the percussion group Hip Pickles appeared. An audio and video cassette of the benefit concert were released in 1999. The scholarship program continues to offer scholarships as of 2012.
With Steve Perry
Street Talk (1984)
Raised on Radio (1986)
Singles with Journey
- "Be Good to Yourself" (1986)
- "Suzanne" (1986)
- "Girl Can't Help It" (1986)
- "I'll Be Alright Without You" (1986)
- James Byron Fox, An Interview With Larrie Londin, 1991. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- Geoff Nicholls, Obituary: Larrie Londin. The Independent, September 7, 1992. Retrieved 2012-08-15, 2012-08-18 and 2012-08-19. Londin's date of death is listed in the Independent obituary as August 31, which appears to be in error; Londin's generally accepted date of death is August 24.
- Uncredited, TCB Band - Larrie Londin; Elvis Presley Music. Retrieved August 14, 2012 and 2012-08-20.
- Drummerworld, Profile of Larrie Londin, Top 500 Drummers. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
- "You're Bad News" and "Tonight's The Night". See Review of Headliners singles; Motown Junkies. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- The difficulty with ascertaining with certainty who played on "Shotgun" is that the musicians were not credited on the record. It is also contended that Richard "Pistol" Allen (erroneously identified as Pete "Pistol" Allen) may have played drums on the song. See Brad Schlueter, The Greatest Grooves of R&B and Soul. DRUM! Magazine, December, 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
- James Byron Fox, Larrie Londin; Drummerworld. Retrieved August 26, 2012 and 2012-08-27.
- Gerry Wand (August 10, 2012), Learning by Example: Larrie Londin. Includes photos and discussion of Larrie Londin "stick charts". Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- Rolf Sieker, The Hee-Haw Banjo. The Banjo Shrink. Retrieved 2012-08-20
- Yamaha, Biography of Eddie Bayers. Retrieved 2012-09-01
- Particulars of A New Kind of Rhythm!; Elvis Presley in Concert. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- James Byron Fox, The Greatest Drummer In The World. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Modern Drummer, List of Hall of Fame members 1979-2011. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- Amazon.com, Details of PAS Larrie Londin Benefit Concert. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- Percussive Arts Society, Details of Larrie Londin Memorial Scholarship Award. Retrieved August 24, 2012.