Sitting In

After finishing a corporate event on a boat in Portsmouth, NH, a couple of members of the band and myself headed over to our favorite watering hole, The Dolphin Striker. To our surprise and delight, crammed into the downstairs playing area was three of the best sidemen in the business: Marty Rowan on organ,  Dave Brown (Billy Joel) and Dave Mattacks (Tull, McCartney, etc.) on drums.  

Marty and Mattacks came over to say hi on their break. We sipped our beers, talked shop and had a few laughs. A long time ago, I had a bad situation with another drummer asking to sit in on one of my gigs. He broke the bass drum head and walked off without apologizing. I was feeling really upset to say the least. Since then, I maintained a strict no sitting in policy on my gigs. I wanted to know Dave’s thoughts on that so I asked, “Dave, how do you feel about people sitting in?”  

I think he thought I was asking to sit in. I wasn’t but I understood how easily my question could be perceived that way. We chatted briefly about sitting in and then he said, “Mike, why don’t you sit in tonight?” I was at first honored that he’d even ask, but then embarrassed that I had brought it up. I never ask to sit in on a gig. 

Dave kept encouraging me and after awhile, I agreed to do it. The combined talent and resumes of these players is tremendous and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I was a little intimidated and nervous but figured if Mattacks didn’t think I could handle it, he wouldn’t have asked.

Marty started playing a left-hand groove and I went with him. It was kind of a funk/shuffle thing. Dave’s Yamaha kit sounded so good which helped ease some of my anxiety. I could tell the packed house was enjoying the music so I began feeling more confident and comfortable being conscious to not overplay. When I looked over at DM he had his eyes closed, and being the consummate drum sound expert, I figured he was listening and analyzing the sound of his kit.  

When we were done,  Marty shook my hand and said, “Perfect.” When I walked past Dave Brown,  he held out his hand and said, “I’m Dave Brown. Nice job.” I thought to myself, “I know who the heck you are…geez.”

It was so much fun to play with those guys. Dave Brown is a monster guitarist and at times while I was sitting in I’d look over and think of all the great Billy Joel guitar lines that he recorded, like Big Shot, etc.     

The next day,  I emailed DM and asked if we could have a “get-together” as he calls lessons. I was anxious to hear what he thought. “Well done” was his reply regarding my playing.  Dave’s lessons are very informal. I usually keep a running list of problem areas and ideas that I want to discuss with him and when we get together we work through the list. He’s the best teacher I’ve ever met and has a way of explaining concepts that is uncanny.  

When I brought up the Dolphin Striker, he said candidly that I still needed to work on my time. He thought it was a little shaky. I was stung at first but glad to get the constructive criticism. People that I work with have always told me that time/tempo was a strength for me.  

I’m glad Dave let me know that it still needed some work. As I was practicing slow tempos and shuffles with a click for the first time after our “get-together,” I thought to myself, “Yeah, son of a B,  he was right.” I guess that’s why Dave Mattacks is such a studio legend.

About Mike Ruggelo

Mike co-founded Jumpstreet with legendary guitarist Peter Calo in 1988. Michael Ruggelo M.Ed, Music Resume
Drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Former Assistant Director of Amesbury High School Band
Haverhill High School Summer Band Camp A.D.
Private Instruction Since 1979
Pro Mark Corporation Award for Outstanding Percussion Education
Metropolitan Drum Company Endorser
Mike co-founded the Jumpstreet Band with in demand NY session great Peter Calo in 1986. In addition to attending the Berklee College of Music private studies program in Boston, Mike has studied with legendary drummers Alan Dawson, Bob Moses, and Dave Mattacks. As a freelance artist and band member, he has performed and or recorded with locally and nationally known artists over the years including Chubby Checker, Tony Funches of theThe Platters, The Coasters, The Marvelettes, The Chiffons, The Heavy Metal Horns (Extreme’s horn section), Peter Calo, the Drifters, Marty Walsh (Supertramp, John Fogerty, Leann Rimes) , John Troy and John Curtis (Pousette-Dart Band) Brad Delp and Fran Sheehan (Boston). Mike has also appeared with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Fifth Dimension and Boston Music Awards winner Shirley Lewis.
Published (Tater Music) songwriter
If My Heart Was Yours by Peter Calo and Mike Ruggelo featured in the NY City Play “Chris and Adelmo” Also recorded by members of Carley Simon’s band including Gerry Marrotta, drummer for Peter Gabriel

Other notable artists Mike has had the pleasure of appearing with:
Paul Ahlstrand, Ed Antonelli, Rich Appleman, Tim Archibald, Scott Arruda, Steve Baker, Marty Balou, Bruce Bartlett, Lennie Bradford, Bruce Beers, Peter Black, Dave Brown, Brian Burrill, Baron Brown, Chris Stovall Brown, John Curtis, Brad Delp, John, Disoni, Derek Dyer, Henley Douglas, Peter Eldridge, Johnny Secret Fortier, Caprice Fox, Ed Friedland, Tony Gallo, Rich Gardzina, Teese Gohl, Dino Govoni, Raleigh Green, Joe Holaday, Steve Hunt, Roger Kimball, Joey Laite, Lee Leland, Shirly Lewis, Alizon Lissance, Sandy Martin, Mike Metheny, Circe Miller, Myanna Pontopidan, Walter Platt, Johnny Ray, Jacque Raymond, Mark Retallack, Kelly Riley, Marty Rowan, Garrett Savluk, Frannie Sheahan, Oscar Stagnaro, Didi Stewart, Binny Stone, Stan Strickland, Charlie Thomas, John Troy, Michael Troy,John Vanderpoole, Henry Welch, Dave Wilczewski, Frank Wilkinsn (978) 290-0712