Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remembering John Guerin

From Kim Richmond:
Yes, John was a special musician, a BRILLIANT drummer, an irrepresible  spirit. Very early in my career, we were doing a jingle recording session together, one of my first sessions, and he came over after one take and whispered in my ear "I think your pitch is a little sharp," so as not to embarrass me. I was always in admiration of him musically, especially his free (for the time) drumming style. I didn't have a chance to play any jazz with him (he thought of me primarily as a composer/arranger until about ten years back, when we had a chance to do a jazz gig together). He complimented me by saying "Hey Kim, I had not idea!" That was a personal triumph for me because I admired him so much.
Just two little-known examples of his genius (in my eyes) are playing an entire film cue for Lalo Schifrin for just drums (all improvised by John) on the movie "Kelly's Heroes." I was at the session listening, and John made it very creative. The other example was his playing on "Gate of Dreams" by Michael Colombier. I enjoyed playing in Mike Barone's band with John, especially at rehearsal where I faced him. I could always tell how we were doing from John's face. He was an expressive guy. He's given me some great memories and inspiration. Thanks John!

From Carol Morell:
John has been so much a part of our lives. I remember when I first met him he was playing at Bonesville, but I was too young to get in the club. He was a part of all our important occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, weddings, etc. He was an integral part of our boys’ lives, whether participating in Justin’s musical growth or going to Chris’ baseball games. Some of my best memories were of our weekly poker games that went on for a number of years. We took a percentage of each pot and put it into the kitty. At John’s suggestion, we took the money and all went to Mexico. What fun. Be it conversation or music, John was a great listener......and a great audience. His musical legend is well known to all. But not many were lucky enough to have him in their lives as we did. John was a very private person. We were so lucky that he chose to let us in.
We will miss him so.

From John Beasley:
When I first got to town, John was playing a lot at a club called Snookeys on Pico in West LA. (1979-80 ?) I was a skinny, snot-nose, arrogant 18 year old hanging out and trying to learn form a great lyrical trumpet player named Don Sleet. Don and John had come up together years earlier in San Diego. John got Don a gig there and I ended up playing with the two of them 2 nights a week for 6 months or so. I was, of course, completely in awe of John's playing and reputation, so I was blown away when he made me feel as though I was "one of the cats"! That's the way he was. I'll never forget that look he would give me when I was comping too rhythmically or playing too many notes or especially not swinging! He was a great bandstand teacher! I wish I would have told him how much those gigs meant to me. I'll miss knowing he's out there somewhere playing that fantastic > shuffle beat.

From Alphonse Mouzon:
I'm in shock and I'm saddened by the sudden death of John Guerin. John was a great drummer who displayed an impeccable feeling for pop and jazz. I saw John playing  with trumpeter Carl Saunders last year at a club in Santa Monica. John played great that night, as always! I will miss him dearly! Heaven is procuring one swinging drummer!

From Benny Golson:
I met John Guerin when I first came to Los Angeles in 1957 to write for
television. The first thing that caught my attention was his style: loose, yet very controlled, never getting in the way, but rather adding to whatever was going on around him. There was a particular beat he had that I tried to use when I went back East to record. Unfortunately no one played it quite like him. Years went by before I saw John again after I left for New York once again. But we came together again on a recording I was doing for Lou Rawls just a few months ago last year. Rather than sounding the same, which would have been great, he sounded even better, in the tradition of Dom Perignon wine ... getting better with age. During the date, and after many years, I finally told him about his beat that I tried to duplicate so many times while back East. We laughed together. After re-discovering John, I decided that when coming back to Los Angeles for various projects in the future, he would be my drummer. Did I have a choice? Of course not, not if I wanted the best.
When I received an e-mail from Mike Melvoin about his passing, my heart sank deep, deep down into the darkest shafts of my existence as I uttered a few harsh words at reality, and feeling a great desire to turn the clock back to much happier times. John Guerin I loved what you did and I loved the kind of guy you always were. How I will miss you, especially after I just found you again. Time and unforeseen occurrences have been extremely cruel this time.Sorry I cannot be there, but I am there.

