The Troy Street Observer

April 8, 1968: Gretsch Drum Night at Lennie’s

Image of Gretsch Drum Badge
Gretsch Drum Badge

April 8, 1968, witnessed the second Gretsch Drum Night at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike on Route 1 in West Peabody.

The people at Gretsch Drums came up with an interesting promotion in the late 1950s, called Gretsch Drum Night. The idea was simple enough: round up a trio of drummers who are endorsing the company’s wares, put them on a nightclub stage with a newest set of drums and accessories, and have them each play singly with the house band, and together in thundering drum battles. What you got, remembered Lennie Sogoloff, was “a lot of noise…but they were all fruitful nights. All the drummers in town would show up.”

Gretsch was the big name in jazz drumming then, with their Progressive Jazz kits and long list of endorsing drummers: Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Mel Lewis, Tony Williams, and on and on. To promote their catalog and their drummers, the company sponsored Drum Nights as early as 1960. In April of that year, Roulette recorded a Gretsch Drum Night session at Birdland in New York. The drummers played with piano, bass, and a couple horns.

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Apr 4, 1931: Drummer Jake Hanna Born in Dorchester

John “Jake” Hanna, who played the drums professionally for about 60 years, was born in Dorchester on this day. He always stayed close to his Boston roots, but it was only during the early years that he was especially active in his hometown.

Photo of Jake Hanna
Jake Hanna, 1964

After his discharge from the Air Force in 1953, he spent about a year playing in a Texas territory band, and arrived back home in the fall of 1954.

Hanna gigged around Boston in 1954-55, spending time at the Jazz Workshop and the Stable and working in Al Vega’s trio. In January 1956, he entered the Berklee School of Music, where two of his new classmates were bassist Gene Cherico and pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. They formed the first Toshiko Trio, and George Wein hired them as a house band at Storyville. They spent their summer  at the Hickory House in New York, then came back to Boston for another semester at Berklee, and more time at Storyville. In April 1957, Hanna left Berklee to tour with the big band of Buddy Morrow, but that summer he was back with Toshiko at the Hickory House, and followed that with stints with Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson. Jake was off the Ferguson band in May 1958—just in time for another summer at the Hickory House.

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