27 June 2011

The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides by Barbara Brabec

When Babara Brabec contacted me about reviewing 'The Drummer Drives' I responded that her book sounded like a treasure. Having read it, that opinion stands. Whether the nature of the book appeals to you or not, the fact remains that it is a lovely memoir - both of Harry Brabec and of the history of the music industry in Chicago and elsewhere in the USA.

Harry Brabec was heavily involved in the music world of Chicago through the 1950's, 60's and beyond. His wife of 44 years and widow of five, has put together this collection of stories, memories, anecdotes and life from scrapbooks and journals. I have read a few memoirs and most, no matter how well written, will really only find an audience within the family of origin. When it comes down to it, most lives are strikingly similar: filled with happiness, struggle, family, and the business of just living. To create a memoir that will be of interest outside of the original family, there has to be an element of general interest. In Brabec's book - in Harry's life - that interest comes in the form of backstage peeks into the lives and personalities of entertainers of the period, and the workings of politics within the music scene in Chicago at the time.

Harry and Barbara had their ups and downs but their optimistic, positive attitudes pervade the book. Harry's humour and Barbara's dedication come through in each page. Each chapter is headed with a quote or joke, many from Harry himself, that set the mood for the stories and snippets that follow. Two of my favorites: I'm too old to pimp, and too young to die, so I'm just gon' keep playin'. - Clark Terry, world class trumpeter; Getting older isn't so bad; it's trying to maintain your oldness that wears you down. - Harry Brabec

Barbara also includes little side notes (always one for a pun - I loved the idea of 'notes' in a musical memoir). There are historical side notes, musical side notes, personal side notes, all designed to keep the reader in the loop. There is also a website companion to the book, www.theDrummerDrives.com,  where readers can go for more information, to hear and download music and video clips, see pictures and read articles and programs that relate to the book and Harry's life in music.

If the reader has any interest in the entertainment industry of the time, and especially in Big Band era music, many of the names of people, and of places, will be familiar. You will enjoy Barbara's straight forward, easy writing style. If you have no interest in the entertainment industry of the time, you might want to find another book.


  1. I absolutely love the idea of a memoir that appeals to a wider audience. Great review!

  2. This one has me on the fence. Your review was great, just not sure I'd enjoy reading the book! I hate when you make me think, Dana!

  3. I haven't read a good memoir in a while. This may just be the one. Thanks.

  4. Great review. I love the way you review. Your reviews forces me to read the book you read. Looks like m gonna enjoy this one. Keep up the good work. Thanks :)

  5. I actually enjoy memoirs. I don't know if this one could hold my interest but I'm glad you liked it.

  6. Thanks for your comments, guys - it makes my day when I get comments!


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