From Dr. Lou Fischer:
As a bassist, I have been tremendously blessed through the years to have performed in so many settings with so many of the world's greatest drummers. Publicly, John and I never had the chance to perform together, but we did have the ocassion to spend many days together in the studios back in the mid to late seventies in Dallas, Texas and again in LA in 1979. John made a significant impact on my decision to become a jazz player full time. After working one particularly long and grueling jingle session in Dallas, John was in the audience that evening listening to a performance with a group called High Rise, co-lead by myelf and another great drummer Steve Houghton. John and I spent many days talking about my performance of that particular evening. He was one of the first individuals to encourage me to look beyond making money in the studios, to visit my inner most thoughts... to focus in on what it
was I wanted to contribute to the world as a musician. It is hard to imagine that such a small encounter as we had, would actually play out into a major direction change for me. I thank John so much for sharing his encouragement, his wisdom, his insight into my true calling life....jazz and jazz education. Without it, I personally might have
missed out on what has now proven to be some of the most memorable musical times in my life. Be at Peace, my friend.

From Jerri L. Parker:
I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear of the death of John Guerin through a fellow classmate of San Diego High School. John was a special and supportive friend, as we shared youthful experiences in several classes, including drama in high school. I always knew he was a talented and serious musican, even in thoses days gone by. We were so proud when he was offered a professional gig prior to graduation from high school. I knew he had what it took to be very successful.
John Guerin was not only a talented musican, but a gentle and kind spirit, who made his mark in the world successfully, and will be deeply missed by this old friend.
I pray that the Lord will give you the strength to withstand the pain and loss of your husband, father, brother, relative and/or friend.
We share the loss. Godspeed.

From Chris Colangelo:
I was so surprised when I heard of the passing of John. He was a great musician and he will be missed by all who knew him. He taught me a lot just by playing with him. When I played with John, I always got the sense that he was listening so hard to everything going on around him that you always had to be on your toes. The first time that I played with him he wanted me to give him more energy and he asked me while we were playing but, John did it in such a positive and nice way, I couldn't help but learn from it. That's the kind of guy he was. I never played the same after that gig, I always gave my all. It was always nice to see that smile he used to give when everything was swinging. I saw that smile on Dec. 6, and will miss that and him. I'm fortunate that I had the opportunity to play with the great John Guerin. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

From Phil Johnson:
On Monday, Jan 12, my oldest son called me in New York and told me about John's death. He had heard the news on the Bay Area jazz station KCSM.
After hearing that John had died, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't stop thinking about him. I felt like part of my childhood and youth had disappeared with his death. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up and searched for an hour and a half on the internet for any sites that had information about him. It was like I was trying to recapture him. I found your web site, created with love and care. I look at the pictures and see the feeling in John's eyes.
John was born on October 31, 1939. I was born on October 17. I grew up with John through elementary school, junior high, and high school in San Diego. He was a good friend, the first person my age with whom I could share my love of jazz.
Even in elementary school, John was the hippest guy around. At the age of nine or ten he gave a little talk in our class about jazz. I remember him saying that the guys were called cats and the women were called chicks. If memory serves me, John's Uncle Jack was a drummer with a local band. I remember hearing that his uncle put John up on the drum stool and let him play when he was just a little kid.
When we were in junior high, John and I would go to the five and dime stores in our Hillcrest neighborhood and ferret out jazz 45s from stacks of pop records. I have a lot of great memories, going over to the old two story house where John lived with his mother and aunt near Balboa Park, listening to records in his room, hearing him practice on his drum set. I remember John telling me when Charlie Parker was coming to San Diego with Jazz at the Philharmonic. John would always tip me off to the latest sounds: a super fast up tempo track of It Don't Mean a Thing by Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie; the first 10-inch lp by the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet on EmArcy records.
When I was in high school, I borrowed my grandmother's set of marimbas and I was trying to play them. John came over to the house with his friends, piano player Mike Wofford and trumpeter Don Sleet. They improvised some pieces, using the marimbas, and recorded the music on a little portable recorder.
In the late 1950s-early 1960s, I used to go see John play in a quintet at a jazz club in a little beach town north of San Diego. The club owner played bass, Mike was on piano, Don on trumpet, the tenor player was Gary, and of course, John was driving the group on drums. They were playing great hard bop.
When I was writing songs and lyrics in the 1970s, John was very helpful. Max Bennett wrote a tune called Velvet Lady that the LA Express recorded. I wrote a lyric for the tune and sent it to John, who gave it to Max, who liked it. In those days I used to stop off at John's place in the San Fernando Valley and visit when I drove down to San Diego from the Bay Area. I remember when he started producing recording sessions for vocalists like OC Smith and Terry Garthwaite. He played me the reel to reel tape from a session he had just produced for Terry.
I can still feel John's presence on Joni Mitchell's Miles of Aisles, Court and Spark, and Hissing of Summer Lawns.
I last saw him play when my father and I went to see Joe Farrell, with John on drums, at the Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society in Half Moon Bay.
Recently I moved from the Bay Area to New York City. I phoned John a month ago. We had a long conversation. He said he was coming here to play at the Blue Note in February or March. I was going to go hear him. I told him I was looking forward to seeing him again. He said, "Oh, we'll talk before then. I keep thinking of things I want to say to him.

