Alan Clark

On Oct. 5, legendary drummer Ginger Baker passed away at age 80.

Most of you will probably not recognize the name, but he was the driving force behind the rock world’s original heavy metal band Cream.

I am always inspired to write about the deaths of sportscasters, other writers, and musicians who meant much to me, and Baker was one of those.

A drummer myself for most of my life, he was one of three early influences; Wayne White, Joe Morello, and Ginger.

Sadly, all are gone now.

White and I grew up in the Riverside neighborhood of my hometown Columbia and he was one of the first session drummers for the Grand Ole Opry and touring country music acts.

Morello was jazz innovator Dave Brubeck’s drummer in the quartet.

Baker’s unique double bass setup and rhythm patterns were ahead of their time in the rock world.

I wrote about him and others in my tribute titled: “My Favorite Drummers: From Calypso Joe to The Toad.”

Calypso Joe is an original work by Morello, while Toad was the title used by Cream bandmates Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton to introduce Baker’s awesome long form drum solos highlighting his proficiency and technique.

Although Cream split after only two years, the band’s influence lasted much longer.

Baker focused on jazz and Nigerian drumming after switching among several other short-lived groups, but his mark had been made, and he was inducted with the other two Cream members into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

In 2005, two of my music-loving sons, Darrin and Brad, took a trip to New York’s Madison Square Garden to see Cream on their reunion tour, which only stopped at MSG and London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Baker was a bit more subdued than he had been in his youth, but all the panache and incredible technique were still apparent.

I was glad a younger generation was able to witness what had inspired me for so long, and both of them thought of me when Baker passed.

While his lifestyle was not one to be copied by a good ole Southern boy, Ginger Baker’s drumming was, and I used as much as I could learn how to  do. When I stopped playing so much rock music and began to focus on jazz, I did not realize until later I was following in my hero’s footsteps.

 RIP Ginger Baker. Glad I got to see you, and thanks.

Alan Clark’s award-winning editorials are available as podcasts on Apple Music.