From Mitch Holder:
In the mid '60's, I was still in high school and had the good fortune to study guitar with the great jazz and studio guitarist, Howard Roberts. HR's group was the first to play at the famous jazz club in No. Hollywood, Donte's. Howard told me about this new drummer he had met and hearing Mr. Guerin for the first time, well, mindboggling is about the only word I can come up with to describe what I heard that night..
Subsequently, I vividly remember being at Donte's from then on and whenever John was due to play, he'd come strutting in right before the band's first set, probably from just getting out of a studio call and usually in a turtle neck shirt as I recall and I also remember all the ladies eyes falling on John as he walked in, how could they not with his classic good looks and that boyish face.
A few years later I started my studio career and one of the highlights of that work is being able to play with some of the greatest musicians in the world. The first session I ever did with John was at Universal as I recall and all 
I can say about my reaction to working with him the first time was, well, mindboggling. Besides being the consummate musician, John was the true definition of that all too used phrase, 'Beautiful human being'. Well John was the 'real' definition of that. As others have stated, he helped musicians in a supportive way by letting them know if they needed to pay attention to the time, or play simpler, or whatever, which when you're first getting started, is always a huge help without everyone else knowing what had transpired between John and whoever he was 'teaching'. He was so nice to me when I started and straightented me out on a few things as well. I thank John for that.
It's been a pleasure to have worked with him all these years and I'll forever remember the last session I did with him, which was just a few weeks ago in November. It was for Mike Melvoin, who had John in his trio for years and years and the date was for the movie, Something's Gotta Give. Tony Dumas played bass and we did an Oscar Peterson cover song for the movie. I'll be forever grateful that the last time I played with John was in a jazz setting and, of course, he played as great as ever and was as he always was, the one and only Johnny Guerin. My very best wishes to all of John's family. You are forever blessed with his presence watching over you.

From Trevor Feldman:
I just wanted to say that John was the first drummer who really got me excited about playing drums. Just as I really became conscious of music, John was playing with my late father, Victor Feldman, who joined the L.A. Express just before Tom Scot left the band. I will always remember how riveted I was watching and listening to John. His exquisite and emphatic touch; his otherworldly sense of swing; his uncanny talent of imbuing jazz with a felicitous dose of rock, and rock with an elegant dose of jazz. All of this brought so much joy to my soul back then, and just thinking about it now has the same effect. My father loved John's other wordly sense of time, and because both of them had such a great grasp of true rhythm, the combination of my father on piano and John on drums was simply glorious. When I think of genuine fusion or jazz rock, I think of John, Max Bennett, my father, et al jamming in the L.A. Express. These guys were genuine jazz musicians who crossed the boundery into rock, creating a magical world of musical syncretism that makes almost all other fusion that followed them sound like inferior rehash. I will always be trying to improve my drumming and piano playing by listening to John, and I will always be struck with a feeling of ineffable felicity when thinking of the days when I was lucky enough to come home from school and have one of the greatest drummers of all time rehearsing with my father. His rhythmic eloquence will live forever. I love you, John

From Tommy Vig:
John Guerin was truly one of the greatest drummers ever lived, and I considered him a friend. We lost another irreplaceable person.

From Bill Courtright:
In 1976 I had the thrill and pleasure of working with John Guerin. We were recording an album in Orange County. I was a young beginner. He was with Joni Mitchell, and had already become a legend in the recording industry. I was thrilled to be in the same room with him. I was awed by him and envious of him.
By the time we completed our project, "Making Our Dreams Come True," the theme to TV's Laverne & Shirley, I had grown to love this kind, gentle and generous man. His talent was awesome, his sparkle was contagious.
May he rest in peace. I, for only one, will never forget him.

From David Grossman:
The year was 1975. I was 19 years old, and a huge John Guerin fan studying music at Berklee College of Music when L.A. Express came to Boston. I asked after the show if there was a way to speak with John and moments later there I was face to face with the man himself. I tentatively asked (out of fear of rejection by this monster of a player) if I could buy him a meal before he left town. While explaining he would love to, but didn't have time, he said "I tell you what, kid - come back tomorrow night as my guest and I'll put you as close to my drums as possible." Wow - how cool was it that the musician I admired so much was a really nice guy, as well !! I'll never forget one moment in that show when , as I sat in awe as he did some superhuman polyrhythmic figure, he looked at me and gave me an all -knowing wink. I took John out for lunch a while back and thanked him again for inspiring me as a musician, but also as a sensitive human being. I often remember that moment when I am approached by new talent. While I never did know John well, it is very clear that this is a very great loss on so many levels.

From Linda Root:
Back in the late '50's, San Diego was the place to be if you loved live jazz. There was nothing better than Johnny Guerin in a drum battle or Don Sleet, making mellow on a trumpet that could make you laugh or cry. Theseguys were kids when I heard them play, and they were already the best. My Dad had known Gene Krupa, and talked alot about his style, but when he heard Johhny at a practice session in a Rolando Park neighborhood when I was in high school, he admitted that John could get more emotion out of a drum than even Krupa. Back in those days in eastern San Diego county, you didn't buy a CD to hear the best of the best. You just drove around in the neighborhoods not far from San Diego State, and you heard it coming from garages and backyards.

From Rob Throckmorton:
I am so saddened and shocked by the news of John's passing. My father, and fellow drummer, introduced me to Tom Scott and the LA Express when I was a youngster. I would play along with Tom Cat every day, windows wide open - the neighbors hated me. I even transcribed the drum solo - a several week project. Then finally mom told me I was old enough to watch a Clint movie - Dirty Harry, and there was that unmistakable sound that can be only one person. Then one day on the car radio, 'Help Me' came on and I told my mom that was John Guerin playing. I went to the store and looked at every Joni record to find the one with that particular song on it. Then the neighbors liked me because at least I was playing to some new music. Then there was Patrick Williams' 'Threshold', then Michael Franks, the examples go on and on. I couldn't get enough. He was "my drummer." He had the greatest influence on my playing over the years. But as accurate as my transcription of that smokin' solo from the Tom Cat record was, to this day, I just can't recreate that "John Guerin sound." John, while I never met you, I'll will miss you!!!! Deepest sympathy to all that knew and loved John Guerin.

From Tim Turner:
I too am saddened by the loss of John Guerin, one of my all time Drum heroes. I was blessed by having known the Guerin family when they were living on Riverside Dr. in Burbank in the early 70's. I was a close friend to both his son Shaun and step son Scott. Being a young musician myself, just 14 years old , I was in awe by John, who was then playing with "Victor Feldman and the Good Vibes" a pre Tom Scott and the L.A. Express ensemble. The family and I would go watch "Mr. Guerin" at such jazz venues as "The Baked Potatoe" "Donte's" "The Pilgramage Theater" and "The Lighthouse' in Hermosa Beach. I would spend hours and hours listening and absorbing this incredible live music.
There were other times when Tom Scott, Jim Gordon (fresh out of Derek and the Dominos) Chuck Domonico, and Victor Feldman and others would meet up at John's Riverside Dr. home (where we were hanging out in the pool) and jam in the back music room for hours! As I became aware of John's recording studio history I was amazed by his creativity, versitility and his groove. He was always pleasent to me and on numerous occasions dropped me off at my apartment on his way over the hilll to Hollywood for another studio gig. He always drove the coolest sports cars and was also seemed interested in my music. Even now it is still very special to hear Johnny's wonderful music on the radio. I will never forget those inspirational and magical moments with John Guerin.

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